The arrival and development of left-hander Blake Snell in 2016 was a bright spot for the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished in a three-way tie for baseball's second-worst record at 68-94.
Called up to make his debut in late April, Snell, 23 at the time, went on to post a 3.54 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 89 innings over 19 starts. He was particularly good after the All-Star break, showing front-of-the-rotation potential that should make him a fixture in the Rays' rotation for years to come. There could soon be a wave of young talent joining Snell in the big leagues, too, as the Rays enter 2017 with MLBPipeline.com's 10th-ranked farm system.
The Rays' system is teeming with players poised to make an impact in the near future, as nine of the club's Top 15 prospects -- and 19 of their Top 30 -- are expected to debut before the end of the 2018 season -- a group that includes four MLBPipeline.com Top 100 prospects in shortstop Willy Adames (No. 21), right-handers Brent Honeywell (No. 31) and Jose De Leon (No. 33), and outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers (No. 76). The Rays are especially rich in upper-level pitching, with quality depth pieces such as Chih-Wei Hu, Jacob Faria, Jaime Schultz and Taylor Guerrieri all capable of filling a spot in the rotation (or bullpen) on short notice.
Meanwhile, that upper-level depth has allowed the Rays' front office to aggressively target young high-ceiling players through the Draft, international markets and trades. The result has been a yearly influx of tooled-up prospects into the system such as Lucius Fox, Austin Franklin, Josh Lowe, Adrian Rondon, Jesus Sanchez and Garrett Whitley, among many.
• Rays' Top 30 Prospects list
||BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR
||ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WSH
||CLE, CWS, DET, KC, MIN
||CHC, CIN, MIL, PIT, STL
||HOU, LAA, OAK, SEA, TEX
||ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2016 preseason list to the 2017 preseason list.
Jump: Adrian Rondon, SS (2016: 20 | 2017: 13)
Fall: Taylor Guerrieri, RHP (2016: 6 | 2017: 18)
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Hit: Jake Bauers (55)
Power: Casey Gillaspie (60)
Run: Jake Fraley (70)
Arm: Joshua Lowe (60)
Defense: Jesus Sanchez (60)
Fastball: Ryne Stanek (70)
Curveball: Austin Franklin (60)
Slider: Jaime Schultz (60)
Changeup: Jose De Leon (65)
Control: Brent Honeywell (60)
How they were built
Rule 5: 1
Breakdown by ETA
Breakdown by position
Here's a look at the Rays' preseason Top 10 prospects from each of the past seven years (click here to see a larger image):
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.