Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Top 10 Prospects

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2007.

1.Delmon Young, of
2.Evan Longoria, 3b
3.Reid Brignac, ss
4.Jeff Niemann, rhp
5.Jacob McGee, lhp
6.Elijah Dukes, of
7.Wade Davis, rhp
8.Matt Walker, rhp
9.Jeremy Hellickson, rhp
10.Joel Guzman, of/1b/3b
Best Hitter for AverageDelmon Young
Best Power HitterEvan Longoria
Best Strike-Zone DisciplineChriw Nowak
Fastest BaserunnerFernando Perez
Best AthleteElijah Dukes
Best FastballJuan Salas
Best CurveballMatt Walker
Best SliderJeff Niemann
Best ChangeupMitch Talbot
Best ControlAndy Sonnanstine
Best Defensive CatcherShawn Riggans
Best Defensive InfielderPatrick Cottrell
Best Infield ArmNeil Walton
Best Defensive OutfielderFernando Perez
Best Outfield ArmDelmon Young
CatcherDioner Navarro
First BaseJoel Guzman
Second BaseJorge Cantu
Third BaseEvan Longoria
ShortstopReid Brignac
Left FieldCarl Crawford
Center FieldRocco Baldelli
Right FieldDelmon Young
Designated HitterB.J. Upton
No. 1 StarterScott Kazmir
No. 2 StarterJeff Niemann
No. 3 StarterJacob McGee
No. 4 StarterWade Davis
No. 5 StarterMatt Walker
CloserJuan Salas
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Matt White, rhpOut of baseball
1998Matt White, rhpOut of baseball
1999Matt White, rhpOut of baseball
2000Josh Hamilton, ofDevil Rays
2001Josh Hamilton, ofDevil Rays
2002Josh Hamilton, ofDevil Rays
2003Rocco Baldelli, ofDevil Rays
2004B.J. Upton, ssDevil Rays
2005Delmon Young, ofDevil Rays
2006Delmon Young, ofDevil Rays
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Paul Wilder, ofOut of baseball
1998Josh Pressley (4)Marlins
1999Josh Hamilton, ofDevil Rays
2000Rocco Baldelli, ofDevil Rays
2001Dewon Brazelton, rhpPadres
2002B.J. Upton, ssDevil Rays
2003Delmon Young, ofDevil Rays
2004Jeff Niemann, rhpDevil Rays
2005Wade Townsend, rhpDevil Rays
2006Evan Longoria, 3bDevil Rays
Matt White, 1996$10,200,000
Rolando Arrojo, 1997$7,000,000
B.J. Upton, 2002$4,600,000
Dewon Brazelton, 2001$4,200,000
Josh Hamilton, 1999$3,960,000
Devil Rays' Team Page
Devil Rays Top 10 Scouting Reports Premium
Last Year's Devil Rays Top 10 Prospects
2006 Draft: Devil Rays (Basic Database)
2006 Draft: Devil Rays Premium (Advanced Database)
2006 Draft Report Cards: AL East Premium
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

The Devil Rays had to keep telling themselves that it's always darkest before the dawn. Otherwise, the team’s revamped ownership and front office never would have kept its sanity in 2006.

Tampa Bay entered the season trying to change the tone of a franchise that has struggled on most fronts since it started play in 1998. Despite the best of intentions, trouble reared its head, with many of the problems occurring at Triple-A Durham. Delmon Young, the 2005 Minor League Player of the Year, received a 50-game suspension for tossing his bat and striking an umpire in April. Elijah Dukes was sent home twice after altercations with teammates, the coaching staff and an umpire. Bulls manager John Tamargo was suspended for 10 games by the International League for a run-in with an umpire in May, while B.J. Upton was charged with driving while impaired in June.

Dukes, Upton and Young are three of the most talented young players in baseball, and they all were critical of the organization in interviews with USA Today in July. Upton and Young concluded the campaign in the majors. Dukes, who didn't play after July 26, contemplated giving up the game. The Rays fired Tamargo and the rest of his Durham staff after the season ended.

All the turmoil in Durham overshadowed the Devil Rays' efforts in building what has become the strongest system in baseball. Though Upton no longer qualifies for this prospect list, Young remains among the game's elite prospects and has been joined by Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac, who should take over the left side of Tampa Bay's infield in short order. The Rays finally are having some success developing pitching, with Jacob McGee, Wade Davis, Matt Walker and Jeremy Hellickson showing off quality arms in the lower minors.

Tampa Bay had good depth to begin with and supplemented it with a series of trades. The Rays used big leaguers Joey Gathright, Mark Hendrickson, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo to add players such as J.P. Howell, Dioner Navarro and Ben Zobrist to their big league club and prospects such as Joel Guzman, Sergio Pedroza and Mitch Talbot to their system.

First-year scouting director R.J. Harrison not only nabbed Longoria with the third overall pick in the draft, but also added talents such as righthander Josh Butler (second round), catcher Nevin Ashley (sixth) and outfielder Desmond Jennings (10th). Given the problems with several high-profile prospects, Harrison pushed his staff to find players with strong character and makeup to match their physical promise. The Rays also are trying to make a more concerted effort to find talent in Latin America.

Perhaps the most troubled prospect in franchise history, outfielder Josh Hamilton returned to the diamond after spending more than two seasons on Major League Baseball’s suspended list because of drug problems. The first overall pick in the 1999 draft appeared to be in excellent physical condition before a knee injury led to arthroscopic surgery. If Hamilton, now 25, can overcome his demons and live a productive life, his comeback will be considered a success regardless of how well he progresses in baseball.

Tampa Bay won one minor league championship (Double-A Montgomery in the Southern League) and narrowly missed another (high Class A Visalia lost in the California League finals), and hopes that core of players eventually will enjoy similar success at the big league level. For a team that has yet to break the 70-win plateau in the majors, anything positive must be considered a step in the right direction.