Bonus Rays prospects: Nos. 21-25

Better late than never right? The 2104 regular season is in the books and I realized I hadn’t posted my final team’s bonus prospects:  the Tampa Rays.

Once upon a time, the Rays’ farm system was the envy of every club. Picking high in the Draft helped, as did some savvy drafting later on. They also did a nice job of getting top-flight prospects in return for Major Leaguers they felt they had to trade away.

Recently, though, the system has not gotten the same kinds of reviews. Guys have graduated, drafts haven’t been as successful. Whatever the reason, it’s not the juggernaut it once was, with just one player in the Top 100, the recently drafted Casey Gillaspie.

21. Jeff Ames, RHP: The Rays had seven sandwich picks in the 2011 Draft and Ames was, ahem, sandwiched in the middle of them. He has the chance to be as good as any of the seven thanks to a combination of size and stuff, though he was sidenlined in 2014 by Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, an ailment that compresses nerve bundles in the upper body. Tall and lanky, Ames has an above-average fastball when healthy. He throws a slider and a changeup, both of which have the chance to be at least average offerings. He’ll need to continue to refine his command once he’s back on the mound.

 22. Jose Mujica, RHP: Ranked No. 8 on our International Top 20 by Jesse Sanchez back in 2012, Mujica signed for $1 million as the top-ranked pitching prospect in that signing period. Developed at the Carlos Guillen academy in Venezuala, Mujica has a loose arm, with a nice delivery coming from a tall and lean frame. He throws a heavy fastball, has plenty of arm strength, with more in the tank fastball-wise. His changeup is his better secondary offering, but his curve was making progress as well. He gets points for his maturity and his leadership skills. A broken foot near the end of Extended Spring Training almost entirely wiped out his 2014 season.

23. Patrick Leonard, 1B: Wil Myers got most of the attention in terms of the offense the Rays got in the James Shields deal, but Leonard has some potential at the plate as well. Drafted as a third baseman in the fifth round of the 2011 Draft by the Royals, Leonard has since made the move across the diamond to first. Coming from St. Thomas High School in Texas (coached by Craig Biggio), Leonard is still learning to tap into his raw power. As he refines his approach, he should be able to find more pitches to drive to all fields. At the corner infield spot, the bat will have to play for him to keep advancing.

 24. Oscar Hernandez, C:  There seems to be little question that Hernandez has what it takes to catch at the highest level. The Venezuelan has tremendous catch-and-throw skills, having thrown out 44 percent of would-be basestealers in his brief career (41% in his full-season debut in 2014). He moves well behind the plate as well. Hernandez has shown raw power in the past, hitting 21 homers in 69 games in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011, but it hasn’t shown up as much since. His swing can get long, though he did show some improvement this past season. How much his bat develops will determine whether he’s a backup or an everyday backstop in the future.

25. Jake Hager, SS: Before the Rays had seven sandwich picks in 2011, they had three true first rounders. The first two picks turned into Taylor Guerrieri and Mikie Mahtook. Hager was pick No. 3. Signing quickly, the Las Vegas prepster got a lot of playing time during his summer debut. That made the Rays confident to send the hard-working infielder to the full-season Midwest League as a teenager, where he more than held his own. He’s been moving a level at  a time since and performed well in Double-A, at age 21, in 2014. Hager is quick to the ball at the plate and makes consistent hard contact. He may never be a huge power guy, but there is some extra-base ability and he can turn on the right pitch for some home run pop. He’s a solid runner and has the range, hands and arm to stay at shortstop for the long-term.


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