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Fantasy Baseball 2014: Tampa Bay Rays Prospects to Watch

Felipe Melecio breaks down the top prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system and which ones can make a fantasy baseball impact.

Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We head north from Miami toward the Gulf of Mexico and check out the Tampa Bay Rays farm system and how it has and will affect fantasy–and real–baseball.

It’s no secret what the Rays have done to remain competitive on a very limited budget: they have continued to draft, develop, and harvest young talent through their farm system. And when they’re not drafting good amateur talent, they’re constantly flipping their established veterans for even more prospects to add to their system. A quick look at some of the more notable trades in Rays’ recent history:

There was even strong indications that David Price would be traded this offseason as the Rays try to avoid signing him to a hefty, long-term deal and acquire even more prospects for their farm system. Of course, the Rays ended up re-signing Price and avoid arbitration for another year, but it’s quite possible that Price will still be shipped to another team eventually, though teams are wary of paying a king’s ransom for the former Cy Young winner.

Currently, the Rays’ system is full of depth, but years of competitive baseball is starting to catch up to them as they are lacking those blue-chip players we are used to seeing out of their system. For some perspective, the highest ranked player in MLB.com‘s Top 100 Prospects for 2014 is Jake Odorizzi, ranked 56th overall. Nevertheless, the Rays were still able to rely on their farm to bolster their big league team, seeing good production from guys like Archer, Myers, and Torres on their way to a playoff berth last season.

Hak-Ju Lee–SS–2013

2014 Outlook: Great defender; line-drive swing; Great speed; hitting prowess is in question

Player

Class

PA

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

AVG

OBP

SLG

Hak-Ju Lee

AAA

57

1

7

6

11

9

0.422

0.536

0.600

Off to a fantastic start in 2013, bouncing back from a bad 2012 campaign, his season was suddenly cut short as Lee injured his knee back in April. He still left his mark as Baseball America named him the organization’s Best Defensive Infielder. Had he continued on, Lee would’ve warranted a 2013 call-up to Tampa, but it would appear to be doubtful as current Rays’ shortstop, Yunel Escobar, ended up having a good season. Lee is once again blocked by Escobar, but if Lee can continue on his success of his 2013 hot start, the Rays may have no choice but to find a spot for him on the team. His speed and contact skills make him a decent option at short for fantasy leaguers.

Alex Colome–P–2013

2014 Outlook: Nephew of Jesus Colome; fastball can reach high 90s; Induces a lot of groundouts; Needs to improve command; Future reliever?

Player

Class

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

H/9

HR/9

Alex Colome

AAA

70.1

4

6

3.07

1.31

9.2

3.7

8.1

0.6

Used mainly as a starter in Triple-A Durham and pitched in three starts for the Rays last season, Colome was able to improve his strikeouts, command, and walks. Despite the improvements, many doubts still linger about his questionable command and his eventual move to the bullpen. Not only that, but injuries, including elbow issues, just add to the concerns. Nevertheless, because of his stuff, it’s worth keeping Colome in mind for those needed spot starts in daily leagues.

Jake Odorizzi–SP–2013

2014 Outlook: Has good command of his four pitches; Low-90s fastball; future mid-rotation starter

Player

Class

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

H/9

HR/9

Jake Odorizzi

AAA

124.3

9

6

3.33

1.13

9.0

2.9

7.3

0.9

Odorizzi had a solid year in Triple-A Durham last season. He even held his own in four starts for Tampa and even was able to notch a save. Unlike Colome, there’s no doubt that Odorizzi is destined to land in a big league rotation. The problem is that the Rays seem to be set in their rotation, relegating Odorizzi back to Durham. It would appear as if he has nothing left to prove in Triple-A and is very likely to be the first pitcher to be called up by the Rays if one of their starters goes down with a long-term injury or are in need of a spot start.

Mike Montgomery–SP–2014

2014 Outlook: Tall lefty; Arrow has been going down since 2010; command and mechanical issues; potential to have three above-average pitches

Player

Class

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

H/9

HR/9

Mike Montgomery

AAA

108.7

7

8

4.72

1.46

6.4

4.0

9.2

0.7

Montgomery’s struggles in 2012 continued last season. Despite the terrible season, Baseball America awarded him with the organization’s Best Changeup. Just like Colome, there have been talks about moving Montgomery to the bullpen, but potential and stuff have given him plenty of chances to prove himself as a starter. Until he figures it out on the mound, fantasy leaguers should ignore Montgomery.

Taylor Guerrieri–SP–2015

2014 Outlook: Only 20, but already has plus fastball and can induce a lot of groundouts; good control and command; can be frontline starter

Player

Class

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

H/9

HR/9

Taylor Guerrieri

A

67.0

6

2

2.01

0.99

6.9

1.6

7.3

0.7

Unfortunately for Guerrieri, he succumbed to Tommy John surgery back in July and was suspended 50 games for drug abuse. Despite all of that, Baseball America credited him with the system’s Best Curveball and his stock, when healthy, has mostly gone unchanged. Dynasty League owners might want to take a risk on Guerrieri while his value is low.

Jesse Hahn–P–2014

2014 Outlook: Already had Tommy John surgery; high strikeout potential; good control; Good, mid-90s fastball; needs more polish

Player

Class

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

H/9

HR/9

Jesse Hahn

Hi-A

67.0

2

1

2.15

1.09

8.5

2.4

7.4

0.1

Hahn was able to make 19 starts at High-A last season, a career high. He was able to maintain a decent strikeout rate and kept his walks in check. But with the Rays full of pitching depth, they decided to send Hahn, along with Alex Torres to the San Diego Padres in the offseason. Hahn, though still recovering from elbow surgery, has enough potential worth keeping an eye on.

Drew Vettleson–OF–2014

2014 Outlook: Can hit for average along with some pop; good base runner; compact swing might generate high contact rate.

Player

Class

PA

HR

RBI

2B

BB

SO

AVG

OBP

SLG

Drew Vettleson

A+

516

4

62

29

40

78

0.274

0.331

0.388

Make that three years straight where Vettelson’s OPS has seen a decrease. He will continue to impress with his fielding, but the results at the plate have been very disappointing. Vettelson is still in his early 20s so he still has a chance to figure things out, but a poor 2013 season will see his stock drop in both real and fantasy circles despite the impressive scouting reports.

Mikie Mahtook–OF–2014

2014 Outlook: Base-stealing threat; Good pop; needs to work on plate discipline

Player

Class

PA

HR

RBI

2B

BB

SO

AVG

OBP

SLG

Mikie Mahtook

AA

568

7

68

30

43

102

0.254

0.322

0.386

On the bright side, Mahtook finished the season with 30 doubles and 25 stolen bases. Unfortunately, the Rays are not a team impressed with petty counting stats as another year in Double-A Montgomery netted similar results: poor plate discipline and on-base skills. Like Vettleson, his stock is quickly plummeting as the lack of hitting approach is overshadowing a decent glove and great speed.

MONTGOMERY CLONE

Enny Romero—P—2014: Romero is very similar to Montgomery in the fact that they’re both lefties, though Romero is not as well-built as Montgomery. Both pitchers have eye-opening stuff, with Romero’s fastball rating higher than Montgomery’s, but his secondary pitches are not quite as developed. Romero also has control and command issues, posting another mediocre season in the minors, but because of his potential, he will be highly ranked in a lot of publications’ prospect previews so he’s a name worth knowing, but needs to start showing some results.

Stats and scouting reports courtesy of Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus, and MLB.com.

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