Keith Law released his annual ESPN farm system rankings this morning, and he still does not consider the Rays favorably, repeating his prior year ranking of the club at No. 23 on his list. The link is behind the paywall, but his thoughts are easy to dissect.
The Rays have not promoted a draft prospect to a significant role for the major league club since 2007 picks David Price and Matt Moore; therefore, the Rays system is still bad.
When the rankings only include 101 words on the Rays farm system, it's understandable that Law needs to be concise, but his conclusion does not appear to be a fair assessment:
...various trades of veterans and Wil Myers helped add some talent back to the system, but the bottom line for the new regime in St. Petersburg is they have to get more big leaguers from their top draft picks.
"Some talent" is not a riniging endorsement of the work new GM Matt Silverman has overseen for the Rays, and is a disservice to some key acquisitions. Yes the Rays are missing impact talent from the drafts, but that is precisely why they've gone out and nabbed great pieces.
The Rays' top three prospects have all been acquired in the last six months via trade: OF Steven Souza Jr., INF Daniel Robertson, and INF Willy Adames. It does not appear this played a factor in Law's rankings, and likely means he does not consider any of the three Top-50 talents, as I think they should be.
When Matt Silverman was recapping the Rays haul in the Ben Zobrist trade on the Rays Radio podcast, he described the acquired prospects as high ceiling, athletic players with a love for the game. In my opinion, you can extrapolate that mentality to most of the players acquired this off-season.
Then you have what was already in the system. Add into the equation a few high-upside players like 8-grade armed catcher Justin O'Conner, heralded international prospect Adrian Rondon, or the best college hitter from the 2014 draft Casey Gillaspie. There's also solid bench depth on the way in Mikie Mahtook, Ryan Brett, or possibly Tim Beckham.
On the pitching side, there's young compelling arms of Taylor Guerrieri, Blake Snell, and Brent Honeywell, or possible major league ready pieces in Alex Colome, Nate Karns, and Enny Romero, and with plenty of bullpen depth ready to go.
The Rays system is not ideal, but it's incredibly functional -- and given the off-season transactions, suddenly quite deep. It might be missing a felt impact from high draft picks, but that doesn't preclude the Rays from success in the future, or respect based on moves made in the last six months.