I'm starting a new series where I will look at random teams' farm systems and how they operate on a daily basis depending on who is there, what has occurred there in the past, etc. Today I look at the Rays' system, where David Price is thriving at AA Montgomery, Durham has a 9 game lead in their division, A Columbus is trying to defend its League title from last season, and where Tim Beckham (#1 overalll pick of the Rays in 2008 ) is a level below his younger brother Jeremy Beckham, while Jeremy is hitting .260 at A Short Season Hudson Valley, Tim is hitting .211 at Rookie League Princeton.
The Yankees and Red Sox have a reason to fear the Rays of the future. The Rays, who were ranked with the #1 farm system by Baseball America in 2008, didn't make a deal for a big time player (which is what I expected them to), and still have a stacked farm system filled with potential superstars. I will break down every level of the farm system of the Rays for your own knowledge and excitement/fear of the future domination by Tampa Bay.
AAA Durham: Home to notable players such as Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, who played with the Bulls in 1963, Durham was the team that was used for the infamous movie Bull Durham with Kevin Costner. Durham is the two-time winner of the Governor's Cup (International League Championship) in 2002 and 2003. The top prospect in Durham is Wade Davis, who is 2-0 with a 3 ERA is 3 starts. He just advanced from the AA level at Montgomery. Also at AAA is Reid Brignac, an OF with a lot of potential. Meanwhile, Jeff Niemann is still trying to make it to the Show for good, while Catcher John Jaso and the rest are trying to make a name for themselves with the Durham Bulls, home to Joe Morgan, Chipper and Andrew Jones, and others who were able to call Durham their home.
AA Montgomery: The Biscuits, who have been affiliated with the Rays since 1999, have been in Montgomery since only 2004. However, they have been a Southern League team since conception in 1973, when they were affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. With the rotation featuring David Price, James Houser, Jeremy Hellickson, Jino Gonzalez, and Jacob McGee, they have a rotation full of blue-chip prospects. While they don’t have any blue-chip infielders, they are still a team to fear with their rotation and bullpen of un-hittable stature.
A-Advanced Vero Beach: The Devil Rays, as they have been called since 2007, are a new addition to the farm system of Tampa Bay. They were in the Dodgers farm for 26 years and helped players such as Eric Gagne, Adrian Beltre, Paul LoDuca, Scott Proctor, Russell Martin, Blake De Witt, Mike Piazza, and Chad Billingsly develop and advance to the majors. The rotation includes Heath Rollins, Brandon Mann, Ryan Morse, Matthew Walker, and Wilton Noel, in which only two are blue-chippers. However, their bullpen has a shining gem in Brian Baker, while the OF contains blue-chipper Desmond Jennings, and behind the plate is middle-tier prospect Nevin Ashley. This may not be the team with the most potential in the organization, but there is still no shortage of it.
A Columbus: The Catfish are a young franchise, but that didn’t stop this franchise from winning a South Atlantic League title last season, which was their first in franchise history. In an attempt to repeat, their starters are Alexander Cobb, Jesse Darcy, Brian Flores, Jeremy Hall, and Jason Ragan. Catching is top prospect Michael McCormick, who may be traded in future years or used as a backup for Dionner Navarro. He’ll have to compete with John Jaso, however, for a spot in the Rays’ future plans. Another top prospect at Columbus is SS Shawn O’Malley. This franchise was a Dodgers’ affiliate from 2001 to 2006, but became a Rays’ affiliate in 2007. The franchise will be moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2009 by the franchise’s new owner: Art Solomon.
A Short-Season Hudson Valley: The Renegades have been an affiliate of the Rays since 1996, although they have been around since 1990 as an affiliate of Baltimore, Florida, and Texas in a short time span. They are a team in the New York-Penn League, and face teams such as the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones on a daily basis. Their only league title came in 1999, and have produced major leaguers Scott Potsednik, Jorge Cantu, Ryan Dempster, Josh Hamilton, Joe Kennedy, Craig Monroe, Evan Longoria, and Toby Hall. In the starting rotation for the Renegades are pitchers Chris Andujar, Nick Barnese, Frank De Los Santos, Shane Dyer, and Tyree Hayes. While they only have one quality infield or outfield prospect in Jeremy Beckham, they still have loads of potential on the squad in the bullpen and rotation.
Rookie League Princeton: The rookie league team has been around since 1996. Like the Advanced-A affiliate in Vero Beach, Princeton did not immediately drop the "Devil" from their name, until 2008. As from 2001-2007 the Rays were known as the Devil Rays. Princeton's mascot is "Roscoe", a rooster that is termed as "drug-free". Meanwhile, on the diamond, the Devil Rays are struggling with a 16-23 record as Tim Beckham is struggling. In the rotation for Princeton is Joseph Cruz, Albert Suarez, Kevin Chavez, Albert Colome, and Matthew Moore. This is a young team with a lot of potential to succeed in the future if given time.
As you can see, this is a stacked farm system that will be feared in the years to come.