Keith Law is rolling out his ESPN Insider coverage this week, which is behind a paywall but worth a read through. Yesterday he ranked the Rays the 23rd farm system in baseball, which you could squabble with as being too low, but anything not the bottom five but in the bottom half seems appropriate enough to me.
Law praised the Rays' ability to stay higher in previous rankings due to the front office's savvy trading for top prospects, but was concerned that the only players drafted since 2008 to reach the majors were September call ups Tim Beckham and Kevin Kiermaier, concluding:
The Rays have been hurt by on-field success that gives them lower picks and limits their draft and international bonus pools, but they haven't fared well even within those limits.
This morning, Law released his Top-100 prospects list, with three Rays ranked in the bottom half.
No. 66 Taylor Guerrieri, 78
Still a believer in what Guerrieri has to offer, despite of Tommy John surgery, Law was pleased with Guerrieri's fastball velocity and movement, and his ability to keep pitches low in the zone. The only complaint that Law had to leverage against the young flamethrower is his suspension for marijuana use, finding it to be a reflection of his "desire to reach the majors."
His projection remains as a No. 2 starter, pending a better change up as he rises through the minors. Guerrieri was previously ranked No. 47.
No. 79 Hak-Ju Lee, SS
Falling one spot on Law's list, the South Korean short stop is an unknown quantity until he can prove his abilities haven't lapsed after knee surgery. Lee's game is built on speed, and such a devastating knee injury could prevent Lee from becoming the star athlete so many had expected.
Prior to the injury, he looked like a star at shortstop, a potential plus defender and runner who has a very good approach at the plate with a line-drive swing, lacking only power among the five tools.
Time will tell.
No. 95 Nick Ciuffo, C
The industry admiration for the 19 year-old backstop continues to be a pleasant surprise, but a rank within the Top-100 is the highest praise Ciuffo has received yet. The top pick by the Rays in 2013, and considered the second best catcher in last year's draft, Ciuffo is known for his soft hands, superior receiving skills, a powerful bat, and for garnering respect from his peers. Law does not mention the latter, but hones in on his recent performance in Rookie ball.
Law's breakdown of Ciuffo's swing reveals a pull tendency that has room for improvement, and he notes that Ciuffo's ability to control the running game is hampered by too long of a throwing motion -- "like he's winding up to pitch" -- but compliments his arm strength and already improving foot work behind the dish.
The power is real, the defense is better, and Ciuffo is already earning projections far above replacement level. It's still to early to get overtly excited, but there is glowing praise in Law's report.
As an aside, today I put Ciuffo's name into google translate, and discovered that Ciuffo is apparently Italian for "tuft." Keith Law makes no mention of this. What gives? I need more information on tufts.
You can read Law's full breakdown of his Top-100 here.
HIs American League Top-10's are scheduled for tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how he ranks starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi or Enny Romero by comparison.