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Baseball America best tools rundown

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Managers and coaches weigh in on the Rays' top talent

Chris Archer is among the league's best
Chris Archer is among the league's best
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Every season, Baseball America surveys managers and coaches to determine the best of the best in baseball over a number of categories. These range from actual scouting tools like power or speed to best pickoff move. Of course, people "in baseball" are not necessarily great arbiters of what happens on the baseball field, but I still think it's interesting.

Here is a rundown of Rays players appearing on these lists.

BA does not lay out at-bat or innings requirements for inclusion, so my assumption is there are none. If a player is seen by a manager and voted for, he's on.

American League's No. 3 pitcher: Chris Archer

Behind Chris Sale and Dallas Keuchel, Archer was voted as the third-best pitcher in the AL. He's currently fifth in the AL in fWAR behind Sale, Keuchel, reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and former Ray David Price and ahead of other stars like Felix Hernandez and Sonny Gray. It's a testament to the work he has put in since he was a young prospect unable to find the strike zone.

American League's No. 1 slider: Archer

Marc Topkin wrote a companion piece covering Archer's slider for BA. According to PitchF/X data, Archer's slider is the sixth hardest in baseball this season among starters. His whiff rate with the pitch is nearly 40 percent, and he has a fair groundball rate. What a weapon.

American League's No. 2 fastball: Jake McGee

How McGee was not an All-Star in either of the last two seasons is baffling. His fastball averages over 95 mph, and batters can't help but swing at it, a testament to his command. Ranking ahead of McGee is Los Angeles' Garrett Richards who has impressive velocity and can generate groundballs.

American League's No. 3 defensive first baseman: James Loney

I have a pretty rudimentary understanding of defensive metrics, but it seems that Loney's have been in decline the last couple years. Last season, he failed to crack the top 10 in voting for The Fielding Bible, so it should not be a surprise that he still owns a good reputation but now ranks behind Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira.

American League's (tied for) No. 1 defensive outfielder: Kevin Kiermaier

Along with Lorenzo Cain, Kiermaier ranks as the top defensive outfielder. Although he mostly played right field in 2014, he took over in center field in 2015 and passes the eye test and excels statistically.

American League's No. 3 outfield arm: Kiermaier

Please do not do this again.

International League's best power prospect: Richie Shaffer

Shaffer's .595 slugging and .330 ISO lead the IL among hitters with more than 200 plate appearances, and they are not particularly close. He's already tied for fourth in home runs despite having more than 100 PAs fewer than any player he's tied with or behind.

International League's best infield arm: Shaffer

Shaffer probably won't play much third base for the Rays, partly due to his athletic limitations, but mostly due to Evan Longoria. His arm may not make much of a difference at first base, but it would help in the outfield.

Southern League's best pitching prospect: Blake Snell

Snell's breakout season across three levels has made him one of the minors' best pitchers with 1.26 earned-run average and 141 strikeouts in 114 innings. To be the top pitching prospect in the Southern League, he had to beat out arms like Jose Berrios (Minnesota) and Braden Shipley (Arizona).

Southern League's best changeup: Snell

Entering the 2011 draft, Snell's changeup was "average at best", but it's now at least above average. In 2013, righties had a .806 OPS against him, but it is now down to .573 this season.

Southern League's best defensive catcher: Justin O'Conner

I'm not even going to check who other catchers in the Southern League are and just assume this was an easy choice.

Florida State League's best changeup: Snell

Snell was not named the top pitcher in the FSL. That honor belongs to Cardinals flamethrower Alex Reyes.

Florida State League's best infield arm: Willy Adames

Adames may not play shortstop in the majors, but he has the arm (and bat) to stay on the left side of the infield.

Florida State League's most exciting player: Adames

Most exciting player is kind of a nebulous term. Is Jose Bautista or Dee Gordon more exciting? Regardless, I think a toolsy player like Adames fits the bill. Middle infielders with some athleticism and power potential are uncommon.

Midwest League's best pitching prospect: Brent Honeywell

Honeywell struck out 29% of batters and walked just 4.6% before earning a promotion to Charlotte. To be named best pitching prospect in the MWL, Honeywell had to beat out a trio of first-rounders from his own draft that started the season in BA's top-100. It is abundantly clear that he is not a trick pitcher.

Midwest League's best changeup: Honeywell

As far as I can tell, Honeywell's changeup is separate from his screwball and was described as a developing plus pitch by BA prior to the season. This season, lefties have a lower OPS than righties against him, one sign it's an effective pitch.

Midwest League's best defensive first baseman: Casey Gillaspie

Gillaspie's defense has been a point of contention since he was drafted, but apparently Midwest League staffs like what they've seen so far.