Seven Affiliates, Seven Sleepers

The Rays have seven minor league teams in the US, starting with the rookie level GCL Rays and going all the way up to AAA Durham. There are top prospects at each level of the system, but each team also has it's fair share of "sleeper" prospects which the experts and pundits often overlook. Inside is an under-the-radar player from each minor league team to keep an eye on in 2012.

Note: The players are listed with the affiliate they played for in 2011.

Note: For the purpose of this article, the rookie level VSL and DSL Rays were not included.



Ryan Reid at Rays Fan Fest last month.

Triple-A Durham Bulls: RHP Ryan Reid--- Reid has already been in the Rays system for 6 years, having been a seventh-round selection in the 2006 draft. The right-handed reliever has had an up and down career, but has show signs recently that he may be putting it all together at age 26. His numbers between AA Montgomery and AAA Durham hardly inspire (5.05 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 71.1 innings), but his work this off-season in the Venezuelan Winter League does.

Serving as the closer for Aguilas de Zulia, Reid saved 10 games while posting a 1.86 ERA and holding opponents to a .212 average in 19.1 innings. His performance in South America has carried over into big league camp this spring where Reid has quietly impressed. The native of Portland, Maine has thrown 7 innings for the Rays, and to date has a WHIP of 0.71 and an opponents batting average of .174

Reid is not a flame-thrower, but he has a good slider and generates a lot of ground balls. He isn't currently on the 40 man roster, but if he continues to pitch well for Durham this season, the Rays may be tempted to give him a look sometime this season in the majors.



Double-A Montgomery Biscuits: 1B Henry Wrigley---Like Reid, Wrigley has been in the Rays' system for a long time (he was a fourteenth-round pick in 2005), and in the past two seasons has begun to show some consistency at the plate. Last year for the Biscuits he hit .274/.309/.464 in 495 plate appearances and had a career-high 84 RBI. He also led the team in games played (118), hits (128), doubles (34) and home runs (17).

Wrigley has improved tremendously defensively and his numbers at the plate continue to get better as he moves up in the system, which is always a good sign. In many ways, he has all the makings of being a late-bloomer and has a very similar profile to the recently departed Russ Canzler.

The 25-year-old, who hit a 420 foot home run yesterday in an exhibition game against the Netherlands, will have to do better than the .309 OBP he posted last year. However, in a system that is devoid of power hitting prospects at the upper levels, he remains an intriguing player. By all accounts he is a team-oriented guy with a good work ethic, and if he continues to hit, he could find a future in the majors as a bench/role player.



High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs: OF Brett Nommensen---Selected in the eighth round of the 2009 June Draft, Brett Nommensen is the quintessential gamer. Last year for the Stone Crabs he had an OBP of .404 and stole 20 bases while playing an excellent right field. The year before at Low-A Bowlng Green, he led the Hot Rods in HR (10) and RBI (68).

His stock dipped slightly his senior year at Eastern Illinois when he missed six weeks with a wrist injury, yet despite that, he hit .525 and slugged 1.010. He has excellent strike zone-discipline and is a very good bunter. He also an above average arm and plus speed. He has the ability to drive the ball to the gaps consistently and plays the game with an abundance of energy.

Despite this, he is one of the most overlooked players in the system. This is likely because he doesn't have one stand-out tool and that he is already 24 years of age and hasn't played a full season above Double-A. Still, if he can continue to develop his game as he moves into the upper levels of the system, there is always room in the majors for players with his skillset. The Rays are a franchise that values players with the ability to do the little things - like bunting, baserunning and playing sound defense. Nommensen is certainly that type of player.



Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods: LHP Chris Rearick--- Rearick had a banner year in 2011 when he dominated the Midwest League by going 7-2 with 20 saves and a 1.66 ERA. He allowed only 49 hits in 81.1 innings and struck out 89 batters. He was selected to the Midwest League Post-Season All-Star team and the Rays named him Reliever of the Year. Not a bad season for a 41st round pick.

At 6'3" 190 lbs., Rearick has a nice, durable pitcher's frame and a closer's mentality on the mound. He also has excellent command of his arsenal and an advanced pitching approach. Yet despite his dominating season, many prospect pundits (myself included) seem to overlook Rearick and he is rarely mentioned in the same group as top reliever prospects Matt Bush or Lenny Linsky.

He joins pitcher Parker Markel (39th round) as one of the nicest surprises of the 2010 draft, but must prove that last season was not a fluke. There is always room for southpaws who can pitch in high-leverage situations in the majors though, and for that reason, Rearick definitely bears monitoring in 2012 to see if he can replicate his tremendous success last season.



Chris Rearick tied Zach Quate for the most saves among minor leaguers with 20.


Short-Season A Hudson Valley: RHP Andrew Bellatti---Bellatti's 2.62 ERA last season was the 7th-best in the New York-Penn League and only Matt Moore (1.92) and Roberto Gomez (2.20) had lower marks among qualifying pitchers in the Rays system. He also led Hudson Valley in strikeouts with 63 and allowed just a lone home run in 72 innings pitched.

The 20-year-old has proven to be an extremely consistent pitcher in his brief career, but he must prove that he can maintain his success over a longer season as he is moves on to full-season ball for the first time. All signs point to that happening though, as he has steadily improved his command each year while still maintaining a respectable strikeout rate.

Bellatti keeps the ball down in the zone, is effective against both righties and lefties and has a nice three-pitch arsenal which includes an excellent change-up. There really isn't much not to like about Bellatti and like most high-school-drafted pitchers, the Rays have been bringing him slowly and deliberately through the system. If he continues to have success in 2012, then he could be a pitcher that gets a lot more ink next off-season.



Rookie Princeton Rays: SS Taylor Motter--- When one takes a close look at Taylor Motter, it isn't too difficult to see similarities to another Coastal Carolina alum in the Rays system - Tyler Bortnick. Like Bortnick, Motter is a very scrappy and under-rated player and the Appalachian League All-Star seemingly got lost among all of the names and talent in last year's draft.

Motter's biggest tools are a plus glove and arm at shortstop, but that isn't all he brings to the field. He has an advanced awareness of the strike zone, (as evidenced by his 33/26 walk-to-strikeout ratio last season at Princeton), excellent speed and is good on the base paths where he was 22-for-24 in stolen base attempts.

Critics will be quick to point out that his .323/.423/.436 slash line at Princeton was achieved against younger, less-experienced players, but Motter's glove, speed, and plate awareness are very real. Those types of skills play well at any level and it would not be a surprise to see him sustain his 2011 success in full-season ball this year.



Jacob Faria at a spring training workout last week in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Rookie GCL Rays: RHP Jacob Faria --- Another player lost among the all of the number-one picks in the 2011 draft is right-hander Jacob Faria. Faria had a nice - albeit brief - debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, that went largely unnoticed by many. The native of Anaheim, California pitched to a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings and showed outstanding command by posting a 14-to-1 BB/K ratio.

Faria's pitching arsenal consists of a four-seam fastball, a slider and a circle-change. Tall and lanky at 6'3" and 175 lbs., the graduate of Gahr High School in Cerritos, California has a highly-projectable body and has already shown the ability and willingness to pitch to contact and generate groundball outs with his sinking fastball.

Princeton seems like a likely destination for Faria in 2012 and he if can continue to build on the success he had last season, he is sure to start generating some buzz within prospect circles. Any young pitcher who can keep the ball down in the zone and hit his spots like Faria did in the GCL last year, has a good shot at having a nice, long baseball career.




John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at raysdigest.com@gmail.com.

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