We are about halfway through the minor league season, and with the draft in the rear view mirror and a large enough sample size to take statistics somewhat seriously, now is a good time to make my mid-season top prospect list.
As I mentioned in a previous article, making a mid-season top prospect list is much more difficult that creating one in the off-season. While you have both time and resources at your disposal in the long months of the off-season, baseball is going at a torrid pace during the season and updates on players are infrequent. It can be very tough to determine whether good results are a product of actual improvement by the player, a long hot streak, or just good luck. Additionally, a solidly performing player could play very well right after this ranking and look like a much better prospect a month from now. For all these reasons, I advise that you take this list as merely a humble and imperfect attempt on my part to give you a general idea of how the farm system stacks up and how the stocks of different prospects have changed.
Onto this list.....
1. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Class A Bowling Green, Age 20 Season.
With the graduation of Wil Myers, Taylor Guerrieri assumes the role as the organization's top prospect. Though his stats have slipped some from last year (which was to be expected) his stock is up, with most viewing him as a future top of the rotation arm. His strikeout rate is surprisingly mediocre, but his stuff get high marks (potential for three plus pitches), he walks few batters, and he is a ground ball machine.
2. Alex Colome, RHP, Tripe-A Durham / Rays, Age 24 Season
A strong performance in AAA earned him a call-up to the major leagues. I don't understand why he deserted his curveball, a pitch which earned rave reviews even up to the point where he dropped it. He currently looks like a reliever to me without a true plus offspeed pitch, but he could be a high leverage arm in the bullpen.
3. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Triple-A Durham / Rays, Age 23 Season
Odorizzi seems like a future #4 starter to me due to the lack of a plus offering, but I don't think he will be anything less than that barring an injury.
4. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 23 Season
With a 1.10 ERA and a 5.33 K/BB, I don't see what else he has to prove in A-ball.
5. Enny Romero, LHP, Double-A Montgomery, Age 22 Season
His stuff is only getting better, and he is starting to show signs of pitchability. Romero still needs plenty of work, but the end product could be something special.
6. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Triple-A Durham, Age 22 Season
After last year's mediocre offensive season raised doubts over the potency of his bat, Lee responded this year with a 216 wRC+ in 57 PAs, showing improvements all across the board (walks, strikeouts, power, etc..). A season ending knee injury adds uncertainty for his future, especially in his case due to his reliance on his speed and agility.
7. Andrew Toles, OF, Class-A Bowling Green, Age 21 Season
If he can hit even league average, he has impact potential thanks to his plus-plus speed and terrific defense in center field. Count me among those concerned about his worrisome strikeout and walk rates. He still has time for improvement and is relatively unrefined as a baseball player.
8. Ryne Stanek, RHP, Unsigned 2013 Draft Pick
There is uncertainty over his future role, but his stuff makes him a high upside player. When he signs, he will most likely be assigned to Hudson Valley.
9. Nick Ciuffo, C, GCL Rays, Age 18 Season
This is the point where the system dips off. The gap between Ciuffo and Stanek is much wider than the divide between Stanek and Romero.
10. Jake Hager, SS, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 20 Season
Hager is hitting right around league average, which is a slight decline from last year. The main difference is a dropout in power. Hopefully he improves as he adjusts to the league, something he did last year in Bowling Green.
11. Ryan Brett, 2B, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 21 Season
His upside is probably around a second division starter, but he is one of the few batters this year to show signs of life. Limited to 22 games due to the suspension, he is batting .383/.425/.605.
12. Drew Vettleson, OF, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 21 Season
A horrible month of April is pulling down his overall stat line. After posting a .221 wOBA in April, he has posted wOBAs of .384 and .393 in May and June respectively.
13. Blake Snell, LHP, Class-A Bowling Green, Age 20 Season
In 54.1 innings this year, Snell has walked 38 batters. This isn't too surprising from a young left handed pitcher with good stuff.
14. Oscar Hernandez, C, Class-A Short Season Hudson Valley, Age 19 Season
Due to promotions and poor performances, Hernandez moves up by default. Through 40 PAs, he is batting .342/.375/.474.
15. Tyler Goeddel, 3B, Class-A Bowling Green, Age 20 Season.
A player repeating a level and not hitting better is concerning. However, Goeddel has maintained an impressive walk rate while drastically reducing his strikeouts and maintaining his power.
16. Richie Shaffer, 3B, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 22 Season.
For the "safest" college bat in last year's draft, 2013 has been a horrendous year for Shaffer. Expected to provide power and on base skills from third base, Shaffer is hitting for a measly .681 OPS. I don't think anyone saw this one coming.
17. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Triple-A Durham, Age 23 Season
Both Montgomery's statistics and stuff this year have been pedestrian. His K/BB rate is 1.50, and his fastball hovers around 89-92 mph. A move to relief may occur sooner rather than later.
18. Felipe Rivero, LHP, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 21 Season.
As a guy without top notch stuff, he needs to keep his walk rate under better control.
19. Jose Castillo, LHP, GCL Rays, Age 17 Season.
It is encouraging that Castillo is starting his professional career state-side.
20. Jose Mujica, RHP, GCL Rays, Age 17 Season.
Mujica joins Castillo on the GCL Rays roster; following these two's progression over the next several years should be fun.
21. Jeff Ames, RHP, Class-A Bowling Green, Age 22 Season.
For an older player, the steep drop in his strikeout rate is concerning.
22. Tim Beckham, SS, Triple-A Durham, Age 23 Season.
Another year, and another season of mediocrity from Beckham. His higher batting average seems to be fueled by a high BABIP and his power is not where it needs to be. He is looking more and more like a utility infielder in the future.
23. Brandon Martin, SS, Class-A Bowling Green, Age 19 Season
A plus defensive shortstop, Martin is struggling with the bat through 20 games in the Midwest League. Though his wRC+ is only 83, he has lowered his strikeout rate from 26.2% last year to 17.3% this year.
24. Bralin Jackson, CF, Rookie League Princeton, Age 19 Season.
One of the best athletes in the system, there was plenty of optimism over Jackson during the off-season, with many labeling him a breakout candidate this year.
25. Parker Markel, RHP, Class-A Charlotte, Age 22 Season.
Parker Markel is having one of the more confusing seasons in the system. His walk rate is up (4.0 BB/9), but his strikeout rate is solid and he is not allowing many home runs. The high amount of hits he has allowed, which is strange given his plus stuff, is the main reason for his 6.34 ERA. The Dips theory does not translate well to the minor leagues, but it is encouraging that Markel's FIP is a more manageable 4.06.
26. David Rodriguez, C, VSL Rays, Age 17 Season.
A big bonus signing last year out of Venezuela, Rodriguez surprisingly received minimal hype. However, his stock is up some as he has crushed the VSL to a .406/.474/.636 line. The VSL numbers should be taken with more than a grain of salt, but it is nice to see him hit well. Expect him to follow Oscar Hernandez's path and head stateside to Princeton next year.
27. Brandon Guyer, OF, Triple-A Durham, Age 27 Season.
A starter's role in the major leagues is probably out of reach for Guyer, but he fits well as a fourth outfielder.
28. Riley Unroe, SS, GCL Rays, Age 17 Season.
The Rays' second round pick this year, Unroe's inclusion in the list is a product of the thinning out of the system.
29. Mikie Mahtook, OF, Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, Age 23 Season.
At this point, it looks like Mahtook is a fourth outfielder in the major leagues, as he simply has not hit well enough to play a concern outfield position everyday. There was concern when he was drafted that if he had to move off of center field, his bat would not play as a starter. It looks like those fears were accurate. On a more encouraging note, his walk and strikeout rates this year are very solid.
30. Josh Sale, OF, Advanced Class-A Charlotte, Age 21 Season.
While Sale earned a poor reputation thanks to an ugly off-the-field incident earlier this year that led to his suspension, I still believe he is a good hitter. Every day that goes by with him off the field hurts his stock.
31.* Nolan Gannon, RHP, Rookie League Princeton, Age 19 Season.
The Rays' fourth round pick in last year's draft, Gannon pitched well in a SSS last year and has solid upside.
* Since Stanek is not signed yet, the list is extended to 31 in case he does not sign.
When I created the list, I divided the prospects into pitchers and positional players with the intention of ranking each category individually and then fusing the lists together. While the top of the pitching group is stacked even with the promotions of Archer and Torres, it thins out drastically after the first ten or so pitchers. For hitters, the exact opposite is the case. On top there is a dearth of elite prospects, but deeper into the system there are more interesting prospects. This is a reflection of the Rays recent draft trends of preferring hitters early in the draft.
Realistically, this is a bottom ten system in baseball right now. There is plenty of talent, but the Rays need to start seeing some breakouts on the hitting side.