The Rays have the best minor league system in the game. They have been cultivating their system for years and are one of the best organizations when it comes to player development. Their management of their prospects has been admirable as they, despite many years of suckage, never rushed their guys to the bigs. They have a dirth of pitching prospects in their minor league system with several guys who look to project as top of the rotation guys. While they do not have many studly positional players in their system with Longoria already up, their pitching is just insane. The Rays are also, obviously, finally good. This is, in my opinion, the best managed team in baseball. They do not have blank checks to hand out to free agents and have built a serious contender from the ground up and with significant staying power. They do not have the ability to bring in big time free agents and have to pick and choose very carefully who to hand out big deals to. Because of this, they place an added emphasis on player development and have a tremendous minor league system. Pitching wins baseball games and they have tremendous pitching talent in the minors. There is actually nothing not to like about this club. I obviously love them as I continue to go nuts about their team as you clearly can see. Hitters: good. Staff: good. Prospects: good. Lets go Rays. So now you can, like, read this stuff about their prospects and then know a lot about the Rays, which is fun, because they're cool. This team will be good for a while and when everyone else is like 'wtf how are the Rays so good' you will OWN them, already know the reasons, AND ALSO know the guys that will be up in 1-3 years from now. Proceed.
LHP, David Price: With Delmon gone and Longoria already up, Price is the top overall prospect in their system. Guy's a 6-6 lefty starter drafted last year out of Vandy who throws gas and looks like a can't miss stud/genius. They are talking about bringing him up in the second half to throw in the pen for their postseason run, a la K-Rod/Joba, and I really, really hope they do. He will be to the Rays exactly what Joba was to the Yanks and K-Rod was to the Angels (and setting up Percival also, kinda weird). Price, in relief, equals Joba (lefty version). Brief Joba: ooh wow, look at his K/IP, ooooh, he's good. Yay, Joba gets really excited when he strikes guys out, jumps around, and fist pumps all over the place. He looks sort of intense on the mound sort of like not as crazy as Papelbon but definitely some type of crazy eyes. He bridged the gap to Mo for them when the rest of their bullpen was utterly awful. The game becomes 7 innings, not 9. Bugs really like to fly around him and sit on his neck/ears/face/everywhere (bug master?) when he throws in Cleveland. It's too bad the Yanks mismanaged the kid and didn't let him start the season on the rotation, but the Rays are not as stupid. Price can come up, throw like 20 innings and own (really, like Joba version 2.0), then come back next spring as a starter and wait for his call up into the staff. In his first season in the minors he already got called up to AA and he has been DESTROYING everything in his sight. He's got a combined (AA and A) 1.68/1.02, over a K per IP, strong K:BB, well under a hit per IP. Basically, he's bad. Eoh. And the kid's 22. 22! Yes! He's young, tall, a lefty, and the best thing ever, maybe. So as expected, his stuff is equally bad. Eoh. Southpaw's fastball sits around 92-93, he's got a plus slider which has a very hard sharp break, and a plus changeup. He really, really, really reminds me of a taller Johan (there, I said it) and I think the kid is going to be, maybe as soon as 2009, one of the best starting pitchers in the majors for some time.More...
LHP, Jake McGee: McGee, was drafted out of high school by the Rays and he threw rookie ball for them at age 17 in 2004. He had a breakout campaign in 2007, between A and AA ball he tallied 175 Ks in 140 innings with a 3.5:1 K:BB. Dominant. He's in AA ball right now and while he is not putting up tremendous numbers this season, he has top end of the rotation potential. The 22 year old throws a fastball, slider, changeup and he has consistently owned lefty hitters in the minors. He needs to continue to develop his secondary pitches in the minors as neither his slider or changeup are major league ready at this point. He is still very young and still has a high ceiling making him an intriguing prospect.
RHP, Wade Davis: Another guy drafted out of high school in 2004, Davis was named the Rays 2007 organizational pitcher of the year. He finished up the season with a 2.50/1.13 between A and AA ball to go with 169 Ks in 158 innings. Averaged less than a hit per inning, a good K:BB ratio, and in short, showed he has the capability to be a big time pitcher. Davis is throwing in AA ball this season and, like McGee, is not having such a steller season so far after high expectations following his 2007 breakout. He's got a 3.85/1.36, which isn't too bad, but the Rays certainly hoped he would be pitching well enough to finish the season out in AAA. That still may happen, but it looks increasingly unlikely as he has not yet pitched well enough to warrent a promotion. He throws a plus fastball and plus curveball but his change is just average. Davis can benefit from another season or two in the minors to refine and further develop his change. He will be as good as his changeup so we'll see if he can figure out how to throw it effectively. They should get Sheilds can show him what's good, I've decided.
RHP, Jeff Niemann: Niemann has been plagued with injury since the Rays drafted him in 2004. He has undergone elbow and shoulder surgeries and even though he is a monster at 6'9" 260, he is not a very hard thrower. The Rays moved him up quickly through their minor league system as they drafted him out of college and at 25 he has spent this season in AAA. In 2006 AA ball, Niemann put together a dominant 14 start season with a 2.69/1.10. In 77 innings he struck out 84 batters while allowing just 56 hits. He had a less than spectacular 2007 season in AAA, though, and his whip jumped up to 1.45 due to some clear control problems. But, he's been significantly better this year. Niemann got a brief 2 start stint for the Rays back in May so he is clearly the closest start to the majors in their system. He had one good start and one bad; the Rays sent him back down to AAA. He's been making a good case to the Rays that he belongs in the bigs. He got his whip back down to 1.17 and he's back averaging a K per IP as he did in '06 while giving up just 59 hits in 71 innings. He does not have overpowering stuff but at 6'9" he throws at an extreme downward angle, keeps the ball downin the zone, and does a good job of keeping the ball in the park. He has a plus curve, average fastball, and throws a splitter which still needs a bit of development. But, he mixes his pitches well and keeps hitters off balance very well. There is no spot in the rotation for Niemann, but the extra work in AAA will do him more benefit in the long run as he could be a very solid piece in the rotation.
And thus ends my Rays insanity. I love them, so I wanted to profile their team. I have done that hopefully with some type of moderate success. :*