If you are still one of those people wondering why it is that the Tampa Bay Rays recently sent Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn to the San Diego Padres for a package consisting mostly of prospects, this should be a good indication of why. After years of being one of the top farm systems in baseball, the Rays no longer have a bevy of young talent in the fold. According to Baseball Prospectus, one of the most trusted publications around, the Rays have only two of the MLB’s top 101 Prospects going into the 2014 season.
The more troubling takeaway from this might be how far down the list two minor league pitchers for the Rays ended up. Enny Romero, a 23-year old left-handed pitcher ended up 90th best in the MLB. And two spots later, at 92nd, we find right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
Odorizzi’s name should be more familiar to most Rays fans, as he was part of the deal last winter that sent James Shields to the Kansas City Royals. His placement on the 101 was lower than last season as he dropped nine spots from 83rd. It should also be noted, that while players like Xander Boegarts of the Boston Red Sox was included on the list (2nd behind only Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins), that the centerpiece of the Shields trade was left off. Defending American League Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers, is no longer a prospect. However, it would be foolish to not consider him, an important piece of young talent for the organization.
The two players overall for the Rays is down from five leading up to the 2013 season. Part of that is due to the graduation to the big leagues of players like Myers and Chris Archer. While others like pitcher Taylor Guerreri and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee for less than productive reasons.
Guerreri, 21, was left off the list after being ranked 48th in 2013, in large part to having Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. However a 50 game suspension, which was assumed to be for Marijuana use, could have factored in as well. While Guerreri won’t contribute much, if any, in 2014, he is surely a guy the Rays plan to be important to the club going forward.
The same can be said for Lee, 23, who last year ranked four spots ahead of Dodgers star Yasiel Puig, at 75. Lee has yet to make an impact after being a large part of the Matt Garza trade to the Cubs that brought over household names like Archer and Sam Fuld. However after spending much of 2013, rehabbing torn knee ligaments, Lee is set to compete for a roster spot in Spring Training. However with Yunel Escobar turning in what ended up being a productive season at shortstop, and the Rays making a move to acquire Logan Forsythe, it is more likely that Lee will have the opportunity to get his game back together at Durham.
Keep in mind, even without a dominant farm system that Rays fans are used to, the 40-man roster includes 14 players under the age of 25 including Myers, Archer, and Matt Moore. With these key pieces, and a possible trade of David Price on the horizon, the future is not as bleak as it seems.