I'm throwing my hat into the ring for the final contributor's list. Next up will be our DRaysBay composite top 30.
11. Josh Sale, OF
12. Enny Romero, LHP
13. Drew Vettleson, OF
14. Mike Montgomery, LHP
15. Robinson Chirinos, C
16. Mikie Mahtook, OF
17. Tyler Goeddel, 3B
18. Felipe Rivero, LHP
19. Jesse Hahn, RHP
20. Jeff Ames, RHP
21. Todd Glaesmann, OF
22. Oscar Hernandez, C
23. Andrew Toles, CF
24. Parker Markel, RHP
25. Tim Beckham, SS
26. Alex Torres, RHP
27. Ryan Brett, 2B
28. Patrick Leonard, 3B
29. Dane De La Rosa, RHRP
30. Frank De Los Santos, LHRP
Allow me to begin the same way the other writers have, praising the Rays front office. It hurts to lose James Shields (talent wise, and emotionally - let's be honest), but Andrew Friedman and Co. did a marvelous job replenishing the farm system and bringing it back to contention for one of the best in the game.
I'm also appreciative that the Rays did not immediately flip more prospects with a panicked win-now mentality. The Shields-Myers trade was calculated, came from certainly years of fielding offers for Shields, and then delivered with one of the best prospects in all of baseball, while maintaining the Rays' coveted rotation depth. In short, the trade added to the quality of the organization as a whole, building for success today and in the future. Impressive.
My list begins with the "no brainers" - in terms of how easy they were to choose, not the level of their intelligence. No. 1 is Myers, who very well could start the year at the MLB level, but that would be pending a major league contract like Longoria signed when he joined the Rays in 2008. Otherwise, the Rays risk losing a year of control if he is promoted too early. Furthermore, there are concerns as to where in the outfield he will play (Myers seems to prefer Center, but his defense overall needs development). Some time in AAA should serve him well.
Archer follows at No. 2, having logged some stellar appearances with the Rays in 2012, and only a few strikezone/control issues are holding him back. I'd expect to see him again this season, a Jeff Niemann injury seems almost a guarantee. At No.3 is Taylor Guerrieri, who has the ceiling of a front line starting pitcher, and the high expectations of rocketing through the minors. While players like Odorizzi may find a starting role before Guerrieri, that is solely a product of age. Guerrieri is a 2011 draft product that pitched a short season in Hudson Valley last year. A full season under his belt should prove he belongs at the top of this list come next year. He has great control, but if there is a blemish, the command of his secondary pitches need work. He's expected to start the year in A-ball.
It's here I should note that my list puts an emphasis on two things: the expectation of performing at a major league level, and a high talent ceiling. Consequently, my list shakes things up with Odor in front of Lee because of my assessed probability of becoming a major league player. There's been a lot of focus this year on a prospect's ability to "let you down" and disappoint. The ability to reach The Show is a quality asset to me, and something I value higher than most, so the top 10 in my book are the ones I look at today and say, "Yes, they will be on a 25-man roster."
My quick exception to the rule is Alex Torres. He has an option, and last year was so bad I've had a difficult time deciding if he's even top 30 talent. Some days I have him in the high 20's, some days off the list. He could be a relief pitcher, but not because he's the next Jake McGee - it would be because he doesn't have a choice. So I will continue evaluating Torres as a starting pitcher until he proves otherwise.
After Guerrieri, I have Odorizzi and Colome at No. 4 & 5, and choosing an order here doesn't mean as much. Odorizzi has flyball tendancies that need resolved, but his athletic build and durability are already proven assets. He has great control and the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. He is also a product of the Shields-Myers trade. Colome has a flame thrower for an arm (97 mph) and has been in the system for seven years, steadily climbing the ranks. The 24 year old Dominican has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter, with a good mix of pitches in a cutter that can lost 10 mph to fool hitters, and a plus curveball. Colome has walk rates and command issues that have yet to improve, and that seems to be the only thing holding him back from passing Odorizzi on my list.
The prospects that round out No.'s 6-10 are undeniable major league talents. I'm not as high on Hak Ju Lee as many others. He has excellent defense, but a quick short swing that leaves me wanting more. I need him to show he can play at the plate as much as he can on the field before he cracks my top five. Schaeffer is young, but ready to move through the majors with a great swing. He can hit for power and average, but he may need to find a new position... I consider Hager our short-stop of the future, but as a 19 year old he has a lot to prove. Snell is a southpaw with good strikouts, a big fram, and a four pitch arsenal that could use probably use some development. I'll get to Guyer in a second, but what separates each of these five from the rest, in my book, is their probability of breaking into the clubhouse.
No.'s 11-13 have Sale, Romero, and Vettleson. Each of the three could reach the top 10 next year, but still have to prove themselves in some way. Sale needs to show his power is sustainable, Vettleson needs to show he can perform like Sale did last year, and Romero still needs to settle into the strikezone. Each are one step away from being top 10 talents, and should be watched closely.
The following group is the "fallen from grace" category: newly acquired Mike Montgomery, the formerly injured Robinson Chirinos, and for explanation purposes let's include Brandon Guyer. Montgomery was top ten talent and then went the way of Torres last season, leading him to be the third of four players acquired with Myers. He's a blue chip player for the Rays organization, concerns aside, and if 2012 proves to be a fluke, he joins the discussion as to "where" in the starting rotation he'll be, not just "will he" get there. The other two in this group have made appearances at the major league level, and would be there now if not for injury. Guyer had shoulder surgery, Chirinos sat out a year with a devastating concussion (a ball ricocheted off his catcher's mask in Spring Training). The new year brings a new opportunity for each to recover and return to their previous MLB level.
Mahtook is a player who may have been rated higher than No. 16 last year, but in my view he finds himself in-between categories. His power needs to increase to stay at his current position (LF), and the rest of his game is a step below where expectations had him a year ago. He'll should be at AA and AAA next season, where he'll have the opportunity to show he belongs higher on this list come next year.
Following at No.'s 17-20 is the "piecing it together" category. The picture on their talent is fuzzy, but it's becoming clearer. Goeddel has lots of potential, great athleticism, and you wonder if he's going to stay at 3B or transition elsewhere - he's still a mystery. Rivero and Ames need to show durability, Hahn needs to show longevity. All three pitchers can throw strikes and sit batters down, but can they keep it up?
Next is the "I see a lot of potential in you" category at No.'s 21-24. Each of these players are a step behind "piecing it together". In other words, instead of asking "can they keep it up" I'm asking, "can they do it?" Toles may be my favorite of the group, he has the potential to be a great leadoff hitter if his OBP trends up. I see Glaesmann and Hernandez as future bench players with decent opportunity ahead of them, and Markel simply needs to continue to perform and show us what he's got. All are great talents.
After that, we have my "I'm very disappointed in you" category. Beckham and Torres have disappointed to an extreme level, and if something happens, great. But when we say prospect can let you down... tada. I'll add Brett and his strikeouts to this category as well, not to mention his suspension that will cost him playing time, and his lack of power. Still, he has potential, so he overlaps into my final category.
Finishing the list, my "prospects to watch": Two relief pitchers, and an athletic infielder. DDLR had great minor league numbers that have yet to translate to the bigs, FDLS has great stuff that has yet to translate into strikeouts, and Leonard (player four of the Myers trade) has lots of power, so I'm curious. Let's hope for breakout performances from each.
That's my list!