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Minor league pre-season predictions

Some staff members and a former staff member weigh in before the games start tonight

Hak-Ju Lee could be in for a better year
Hak-Ju Lee could be in for a better year
Leon Halip

It's about seven hours until Durham kicks off Rays minor league season, and I asked anyone who was interested to fill out a brief questionnaire covering some of the notable topics related to Rays prospects in 2014. Responding were current DRaysBay members Danny, Michael, Hatfield and myself as well as website free agent Kevin.

1. Upper level breakout prospect- Which player projected to play in high-A, AA or AAA in 2014 will improve his stock the most?

Hatfield: Matt Andriese - saw him pitch this spring and found him to be very effective in a small sample.

Michael: While I think Hak-Ju Lee will come back strong from his injury, I'm not sure if that constitutes as a breakout season. Jake Hager, if promoted to Double-A and out of the confines of the FSL, could put together a very solid year. He's young, and injuries took their toll on him this past season.

Daniel: I think we could have a big year from Matt Andriese, who the Rays picked up in the Forsythe trade. Many of the upper arms in the org. have bullpen projections, but Andriese could leverage his groundball game in 2014 into a spot start with the Rays this season, and a real place on the depth chart next year.

Scott: Grayson Garvin has reportedly gained strength since coming back from surgery, and I'm interested to see how he does. In his pro debut with Charlotte, he was pitching through pain, and he was probably pitching his entire career at Vanderbilt with some level of discomfort. We know he'll mix up his pitches well and will probably throw strikes, and he could rise quickly with improved stuff.

Kevin: Josh Sale. It seems like he's been completely written off by some, and certainly it's not ideal to only have 134 games under your belt in nearly four years. There's probably going to be some early struggles, but the last time Sale played he showed the power and patience that made him a first-round pick in the first place (.264/.391/.464 line without striking out excessively). If he can play in 120 games and post something similar to that in Charlotte -- where he'll start the season as a 22-year-old -- people are going to notice. It comes down to how much rust he needs to shake off, and, obviously, staying out of trouble off the field.

2. Lower level breakout prospect- Which player projected to play below AA will improve his stock the most?

Hatfield: Riley Unroe - I think this kid is going to impress at the lower levels this season. He's a decent twitter follow too. Young and excited about baseball. We'll see how he does when he's battling peer pressure in Port Charlotte.

Michael: This is far from an original pick, but I think Riley Unroe will improve his stock the most. He has all the criterion you look for in a breakout prospect: youth, strong early performance, athleticism, and defensive value. On the pitching side, Jose Mujica looks poised for a big year.

Daniel: Andrew Toles is ready to launch himself into the stratosphere of prospect status, with a bat that should hit for average and incredible athleticism on the base paths and in the field. It's time for him to earn that hype.

Scott: I had him at the very end of my top 30, so I have to take righty Andres Gonzalez here. He doesn't even have 100 innings in his pro career (most of which were in the Venezuelan Summer League, no less), but he could move quickly as he builds up strength after missing all of 2012 with an injury. He's pretty polished, and we'll see if his stuff is good enough to get outs as he climbs the ladder.

Kevin: I'm not sure who it'll be, but I like someone in the Bowling Green outfield to break out. Between Granden Goetzman, Yoel Araujo, and James Harris, there are more than enough tools to make it happen, but each has thoroughly underwhelmed considered the bonuses the Rays spent on them. Injuries wrecked Goetzman's first two seasons and he hit just .203 in 73 games last season. James Harris, meanwhile, sports a .207 career batting average but continues to be moved up in the Rays system. Araujo has fared slightly better, but he left .050 points of average behind as he went from the GCL to the Appalachian League last season. If neither of these three come through, it's gonna be a looooong season in Kentucky.

3. Overhyped prospect- Which prospect in the organization do you feel is overrated by the industry or online community?

Hatfield: Jake Odorizzi - major league ready, but nothing wows me about his stuff.

Michael: This is a tough question to answer, since we rely on the industry for most of the reports on these players. With that in mind, I'll choose Nick Ciuffo, strictly based on my skepticism for prep catchers.

Daniel: Nick Ciuffo is so far away from contributing, but he may deserve the accolades. Overhyped in my mind is any list that didn't drop Taylor Guerrieri from number one after his surgery.

Scott: Curt Casali is certainly trending up after a really good 2013 season at two different levels, but before I put him in my top 10, I want to see results for another season. If his power surge last year was real, the top 10 will certainly have been justified.

Kevin: I guess I'm not totally drinking the Enny Romero kool-aid. His success last season masked a 112-75 K-BB ratio, which was only barely improved from his 2012 season. He whiffed 140 in 114 innings with Bowling Green back in 2011, but his K% has fallen off the table while he hasn't made significant improvements to his control. By all accounts the stuff is still as good as it has been, but whether it's sequencing or command or something else, he needs to translate that into more swing-and-miss to remain a viable future starter.

4. Bounceback prospect- Which prospect will rebound from a down 2013 season?

Hatfield: Josh Sale - too easy.

Michael: If an injured season counts as a "down" season, Hak-Ju Lee is my pick. Otherwise, I'll opt for my break out prospect in Jake Hager. I also think this is the year that Tyler Goeddel will start turning things around and tapping into his sky-high potential, though I don't expect improvement to occur overnight.

Daniel: Blake Snell is up for redemption this season. With his walks reigned back in to respectable numbers, this giant lefty will continue to add on to his fastball and step into the spotlight. Don't sleep on Josh Sale transitioning back into baseball though.

Scott: Jake Hager's performance last year was actually okay before the shoulder injury. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for his second half and look for better production with Montgomery in 2014.

Kevin: Richie Shaffer. An encouraging debut with Hudson Valley in 2012 didn't carry over to Port Charlotte last season, but it wasn't a complete disaster. The Mikie Mahtook path is the concern with Shaffer, but there were fewer concerns about Shaffer's bat coming out of college.

5. Futures Game- Which Rays prospects could represent the organization in this year's Futures Game? Choose up to one Ray for the U.S. and World teams.

Hatfield: Grandpa Guyer, obviously.

Michael: The Rays seem to use the Futures game as a reward and to showcase of some of their top talent in the minor leagues. Normally, a player is either in A+, AA, or AAA at the time of the selection (Guerrieri, who was selected but later removed, is an exception). For the U.S. team, I'll go with Justin O'Conner, and for the World team, I'll go with Alejandro Segovia (or Braulio Lara).

Daniel: Team USA: Justin O'Conner may just turn in a quality season with Port Charlotte and solidify his place in the top-20 rankings, and I think they'll reward his great development with a trip to Minnesota. Joining him could be Dylan Floro.

Team World: unless a third trip for Enny Romero is in order, the Rays won't send anyone from the world side this season. Mujica and Castillo are too young for this competition.

Scott: For the World squad, first base always seems to be a tough spot to fill. Maybe FreeZo All-Star Alejandro Segovia will get some recognition. On the U.S. side, I think I'll take Kevin Kiermaier as the top defensive outfielder in the minors.

Kevin: For the World team I think Hak-Ju Lee is a pretty easy pick provided his injury doesn't linger. They tend to like grabbing guys from as many countries as they can, and I don't believe the upper minors are saturated with foreign shortstop prospects. The U.S. choice is tougher, but assuming he's not needed at the big league level, I could see Kevin Kiermaier being the guy. He wouldn't be the most exciting pick, but I'm not sure there is an exciting pick in the top levels of the Rays system.

6. 2015 top 10 prospects- At this time next year, who will be the top 10 prospects in the organization, obviously excluding any potential 2014 draft picks or players acquired for David Price?

My note: With the exception of myself and Kevin, these were submitted before the announcement of Alex Colome's suspension.

Hatfield: Assuming several graduate or are dealt (Odo, Lee, Romero, Colome, Beckham, Guyer, Kermaier)

1. Guerrieri
2. Toles
3. Casali
4. Andriese
5. Ciuffo
6. Karns
7. Stanek
8. Unroe
9. Hager
10. Sale

Michael: With Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome graduated and expected breakouts from Hager, Unroe, and Mujica, this is how my projected 2015 top 10 prospect list looks.

1. Hak-Ju Lee
2. Enny Romero
3. Taylor Guerrieri
4. Andrew Toles
5. Kevin KIermaier
6. Nathan Karns
7. Ryne Stanek
8. Jake Hager
9. Riley Unroe
10. Jose Mujica

Daniel: With Guyer on the major league bench, and Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome graduated to the rotation and bullpen respectively:

1. Hak-Ju Lee
2. Enny Romero
3. Kevin Kiermaier
4. Nathan Karns
5. Andrew Toles
6. Matt Andriese
7. Taylor Guerrieri
8. Curt Casali
9. Blake Snell
10. Nick Ciuffo

Scott: I expect this list will look stronger including draft picks and the return on the inevitable Price trade, but I have to play by the same parameters everyone else did.

1. Hak-Ju Lee
2. Taylor Guerrieri
3. Enny Romero
4. Andrew Toles
5. Nick Ciuffo
6. Ryan Brett
7. Kevin Kiermaier
8. Alex Colome
9. Jake Hager
10. Jose Mujica


1. Hak-Ju Lee
2. Taylor Guerrieri
3. Josh Sale
4. Andrew Toles
5. Nick Ciuffo
6. Alex Colome
7. Nate Karns
8. Ryan Brett
9. Jose Mujica
10. Enny Romero