© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

11/13/08 10:00 AM EST

Rays boast deepest system in Majors

Price, Longoria the first of many prospects to light up Tampa

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big-league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.

The Tampa Bay Rays are a pretty good team with a pretty good farm system feeding that pretty good team.

What? You want more than that?

Just kidding. In our preview, we put it this way: "The recently renamed Rays are arguably the deepest organization in baseball when it comes to talent: quality, quantity, balance, depth up and down the line, you name it."

So now the entire country, the entire world, knows what folks following the Minors knew before the Rays and their amazing kiddie corps took the baseball world by storm.

Now, the biggest challenge for the Rays may be figuring out how to find room for the rest of the prospects who are moving up. And despite a sub-.500 winning percentage on the field in the Minors, there are several ready-for-prime-time players.

On the field in the Minors this year, Rays teams went 386-440, a .467 winning percentage that ranked 27th overall. The Triple-A Durham Bulls (74-70) made it to the International League finals but only one other team, Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley (40-35), finished over .500.

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com Preseason Picks

Desmond Jennings, OF: Did we jinx things by saying "As long as he's healthy, he'll get a full season in the Minors and a chance to show what he can do with his prodigious across-the-board tools"? We hope not, but Jennings' season was bracketed by missing the first month with back trouble and the last few months following shoulder surgery, only getting into 24 games at Vero Beach where he hit .259. The consensus pick as the best athlete in the organization, the 2006 10th-rounder had batted .315 with nine home runs and 45 steals in 99 games at Columbus in 2007. When healthy, he's a gap hitter with speed and outstanding defensive abilities. It's hard to put him on the ladder right now, though he's making up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, so for now we'll refrain from placing him and instead look forward to ... dare we say it? ... a healthy 2009.
Jennings jacks one over the fence

David Price, LHP: We got this one right and America saw his coronation in October. After a late start due to a sore elbow, he cruised through his pro debut beginning in late May, going 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in six starts at Vero Beach, 7-0 with a 1.89 ERA in nine games at Montgomery and posted a 4.50 ERA in four starts at Durham before making his big league debut in September. He combined to fan 110 in 109 2/3 innings in the Minors and may never return there after his dominant work on the mound in the playoffs. Look for him in the Rays' rotation come April.
David Price gets strikeouts seven, eight and nine

•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

MLB.com Postseason Selections

Dan Johnson, 1B: Perhaps no postseason Organization Player of the Year award was as close as this one when it came to the MLB.com staff hashing it out. But in the end, the scales tipped in favor of the 29-year-old veteran who hit .307 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs for Durham to lead the club to the International League finals. He finished tops in the system's full-season Minor Leaguers in average, second in home runs and tied for fourth in RBIs. Not on our preseason radar screen because he had spent the last three seasons as the Oakland Athletics' first baseman, he was released by that club on Opening Day and signed with Tampa Bay a few weeks later. His .424 on-base average ranked 14th in the Minors and his 84 walks were 11th. He does not qualify for a spot on the ladder since he was not a rookie coming into the season and is more of a valued veteran than a prospect.
Johnson homers in Durham's first playoff game

David Price, LHP: Hard to pick anyone else. Maybe the only things more impressive than his mid-90s fastball and hard slider were his poise, makeup and class on the mound on a world stage. With only a few months of pro ball under his belt, he still would cover his face with his glove after remarkable performances so as not to show up the opposing team. A lot of older players could learn from this classy kid.
Price closes out the Rays' World Series Game 2 win
David Price talks with Harold Reynolds

Climbed the Ladder

Wade Davis, RHP: With David Price looking like he's in the big leagues to stay, Wade Davis could be the next one on the move. Coming off a 2007 Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year campaign, he was 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 160 2/3 innings while making the jump from Montgomery to Durham, where he had a 4-2 record and 2.72 ERA in nine starts with the Bulls. He has great makeup to go with a mid-90s fastball and hard curve.
Davis gets his eighth strikeout

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP: The only pitcher whose numbers gave Price some competition for Pitcher of the Year, Hellickson combined to go 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA between Vero Beach and Montgomery at age 21, striking out 162 while walking just 20 in 152 innings. He finished fifth in the Minors in strikeouts and his 9.59 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 13th among Minor League starters. He has command of three pitches and is remarkably poised for his age. The 2005 fourth-rounder from high school in Iowa has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux.
Hellickson racks up 13 strikeouts

Evan Longoria, 3B: On one hand it may seem silly to even have him in this package since no one thinks Evan Longoria and the Minor Leagues will coexist again, but since he had yet to make his big league debut when the preview came out, here he is. The American League Rookie of the Year winner had earned Southern League MVP honors in 2007 when he hit .307 with 21 homers and 76 RBIs at Montgomery, and spent a week on the road with the Bulls this year before "finally" getting called up to the big leagues to stay. He should have broken camp with the team to start with but that's another story. He was the team's top pick, third overall, out of Long Beach State University in 2006.
Evan Longoria belts three longballs in one game
Harold Reynolds chats with Evan Longoria before World Series Game 4

Fernando Perez, OF: Talk about making a good first impression in the big leagues. The seventh-rounder from 2004 out of Columbia University slid into the nation's consciousness when he slid across home plate for the extra-inning win in the AL playoffs. He'd been added to the postseason roster for just that sort of a scenario. Known for his game-changing speed and base-running savvy, Perez has been a fan favorite wherever he's played. In what was arguably his weakest year statistically, as he hit .288 at Durham with 43 steals, the Rays still named him their 2008 Minor League Player of the Year. A self-taught switch-hitter who had hit over .300 his last two seasons, he may not have the superstar upside of, say, a Price or Longoria, but what he does bring to the table should keep him employed in the big leagues for a long time.
Perez's double knots the score against the Orioles

David Price, LHP: See selections

Mitch Talbot, RHP: Originally drafted by the Astros, Talbot came over to Tampa Bay with Ben Zobrist in the 2006 trade for Aubrey Huff and made a quick first impression on his new organization when he posted a 1.90 ERA in 10 games at Montgomery and 18 shutout innings in the playoffs. He fell off a bit last year in his Triple-A debut at Durham, going 13-9 with a 4.53 ERA, but this year he rebounded and was named the Bulls' Pitcher of the Year, with the same record but a 3.86 ERA and 141 strikeouts against 35 walks in 161 innings. He also made his big league debut.
Talbot tallies his eighth strikeout

Kept Their Footing

Reid Brignac, SS: A second-round pick in 2004 out of high school in Louisiana, Brignac made his Major League debut this summer but was not able to participate in the September (and October) excitement as he was on the mend from a broken wrist. He hit .250 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 97 games at Durham and stayed with the team for the postseason though he was on the DL. The California League MVP in 2006, when he hit .326 with 21 homers and 83 RBIs at Visalia, has some good tools across the board.
Brignac belts one into the seats

Jake McGee, LHP: McGee's spot on the ladder was up in the air because it's tough to say a pitcher who just underwent Tommy John surgery kept his footing. But the just-turned-22-year-old southpaw had solid numbers (6-4 with a 3.94 ERA in 15 starts at Montgomery) before his season was wiped out midway through the summer. A fifth-round pick in 2004, he was widely regarded as one of the best young arms in the system and he's young enough (and the Rays are loaded enough) not to feel rushed in his return to the mound. When healthy he had a mid-90s fastball to go with a plus slider and change-up and had fanned 175 in 139 innings in 2007.
McGee chalks up his ninth strikeout

Jeff Niemann, RHP: Niemann, the club's 6-foot-9 top pick in 2004 out of Rice, had been besieged by injury issues his first few seasons, but has come back well in the last two years. In 2007, his first full season, he was 12-6 with a 3.98 ERA at Durham and this summer he improved on those numbers at 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 133 innings. He also made his big league debut.
Niemann notches his 11th K

Heath Rollins, RHP: Rollins had been something of a sleeper coming into this season despite setting a Rays record in 2007 with his Minor League-leading 17 wins at Columbus, as he went 17-4 with a 2.54 ERA and struck out 149 in 159 2/3 innings. The 11th-round pick in 2006 out of Winthrop followed that up with a 1.38 ERA in the South Atlantic League playoffs. This season he didn't win as many games but that was more because the Vero Beach squad wasn't very good. He went 6-12 between Vero and Montgomery and his 3.24 combined ERA ranked sixth in the system. He went 5-11 with a 3.30 ERA on a weak Vero club and posted a 2.88 ERA in four starts at Montgomery, striking out 138 while walking 33 in 161 1/3 innings.
Rollins strikes out his 10th

Ryan Royster, OF: This was a tough call as to where to place Royster. The sixth-rounder from 2004 out of Oregon would have had a hard time putting up numbers similar to his 2007 campaign, when he hit .329 with 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 31 doubles and a .601 slugging percentage in his first full-season at Columbus. In a move up to Vero Beach he batted .265 with nine homers and 58 RBIs, which would seem to signify a drop. However, he was named that club's Player of the Year as the team average was just .241, and after a very slow start Royster batted .300 from June on.
Royster crushes a home run

Slipped a Rung

Glenn Gibson, LHP: This was the 2006 fourth-rounder's first full season and his first with the Rays since coming over from Washington in the deal for outfielder Elijah Dukes. The son of former big leaguer Paul Gibson had posted a 3.10 ERA in 12 starts at Class A Short-Season Vermont in 2007 and missed the end of the year with mono. Who knows if the after effects had anything to do with his struggles, but he went 4-8 with a 7.44 ERA at Columbus, allowing 104 hits in 78 2/3 innings and walking 41 while striking out 49.

Chris Mason, RHP: Mason, a second-round pick in 2005 out of UNC-Greensboro, had been one of the high hopes of the upper-levels when he went 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA at Montgomery in 2007, but the free-spirited pitcher struggled from the get-go at Durham. He started the year in the rotation but had a 6.28 ERA before being moved to the 'pen mid-season -- where it dipped to 5.56. Overall, he finished 3-10 with a 6.21 ERA and allowed 144 hits in 108 2/3 innings.

Wade Townsend, RHP: A two-time first-round pick out of Rice, first in 2004 by Baltimore (negotiations never really got started) and then with the same No. 8 slot by Tampa Bay, Townsend has never been able to overcome injuries enough to show his ace stuff. After his protracted contract battles, then signing late and throwing limited innings in 2005, he blew out his elbow in his first Arizona Fall League outing that fall and missed all of 2006 after Tommy John surgery. The following season was virtually a rehab year, posting a 5.08 ERA at Columbus, and 2008 saw his numbers fall further as he had a 7.86 ERA at Montgomery and then a 5.28 ERA at Vero Beach. This fall he went back to the AFL to make up for all that lost time, but was shelved by a shoulder injury after three starts that is expected to sideline him for an indefinite period of time into 2009.

On the Radar

Nick Barnese, RHP: A third-round pick in 2007 out of high school, who posted a 3.22 ERA and 37 strikeouts versus four walks in 36 innings in his Appalachian League debut that summer, was back in short-season ball this year at Hudson Valley. Barnes, who has a lively fastball and great makeup, earned his team's Pitcher of the Year honors with a 2.45 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 66 innings, while his 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fifth among all Minor League starters.
Barnese strikes out his 11th batter

Reid Fronk, OF: Fronk, a seventh-round pick in 2007 out of North Carolina, was Columbus' Player of the Year in his full-season debut as he hit .287 with 17 home runs, 83 RBIs, 18 steals, 29 doubles and a .492 slugging percentage. It was a nice followup on his pro debut at Hudson Valley, where he batted .311.
Fronk takes one deep

J.T. Hall, OF: A 41st-round pick in 2004 out of junior college, Hall got on the Florida State League radar when he won this year's Home Run Derby at the league's All-Star Game. Between Vero Beach and Montgomery, he hit a combined .269 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs. While that may not sound like power hitter numbers, when he connects the ball travels.

Matt Moore, LHP: The southpaw would have won the Appalachian League ERA title at Princeton, but he fell one-third inning short of the required amount. As it is, his 1.66 ERA led the system and his .154 average against showed his dominance against the league's hitters, as he struck out 77 while walking 19 in 54 innings. It was his second go-round at Princeton, where he had a 2.66 ERA in limited innings after being drafted in the eighth round of 2007 out of high school. His 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings this year led the Appy League.
Moore makes it six strikeouts

Emeel Salem OF: Though Salem's 2008 season was sadly interrupted way too early when he broke his elbow on a slide in mid-May, his 25 steals in 38 games at Columbus still put him in fifth place for the season in the organization. He was hitting .301 in that span after batting .311 with 18 steals at Hudson Valley in his 2007 debut. A sixth-round pick in 2007 out of Alabama, it will be a lot of fun to see what he can do once he's healthy.
Salem steals his league-leading 24th base in late May

2008 Draft Recap

1. Timothy Beckham, SS: The Rays may not be getting the first overall pick in the Draft again for a long time, but Beckham coupled with 2007 pick David Price should give them plenty of bang for the buck for years to come. The Georgia high school star signed June 16, very early for a No. 1 overall pick, and the Rays were smart enough to also draft his talented older brother Jeremy to add to the incentive package. Beckham, who has power for the position and good speed, hit .243 with two homers and 14 RBIs at Princeton and then .333 in two games at Hudson Valley to finish the year.
Timothy Beckham singles in his first professional at-bat

2. Kyle Lobstein, LHP: A deadline sign out of high school in Arizona, Lobstein will make his pro debut in 2009.

3. Jacob Jefferies, C: Signed out of Cal-Davis, Jefferies hit .315 with two homers and 41 RBIs at Hudson Valley to finish second in the system in batting.
Jeffries jolts one into the stands

Others of Note: OF Ty Morrison (fourth round) hit .265 in 10 games at Princeton after signing in early August. ... 1B Michael Sheridan (fifth round), a William & Mary product, hit .321 in 31 games for Hudson Valley. ... OF Jason Corder (seventh round) was drafted out of Cal State-Long Beach and batted .306, fourth in the system, with five homers and 36 RBIs at Hudson Valley. ... RHP Jason McEachern (13th round) was 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in nine games at Princeton after being signed out of high school in North Carolina. ... RHP Matt Gorgen (16th round), whose twin brother Scott was a fourth-round pick by St. Louis and also pitched in the New York-Penn League, had 13 saves at Hudson Valley and a 1.96 ERA, striking out 35 while walking five in 23 innings. He was drafted out of Cal Berkeley. ... 2B Jeremy Beckham (17th round) is the older brother of Tim Beckham and was drafted out of Georgia Southern. He hit .260 at Princeton and .220 in 24 games at Hudson Valley. ... LHP Josh Satow (25th round), an Arizona State pitcher, was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 19 games out of the Hudson Valley bullpen. ... LHP Michael Jarman (26th round) out of Oral Roberts was 2-2 with a 1.52 ERA at Princeton, striking out 36 in 29 2/3 innings.

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