After winning the AL East in 2010, many expected the Tampa Bay Rays to move right to the World Series. However, the Rays missed that opportunity as they lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. Management expects the team to contend again this year, but the reality may be different after losing key free agents. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano all signed with new teams. Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and James Shields were traded to futher lower payroll.
The good news for Rays’ fans is that the organization has had solid drafts and is committed to developing talent. When they sent Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs, they acquired three solid prospects in Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, and Brandon Guyer. All three players were ranked in the top 10 of the Cubs prospects. Along with Jeremy Hellickson and Desmond Jennings the Rays have one of the deepest farm systems.
Here are the Rays top 5 prospects.
1. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP – Hellickson has a dynamic repertoire as he throws four pitches for strikes and does a great job with his command. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph. However, his best pitch is his changeup that sits in the low-80s. He has a very good delivery and his mechanics are as reliable as any prospect. He proved in the second half of 2o1o that the Rays need to make room for him in their rotation and he’ll probably be the 3rd or 4th starter this year. He will be the Rays’ 1st or 2nd starter in the near future. Fantasy owners should be aggressive on draft day to acquire Hellickson and if you compete in a keeper league, don’t be afraid to spend a bit more to get this kid. He is a keeper.
2. Matt Moore, LHP – Moore has an electric arm. His fastball sits at 92-96 mph. He also throws a late-breaking curveball and a changeup. He struggles with his command at times, but he has been able to respond to that adversity and been positive with coaches feedback. Moore has changed his grip on the ball and that has helped him improve his consistency with command of pitches. Moore will start 2011 in Double-A. He has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors. Fantasy owners need to closely monitor Moore’s development this season.
3. Desmond Jennings, OF – Jennings looked ready for Tampa Bay after a great 2009 season which saw him win the MVP in Double-A and then help the Triple-A Durham to the championships. But, the Rays did not have a spot for him in 2010 so he returned to Durham. All signs point to Jennings replacing Carl Crawford in the outfield in 2011. He has well above-average tools and has leadoff hitter speed. A wrist injury affected his power last year, but he has 15-20 homer potential each season. Jennings is no diamond in the rough prospect. He is a stud that will go high in your draft. Congrats to you if you win the bidding for Jennings.
4. Chris Archer, RHP – After being ranked #1 in the Chicago Cubs farm system, how can Archer not be ranked in the top five in the Tampa Bay system? Archer draws comparisons to someone like Edwin Jackson. His fastball sits at 92-95 and can hit 97 at times. He throws excellent secondary pitches with command and he has really improved his changeup over the past two seasons. His stuff has been so good that he has only surrendered six home runs in 251 innings in the Cubs system. The Cubs projected Archer to arrive in Chicago by midseason this year and he could the same with the Rays.
5. Jake McGee, LHP – After reconstructive elbow surgery in 2008, he has continued to increase his work load from 30 innings in 2009 to a regular work load last year. In 2010, McGee climbed two levels and appeared in Tampa in September. He has a fastball that sits at 92-95 and has even hit97 at times. Command has been an issue since the surgery, but it has continued to improve. Even though he was projected as a starter at the beginning of his career, he excelled in a relief role in Triple-A last year. With Rafael Soriano and James Shields no longer in Tampa Bay, its easy to assume McGee should claim a regular role with the Rays and could even be their closer.
Other Rays prospects to monitor in 2011.
- Josh Sale, OF
- Alex Torres, LHP
- Hak-Ju Lee, SS
- Brandon Guyer, OF