Tampa Bay Rays: Did Shaffer and Mahtook have a Fair Chance

Sep 20, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Mikie Mahtook (27) at bat against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Mikie Mahtook (27) at bat against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

It has been well documented that the  Tampa Bay Rays have a poor track record of identifying and developing the position prospects. Here’s a look at their most recent moves.

Since 2006 the Tampa Bay Rays has only drafted two prospects that will definitely be on the team in 2017. Evan Longoria and Kevin Kiermaier are certainly gems but shouldn’t there be a few more for a team that is built on prospects.

Most of those who are gone were weeded out in the lower minors, but did the team give up too early on young players like Richie Shaffer and Mikie Mahtook who were just reaching the major leagues? Let’s take a look at the their potential and the deals that moved them along.

In the fall of 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays sent Richie Shaffer and Taylor Motter to Seattle for three prospects. Shaffer was the Rays #1 draft choice out of Clemson in 2012. He was a right handed power hitter who played first and third base in college. In five minor league seasons, his minor league slash line was .246/.333/.437 with 71 home runs and 283 RBIs. Shaffer’s brief major league career saw him posting a 213/.310/.410 slash line in 122 at bats.

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Of the three players the Tampa Bay Rays received from Seattle, only right handed pitcher Dylan Thompson was ranked in Seattle’s top thirty prospects. The deal seemed odd as the Rays needed a right handed power bat much more than they needed a right handed pitching prospect. Equally strange is that Shaffer has since been released by Seattle and Philadelphia and is now on the Cincinnati roster

Even stranger was the deal that sent Mikie Mahtook to Detroit for the proverbial cash or a player to be named later. Mahtook was a #1 draft choice out of LSU in 2011 and was an aggressive hitter with power who played all three outfield positions.

He was ranked as high as #6 in the Rays prospect listing and had a nice major league debut in 2015 with a .295/.351/.619 slash line. 2016 started out poorly and injuries kept Mahtook out for most of the season, but he finished strong with a .276 batting average in his last twenty games.

It seemed that the Rays had a player that they liked in Mahtook and they traded away the popular Brandon Guyer to give him a shot as the fourth outfielder and right handed bat. Now it appears that he was dumped after only 290 major league at bats to open up a roster spot. It would seem that journeyman knuckle ball pitcher Eddie Gamboa or marginal prospect Ryan Garton or waiver wire pickup Jason Coats would have been a better choice for a ticket out of town.

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And, of course, how can we do an article on position prospects without mentioning Tim Beckham. Beckham seemed to be on his way to solidifying a position on the team when he ran into a number of mental errors on the field. He was placed in the doghouse and hasn’t emerged since.

With 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in his 408 major league at bats, you would think the team would like his right handed bat enough to give him another chance. However, after the Shaffer/Mahtook deals, anything is possible..

Maybe the Rays made the right moves. Maybe Richie Shaffer will never make enough contact to take advantage of his awesome power and Ryan Thompson will make the Rays starting rotation. Maybe Mikie Mahtook won’t make it in Detroit and Jason Coats will turn out to be a major league hitter.

Next: Evan Longoria Upset About Logan Forsythe Trade

It just seems that a team that has invested all this time and effort into two former #1 prospects would give them a real chance to make a team in desperate need of right handed hitters.