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A different look at the Rays' depth chart

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Instead of looking at players by what level they're at, looking at them by position helps see which areas they can improve at

With Kevin Kiermaier's defense in the outfield, the Rays should have center field covered for a while
With Kevin Kiermaier's defense in the outfield, the Rays should have center field covered for a while
Mike Carlson

Our minor league depth chart lists players by affiliate they're with, but in advance of the trade deadline, I think there's a better way to look at it.

Baseball America's Prospect Handbook's depth chart lists players by position, in order of prospect ranking, rather than by which level they're playing at.  It's helpful for visualizing where the strengths and weaknesses of the system are.  Rather than take a poor pic of the page in the handbook using my camera phone, I'll list our writers' top 30 prospects by position, along with some notable additions such as draft picks, Adrian Rondon, or pop-up performance players.

The potential trade discussions really have no basis in reality.  I don't pay much attention to trade rumors, so whether these teams are buying or not isn't a given.  I do believe the teams I discuss do have depth at those positions though, and they could be potential trade partners in my fantasy world where these trades might happen.  The main purpose here is to review the Rays' depth and where they could improve.

Catcher: Jose Molina
10. Curt Casali
11. Nick Ciuffo
15. Oscar Hernandez
28. Justin O'Conner
(NR) Luke Maile
(NR) David Rodriguez
(NR) Maxx Tissenbaum

This is probably the Rays' deepest position with Casali knocking on the big league door and plenty of depth below him.  They may have to wait a few years for the higher ceiling players like Ciuffo and Hernandez to develop, but since Molina and Ryan Hanigan are still locked up for a while, they have the option of being patient.  Casali may not be a starter long-term, but he could be a contributor.

If the Rays want to improve depth here, and they probably don't, either New York team or San Francisco could be a trading partner.  Travis d'Arnaud lost prospect eligibility, but his injury history could have them considering Triple-A catcher Kevin Plawecki as their long-term option.  In the Bronx, John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez probably won't be starting ahead of Brian McCann any time soon.  The Giants have Andrew Susac in Triple-A, and if they don't plan on moving Buster Posey to another position in the near future, Susac has nowhere to play in the majors.

First Base: James Loney
(NR) Patrick Leonard
(NA) Casey Gillaspie
(NR) Vince Belnome
(NR) Cameron Seitzer

The Rays will probably be satisfied to have Loney for two more seasons and hand off the position to one of a pair of 21 year olds, Leonard or Gillaspie.  Leonard is actually only three months older than Gillaspie, and he's enjoying a rebound season for Charlotte.  His 12 home runs are second in the entire organization, and he may have more raw power than Gillaspie.  Leonard is certainly back in the top 30 at this point, and maybe not even that far behind Gillaspie.

Like catcher, I can't imagine the Rays are looking for a boost at this position.  If the Angels want anything from the Rays, former first rounder and now big leaguer C.J. Cron could be involved.

Second Base: Ben Zobrist
9. Ryan Brett
(NR) Kean Wong

Zobrist could be on the decline, and with a team option for 2015, the Rays could be looking for a replacement soon.  Brett could be that player with a nice feel for contact, modest pop and base stealing ability.  His walk and strikeout rates are both career worsts, so I'm not sure if he's a future leadoff hitter anymore.  Wong has done nothing but hit since his pro debut last year and should crack the top 30.

If the Braves see anything they want on the Rays, they have Andrelton Simmons locked in at shortstop and Tommy La Stella or Jose Peraza to handle second base.  They have a surplus there, and the Red Sox and Cubs are very deep in the infield.  If the Cubs want to be bold and take a step toward the playoffs with a David Price trade (and extension), infielder Arismendy Alcantara is an athletic player with power, and he's in Triple-A.

Shortstop: Yunel Escobar
2. Hak-Ju Lee
14. Riley Unroe
17. Tim Beckham
18. Jake Hager
(NA) Adrian Rondon
(NR) Cristian Toribio

Escobar is on the DL now, but the Rays guaranteed him two more years.  That may be for the best because of Beckham's injury, and Lee is not performing anywhere close to the level of the top 100 prospect he once was.  He's batting .211 with a career high strikeout rate.  Maybe he can get stronger as he gets more at-bats under his belt since the injury, but I'm skeptical.  Hager's rebound season with Montgomery gives them another option in the upper levels.

The Rays have some younger options in the organization too, but I don't think there's anything here that would prohibit them from targeting a shortstop in a deal, such as an Addison Russell if we went back in time a week.  Texas being 17 games back probably takes their solid prospect pool out of play, but Boston's depth in the infield could be in play if they think they can come back in the AL East.  2014 sensation Mookie Betts could probably play shortstop even if he doesn't have experience there yet, and Deven Marrero is one of the better defenders in the minors.

One sleeper team at shortstop: Milwaukee, if they're in a buying mood.  While Jean Segura's offense has been dreadful, they have a couple quality defenders at the position in the system and could decide one of them is expendable.

Third Base: Evan Longoria
16. Richie Shaffer
27. Tyler Goeddel
(NR) Cole Figueroa

I think the Rays are probably set here.  Longoria is under contract longer than the team's lease at Tropicana Field.  Fortunately for Goeddel, he has the athleticism to play just about anywhere on the diamond, so if he can ever put together a season longer than one month, he could still have a future in the organization.

If the Rays do end up acquiring another third base prospect, it'll be because they're taking a pure best player available approach, and it'll probably be someone who like Goeddel, isn't limited to that position.  The Cubs continue collecting the best hitters they possibly can with the best player available approach, and they have more capable third basemen than they know what to do with.

Left Field: David DeJesus
23. Brandon Guyer
26. Josh Sale
(NR) Hunter Lockwood
(NR) Angel Moreno

Right Field: Wil Myers
(NR) Granden Goetzman
(NR) Manny Sanchez

Corner outfield spots are kind of fungible, so I'll list them together.  Some left fielders (Sale) are best suited not playing right, but there's nothing stopping Goetzman from going to left.  This is obviously not an area of strength for the organization, but there are two mitigating factors to keep in mind.  First, they probably don't need a new right fielder for a while.  Second, it looks a little better if Mahtook is listed as a corner outfielder rather than a center fielder, which in all honestly, should probably be the case.

Goetzman is having what looks to be a breakout season too, but after Guyer's graduation, none of these players will be suiting up for the Rays any time soon.  This is certainly an area the Rays could target in a trade return, and the NL Central race is one to watch.

The Pirates and Cardinals in particular have some corner outfield depth they could trade.  Could Oscar Taveras be pried away from St. Louis?  Stephen Piscotty doesn't have a ton of power potential, but he can hit.  Where is Josh Bell going to break in with Pittsburgh with an outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte?

Center Field: Desmond Jennings
6. Andrew Toles
7. Kevin Kiermaier
24. Mikie Mahtook
(NR) Thomas Milone

Kiermaier just graduated from prospect status recently, but the Rays are in decent shape here.  Jennings is still under team control for a while, and Kiermaier's defense could even push him to left field.  Mahtook's breakout season puts him back on the map, and Milone's off to a nice start in his first full professional season.

I don't know what to make of Toles' absence at this point.  I hope he gets back on the field sometime soon.

One contender with some center field depth is Washington.  Denard Span is handling it now, and Bryce Harper probably could too.  With Jayson Werth occupying another outfield spot, their outfield is pretty settled at the moment.  With Brian Goodwin's struggles this season, their top center field prospect is now Michael A. Taylor.  The 23 year old has 18 home runs and 26 steals in Double-A.