Tampa Bay Rays: Top 10 Prospects

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Bill Ballew
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TOP TEN
PROSPECTS
1. David Price, lhp
2. Tim Beckham, ss
3. Wade Davis, rhp
4. Reid Brignac, ss
5. Desmond Jennings, of
6. Matt Moore, lhp
7. Nick Barnese, rhp
8. Jeremy Hellickson
9. Jake McGee, lhp
10. Jeff Niemann, rhp
BEST
TOOLS
Best Hitter for Average Tim Beckham
Best Power Hitter Ryan Royster
Best Strike-Zone Discipline John Jaso
Fastest Baserunner Fernando Perez
Best Athlete Desmond Jennings
Best Fastball David Price
Best Curveball Wade Davis
Best Slider David Price
Best Changeup Mitch Talbot
Best Control Jeremy Hellickson
Best Defensive Catcher Christian Lopez
Best Defensive Infielder Reid Brignac
Best Infield Arm Jairo de la Rosa
Best Defensive Outfielder Fernando Perez
Best Outfield Arm Justin Ruggiano
PROJECTED 2012
LINEUP
Catcher Dioner Navarro
First Base Carlos Pena
Second Base Akinori Iwamura
Third Base Evan Longoria
Shortstop Tim Beckham
Left Field Carl Crawford
Center Field Desmond Jennings
Right Field B.J. Upton
Designated Hitter John Jaso
No. 1 Starter David Price
No. 2 Starter Scott Kazmir
No. 3 Starter Matt Garza
No. 4 Starter James Shields
No. 5 Starter Wade Davis
Closer Jake McGee
TOP PROSPECTS
OF THE DECADE
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Matt White, rhp Out of baseball
2000 Josh Hamilton, rhp Rangers
2001 Josh Hamilton, rhp Rangers
2002 Josh Hamilton, rhp Rangers
2003 Rocco Baldelli, of Rays
2004 B.J. Upton, ss Rays
2005 Delmon Young, of Twins
2006 Delmon Young, of Twins
2007 Delmon Young, of Twins
2008 Evan Longoria, 3b Rays
TOP DRAFT PICKS
OF THE DECADE
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Josh Hamilton, of Rangers
2000 Rocco Baldelli, of Rays
2001 Dewon Brazelton, rhp Out of baseball
2002 B.J. Upton, ss Rays
2003 Delmon Young, of Twins
2004 Jeff Niemann, rhp Rays
2005 Wade Townsend, rhp Rays
2006 Evan Longoria, 3b Rays
2007 David Price, lhp Rays
2008 Tim Beckham, ss Rays
LARGEST BONUSES
IN CLUB HISTORY
Matt White, 1996 $10,200,000
Rolando Arrojo, 1997 $7,000,000
Tim Beckham, 2008 $6,150,000
David Price, 2007 $5,600,000
B.J. Upton, 2002 $4,600,000
RAYS
LINKS
Rays’ Team Page
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2008 Draft: Rays (Basic Database)
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Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Tampa Bay Rays

Next up: Pigs fly and hell freezes over. The list of life’s impossibilities decreased by one when the Rays went from last place in the American League East to the World Series. They joined the 1991 Braves as the only teams in major league history to reach the playoffs one season after having baseball’s worst record.

Sporting the majors’ second-lowest Opening Day payroll ($43.8 million) and its third-youngest roster, Tampa Bay entered the campaign never having won more than 70 games in a season and finishing out of last place just once in 10 seasons.

Fittingly, their sudden jump to 97 wins and the AL pennant was accomplished through player development.

After some missteps in the early days of the franchise, the Rays have built primarily from within. Their World Series roster featured nine one-time first-round picks, including B.J. Upton and leading AL rookie-of-the-year candidate Evan Longoria, who went in the top three picks, and Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir, acquired in trades for veterans.

The grow-your-own approach isn’t expected to end any time soon, though the Rays will slip a little in our farm-system ratings after ranking No. 1 the last two seasons. Postseason hero David Price, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, will carve out a significant role for himself in 2009, and he headlines the pitching that overflows throughout the system. The position players don’t run as deep, with shortstop Reid Brignac topping a thin group at the upper levels. Tampa Bay addressed that by spending six of its first 2008 draft picks on hitters, including shortstop Tim Beckham with the No. 1 overall choice.

In fact, despite the Rays’ long-held philosophy of building through the farm system, they never have been more oriented toward developing young players. In each of the past two drafts, for example, Tampa Bay has selected several of the youngest players eligible, such as righthanders Brad Furdal and Jason McEachern (neither of whom turned 18 until mid-October) in the 2008 draft.

Likewise, several of the college players the Rays draft last June, such as catcher Jake Jefferies and first baseman Mike Sheridan, were 20 during their pro debuts. The organization also is more driven than ever in developing international players after building facilities in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in the past two years.

It’s obvious that the entire organization, from top to bottom, has more planning and vision than at any time in its first dozen years. President Matt Silverman and GM Andrew Friedman have displayed a Midas touch with nearly every move they have made, ranging from dropping “Devil” from the team nickname to displaying the proper amount of patience for rising prospects to making the correct decisions in terms of adding major league talent.

Gone are the days when physical ability trumped everything, with strong mental makeup now the most desired trait for any Ray, on the field or off.

There’s no reason why the Rays shouldn’t remain contenders for the foreseeable future. This team was built for the long haul with a plethora of talented young players and pitchers, and their sudden surge in 2008 was no fluke.

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