Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo's debuted the off-season's first major Top-100 list for MLB.com last night, including three Tampa Bay Rays.
By score, Rays prospects would rank 26th in baseball in terms of number of prospects and height on the list. This is to be expected, as Tampa Bay does not have the show-stoppers in Wil Myers or Chris Archer hanging in the minors any more, but a core of pitching that has somewhat of an ambiguous future or ceiling.
Here's a sampling of their Rays coverage:
No. 56 - Jake Odorizzi
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 | Curve: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 60 | Overall: 55
After twice being traded for established big league starters, Odorizzi thrived in his first season in the Rays organization. His 124 strikeouts ranked third in the International League and he pitched well when called upon in the Major Leagues.
Odorizzi's fastball sits in the low-90s with good sinking action. He improved his command of the pitch and throws it effectively on both sides of the plate... very athletic, allowing him to repeat his loose, easy delivery and field his position well.
Odorizzi is as reliable as prospects can be. He'll fill a middle-rotation roll easily and without a heralded entrance when he's finally there for good, somewhat like Alex Cobb before him. Odorizzi will likely be the first starter called out of the minors in 2014 should something go awry.
Whether Odorizzi deserves to be ranked into the 50's doesn't seem to be a battle worth fighting, this is an appropriate range for someone dependable to crack the majors shortly with a positive contribution.
No. 84 - Hak-Ju Lee
Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
Originally signed by the Cubs out of South Korea when he was 18... A two-time Futures Game participant, he has lived up to expectations.
Lee's game is built around speed. More of a slap hitter, he slashes balls the other way and lets his speed do the work to get on base. He is a threat to steal and has swiped 30 bases three times in the Minor Leagues... excellent range, soft hands and a strong arm. He has the potential to be a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop.
The crew acknowledges that Lee's multiple torn ligaments in his left knee and subsequent surgery, but still project him to high caliber defense and say he's "on the cusp of reaching the Major Leagues." That's some glowing support for a knee there's really been no status update on since his surgery.
No. 94 - Taylor Guerrieri
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
Guerrieri began 2013 impressively, even earning a selection to the Futures Game, before an arm injury sidelined him in July and eventually required Tommy John surgery...
He throws his fastball in the low- to mid-90s, down a tick from his high school days in South Carolina. His curveball has good depth and has the makings of becoming an out pitch. He made strides with his changeup, giving him three average-or-better offerings.
Youth is on Guerrieri's side, and keeps him in the Top-100 when he could have fallen farther out of grace this year. This is Guerrieri's third year in the Top-100, the last Rays prospect named, but surely not the last 55-grade player the Rays have to offer.
There are notable absences of Enny Romero and Alex Colome, both big arms ranking in the Top-5 of our community prospect list, but with somewhat ambiguous futures that keep them from recognition.
MLB.com has also been ranking Top-10 prospects at each position, where some Rays can be spotted. Hak-Ju Lee was not named among his contemporaries, but there was one player marked among the best catchers in the game, making him presumably on the outside looking in to the Top-100:
Catcher, No. 9 - Nick Ciuffo
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 30 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
... the second catcher selected in the 2013 Draft ... The South Carolina prepster has a good understanding of the game and adjusted well to the Minor Leagues.
At the plate, Ciuffo has an up-the-middle approach and produces good bat speed. Big and strong, he has solid power potential.
Behind the plate, Ciuffo isn't afraid to take charge and be a leader. He has a strong arm and has improved his receiving skills, though they still needs some work. He is a long way from the big leagues, but Ciuffo has the tools to become a Major Leaguer in time.
Scouts rave about Ciuffo's defense, which shows in his high rankings within the Top-10 at respected publications (No. 5 on Baseball Prospectus, No. 7 on Baseball America, No. 8 on Fangraphs, No. 10 by our Community) and as the ninth best catching prospect at only 18-years old.
He's a high ceiling, dual-threat catcher, meaning he should remain in the Top-10 for a few years, carry a lot of hype, and carry a lot of risk. His development should be interesting to follow, but he could crack Top-100 lists if someone is truly persuaded.
That does it for MLB.com's coverage.
Baseball Prospectus will publish their Top-101 on Monday, stay tuned.