Through trades and drafts, the Rays have strengthened their farm system in the last few years, and are now in a position where they might look to trade promising players who might not have a clear path to the majors with this franchise. Of course, depth can evaporate quickly; only in our dreams do all exciting prospects reach the potential of their more optimistic projections. Even with that caveat, here's a look at somewhere we could see expendable prospects.
Obviously we know the Rays have A LOT of pitching depth in their minor league system. I do the minor league recaps three times a week, and every day it seems like a top pitching prospect has just pitched or will pitch that day.
This pitching depth can be found at every level in the system. Take a look below at all the pitching prospects at each level so far in 2016.
- MLB Tampa Bay Rays: Enny Romero
- Triple-A Durham: Andrew Bellatti, Jaime Schultz, Blake Snell
- Double-A Montgomery: Jacob Faria, Taylor Guerrieri, Chi-Wei Hu, Ryne Stanek
- Class-A Advanced Charlotte: Brent Honeywell, Brandon Koch, Hunter Wood
- Class-A Bowling Green: Jose Mujica, Cameron Varga
While the Rays are known for developing pitchers well, they have also gathered a strong crop of shortstops in their minor league system. Their biggest shortstop talents are in the upper minors, as Daniel Robertson and Willy Adames are in Triple and Double-A, respectively.
Sooner or later, both of these players will be in the majors, and the Rays will have a decision to make. I've detailed this dilemma in the past in a piece dedicated to the Rays shortstop depth.
This means that the Rays will have a decision to make within the next year or two. Which shortstop would they want more? The contact-heavy Robertson or the defensively sound Adames? Better yet, is there room for both?
Daniel Robertson could conceivably become a second baseman. He played about half of his games in the Arizona Fall League at second base and profiles well there. Adames could also move and become a third baseman, as some scouts criticize his speed, calling him "an average runner." But so far Adames still looks like he can handle the position.
Similar to the backlog in the starting rotation, the Rays outfield also has plenty of talent blocking the progress of minor-leaguers. Mikie "7-WAR" Mahtook is stuck in Triple-A Durham as the outfield in the majors is stacked with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza, Desmond Jennings, Corey Dickerson, and Brandon Guyer.
Stuck in the Triple-A/MLB gap, Mahtook's value seems wasted in Durham. On Episode Five of the Hit Show, I posited that the Rays could get a decent major-leaguer in a one-for-one swap for Mahtook and that he could also be a nice peripheral prospect in a larger deal.
Finally, Richie Shaffer may end up in a logjam, especially if Logan Morrison rights himself or Steve Pearce takes the first base job for himself. Meanwhile, Jake Bauers and Casey Gillaspie are nipping at Shaffer's heels in Double-A with Bauers carrying a .393 wOBA and Gillaspie holding a .372. Meanwhile at third, Evan Longoria remains a key part of the lineup and Kevin Padlo lurks in the lower minor leagues.
As with Mahtook, Shaffer's talents could be wasted in Triple-A. I see his overall value similar to Mahtook's, with a bigger bat but less defensive potential. Shaffer would most likely end up a secondary prospect in a trade as his development has more or less reached its apex, and it isn't at the level of most centerpieces in a blockbuster trade.
As a whole, the Rays system has surprising depth from which they could end up trading. While hate to say goodbye to favored prospects, the team could leverage some of this talent to address deficits in the hopes of making a playoff run.