A year after winning just 68 games and finishing last in the American League East in 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays improved considerably in '17. They ultimately finished two games below .500 with an 80-82 record, and remained in the AL Wild Card hunt well into the season's final month.•
A year after winning just 68 games and finishing last in the American League East in 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays improved considerably in '17. They ultimately finished two games below .500 with an 80-82 record, and remained in the AL Wild Card hunt well into the season's final month.
• MLB's Top 10 farm systems | Rays Top 30 Prospects list
That success hasn't stopped the Rays from slashing payroll with a teardown of their big league roster, though. Since the end of the 2017 season, the club has dealt key players, like franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria (Giants), outfielders Steven Souza Jr. (D-backs) and Corey Dickerson (Pirates), and right-hander Jake Odorizzi (Twins).
:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::
Through those trades, as well as ones executed during the course of the regular season, the Rays have added a slew of impactful prospects on both sides of the ball to their already loaded system. Their acquisitions include a Top 100 prospect in Christian Arroyo, a pair of high-floor big leaguers in Nick Solak and Anthony Banda, a high-ceiling right-handed pitcher in Tobias Myers and a host of other promising prospects who just missed the Top 30. Altogether, 11 of the club's Top 30 prospects, including seven ranked in the Top 16, entered the system via a trade.
:: Top 10 Farm Systems ::
As for the other 19 -- they're all homegrown, with 11 players coming from the Draft and the rest from the international ranks. That group is headlined by No. 18 overall prospect Brent Honeywell, who still ranks among the game's top pitching prospects despite his recent season-ending Tommy John surgery. The club also has been aggressive in targeting high-ceiling arms and bats in recent Drafts, an approach that has netted the organization players like Brendan McKay, Garrett Whitley, Josh Lowe, Austin Franklin, Michael Mercado and Drew Strotman.
Overall, it's a system that now is loaded with up-the-middle players, impactful bats and projectable young pitchers, ostensibly setting up the Rays for cost-effective success in the years to come.
And while the Rays are likely to continue to trade their more expensive assets for controllable young talent, the club is also in a position that, when the time comes, they'll be able trade from their farm-system depth as a means of upgrading their big league roster.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.
Jump: Brandon Lowe, 2B (2017: NR | 2018: 15)
Fall: Jose De Leon, RHP (2017: 3 | 2018: 26)
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 60 -- Christian Arroyo (Brendan McKay)
Power: 55 -- Jesus Sanchez
Run: 70 -- Lucius Fox
Arm: 60 -- Willy Adames (Brendan McKay, Josh Lowe, Vidal Brujan, Nick Ciuffo)
Defense: 60 -- Willy Adames (Garrett Whitley)
Fastball: 70 -- Diego Castillo
Curveball: 60 -- Austin Franklin (Brendan McKay)
Slider: 55 -- Brent Honeywell (Yonny Chirinos, Genesis Cabrera, Drew Strotman, Chih-Wei Hu, Diego Castillo)
Changeup: 60 -- Chih-Wei Hu (Brent Honeywell, Jose De Leon)
Control: 60 -- Brent Honeywell (Yonny Chirinos)
How they were built
Free agent: 0
Rule 5: 0
Breakdown by ETA
Breakdown by position
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.