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The Rays entered 2015 with cautious optimism, despite much of the organization going through a state of transition.
As an organization, the Rays’ lack of resources has prevented them from holding on to premium talent over the long haul, and that trend reared its head at the front-office level following the 2014 season.
After nine years at the helm, manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract and joined the Cubs. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made a similar move, leaving the Rays for the cachet of filling the same role with the Dodgers.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Blake Snell, lhp|
|2. Willy Adames, ss|
|3. Brent Honeywell, rhp|
|4. Jake Bauers, 1b|
|5. Garrett Whitley, of|
|6. Mikie Mahtook, of|
|7. Taylor Guerrieri, rhp|
|8. Jacob Faria, rhp|
|9. Casey Gillaspie, 1b|
|10. Daniel Robertson, ss|
With Friedman’s departure came the promotion of team president Matt Silverman, a Harvard-educated rising star. Silverman reconfigured the organization quickly, installing former major leaguer catcher Kevin Cash as manager and making several high-profile trades in the offseason, mostly with the goal of minimizing costs and adding depth to the system.
Tampa Bay saw significant growth from several young major league players in 2015. The oldest regular in the rotation was 27-year-old righthander Nathan Karns, who proved himself capable as a mid-rotation arm and served as the main piece in a November trade with the Mariners that netted Brad Miller, Logan Morrison and Danny Farquhar.
The Rays have built solid system depth and many prospects still have room to grow. Chief among them is lefthander Blake Snell, who began 2015 at high Class A Charlotte and catapulted himself into the upper minors and into the upper echelon of the prospect scene with a dominant season that earned him Minor League Player of The Year honors.
The Rays acquired Snell as a supplemental first-round pick in 2011, a year in which they held 12 of the top 100 picks, but several of those picks have not panned out. Snell’s emergence, as well as the successful big league debut by first-round outfielder Mikie Mahtook, represent a potential turning point for the draft class.
Righthanders Taylor Guerrieri (first round) and Jacob Faria (10th) and second baseman/outfielder Taylor Motter (17th) also came on strong in 2015. However, they are counterbalanced by three 2011 sandwich picks—Brandon Martin, Kes Carter and James Harris—who already had been released.
The Rays’ system has good balance, including a number of high-floor, upper-level prospects positioned to contribute in 2016 as well as a promising group of high-ceiling, teen prospects, including 2015 first-rounder Garrett Whitley and 2014 international signee Adrian Rondon.
Tampa Bay has assembled a deep collection of prospects and should soon face difficult decisions as players push for major league jobs.