In return, the defending American League champions have inquired about Padres prospects Simon Castro, Wynn Pelzer, Juedy Valdez and Nick Schmidt. The Padres have deemed the price too high. Niemann is out of minor league options, reducing the Rays'trade leverage.
This doesn't sound very good for Niemann's long-term future with the Rays. Either the talks mean the team does not feel he can successful translate into relief work, or they're simply seeing if Niemann can bring back better value than Jason Hammel. As for those prospects, let's look at them.
Right-handed pitcher Simon Castro was ranked 13th by John Sickels (C+). Castro will turn 21-years-old in about a week and he seems to profile like Jose Ceda. Good strikeout numbers - 9.77 in rookie ball and 8.82 in low-A - and showed a harnessing of control by lowing his walk rate to 3.99. Castro has been a starter and can reach 95 MPH, according to Paul DePodesta. No idea regarding his secondary stuff.
Righty Wynn Pelzer was an honorable mention. A starter, Pelzer spend last year mostly pitching in A-ball, and was sound; 7.61 K/9, 2.43 BB/9. Pelzer was drafted out of the University of South Carolina after suffering a broken knee cap - the result of a line drive to the knee during the Cape Cod League. Per Sickels, he throws 91-94 fastball, a good breaking ball, and needs work on his command and change/splitter. Just talked to a scout friend who saw him first hand prior to the injury and said he had a "big" fastball (93-96) not sure if the injury lowered that a bit or what.
Juedy, not Juey, Valdez is 19-year-old middle infielder. Last year Valdez played in rookie ball and low-A while striking out a ton (around 25% of the time) and generally being below average offensively. Not sure how his defensive skills are, although Minor League Splits rates him as about average at second and slightly above at shortstop compared to his peers.
Nick Schmidt was also an honorable mention. You may recall Schmidt as someone mentioned around these parts prior to the 2007 draft. He's out of Arkansas and went 23rd in that draft, but missed 2008 due to reconstructive elbow surgery. Schmidt is your typical lefty, throwing in the upper 80's to low 90's with a slider and change. He's a pretty tall lefty at 6'5" and I believe it was RATW who compare him to Joe Kennedy.
None of them are as close to the majors as Niemann - that's evident - and honestly I don't know if anyone has the ceiling of Niemann. One other thing worth noting is that none of them would require a 40-man roster spot and obviously not a 25-man roster spot, opening a space for another pitcher -- likely either Lance Cormier or Jason Isringhausen.