Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects

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, 2011.

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Bill Ballew
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1. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp
2. Matt Moore, lhp
3. Desmond Jennings, of
4. Jake McGee, lhp
5. Josh Sale, of
6. Alex Torres, lhp
7. Alex Colome, rhp
8. Justin O'Conner, c
9. Drew Vettleson, of
10. Jake Thompson, rhp

Best Hitter for Average Drew Vettleson
Best Power Hitter Josh Sale
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Desmond Jennings
Fastest Baserunner Desmond Jennings
Best Athlete Desmond Jennings
Best Fastball Matt Moore
Best Curveball Matt Moore
Best Slider Alex Torres
Best Changeup Jeremy Hellickson
Best Control Jeremy Hellickson
Best Defensive Catcher Nevin Ashley
Best Defensive Infielder Shawn O'Malley
Best Infield Arm Tim Beckham
Best Defensive Outfielder Desmond Jennings
Best Outfield Arm Todd Glaesmann

Catcher John Jaso
First Base Ben Zobrist
Second Base Sean Rodriguez
Third Base Evan Longoria
Shortstop Reid Brignac
Left Field Drew Vettleson
Center Field Desmond Jennings
Right Field B.J. Upton
Designated Hitter Josh Sale
No. 1 Starter David Price
No. 2 Starter Jeremy Hellickson
No. 3 Starter Matt Moore
No. 4 Starter Jeff Niemann
No. 5 Starter Wade Davis
Closer Jake McGee

Year Player, Position 2010
2001 Josh Hamilton, of
2002 Josh Hamilton, of Rangers
2003 Rocco Baldelli, of
2004 B.J. Upton, ss
2005 Delmon Young, of
2006 Delmon Young, of
2007 Delmon Young, of
2008 Evan Longoria, 3b
2009 David Price, lhp
2010 Desmond Jennings, of
Year Player, Position 2010
2001 Dewon Brazelton, rhp
Kansas City (Northern)
2002 B.J. Upton, ss
2003 Delmon Young, of
2004 Jeff Niemann, rhp
2005 Wade Townsend, rhp
Laredo (United)
2006 Evan Longoria, 3b
2007 David Price, lhp
2008 Tim Beckham, ss
2009 *Levon Washington, of
2010 Josh Sale, of
*Did not sign
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
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Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were left with a feeling of missed opportunity when the Rangers eliminated them in the American League Division Series. After winning the AL East on the final day of the regular season, Tampa Bay looked like a good bet to make the World Series, only to falter to Texas by losing all three games played at Tropicana Field. While manager Joe Maddon assured the masses that he expected his team to contend yet again in 2011, that will require productivity from several new and most likely inexperienced contributors.

The reality is that the Rays aren't likely to retain several free agents, including four-time all-star Carl Crawford, the franchise's career home run leader in Carlos Pena and the AL leader in saves in Rafael Soriano. Including Soriano, their top four relievers are eligible for free agency. They also may deal veterans such as Jason Bartlett and James Shields to further lower payroll.

Tampa Bay's 2010 Opening Day payroll of $72.8 million ranked just 21st in the majors but also represented a franchise record. The Rays, who have won 277 games and made the playoffs twice in the last three years coming out of baseball's toughest division, would like to reduce their salary expenditures to $60 million while remaining competitive in 2011. A farm system that has produced as much talent as any in recent years and remains deep may make that goal possible.

Solid drafts and a focused commitment to developing talent in Latin America have stocked the organization with players ready to contribute. Righthander Jeremy Hellickson, Baseball America's 2010 Minor League Player of the Year,  and outfielder Desmond Jennings have had to wait patiently, receiving only brief cups of coffee in the big leagues in 2010 when they would have been regulars for most other teams.

Hellickson and Jennings are two prime examples of how no team is more methodical in developing prospects than the Rays. While other clubs promote players at the first hint of success at lower levels of the minors, full-season stints at every step are the rule rather than the exception in the Tampa Bay system. Lefthander Matt Moore, who led the minors in strikeouts for the second straight year, spent all of 2010 in high Class A even though it was his fourth pro season and even while he torched the Florida State League in the second half.

The Rays also take their time developing talent because they focus on signing young players. The first nine players on this list entered pro ball as teenagers, and they spent four of its six picks in the first three rounds of the 2010 draft on high schoolers. Tampa Bay also signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Yoel Araujo for $800,000, a franchise record for an international amateur.

The Rays have become efficient at producing players who fit Maddon's desire to create a roster full of versatile athletes. The creative skipper maximizes matchups to keep certain players from being exposed over lengthy stints, resulting in 132 different lineups and eight Rays who played at least three defensive positions in 2010. Many of those multi-tasking abilities can be honed in the minor leagues, which should continue to be the lifeblood of baseball's most overachieving franchise.

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