Last year's Rays list

The State of the System: Usually when a system sees marked improvement, it’s from trades or drafts. In the case of Tampa Bay, it’s just a bunch of guys getting a lot, lot better at baseball.

The Top Ten

  1. LHP Blake Snell
  2. SS Willy Adames
  3. RHP Brent Honeywell
  4. RHP Taylor Guerrieri
  5. OF Garrett Whitley
  6. SS Adrian Rondon
  7. SS Daniel Robertson
  8. C Justin O'Conner
  9. 1B/3B Richie Shaffer
  10. RHP Jacob Faria

1. Blake Snell, LHP
DOB: 12/04/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 52nd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, Shorewood HS (Shoreline, WA); signed for $684,000
Previous Ranking(s): #10 (Org.), #44 (Midseason top 50)
2015 Stats: 1.41 ERA, 134 IP, 84 H, 53 BB, 163 K at High-A Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham
Future Tools: 65 fastball, 60 slider, 55 change
Role: 60—No. 2 starter

Snell always had impressive arm strength, but his projection has manifested itself in a 92-94 mph four-seam fastball that occasionally touches 96. The pitch is borderline plus-plus because of its movement, and he has more life on it than any left-handed pitching prospect in baseball. He complements that heater with a plus slider, a pitch that has hard downward tilt that he can now locate for strikes or bury at the feet of right-handed hitters. He has improving feel for a change that will flash plus because he sells it with his arm speed, and there’s enough late tumble for it to cause weak contact even when hitters guess right.

Snell is never going to match Carlos Silva’s walk rates, but his control took a huge step forward in 2015—his 2.6 BB/9 rate was the best of his career by a substantial margin. Assuming he continues to throw three above-average or plus pitches for strikes, he’ll be a guy who can pitch at or near the top of the rotation, and he should help Tampa Bay at some point in 2016.

Bret Sayre's Fantasy Take: While Snell is likely to be held back by his WHIP, there’s still plenty to get excited about here. And despite the ridiculousness of his numbers in 2015, he’s still likely to top out as an SP3 capable of striking out nearly 200 batters over the course of a full season. His chances of making 15-18 starts for Tampa this year are very strong, and despite the tough league/division, the Trop is still a fine place to pitch.

Major league ETA: 2016

2. Willy Adames, SS
DOB: 09/02/1995
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2012 out of Dominican Republic for $420,000; traded from Detroit to Tampa Bay in David Price deal
Previous Ranking(s): #1 (Org.), #36 (Midseason top 50)
2015 Stats: .258/.342/.379, 4 HR, 10 SB at High-A Charlotte
Future Tools: 60 arm, 55 hit, 50+ field
Role: 55—above-average regular at shortstop

Adames was the best prospect in the trade that sent Price to Detroit, and while there were certainly growing pains over the past season, there were just as many flashes of brilliance. He’s a patient hitter who works counts into his favor. The swing contains some length but there’s enough bat speed—and solid plane—to project an above-average hit tool, though he’ll need to cut down the strikeouts (123 in 2015) to reach that mark. There’s also sneaky pop in his bat, with enough hip rotation and just enough plane to project double-digit bombs as he fills out his frame.

Adames is a present-day shortstop, but the future is up in the air. His arm is plus and his footwork is solid—he’s rarely out of position and makes few mental errors—but his speed is only average, so the range might not be there as the aforementioned frame fills out. If he can stick at shortstop he’s a first-division regular, but even if he has to move to second or third, there’s enough offensive upside to project that Adames can play everyday.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: In dynasty leagues, Adames is still riding his name recognition from being the surprisingly key prospect in last summer’s David Price trade. Unfortunately, there’s just not a ton of fantasy upside here—at least proportionally to his current perceived value. At this point Adames looks like a potential .270 hitter with 12-15 homers and a handful of steals.

Major league ETA: 2017

3. Brent Honeywell, RHP
DOB: 03/31/1995
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 72nd overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, Walters State Community College (TN); signed for $797,500
Previous Ranking(s): #5 (Org.)
2015 Stats: 3.16 ERA, 130.1 IP, 110 H, 27 BB, 129 K at Low-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 60 screwball, 55 change, 55 command
Role: 55—No. 3 starter

Just as a personal aside: I find the screwball to be the second-most aesthetically pleasing pitch, just behind the knuckleball. Honeywell threw his more in 2015 than in 2014, and it’s a plus pitch with the inverted break, depth, and spin to make hitters look foolish.

In addition to his unique plus offering, Honeywell features another plus pitch in his fastball—he throws both the two- and four-seam varieties which range from 89-95, and he commands the heck out of each. He replicates his arm speed well on his change, and while there’s not a ton of movement, there is enough deception to call it an above-average pitch. He’ll also show a fringe-average curveball, but it doesn’t have the same kind of nasty break that the screwball does.

Honeywell’s stuff is solid, but it plays up because of his advanced feel for pitching. He repeats his delivery and arm slot well, and he very rarely creates issues through walks—one source called his control/command “elite, the type of command you look for in an ace.” Without a plus-plus pitch it’s unlikely Honeywell reaches that stature, but he’s as likely to reach his no. 3 ceiling as any pitcher in the system—maybe in baseball.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With Honeywell’s profile, there’s less of a gap between his fantasy ceiling and his floor than with most pitchers his age. And unlike many of those same pitchers, Honeywell is more likely to put up strong WHIPs and weaker ERAs over the course of his career. And while the screwball can get swings and misses, don’t expect strikeout rates much better than average. It all adds up to a strong SP4 profile, with upside on top of that in years where he gets lucky on fly balls.

Major league ETA: 2017

4. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
DOB: 12/01/1992
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 24th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, Spring Valley HS (Columbia, SC); signed for $1.6 million
Previous Ranking(s): #7 (Org.)
2015 Stats: 1.85 ERA, 78 IP, 19 BB, 72 K at High-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 60 curve
Role: 55—Mid-rotation starter

Guerrieri essentially missed all of 2014 (besides five short appearances in the Gulf Coast League), so 2015 was an important season for reestablishing himself as a legitimate prospect. He did. While not overpowering, his four-seam fastball will get into the mid-90s—sitting 91-94—and there’s plenty of sink on it. He can also induce groundballs with a 12-6 curveball that shows quality depth, and this year he began throwing the pitch for strikes more often than he had in previous seasons. The change is and likely always will be the third option, but it’s a competent part of his arsenal, featuring deception and occasional fade from left-handed hitters. He pounds the strike zone with all three pitches, and even though the control is significantly ahead of the command, the latter is good enough. He rarely misses his spots “big,” and he keeps the ball in the park (two homers in his 78 innings last season).

It’s really no longer a question of stuff with Guerrieri, but whether or not he can do it over a full season. He was drafted a half-decade ago and has thrown a total of 206 innings in his career, so it’s still very much in doubt whether he’ll be able to maintain the same quality stuff for 100 innings, much less the 170-200 you’d hope for him as a starting pitcher. The Rays have been very careful with the development, but 2016 should be the season they let him off the leash. How he responds to a legitimate workload will be one of the most interesting storylines to follow this year.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There are plenty of similarities between the fantasy profiles of Honeywell and Guerreri, at least everywhere but the risk factor. With his ability to throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground, the ratio upside is strong, but there’s just not enough track record of staying on the field to take advantage of the raw potential in his arm. He could be an SP3 if things break right.

Major league ETA: 2017

5. Garrett Whitley, OF
DOB: 03/13/1997
Height/Weight: 6’0” 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Drafted 13th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Niskayuna HS (Niskayuna, NY); signed for $2.96 million
Previous Ranking(s): No. 7 in Top 125 MLB Draft Prospects
2015 Stats: .174/.293/.312, 3 HR, 8 SB at Gulf-Coast League and short-season Hudson Valley
Future Tools: 65 speed, 60 glove, 55 hit, 50+ power
Role: 55—Above-average regular in center field

There were rumors that Whitley could have gone first overall in last June’s draft—which would have been a pretty significant reach—but he was a steal falling to the Rays where he did. You won’t find many outfielders with more athleticism; his borderline plus-plus speed and outstanding instincts in the outfield give him a chance to play in center field. He’ll need to improve the efficiency of his routes, but there’s no reason to think he can’t.

This doesn’t mean much if Whitley can’t hit, and there were certainly scouts who questioned his offensive upside. Pitch recognition doesn’t appear to be a strength at this point. Between that and the length in his swing, there are contact issues that could make the above-average hit tool ceiling difficult to reach. Still, he shows the same athleticism and fluidity in that swing that he does in the field, and thanks to his plus bat speed, the ball jumps off the barrel to all fields. He also has some loft and does a good job transferring his weight, so above-average power isn’t out of the question.

His defense makes him a high-floor player, but as a player who could have four 55 or higher tools, there’s a chance Whitley becomes a perennial All-Star.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The tools are enough to make fantasy owners salivate but the glue that holds it all together may or may not have had the cap left off overnight. There’s easy 20/20 potential for Whitley if he can even hit in the .250 range, yet given how far away he is and the contact struggles that have dogged him both before and after the draft, he’s no more than a late first round pick in most dynasty drafts

Major league ETA: 2018

6. Adrian Rondon, SS
DOB: 07/17/1998
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Signed July 2014 out of the Dominican Republic for $2.95 million
Previous Ranking(s): #4 (Org.)
2015 Stats: .166/.256/.234, 0 HR in 164 plate appearances at Complex level GCL
Future Tools: 60 arm, 55 hit
OFP: 50+—Solid-average regular at shortstop

The 2014 international class was loaded with high-upside shortstops, and for many Rondon was the best of the bunch. He’s a smart hitter who works counts and waits for his pitch, though he put himself into too many two-strike counts. That helps explain the strikeouts (57 in 43 games). Still, it’s easy to see why so many international scouts put a plus hit tool here, as his above-average bat speed and smooth, line-drive swing are aesthetically pleasing and should make him a high-average hitter as he learns to balance assertiveness with aggressiveness. There’s gap power present, but as he gets stronger/adds some loft, he could be a 10-to-15 homer guy.

What can sometimes appear to be lethargy is really a player who is very fluid, making things look easy both with the bat and glove. He’s only an average runner, which could drop to a 45 grade as he fills his frame. He projects to stay at shortstop either way. He reads the ball off the bat, and his strong, accurate arm allows him to turn hits into outs. If he was to move, he’d be a potential plus-plus third baseman, but that’s several seasons away, if ever. There’s volatility here because of the age and lack of experience, but his upside is as high as that of any hitting prospect in the Rays system.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Even with middle infield eligibility and potential all-around production, it’s impossible to ignore when a player won’t make any sort of impact until the person who stumbles out of this presidential election is preparing to win a second term. Rondon has as much fantasy upside as anyone not named Whitley in this system, but the risk and lead time leave him on the outside looking in at the top 150 fantasy prospects right now.

Major league ETA: 2019

7. Daniel Robertson, SS
DOB: 03/22/1994
Height/Weight: 6’1” 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Drafted 34th overall by Oakland in the 2012 MLB Draft, Upland HS (Upland, CA); signed for $1.5 million; acquired in the Ben Zobrist deal.
Previous Ranking(s): #38 (Midseason top 50)
2015 Stats: .274/.363/.415, 4 HR, 2 SB at Double-A Montgomery
Future Tools: 55 hit, 55 arm
Role: 50—Average regular on the left side of the infield

Robertson has fallen six spots since last year’s rankings, but that’s more a case of the guys ahead of him taking big steps forward than anything he did wrong. He’s still an advanced offensive player with a solid approach at the plate. His line-drive swing and above-average bat speed—with extension—allow him to spray line drives to every part of the field. What once looked like an above-average power tool is now more fringe-average, as his swing path is more geared to contact than to produce big extra-base hit totals, though he will put his share of doubles into the gap from natural strength.

It’s always been unlikely that Robertson would stay at shortstop, and nothing changed that opinion in 2015. He’s a below-average runner with below-average range, and his above-average-to-plus arm doesn’t compensate for the deficiencies. As a shortstop he’d have a chance to become a first-division regular, but even as a third baseman without a prototypical power profile there’s some upside as a high on-base player.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: In deep leagues, Robertson is very useful, as he has a very strong chance to play regularly at the major league level. Unfortunately in mixed leagues, if he doesn’t have that “SS” next to his name, he’s going to be the type of player you’re looking to replace rather than build around. He could do boring Chase Headley type things if he ends up at the hot corner, like hit in the .270 range with low double-digit homers and some steals thrown in for good measure.

Major league ETA: 2017

8. Justin O'Conner, C
DOB: 11/30/1992
Height/Weight: 6’0” 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Drafted 31st overall in the 2010 MLB draft, Cowan HS (Muncie, IN); signed for $1.025 million
Previous Ranking(s): #2 (Org.)
2015 Stats: .231/.255/.371, 9 HR, 10 SB at Double-A Montgomery
Future Tools: 80 arm, 65 glove
Role: 50—average regular behind the plate

Simply put, this is as good of a defensive backstop as there is in baseball. O’Conner throws lightning, and if it were possible to grade up, his quick release might merit it. He is also an excellent receiver with soft hands, and he gets good reviews from those I spoke with for his ability to call a game, when given the opportunity.

With this kind of defensive skill set, O’Conner doesn’t have to give you much offensively. That’s good, because O’Conner won’t give you much offensively. The loft and natural strength give him average raw power, but his long swing and lack of bat speed make even a fringe-average hit tool highly unlikely. The glove makes him worth a couple of wins, but you better have a competent backup, since you’re going to be pinch-hitting for him a lot.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The most that O’Conner is going to have is from the stolen bases that he’s preventing with that cannon of his when he’s playing defense. The rest is none of our concern.

Major league ETA: 2016

9. Richie Shaffer, 1B/3B
DOB: 03/15/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3” 220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 25th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, Clemson University; signed for $1.71 million
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2015 Stats: .267/.357/.539, 26 HR, 4 SB at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham; .189/.307/.392, 4 HR at Tampa Bay
Future Tools: 60 power, 60 arm
Role: 45—Fringe-average regular at corner infield

In the intro, we mentioned that this was a system that saw plenty of players improve, but none so much as Shaffer. We finally saw what made him a first-round pick throughout an entire season. There’s always been plus raw power, but Shaffer showed a shorter stroke to go along with his strength and the ability to clear his hips, allowing him to tap into his raw power and make hard contact on a more consistent basis. He’s still your prototypical “three true outcomes” guy, and the lack of bat speed makes the hit tool no better than fringe-average, despite the improvement. He’s relatively sure-handed at third base, with more than enough arm strength to handle the position, but his range is only so-so. First base is the most likely landing spot, though they have also had him play some corner outfield.

Shaffer doesn’t have the same upside as the names above, but as a 20-plus-homer guy whose OBPs won’t make you cringe, he has a lot of value. Many teams would kill for this type of player as their ninth-best prospect.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The future is now for Shaffer, who is likely peaking as a potential $8-10 player in AL-only formats as a part-timer. In mixed leagues, it’s probably wise just to wait until there’s a potential opportunity and then see if he can hot streak his way into a job. Otherwise, use the roster spot on someone with more upside.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2015

10. Jacob Faria, RHP
DOB: 07/30/1993
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Drafted in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Gahr HS (Cerritos, CA); signed for $150,000
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2015 Stats: 1.92 ERA, 149.2 IP, 103 H, 52 BB, 159 K at High-A Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery
Future Tools: 60 fastball, 55 change
Role: 45—Back-end starter/high-leverage reliever

You wanna talk about improved? Faria has gone from organizational arm to potential back-end starter to a guy one area scout called “the pitcher with the most upside in their system outside of Snell (and it’s not close).” It’s not terribly common to have much projection left at this stage, but Faria definitely does, as his 90-94 mph four-seam fastball should sit more comfortably in the mid-90s as he fills out. He shows the same ease in the delivery when throwing his change, which makes it an above-average offering despite a lack of movement. The only thing missing from the arsenal right now is a consistent curveball, and while it has shown improvement, too often it is missing the break or depth to be more than a 45 pitch. He’s a strike thrower but his command is well behind, particularly with the fastball.

If Faria can get that breaking ball to a 50, he’s a mid-rotation starter. As is, he’s one of the most intriguing arms in the system, and his two swing-and-miss pitches make him a potential closer if all else fails.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s not out of the question that Faria can hold just as much fantasy value as the names that were floated six and seven spots ahead of him on this list, but we’re not quite there yet. We might be there shortly into 2016 though, which makes Faria a good name to invest in late in your dynasty drafts this year. If that next step never happens, he’s unlikely to be a factor in mixed leagues, but could be a good back-end starter in deep formats.

Major league ETA: 2018

Five who are just interesting:

Justin Williams, OF – Justin Williams has plus-plus power potential. Justin Williams has walked 49 times in over 1,000 plate appearances. Which one of of these do you think is a bigger factor in Justin Williams’ stock? Not so fast, lover of dingers. There’s still immense talent here, but until he shows a semblance of patience at the plate, there’s no reason to think he’s ever going to be anything more than a bench option, and even that is far from a foregone conclusion.

Chris Betts, C – I was enamored with Betts for most of the 2015 draft season—he ranked 18th in our final top 125 MLB Draft Prospect list—but others were less enthralled, with one scout calling him a “rich man’s Gregg Zaun.” I think that scout is insane. Betts has plus raw power from the left side, and even though the approach is a work in progress, there’s enough feel for hitting to project an average tool when all is said and done. He doesn’t make the top 10 for three reasons: 1) he might not be able to catch, 2) he underwent Tommy John surgery this summer, and 3) the 10 guys above are pretty good. Assuming he recovers fully, he’s as intriguing an offensive backstop as there is. And if he has to move to first, he’s still a potential middle-of-the order bat.

Jake Bauers, 1B/OF – Bauers came over with little fanfare from San Diego in the Wil Myers three-team deal, but his hit tool gives him a chance to become a contributor someday, be it off the bench or as a regular. He squares everything up using a smooth swing with very little wasted movement, and he’ll hit ropes to every part of the ballpark. He’s also a plus defender at first, with good range and the long arms you look for in a “scoop” guy. Unfortunately, he’s never going to put up the power numbers you’re looking for in an everyday first baseman, and while the bat would play in an outfield corner, he has struggled out there in multiple viewings. There’s no law that says a first baseman has to hit for power, but it puts a lot of extra pressure on Bauers’ hit tool.

Brandon Koch, RHP – Yes, relievers can be interesting. Koch has the stuff to be a dominant one, with two pitches that flash plus-plus: a mid-90s four-seam fastball with plenty of life, and a hard, tilting slider. He also features one of the least aesthetically pleasing deliveries you ever see, and saying that there’s “effort” is too big of understatement to quantify. Still, as a guy with two 65 pitches that he throws for strikes and the stuff to murder-death-kill right-handed hitters, you would definitely have to say that Koch is interesting.

Cameron Varga, RHP – Varga’s stock was hurt by a fairly rare combination: He’s a high-ceiling, low-floor pitcher, but he was also old for the class as a high school senior who turned 20 the summer he was drafted. When he’s at his best, he’ll show two plus pitches, led by a 92-95 four-seam fastball that has some sink and good plane. He’ll also show a 12-6 curveball with good shape and spin, but he doesn’t always finish the delivery, so that will range from a 40-to-60 offering, depending on the day. The change is still a developmental offering, so the bullpen is just as likely a landing spot as the rotation. Still, despite his age there’s quite a bit of upside here.

Notable Omission: Casey Gillaspie, 1B — If Gillaspie played any position but first base, he would have made the top 10, but he doesn’t, so he didn’t. The 2014 first-round pick shows a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate, and while there’s not a ton of bat speed, his ability to stay in the zone and his strong understanding of that zone make the hit tool above average. He’s strong and transfers his weight well, and though there isn’t a ton of natural loft, it’s easy to project above-average power. He won’t remind anyone of David Segui around the bag, but he’s just athletic enough to stay at the position with a fringe-average throwing arm.

So why someone like Shaffer over Gillaspie? Simple. There’s less volatility in the former’s game, and the upside is nearly identical. If Gillaspie hits in Double-A he’ll jump up this list, but right now, it’s more of an 11-15 profile in a strong system.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/90 or later)

  1. Kevin Kiermaier
  2. Blake Snell
  3. Willy Adames
  4. Erasmo Ramirez
  5. Nick Franklin
  6. Brent Honeywell
  7. Taylor Guerrieri
  8. Garrett Whitley
  9. Adrian Rondon
  10. Daniel Robertson

Three graduations and a trade lopped the top four off of last year’s list: Wil Myers is now putting his tantalizing profile on display in the City of Good Living, and Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi (by three days!) are just a tad too gray for consideration here. That leaves the top spot open for Kiermaier, who built upon a strong 2014 with an even stronger 2015, maintaining his offensive value while tripling, at least by FRAA, the value of his defensive contributions. That profile won’t play forever, but at age 25 Kiermaier probably has more than a few good seasons left in him, and 5.2 WARP campaigns—like the one he put up last year—don’t grow on trees; at least, not normal ones.

Behind Kiermaier is Snell, who everyone seems to love and who should be a very good pitcher in relatively short order. Behind Snell is Adames, followed by the intriguing case of Erasmo Ramirez. Ramirez had his share of believers heading into 2014, but thenl something curious and (for Ramirez) unfortunate happened: He began to be really bad, posting a 6.58 (!) DRA and -1.7 WARP for the Mariners. That dropped his stock precipitously, which made his 2015—now in Tampa Bay—all the more pleasant to behold: a perfectly acceptable 3.84 DRA and 2.8 WARP over 163 â…“ redemptive innings pitched. He’s ranked below Snell because, at his best, he’s probably still worse than Snell, and below Adames because he’s not at his best right now. A strong 2016 would go a long way toward solidifying his stock.

Next, Franklin, and here there’s a discussion to be had. Why does a man who put up -1.1 WARP over the past two seasons feature on this list? Here’s my case, in three parts. First, PECOTA still buys into the power and the solid 2013, projecting Franklin for 8.7 WARP over the next four seasons—that’s just one win behind Kiermaier over the same period. Second, the relative paucity of power in the middle infield makes Franklin’s still-projectable pop a useful commodity, especially when paired (as it is) with excellent makeup. And lastly, there’s this: Franklin has already proven he can succeed at the big-league level (in 2013). Sure, he has to prove he can do it again, but I’m very much of the mind that actual big-league success, even limited success, should count for a great deal.

Now, Franklin probably won’t ever be a star, and Tampa Bay’s recent middle-infield acquisitions suggest they don’t believe he will be either, but he could still reel off a solid campaign or two if he manages to cut down on those pesky strikeouts. This year will be key for his development; if he misses again, look for a big drop down the list into “bust” territory. If, on the other hand, it’s a solid campaign—well, Franklin still offers a tempting profile. Again, PECOTA’s bullish on Franklin. That projection is driven by a reasonably attainable batting line (.238/.316/.380 in 2016, for example) and a bullish defensive projection (8.0 FRAA next year) built on the back of Franklin’s 13.8 FRAA 2013. I’d take the under on that defensive projection, but I’m still convinced that Franklin can be an above-average big-leaguer. Check in next year.

That rounds out the top five, and while there’s definitely talent worth talking about there, the bottom half of the list is where things get sort of interesting. Take a look at the names you see there, and then consider these three in addition: Enny Romero, Ryan Brett, and Andrew Bellatti. Romero is a reliever with a big arm and an unnerving tendency to try to get by on pure talent, which he doesn’t have enough of to pull off at the big-league level. Brett is a short (5-foot-9) second baseman, unheralded as a prospect, who’s done nothing but hit at every level and finally got a cup of coffee in 2015. And Bellatti is a young reliever who just happened to throw 23 â…“ perfectly competent big-league innings last season, and is still just 24.

Where would you rank them all? I guess a lot of that depends on how you interpret the purpose of this list. If you’re trying to work out who’s the best big-league baseball player, right now, you probably put those three players on your top ten somewhere; after all, they’ve actually made it to the majors already, and none of the players listed 6-10 have, save Shaffer. That’s something. But I don’t think that’s really the point of the list. This is about talent, and—with the possible exception of Romero—none of the three players I mention above are as talented as the number ten guy here, Daniel Robertson. Robertson’s just in Double-A, but he could be an average big-league shortstop in the next year or two. In his 75th percentile scenario, Romero will be an average big-league reliever in the same timeframe. That puts him below Robertson in my book, but your mileage may vary. Just want to put those three names out there to keep on your radar. —-Rian Watt

The Executives

President of Baseball Operations: Matthew Silverman
Director, Amateur Scouting: Rob Metzler
Vice President, Baseball Operations: Chaim Bloom, Erik Neander

Say what you will about the regime, but give the Rays credit: They know what they like and they believe they know how to develop it as well as anyone. Sometimes it has led to some whoops-a-daisies (See: Hager, Jake), but there’s a reason Tampa Bay has been one of the most consistent teams in baseball. Many people looked back at their 2011 draft class and viewed it as a failure, and while there were some letdowns—Hager included—players like Snell, Faria, and Guerrieri appear to be finding their stride. They did lose player personnel director Matt Arnold to the Brewers, and his loss is one that will certainly be felt, for all the reasons mentioned in the Brewers’ list.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Rays have one of the most respected scouting groups in baseball, both on the amateur and pro side. Silverman, Metzler, R.J. Harrison, and company have put together a tremendous group of talent evaluators, and they’ll help Tampa Bay continue to find diamonds in the rough, a necessity when you’re working with such limited financial constraints. They also use the analytical side as well as anyone. Their recent commitment to spending big on the international side, lead by Director of International Scouting Carlos Rodriguez, can/should keep Tampa Bay relevant despite those limitations.

Thank you for reading

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Lots of talk that Tyler Goedell will be the first pick in the rule 5 draft, did his name come up at all in your research?
If we had done a top 25, Goedell would have made it, but we didn't, so he didn't. He's a nice little pickup for Philadelphia, though.
Good call on Faria - MLBPipeline doesn't even have him in their top 30! TB system is quite deep, but c'mon!
They do have him listed. He's #20 on their list.
Interesting. There was kind of an uproar that he was absent last time they did a full update of the lists. They must have snuck him in there at some point after that.
According to Twitter, he just entered today after Goeddel was taken in the Rule V draft, but he didn't enter at #30 as is usually the case.
Not a terribly exciting group, but the first one of these that wasn't depressing. Great work as always from the BP team.
The excitement should come from the depth of the system. I think it is misleading that the talent never really drops off. In some systems, Whitley would be the exciting top of the system player. There are notable players in the honorable mention section!
Even a "rich man's Gregg Zaun" isn't that bad. Gregg Zaun was a 2nd division starter/great backup type for a long time. So "rich man's Gregg Zaun" would mean an average starter in my interpretation, but Betts could be significantly better than that if he can stick at catcher.
I was really hoping Damion Carrol made an appearance here because I really like his headshot. That's a sweet #Mustache.
Completely agree on Betts. That scout is insane. The kid has well above avg feel for hitting, and the power is legit. If he improves his catching and recovers from surgery without issue, there's a Jorge Posada ceiling.

I'm not as optimistic that Faria has much velo left in the tank. Fill out? He's already physically mature. His mechanics are maxed out as well. It reminds me of all the folks predicting that Zach Lee would add heat with maturation, when he came out of high school with little physical or mechanical projection remaining. Outside of adding a pitch or improving one he currently sports, I don't see much development left.

Clearly Al Skorupa did not factor into the Whitley ranking! LOL

Totally agree on Betts - not sure that Faria has much more velo to be gained either, but not sure that he needs it either. What he does need is to get a breaking pitch up to average.
Did Goeddel miss the list because he's a Phillie or because the Phillies liked him?

is matook no longer considered a prospect?
Erasmo Ramirez, it will take a while for that name to sink in as the #4 player under 25 in the organization, or in any baseball organization on any planet anywhere. It has to be a different Erasmo Ramirez from the one who threw in 2014.