|Wil Myers is one of the top-five prospects in baseball. (USATSI)|
Before the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
An always strong Rays minor-league system was given a huge boost when the team decided to part with rotation mainstay James Shields and reliever Wade Davis. The return included one of the top five prospects in baseball as well as an injection of minor-league pitching depth for the Rays organization. The trade could have also opened up a rotation spot for the team's other top prospect.
2013 Impact Players
OF Wil Myers
A third-round pick by the Royals out of high school, Myers, 22, is now considered one of the top three hitting prospects in baseball. Making 591 plate appearances in 2012 split between Double-A and Triple-A, Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs.
Had the Royals been in playoff contention, there's a very real chance we would have seen Myers make his major-league debut in the second half of the season. Instead, the Royals made a move to "win now" by trading Myers and several other prospects to the Rays for impact pitching.
A former catcher, Myers is still getting comfortable defensively in the outfield, but that facet of his game shouldn't keep the Rays from promoting him when they're ready. That should come early this season, maybe just long enough to delay Myers's arbitration clock one year.
Probably the best power-hitting prospect in the game, Myers should make an immediate impact on the AL East pennant race upon his promotion.
RHP Chris Archer
With Shields out of town, Archer, 24, now has a very real chance of pitching significant innings with the Rays this year. He spent most of 2012 at the Triple-A level, posting a 3.66 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 139 strikeouts in 128 innings.
He saw his first major-league action as well, making four stars and two relief appearances for the Rays and posting a 4.60 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while striking out 36 batters in 29 1/3 innings.
Archer has dealt with control issues in the past but has the stuff necessary to succeed at the highest level, averaging about 94 mph on his fastball during his audition with the Rays and mixing in a quality slider and a solid changeup. Roberto Hernandez looks to be in the lead for the fifth-starter role in Tampa early, but it would be surprising if Archer didn't get the chance to make an impact after his excellent 2012 season.
RHP Taylor Guerrieri
Guerrieri, 20, comes off a solid first professional season in Class A Short Season Hudson Valley, where he posted a 1.04 ERA and 0.77 WHIP with 45 strikeouts and five walks in 52 innings over 12 starts.
He projects to have three good-to-great pitches between his fastball, changeup and curveball and, unlike Archer, should display the control of a potential ace if he fulfills his potential. Don't expect to see him for several years: The Rays have plenty of quality pitching prospects in the pipeline ahead of Guerrieri. However, he may wind up being the best of them all.
SS Hak-Ju Lee
Lee, an international signing out of Korea, has wowed with his defense but struggled to post quality offensive numbers while in the minor leagues. He did, however, show his capabilities by hitting .318/.389/.443 in 454 plate appearances at the Class A Advanced level in 2011. That showing earned him a spot in the top 50 in Baseball America's annual rankings of baseball's best prospects, but he didn't fare as well in Double-A last season, hitting .261/.336/.360. He should get a shot at Triple-A pitching for much of this year, and when he shows progress with the bat, he'll likely have a spot with the Rays, as he's not blocked by any major names.
The Rays' minor-league system should be considered one of the best of the league, with a jewel in Myers and quality depth that includes the guys above as well as third baseman Richie Shaffer and pitchers Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi, among others. A strong prospect base has kept the Rays competitive against the big spenders of the American League, and it should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.