Tampa Bay Rays’ Top 10 Prospects – Lee, Archer, Guerrieri…

Rays Prospects

Hak-Ju-Lee Heads Rays Prospects List

Everywhere you look on the Tampa Bay Rays roster, there are homegrown players contributing.

All five members of their American League-leading starting rotation (with a 3.26 ERA) are former Rays prospects. If you count the current rotation (David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb) along with injured starter Jeff Niemann and starter turned reliever Wade Davis, then you have seven starters developed in the Tampa Bay system.

Starting infielders, Elliot Johnson and Evan Longoria ascended the Rays minor league ladder while outfielders Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton were once highly acclaimed prospects in the organization.

Since recent high ceiling prospects like Moore, Hellickson and Jennings have graduated to the majors, the Rays only have one current minor leaguer who was included in Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 List. Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee was No. 47.

Still, the Rays have a plethora of promising prospects who are near Major League ready or are expected to be there within the next two seasons.

Top 10 Prospects in the Tampa Bay Farm System:

1. Hak-Ju Lee, SS

Considering how much he covets prospects, Cubs first-year president Theo Epstein would likely have not signed off on the January 8, 2011 trade that sent Lee, Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos and Sam Fuld to the Rays for right-handed starting pitcher Matt Garza. The 21-year-old Lee recently landed on the DL with an oblique injury that will sideline him for the rest of the minor league season (which ends this week), but he posted respectable numbers at Double-A Montgomery, batting .261 with four home runs, 37 RBI, 10 triples and 37 stolen bases. Lee is a premium defensive shortstop who has speed and can leg out doubles and triples. The Rays hope that he ends the franchise’s long revolving door at shortstop.

2. Chris Archer, RHP

Included in the aforementioned Garza trade, the 23-year-old Archer was 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA at Triple-A Durham this season, but what the Rays especially like is his 132 strikeouts and 97 hits allowed in 121 innings. Boasting a sinking fast ball that reaches the mid-90s and a plus slider, Archer is also developing a change-up. Tampa Bay believes that Archer has the potential to become a quality Major League starter, but at the least the organization is confident he can emerge as a late-inning reliever with his power pitches.

3. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP

A first round pick out of high school in 2011, the 19-year-old Guerrieri was rated as the 90th-best prospect in the game entering the 2012 season by Baseball America. He has not disappointed, making his professional debut in the New York-Penn League with Hudson Valley. Guerrieri is 1-2 with a 1.07 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP in 10 starts covering 42 innings. Since the Rays have abundant pitching depth in the majors and the high minors, they can take their time with Guerrieri, who has an arsenal of four pitches.

4. Mikie Mahtook, OF

A first round pick (31st overall) out of LSU in 2011, the 22-year-old outfielder brings a gridiron approach to the diamond as he was a high school football standout in Louisiana. He is best suited for a corner outfield spot and features an accurate arm to accompany plus bat speed and a solid plate approach. Rated No. 78 among MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, Mahtook has split this year between advanced Single-A Charlotte (Fla.) and Double-A Montgomery and has overall numbers that include a .289 average, nine home runs, 59 RBI, eight triples, 24 doubles and a .424 slugging percentage.

5. Alex Torres, LHP

Included with utility player Sean Rodriguez in the 2009 deal that sent Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels, the 24-year-old Torres has impressive strikeout numbers, whiffing  156 in 146 innings at Triple-A Durham in 2011, for example. A lack of command has been his main obstacle. The southpaw has battled injuries and ineffectiveness this season at Durham, posting an 8.07 ERA and 2.05 WHIP in 61.1 innings, striking out 77 but walking 61 and permitting an opponent’s batting average of .270.  He issued 83 walks in 146 innings last year. Torres had nine strikeouts and seven walks in eight innings over four appearances in his Major League debut last season.

6. Enny Romero, LHP

The 21-year-old Dominican Republic native has a slender 6-foot-3, 165-pound build but a live arm with a mid-90s fast ball. He will become a more complete pitcher when he masters his curve ball and change-up. At advanced Single-A Charlotte, he has a 3.71 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP over 24 games (including 22 starts). Like many young power pitchers, Romero needs to harness his command. He has limited opposing hitters to a .203 average and has surrendered just 86 hits in 121 innings, but he has walked 71 and struck out 100.

7. Drew Vettleson, OF

A first round pick out of high school in 2010, Vettleson projects as a right fielder as he climbs the Rays system because of his strong arm. The left-hander hitter has a disciplined approach at the plate, but he does need to cut down his strikeouts (108 in 480 at-bats this season at Single-A Bowling Green. Vettleson is not know for his natural speed, but he is regarded as a smart base runner and has 19 steals to accompany 14 home runs, 68 RBI and a  .283 average at Bowling Green.

8. Alex Colome, RHP

Once regarded as one of the top 100 prospects in the game (reaching No. 68 on Baseball America’s top 100 list before the 2010 season), the 23-year-old Dominican Republic native has spent six seasons climbing the Rays minor league ladder. He has slipped in prospect status but still represents a potential quality Major League starter. After going 8-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 starts at Double-A Montgomery this season, he was promoted to Triple-A Durham, where he has a 3.24 ERA and a .207 opponent’s batting average in three starts.

9. Blake Snell, LHP

A supplemental first rounder out of high school in 2011, the 19-year-old Snell has a 2.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a .202 batting average against in 11 starts at Princeton in the Appalachian League. His low 90s heater induces lots of grounders, but his curve ball and change-up are still works in progress. At 6-foot-4 and 180, he needs to pack on some muscle, but his minor league numbers have been impressive so far even as he is still gaining strength.

10. Tim Beckham, SS

The first overall pick out of high school in 2008, Beckham is considered a bust by some baseball pundits, and he has not done a lot to help his cause by getting hit with a 50-game suspension earlier this season after his second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Lee has surpassed Beckham on the depth chart, but if he gets and keeps his act together, the 22-year-old Beckham could serve as a versatile utility player. After a solid 2011 season that saw him hit .271 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI at Montgomery and Durham, he has posted more modest numbers in 2012 at Durham, batting .259 with six home runs and 28 RBI in 263 at-bats.


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