Maddon likes organizational depth after struggling with injuries last year
By Bill Chastain
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ideally, a good farm system provides depth for the Major League team. That depth might get tapped at some point during the season, or it can fuel the future.
The Rays organization is "thick," as manager Joe Maddon might say, in both areas of depth, possessing quality players who can join the club this season, as well as quality prospects for the future.
"We sent some Major League players back to Triple-A this time," Maddon said about some of the players who did not make the big league club out of Spring Training. "That's not so good for them and good for us."
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Rays' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Rays' Minor League teams on the Rays affiliates page.
where to watch
Here's where the Rays' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2013 season:
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
Last season, the Rays experienced a little hiccup in the process, when they did not have the depth at Triple-A Durham to support the Major League club after a string of injuries.
"Our depth going back to last year, when we needed depth, we really didn't have it," Maddon said. "We had to go outside the organization midseason to find guys that we felt good about. We believe this year, if anything were to happen, we have the guys in tow."
Pitchers Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome, as well as position players Wil Myers and Tim Beckham, were among those Spring Training participants who left particularly positive impressions. So, too, did hard-throwing 22-year-old left-hander Enny Romero, who gave the Rays a look farther into the future.
Rays fans should have plenty to look forward to this season from the top of the organization to the bottom.
Triple-A Durham is loaded this season, headlined by the Rays' top-ranked prospect by MLB.com, Wil Myers. The Rays acquired the power-hitting outfielder in the trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals. Infielder Tim Beckham -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, who showed well with the Rays during Spring Training -- and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee are also in Durham. Archer, Odorizzi and Colome are all part of a talented staff on Charlie Montoyo's club.
Class A Bowling Green will also be well-stocked this season, boasting right-hander Taylor Guerrieri -- the Rays' No. 1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- in addition to left-hander Blake Snell and right-hander Jeffrey Ames. Highly-touted infielders Tyler Goeddel and Patrick Leonard are also on the Hot Rods.
Debuts and Draftees
• Richie Shaffer, Class A Advanced Charlotte, 3B/1B/OF: Given the Rays' offensive problems over the past several seasons, many eyes will be focused on Shaffer, the Rays' No. 1 pick out of Clemson in last year's First-Year Player Draft. The right-handed slugger possesses power to all fields and was one of the best college power bats in his Draft class. He's played third base, first base and the outfield, but first base or right field might prove to be his ultimate destination since Evan Longoria is slated to occupy third base for years to come. Shaffer hit .308 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 33 games for Hudson Valley last season.
• Luke Maile, Class A Bowling Green, C/1B: The Rays selected Maile in the eighth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and he spent the season at Class A Hudson Valley, where he finished fourth in the New York-Penn League with 41 RBIs.
• Andrew Toles, Class Bowling Green, OF: The Rays selected Toles in the third round of last year's Draft. Playing for Class A Princeton, he tied for the team lead in RBIs with 33 in 51 games. He is athletic and has speed.
• Nick Sawyer, Class A Bowling Green, RHP: Sawyer looks like a sleeper. The Rays grabbed him in the 40th round of last year's Draft. He ended the 2012 season with a 23 1/3-scoreless-innings streak while pitching for Princeton and Bowling Green.
New Kids on the Block
• Myers, Triple-A Durham, OF: Myers is an exciting young prospect, whom many feel will be in St. Petersburg before the year is over. He has the kind of power that can produce in the middle of a lineup, but he can hit for average, as well.
• Odorizzi, Triple-A Durham, RHP: Odorizzi also joined the Rays in the blockbuster deal with the Royals. Maddon raved about the right-hander's demeanor during his stint with the Major League club this spring. He has a four-pitch repertoire that includes a 94-mph fastball, and has nice command of all of his pitches.
• Mike Montgomery, Triple-A Durham, LHP: Despite having great stuff, Montgomery has struggled with his consistency. He has the potential to have three above-average pitches, which should make the southpaw interesting to watch as he tries to sort them out. Montgomery came to the Rays from the Royals in the Shields trade.
• Patrick Leonard, Class A Bowling Green, 3B: Leonard is the "other" solid hitter the Rays acquired in their blockbuster deal with the Royals. The 20-year-old had a nice professional debut, as he tied for the home run lead and finished third in RBIs in the Appalachian League last season. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, it's easy to identify the source of his power. When all is said and done, Leonard could be the sleeper acquired in the big deal.
Teams on TV
The Durham Bulls are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 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.