Rays' Triple-A rotation chock full of talent

Rays' Triple-A rotation chock full of talent

Rays' Triple-A rotation chock full of talent
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Matt Moore is the exception of the Rays' farm system, but even Major League Baseball's No. 1 prospect went station to station while making his journey to the Major Leagues.

Prospects in the organization should not get their noses out of joint about being moved along slowly. In recent years, the organization has enjoyed great success by bringing along its top prospects at a snail's pace. By doing so, they feel they insure that their prospects are best equipped to arrive in the Major Leagues prepared to play.

With the Minor League season getting under way, and fans keep track of the Rays' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. And get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Rays' Minor League teams on the Rays' affiliates page.

Moore, 22, experienced a meteoric run through the farm system before bursting onto the Major League scene in September. After making his Major League debut in a relief stint on Sept. 14 at Baltimore, Moore made his first Major League start on Sept. 22 at Yankee Stadium, and held the Yankees scoreless on four hits through five innings, while walking one and striking out 11. Then he shut down the Rangers in Game 1 of the Rays' Division Series, claiming the club's only postseason win.

where to watch
A look at where the Rays' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2012 season:
No. Player Club Level
1 Matt Moore Tampa Bay MLB
2 Hak-Ju Lee Montgomery AA
3 Chris Archer Durham AAA
4 Tim Beckham Durham AAA
5 Mikie Mahtook Charlotte A+
6 Taylor Guerrieri Extended ST
7 Alex Torres Durham AAA
8 Drew Vettleson Bowling Green A
9 Enny Romero Charlotte A+
10 Blake Snell Extended ST
11 Parker Markel Bowling Green A
12 Josh Sale Extended ST
13 Brandon Guyer Durham AAA
14 Alex Colome Montgomery AA
15 Ryan Brett Bowling Green A
16 Jake Hager Bowling Green A
17 Felipe Rivero Bowling Green A
18 Justin O'Conner Extended ST
19 Jeff Ames Extended ST
20 Wilking Rodriguez Charlotte A+
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.

Now, Moore begins the season at Tropicana Field as a member of the Rays' highly touted starting rotation.

Who will be the next player to graduate from the Rays' farm system to join the Rays? Hak-Ju Lee is an unquestioned talent at shortstop, as is Tim Beckham. New players funneling into the system include Mikie Mahtook and Taylor Guerrieri, as well as recent top picks Drew Vettleson and Josh Sale.

This should be an exciting season throughout the Rays' farm system.

Stacked squads
Triple-A Durham looks like a holding tank for Major League-ready talent this summer.

For starters, the team's rotation rivals several Major League staffs, with Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Alex Torres leading the way.

Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Rays in 2011, and he went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA for Durham. Torres went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA in 27 starts at Durham, and 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA for the Rays. Archer didn't play for the Rays in 2011, but he went 8-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 25 starts at Montgomery before going 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA at Durham.

Meanwhile, the club has Tim Beckham, the top pick of the 2008 Draft, at shortstop, Brandon Guyer in the outfield, and Steven Vogt at catcher, all of whom are highly thought of prospects.

Debuts and Draftees
Right-hander Taylor Guerrieri was the first of 11 Rays selected before the second round of the 2011 Draft. He went 6-1 with a 1.10 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched at Spring Valley (S.C.) High School. He committed to the University of South Carolina before signing with the Rays. Guerrieri has quality stuff, and could move fast in the organization.

Outfielder Mikie Mahtook was selected in the first round (31st pick) of the 2011 Draft out of LSU. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Lafayette, La., batted .338 with three home runs, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases with the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. He is athletic, and highly thought of in the organization, which is evident in the fact that he is starting the season at Charlotte of the Class A Advanced Florida State League -- an ambitious jump for any player coming out of college.

Left-hander Blake Snell was selected in the first round (52nd overall) of the 2011 June Draft. Snell was home schooled in Shoreline, Wash., until his senior year, when he had a 1.00 ERA and 118 strikeouts over 56 innings at Shorewood High. He went 1-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 appearances for the Gulf Coast Rays last season.

Teams on TV
The Durham Bulls are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.