Last January we performed a meta-analysis of the Rays’ top prospects, in which we built a composite ranking of the top 14 players in the system based on eight different rankings and our own “Trade Value Index“. Let’s take a look back at the list and see how each of those players performed in 2008 and gauge whether or not they are living up to the hype.

1. Evan Longoria (avg. rank: 1.1) It seems like years ago, but Dirtbag was demoted back to triple-A after spring training. But after 10 games, he was back and the Rays never looked back. Despite missing time late in the season with a broken bone in his wrist, Longoria hit .272/.343/.531 with 27 home runs and a 125 OPS+. Add to that 7-7 on stolen base attempts and gold glove-caliber defense and Longoria should be a run-away AL Rookie of the Year…AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?

2. David Price (avg. rank: 2.2) Not a bad year for King David who made his professional debut at single-A in late May. Five months later Price recorded the final 4 outs of game 7 of the ALCS to beat the Boston Red Sox and advance the Rays to the World Series. In 29 combined appearances (20 starts) between the minors, the majors and the postseason, Price was 13-1 with a 2.23 ERA. He posted 129 strikeouts in 129.1 innings, to go along with an impressive 3.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio…WILL BE TOP PROSPECT IN BASEBALL IN ’09

3. Jake McGee (avg. rank: 3.3) As impressive as Price was, McGee was equally disappointing. In June, McGee was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his elbow. Even before the injury, it was clear that McGee was not his usual dominating self. Prior to this season, McGee averaged 10.8 strikeouts per 9 innings. This season, that number was down to 7.5 at double-A. If he can come back successfully from surgery, Joe Maddon recently indicated that he could see McGee as a power lefty in the bullpen…WILL BE OFF THIS LIST IN ’09

4. Wade Davis (avg. rank: 3.8) Davis is just 1 of 8 starting pitchers in the organization that could start in the majors in ’09. Like McGee, Davis struggled early in the season at double-A. Prior to this season, Davis struck out 9.4 batters per 9 innings and posted a 3.0 strikeout to walk ratio. In 19 double-A starts, Davis posted a respectable 3.85 ERA, but his strikeouts per 9 innings was down to 6.8 and his ratio of strikeouts to walks was down to 1.9. After the double-A all star game, Davis was promoted to triple-A and his numbers rebounded back to his norm. In 9 starts with Durham, Davis struck out 55 in 53 innings (9.3 per 9 innings) and his ratio was back to 2.3. Davis is ready for the majors, but he will have to wait…TOP 20 PROSPECT IN BASEBALL

5. Reid Brignac (avg. rank: 5.3) Two things happened on the way to the majors for Brignac. His glove proved major league caliber, and his bat did not. With the glove, Brignac committed only 12 errors after averaging 28 per season that previous 3 years. He was named the top defensive shortstop of the IL by Baseball America. With the bat, Brignac posted a .250/.299/.412 line. He is still getting an extra-base hit about once every 10 at bats, which is in line with previous seasons, but the 25 walks have to be viewed as a disappointment. He also missed the final two months with a broken bone in his wrist. He did make his major league debut this season, going 0-10 with 5 strikeouts and a walk…PROSPECT STATUS IS SLIPPING

6. Desmond Jennings (avg. rank: 6.9) Another year, another season cut short by injury. This time it was only 24 games before Jennings went down with a shoulder injury. In 2009 Jennings will be 22 years old, have zero experience above single-A and only 685 at bats above high school. The talent is there (.866 OPS in ’07 at Columbus), but he needs to show that he can stay healthy for an entire season before we even consider him major league caliber...DISAPPOINTMENT SO FAR

7. Jeff Niemann (avg. rank: 6.9) Niemann made his major league debut for the Rays with one good start and one not-so-good start back in April. In triple-A, Niemann made 24 starts going 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA and a respectable 2.6 strike out to walk ratio. He did seem to get stronger as the season went along. Of course, the good news is that 2008 marked his second consecutive (relatively) healthy season. Niemann will be out of minor league options in 2009 so he will either be in the Rays’ bullpen or in the Royals’ (or another team’s) rotation…COULD BE A SOLID #4/5 STARTER WITH A LONG CAREER

8. Jeremy Hellickson (avg. rank: 8.2) We have always said that we are hesitant to get excited about a prospect until he does something above single-A. After a solid 2008, Hellickson is very much on everybody’s radar and he could give the Rays 3 starting pitchers in the top 20 prospects in baseball. Between single-A and double-A, Hellboy made 27 starts, going 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA and a ridiculous 8.1 strikeout to walk ratio. We also saw how much Hellickson is now valued in baseball as many teams at the trade deadline insisted on his inclusion in any deal with the Rays making it very clear that he would not be dealt. He should be #3 on the Rays’ list next season…TOP 20 PROSPECT IN BASEBALL

9. Eddie Morlan (avg. rank: 9.4) The best relief pitcher prospect in the system, Morlan posted a solid 3.0 strike out to walk ratio to go with 45 Ks in 47 innings. Morlan was selected to participate in the Futures Game during the All-Star break…COULD MOVE UP A SPOT OR TWO IN 2009

10. Ryan Royster (avg. rank: 11.1) Royster was a big disappointment in 2008. One year after hitting .329-30-98 with a .981 OPS at Columbus, Royster regressed to .265-9-58 with a .691 OPS at Vero Beach. Royster will need to prove that 2007 was not a fluke or he will soon become an afterthought…NOT LIKELY TO BE ON LIST IN 2009

11. Chris Mason (avg. rank: 11.1) As disappointing as Royster was with the bat, Mason was equally disappointing on the mound. After winning 15 games with a 2.57 ERA in 2007 at Montgomery, Mason’s ERA skyrocketed to 6.21. He was eventually demoted to the bullpen. Without a dominating fastball, Mason relies on control and that escaped him this season. After averaging 2.6 walks per 9 innings prior to this season, Mason walked 3.4 per 9 inning this season and the pitches in the strikezone were very hittable. Like Royster, Mason needs to prove that 2008 was the exception and not the rule…NOT LIKELY TO BE ON LIST IN 2009

12. John Jaso (avg. rank: 11.4) Jaso’s defense has improved considerably, but there is still improvement needed before he is considered a legitimate major league catching prospect. On the other hand, there is little doubt about his bat. For the fifth straight season, Jaso posted an OPS of greater than .800 and boasts a career minor league OBP of .381 (.386 in 2008). 2009 will be a big season for Jaso. If he can show continued progress behind the plate, he could become one of the top catching prospects in baseball…WILL BE IN RAYS TOP 10 IN 2009

13. Fernando Perez (avg. rank: 12.6) He still strikes out way too much (156 in 129 triple-A games) but his athleticism and speed cannot be ignored. He clearly left an impression on Joe Maddon during a September call-up. With a possible opening in right field for 2009, Perez will certainly receive consideration for that position. But we suspect that Perez is being groomed to replace Carl Crawford in left field. If Crawford is traded this off-season, the Rays would save nearly $8 million on the payroll, and only take a small step backwards in talent…COULD BE EVERYDAY MAJOR LEAGUER IN 2009

14. James Houser (avg. rank: 14.1) It is not easy to go 3-3 in 20 starts (double-A) but Houser’s 2.86 ERA indicate the lack of wins was not his fault. The 76 to 40 strikeout to walk ratio needs improvement (94.1 innings) but the 69 hits allowed was very impressive. A big lefty (6’5″), Houser still needs to add meat to his bones (185 lbs). Once he does, he could step up as one of the top prospects in the system. In the meantime, Houser’s future in the big leagues could be as a relief pitcher…SLOWLY CLIMBING THE BOARD

A Meta-Analysis Of Top Tampa Bay Rays Prospects [Rays Index]



  1. Anonymous says:

    So, Prof, overall, how do you feel? It seems a lot of these folks are moving down on the list rather than up.

  2. DirtbagFan says:

    Top prospects can only stay "top prospects" for so long before they become stale AAAA prospects (aka moving down the list to make way for new prospects)

  3. kyle says:

    I hope Niemann sticks around, but if not, since you mentioned the Royals, who do you think we get in return? I'd like Butler or DeJesus myself........or Nelson Cruz from Texas would be even better I think.

  4. The Professor says:

    anon, i think the Rays will have as many "top" prospects as ever in 2009, but there does seem to be less depth. After Hellickson, I don't see much in terms of prospects from the lower levels. hopefully a couple will step up in 2009. also, the Rays HAVE to make a trade or two this winter, and ever if the Rays are looking for major league talent, they will also look for lower-level prospects to fill the ranks.

    Kyle, those are the type of players we would be talking about. of course, Niemann could be included in a bigger package for an impact player

  5. stunna says:

    As much as trading Crawford might make sense, I still love having him here, and I'd really love to see him finally have a huge breakout season in a Tampa Bay uniform. Although who knows if that will ever happen. It seems like every year we are waiting for it but it never comes. At least he's consistent...

  6. The Professor says:

    stunna, i think that is the point of view of most Rays fans. unfortunately we are getting closer and closer to the end of that contract.

  7. DirtMcGirt says:

    Trading CC could make a lot of sense if we had someone young with high upside that we thought could fill in at LF/RF (Perez?) because the Rays could easily get a player in return that would easily have an ops of over 50 points better than Crawford at this point or throughout his contract that would make up for CC's absence and having a rookie in RF. Nice to see your views on Morlan being so positive after some of the struggles he has had. Also is their any doubt the rays won the Dukes trade even though Gibson will be out of baseball by '11.

  8. The Professor says:

    no doubt at all. i have said since day one. if Gibson never plays in the majors, the Rays "won" that trade. good riddance.

  9. Clayton says:

    First, reiterating that I love these recap posts. Second, I agree that we will need to continue sending guys on their way earlier rather than later. If they don't want to extend Carl, which I would be fine with by the way, they need to start guaging an interest level at the least.
    Slightly off-topic, some of the DH/RF options that have been discussed would cost us a first round pick, right? Adam Dunn, etc.? Between that and the payroll hit, I hope whomever we go with pans out. Lastly, lots of talk about a one-year Holliday rental. Can we agree that the DRO doesn't do rentals?

  10. DirtbagFan says:

    I didn't think anyone else used or remembered "dirt mcgirt" since ODB died... nice.

    I agree it would prob. make sense to shop Crawford now, one more sub-par season and who knows the fallout or wasted trade potential...

  11. The Professor says:

    let's also keep in mind that Crawford is not a big fan of the FieldTurf in the Trop. This is the second straight year that he has had leg problems that he says are directly related to playing on the turf. at this point the Rays could use that as leverage in a deal that he would be more of an impact player in another uniform

  12. The Professor says:

    not to mention CC may just want to be traded

  13. DirtbagFan says:

    Or just have Maddon tell him he's hitting lead-off next season and he'll be screaming for a trade in no time.

  14. Robert Rittner says:

    There are a few prospects lower down, Professor. The three that come to mind are Moore, Barnese and of course Beckham. There are a few other position players who may start getting some attention also, like Kang and Sheridan and perhaps Salem as well, although it's a bit early to be thinking about them. But those first three are pretty well regarded.

  15. Diana says:

    Maddon could tell him to bunt 5% of the time or take balls as well to chase him out of Tampa (that's my ESPN geography). Also even though Crawford would be horrible leading off for anyone, why can't we sell him as a left-handed lead off hitter. Baltimore was looking at getting the pick of peoples farm system for Brian Roberts, why not just swap young talent for young more saber friendly talent that is pre-arb...

  16. The Professor says:

    my apologies. i didn't mean to imply that there are no prospects.

    but other than Beckham, I don't think anybody is ready to put any of those guys in the Rays list of top 10 prospects or in BA's top 100.

    And even Beckham is looked at by some as a big crap shoot. with some prospects (especially hitters) it is just a matter of how good they will be. but there are some concerns about Beckham that i think will keep him from being too high on any lists.

    wihtout putting too much thought into it. i am not sure i would rank him any higher than 5 or 6 in the Rays system. of course, part of that is the depth of top-level prospects (especially pitchers) but it does seem strange that a top pick is not elevated right to #1 or #2.

  17. Mike Newman says:

    I really like Barnese and Moore coming up through the system. They will fill holes vacated by graduating players quite nicely even though they are pretty far off. Lobstein also could have been drafted higher and will become a top 10 prospect in the organization VERY quickly.

    I think McGee still ranks as a top 8 player in the organization even with his injury. He was top 35 overall entering 2008.

    The Rays do have more question marks in their top 10 than in recent years, but still remain a very talented organization.

  18. Robert Rittner says:

    I think it is fair to speculate that of the prospects you listed Mason, Royster and probably Morlan will fall off the list for 2009. I would not be surprised should Niemann, Perez and Houser also fail to make the top 15 or so, not because they are not promising, but because I think their ceilings are considered relatively low.

    That would leave 7 of the 2008 list, and it is conceivable that even though they are rather far down in the system, Moore, Barnese and Beckham will move onto that list, even in the top 10. And I agree that even Lobstein might get some notice as well, again because of anticipation that each has a higher ceiling than Niemann et al.

    I also am surprised at your statement that there are serious concerns about Beckham. Everything I have read is very positive and interprets his initial performance as promising both offensively and defensively. Naturally a teenager who has had so little pro exposure remains a huge question mark, but I have seen no questions about his tools, aptitude or attitude.

    In any case, I do not so much disagree with you as I wish to point out that lower down there are highly regarded prospects who may begin soon to fill in the spaces vacated by Longoria, and shortly Price and perhaps Davis as well.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I have a real strong feeling that Reid Brignac will be wearing different colors next season, the Rays have the young kid they drafted in A ball and Bartlett had a respectable season this year.

    There are a number of teams looking for shortstops, his defense is solid, he just needs to work on putting the ball in play.
    What are your thoughts

  20. The Professor says:

    wouldnt surprise me, but i wonder if the Rays want to wait one more year to get a better idea of what they have in Beckham and see if Brignac can step up with the bat.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I have to disagree with your take on McGee. He is still a legit Top 10 prospect for the Rays, and will be a big prospect in 2010 when he will be a full season removed from TJ surgery.
    Most TJ guys come back with a little added velocity, and given his young age, I fully expect McGee to be bumping 100mph. There arent many lefties that are capable of that. Also, who knows how long he was pitching with elbow pain that could have diminished his performance this season.
    McGee will be back on the radar in a big way in 2010.

  22. The Professor says:

    noboby is saying he wont make it back to being a top prospect. but keep in mind that Tommy John surgery is at least 1 year on the shelf. that means McGee isn't going to be available until at least mid-season. and a lot of pitchers don't get back to their pre-injury strength for 2 years. So we are talking 2010 at the earliest before we can even gauge how good he will be.

    and not all pitchers get the strength back. Wade Townsend?


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