It is an exciting time to be talking about prospects in the Rays' farm system. Although last season saw the graduation of impact player's like American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Desmond Jennings, the Rays farm system is as deep and fertile as ever. In recent years the majority of the top talent was in the upper levels of the organization, but with last year's windfall in the June Amateur Draft that saw the Rays pick twelve times in the first two rounds, it is now the lower levels of the farm system that is rich with talent.
There is plenty of talent throughout the system though, and it is evenly balanced between hitting and pitching. In fact, our Top 50 features a near 50/50 split with 24 pitchers and 26 position players. I will (with occasional assistance from other Rays Digest writers) be doing full profiles on each and every player, one a day, until the entire list is completely unveiled.
As stated in the deck, this will not be your typical Top 50 Prospect list. Since taking over this site in October, I have really not done a lot of extensive coverage of the Rays farm system, and that ironically is the primary mission of this site. However, now that I have had a month plus to settle in, there is no better way to begin Rays Digest's prospect coverage in earnest than to dive right in to the cream of the crop.
I have spent the past two months immersed in countless hours of research and have done everything possible to become better familiarized with the Rays farm system from top to bottom. In a lot of ways I have been at a disadvantage by taking over this site after the season, because I have not had a chance to see the majority of players live and in action and yet still must find a way to cover the system as best I can. However, conversely, it has afforded me the opportunity to do mounds of research so that when Spring Training starts I will be prepared to offer quality coverage of the Rays system and have a pretty good idea of what players to keep an eye on in 2012.
Having said that, this Top 50 Prospect list has really served as a massive research project for me on the Rays farm system. While I am certainly not an expert yet, by this time next year I most certainly will be. My head is currently swimming with statistics and scouting reports and has been since I started in October. Putting together a list of an organization's top prospects is a daunting task for anyone, but given the present circumstances it was even more so for me.
The point of all this is not to suggest that these rankings be lightly regarded. I HAVE done my homework. There is no way that I would put together a list like this if I wasn't confident that I was producing a quality product. I take a project like this very seriously and if for one second I thought that these rankings were garbage, I would have scrapped the whole idea.
In addition to scouring every corner of the World Wide Web for every available scouting report and statistic I could find, I have talked to several scouts and prospect experts to help assist me with this inaugural ranking of the Rays farm system. In the coming days you will see some of their comments on the players that will populate this list on the profiles that I will be publishing daily. So by no means are these rankings just the product of yours truly. I am pretty ambitious, but I know when to ask for an assist. Next year I will have had the benefit of a season's worth of intensive coverage to use as an aid, and so I expect these yearly rankings to get better every year.
My intention I suppose, is to merely be honest with you, the reader, as to how and under what circumstances these rankings were compiled and to assure you that this is going to be an extremely fun and informative adventure for the next two months. Initially I was going to just throw the list out there and then follow-up with profiles for each player in subsequent days and weeks. That just seemed a little too boring to me and I really liked the idea of keeping the rankings shrouded in secrecy for as long as possible.
As I began to strategize the publication of the list, it occurred to me that revealing it in order is also a little mundane. The number one prospect in the organization is hardly a secret, so it seemed a little anti-climatic to me to do a countdown in order when most reader's already know who number one will be. I also thought that it would be more interesting to tour the talent in the organization randomly. Rather than have all of the top prospects weighted at the end of the countdown, the method I will employ will add some variety to the talent level being discussed daily. One day it could be the organization's top hitter and the next a fringe pitching prospect at the end of the rankings.
Finally, my three year old daughter unwittingly inspired me while she was putting together a 24 piece Toy Story puzzle. That is when I came up with the idea of creating a prospect puzzle for reader's to try and put together, with a new piece being offered every day. So with that, the idea of the Rays 2012 Top 50 Prospect Shuffle was born.
I'm sure some would rather the list just be published so that they could commence with the debate, and for those folks that opportunity will exist. Next week I will be revealing the full list in order on the Rays Digest Premium Message Board. If you are a subscriber and wish to do so, you will have access to the rankings weeks before everybody else.
This is how the 2012 Rays Prospect Shuffle will work:
1) I have put the entire list through a random number generator and from that will come the order for each day's prospect profile. The order is a secret even to me as I will only be looking at the generated list a few players at a time so that I can begin writing the appropriate profile.
2)) Each profile will contain the background and a brief biography of the player, a scouting report, a statistical breakdown of the player's 2011 season and an analysis of what to expect in 2012 and beyond. Also if available I will be posting scouting videos from several sources who have agreed to let me use their content.
3) A second wrinkle of these rankings is that the daily profiles will alternate between being premium content and being available for all to read. If you enjoy the profiles and find them informative then by purchasing a subscription to the site, you will be able to read one for every player that is in the Top 50.
4) A profile will be published every day until the entire Top 50 has been revealed. The exception will be from December 22-29 when I will be out of town celebrating the Holidays with my family. This timetable should take us to the end of January just in time, to begin prepping for Spring Training.
5) A companion series entitled "Stocking Stuffers" will be published on certain days between now and New Years. This will consist of shorter profiles on roughly fifteen prospects who just missed the list, as well as a couple of players who possess a unique skill-set that warrants taking a look at.
The first profile will be published tomorrow and it will be for the player ranked #33 on the list. I'll even give you a hint: He was a number one overall pick....and his last name isn't Beckham.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get access to all 50 player profiles in the Rays 2012 Prospect Shuffle see here! You can sign up for a free 7 Day trial, and get an annual pass for only $6.97 a month plus you get the Scout MLB 2012 Fantasy and Prospect Guide for free!