Daniel Robertson

Daniel Robertson is just the latest position-player prospect added to the Rays’ system.

Now that Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar have both been traded, there is no denying that the Rays are neck-deep in a rebuilding mode as 14 players from last year’s opening day roster are now gone.

Sure, the Rays will still be competitive and they still have a strong pitching staff and the Rays will tell you they plan to be contenders in 2015. But the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays finished dead-last in the American League in scoring, they just traded away two of their best hitters (Zobrist and Wil Myers), and have added very little.

The 2015 Tampa Bay Rays are going to struggle to score runs and it is going to be painful watching a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 losses.

But that doesn’t mean this off-season has been a failure either. Quite the contrary. It is clear now that Matt Silverman set out to fix a dying farm system, especially with respect to position players, something the Cubs did successfully, and it has worked perfectly.

Consider this list of the Rays’ top 20 prospects via MLB.com. Of the top 14 players on the list, seven are position players who have been added to the organization in the past seven months (in bold, with how they were acquired in parentheses):

  1. Daniel Robertson, SS (Zobrist/Escobar trade)
  2. Casey Gillaspie, 1B (2014 draft)
  3. Willy Adames, SS (David Price trade)
  4. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
  5. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
  6. Steven Souza, OF (Wil Myers trade)
  7. Alex Colome, RHP
  8. Enny Romero, LHP
  9. Nick Ciuffo, C
  10. Ryan Brett, 2B
  11. Justin O’Conner, C
  12. Boog Powell, OF (Zobrist/Escobar trade)
  13. Andrew Velazquez, SS (Jeremy Hellickson trade)
  14. Justin Williams, OF (Jeremy Hellickson trade)
  15. Cameron Varga, RHP
  16. Ryne Stanek, RHP
  17. Jake Bauers, 1B
  18. Mikie Mahtook, OF
  19. Burch Smith, RHP
  20. Blake Snell, LHP

That list looks a lot different without all of the trades.

Prior to last season. the Rays’ farm system had fallen all the way to No. 26 in the Baseball Prospectus rankings after being No. 8 two years ago and No. 2 in 2011. It’s hard to tell how the Rays will climb this year, but it is definitely moving back in the right direction.

What will be interesting to watch going forward is just how far the Rays take this. Recently, over at Business Insider, I took a look at the Cubs’ rebuilding plan and how it was the complete opposite of the Rays. That is, while the Rays have always favored pitching prospects and supplemented with aging hitters, the Cubs are building their farm system around position players and supplementing with veteran pitchers.

The feeling is that top position prospects almost never miss. They may not become superstars or even All-Stars, but they almost always become dependable everyday players at the very least (with the occasional exception to the rule, like Tim Beckham).

Filling up the farm system with top pitching prospects clearly also works. But the downside is that you need to overstock the system because inevitably some will get hurt and some will just never make it.

So, are the Rays just doing a one-off surge to add some much needed bats to the system or does the last year or so mark a shift in organizational thinking towards something more similar to what the Cubs are doing? Only time will tell.

But we do know is that even though the 2015 season is going to be rough at times, the future once again looks bright.



  1. Dave L says:

    Yes and you cant have too many 18 to 20yo hot shot SS. No need to worry about a log jam at that position, at that age you are there because you are the most athletically smooth and graceful player on the field. Some inevitably move to CF, 2nd Base (or 3rd) as they develop which means you are strong up the middle, regardless.

    This is the real news out of the offseason.

    Even if all arent "top prospects' per say its now more likely one or more of those 15 or so kids NOT listed above that the Rays also just picked up will end up helping a future Rays team win as well. KK didnt grace many Top Prospect lists before making his splash last year.

    The nice aspect is that they were able to do this without blowing up the team. Trading a Longo, Cobb or Archer would have been a full scale rebuild.

    Nice plan I think.

  2. James N says:

    Burch Smith and Jake Bauers from that list also came from the Wil Myers trade. So almost half of the top 20 list came from trading

  3. Ken says:

    Didn't Bauers and Burch Smith also come from an off season trade?

    • Skateman says:

      Yes. And this prospect list is way out of date. Hak Ju Lee isn't close to being the 5th best prospect anymore (probably not even top 20). Adrian Rondon and Brent Honeywell (both picked up this year through international signing and draft) aren't even on the list and should be in the top 10. Cameron Varga was also drafted this year. So the farm has improved massively in the last 12 months.

      • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

        Lee was essentially major league ready when his knee was injured, so to say that he's not even a top 20 anymore is fool hearty.

        • Skateman says:

          It sucks but it's so. Lots of other guys moved up, even more joined the system through trades and the draft, and HJL's stock plummeted last year due to a terrible performance with the bat and reduced range post injury. Hope he bounces back, but I'm not optimistic (he has put on a lot of muscle in the last year, though).

  4. Skateman says:

    Out of the 14 only Zobrist and Price weren't dead weight and both were dealt, as the Rays always do, within two years of free agency. This is what the Rays do year in and year out. It doesn't mean we're in a complete rebuild, anymore than it was a rebuild when Shields was dealt. With small market teams it's always a balance between the present and the future. Myers is very unlikely to be a good player going forward. His swing has huge holes in it and he stinks at defense. It's a miracle we got so much for him.

    Moreover, the returns we got all fill the positions we lost (plus prospects) Go down the current roster relative to last year's roster and I think we're as good, on balance, as the roster was supposed to be last year.

  5. drew says:

    I'm all for these moves. Problem is, because the tampa area has such a shitty baseball fan base, attendance will probably be the worst it has been since the DevilDog days. This hurts in several ways (future stadium plans, future payroll, ....)

    • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

      This will partly be due to baseball writers (like our friend Cork) perpetuating the buzzword 'rebuilding'.

      If we're gonna use a buzzword let's go with 're-tooling' because, as cliche as it is, it is a more accurate description of what they're doing.

  6. Drew says:

    My worry is our minor league hitting instructors kill all of these guys. We haven't produced an above average big league hitter since Longo in 2008. We haven't produced an average big league hitter since Desmond Jennings in 2011. Jaso was average/above-average and was traded away. I didn't include Myers as 4 of his 5 minor league seasons were with the Royals. That is two average MLB hitters developed in the last 6 seasons. We will see if KK can be average, but the point is we have had one above average hitter produced under the new ownership and developmental staff since they took over, and that player was a "can't miss" guy at the time of the draft.

  7. mep645 says:

    Getting players MLB ready was what the Rays were really good at from 2010 through 2013 because of playing in AAA Durham. Andrew Freidman was the president of the team too.
    I wonder who is filling the shoes of Charlie M since he will now be the Rays third base coach? He was able to do this. The Durham Bulls had Archer in 2012, Cobb in 2011 and 2012 and many other players that we only think of as Rays. One of the AAA jobs is to keep the players interested in getting better and better and not quitting baseball. It takes many years to get even to that rung of the ladder. Go to the "watching Durham Bulls Baseball" site for interesting reading about what was going on with Rays stars before they were Stars.
    Get you ST tickets now and pay the extra $10 as they are really selling out fast. See ya in Port Charlotte

  8. FortMyersDave says:

    Will Tim Beckham ever contribute on the MLB level?

    Also in the article: "The 2015 Tampa Bay Rays are going to struggle to score runs and it is going to be painful watching a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 losses."

    Well could it be worse than last season???? And if hitting is such a major issue then why is Derek Shelton still the hitting coach? I am not arguing with the point made it is just that what the Rays have traded away did not exactly plate a lot of runs in 2014 including Zorilla who was sub-Mendoza with RISP.

    MEP645 makes a great point about Charlie Montoyo, he will be a great addition to the Rays coaching staff but I too am curious as to who will be filling his shoes in Durham where one can expect a lot of travel to and from Tampa with various call ups, rehab assignments and demotions as the 2015 season unfolds.


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