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MLB updates their Rays top 20 prospect list

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Since Jake Odorizzi graduated, there's a new face at the top

Casey Gillaspie has been swinging a hot bat since a slow start, and it landed him at the top of the organization
Casey Gillaspie has been swinging a hot bat since a slow start, and it landed him at the top of the organization
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, MLB.com updated all of their top prospect lists, which includes an overall top 100, a top 20 for each team, and a top 10 at each position. A week before I post my personal mid-season top 30 update, I took a look at their list and offered some thoughts.

Stats are through Sunday's games, but I'm not sure how many lines would be drastically affected anyway.

Unlike Baseball America's updated top 10 lists, MLB.com's include 2014 draft picks, and it didn't take very long to arrive at one on the new Rays top 20:

1. 1B Casey Gillaspie

I'm not sure if I would put Gillaspie first, but when you look around the rest of the system, it's still a wide open field.  They're one of four teams with a 2014 pick at the top of their list, and it's not great company to be in: White Sox (weak farm system and just drafted third overall), Angels (worst farm system in the league), and Tigers (weak farm system).

Gillaspie is also the number three first base prospect in the game, one spot ahead of Dan Vogelbach.

2. RHP Taylor Guerrieri

If I were to post a list right now, I think I'd be inclined to put Guerrieri at the top.  I wasn't expecting him back this season, but he's going to have a pretty solid number of innings under his belt going into 2015.  Would it be crazy for him to go to the Arizona Fall League?  Right now, I'd bet against it, but if he finishes the season with Charlotte well, it could be a possibility.

Guerrieri is not one of the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects, but that's a pretty quick cutoff with pitchers.

3. SS Hak-Ju Lee

Lee has been bad this year.  Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.  I hope part of this can be attributed to his knee surgery last year, but it's hard to just write off a .535 OPS and career high 23.2% strikeout rate.  It clearly is affecting his baserunning game, and he only has 10 steals in 15 attempts.  Analysts seem to still feel positive about his defense at least.

4. RHP Alex Colome

Colome tends to be linked pretty closely with Enny Romero because of their similar profiles and pitching at the same level.  Since returning from his suspension, Colome has been very good with Durham with a career low walk rate.  The question with him is and will probably always be health.  That should be the biggest factor in the decision whether he starts or comes out of the bullpen.

5. LHP Enny Romero

Romero has been poor this season despite being selected to a third straight Futures Game and posting one of his lower walk rates.  At this point, I'm ready to assume he's a reliever in the majors, and whether that deserves a top five spot in the organization is up for debate.

6. C Nick Ciuffo

It doesn't look like MLB's scouting report has changed any if at all since he was drafted.  At the plate, his career is off to a bit of a slow start, but he's succeeding defensively.

7. 2B Ryan Brett

This is roughly where Brett appeared in pre-season rankings, and it's still appropriate now.  He's had a nice season with an OPS a shade over .800, but his lower walk rate could use a bit of a boost.  With good speed, a nice bat, surprising power and average defense, he could be an everyday big leaguer very soon.

8. RHP Cameron Varga

We arrive at our second 2014 draft pick, and it's a bit sooner than I expected.  He got his career off to a nice start in the GCL, but I doubt they're basing this ranking off 14 innings.  They seem unconcerned about his amateur shoulder injury and feel optimistic about his stuff, which was up for debate.

9. RHP Ryne Stanek

I would have Stanek above Varga since his stuff is very good, and he has a bit of pro success under his belt.  He has to continue making mechanical adjustments and improve his changeup, but since he seems to be healthy now, he could be higher than this.

10. OF Mikie Mahtook

At first, it looked like Mahtook's improved production this year was more of a product of a nice BABIP, but he kept on hitting.  Until July, that is.  His OPS is below .600, and he has 23 strikeouts and just four walks.  Players are entitled to bad months, but he'll have to turn it around to close the season.  For now, the spot in the top 10 is warranted.

11. CF Andrew Toles

Toles is easily the hardest player to rank.  I think this is probably higher than I'd have him because he hasn't played in over two months now.  I don't know when he'll be back, but I certainly hope it's soon.  He would give them another potential difference making defender in center field.

12. LHP Blake Snell

Snell's return to Bowling Green didn't last long because he improved in his second go-around and earned a promotion to Charlotte.  It's been a rocky period for him, but his walk rate is inching closer to being adequate.  I think part of his poor surface stats with Charlotte, an ERA over 5.00 and WHIP of 1.45, may be the result of a high BABIP, but he does a great job keeping the ball in the ballpark and limiting extra base hits.

13. C Justin O'Conner

I did not have O'Conner on my pre-season top 30, and he wasn't on MLB's top 20 either.  Credit goes to the people that stuck with him, because it looks like he's paying off this year.  He's cutting down on his strikeouts, maybe as a result of swinging earlier in the count because his walk rate is down too, and he's hitting for more power.  His arm has always been great.

14. RHP Nathan Karns

Karns has gone from awful stretch to great stretch all season long, and the result is a season that's not so good.  He's walking over 10% of opponents, and over 13% of lefties, which could indicate that he still needs to improve his changeup.  He turns 27 this off-season, and a transition to the bullpen could soon be in order.

15. SS Riley Unroe

Unroe has been a community favorite since he was drafted last year, and he's rewarded that fan support with another solid season, this time with Princeton.  He was pretty young for the 2013 draft, so it's encouraging that he's already getting results in games.  If he can stick at shortstop with his bat, he's going to be rising this list even more in upcoming seasons.

16. LHP Mike Montgomery

Despite two recent poor starts, Montgomery's turnaround this season has been impressive.  This is his best year in quite some time, and even though he's 25 now, he's back on the radar as a future big leaguer.  Since his changeup was always one of his better pitches, he could still have a career in a starting rotation.

17. IF Tim Beckham

Beckham dropped three spots from MLB's pre-season rankings, and that makes sense since he missed much of this season.  That injury was a shame because as they point out, he did have a nice second half last year with a .781 OPS.  Depending on how his rehab goes and what the Rays do at the trade deadline, he could get a chance for some big league at-bats later this season.

18. LHP Grayson Garvin

Garvin moved up two spots, and having him roughly where he was to start the season is probably the right call.  He's been pretty successful this year with a 21.2% strikeout rate and 5.7% walk rate, but he's out of the game before facing hitters for a third time.  I'd like to see him sustain his success deeper in outings as he continues to come back from his elbow surgery.

19. 2B Kean Wong

Wong was an interesting player coming into the season, but I don't think he had any support for a top 30 anywhere.  With a solid season at Bowling Green this year, I think he deserves a spot in the top 30, but this may be a bit high for me.  Reports keep saying that some modest power is coming, but if he doesn't have much room to fill out, it better happen quickly.    Right now, he looks like an empty average hitter with adequate defense.

20. RHP Jeff Ames

I did not have Ames this high before the season, and his injury plus poor 34.1 innings this year don't exactly have his stock rising.  They suggest that he could be the best of the seven sandwich round picks the Rays had in 2011, with two players ranked ahead of him just on this list, I don't think I agree with that suggestion.

Who's missing?

Not in any order, here are some players I think could've garnered some attention.  I can't place them exactly because I haven't made my own list yet.

  • C Curt Casali has been productive again this year, this time in the upper minors.
  • C Oscar Hernandez is in another slump, but he's still having a solid year at the plate and a very good one behind it.
  • 1B Patrick Leonard has been one of the best hitters in the entire organization this year.
  • SS Jake Hager has rebounded nicely after an injury derailed his 2013 season.
  • 3B Tyler Goeddel has kind of checked out after April in his two previous seasons, but his post-April numbers this year still equal what he had done as a whole in the Midwest League.
  • RHP Matt Andriese has been solid, and I'd probably have him in the top 20.