The Rays have a lot of young players using the off season to gain experience in the Arizona Fall League, Team USA, and other international leagues. Some of the youngsters are playing well and could be in the big club starting next year, but others have not looked as good and may need more seasoning.
The Arizona Fall league, which is the premier off season league for minor leaguers, players include Reid Brignac, Justin Ruggiano, John Jaso, Chris Nowak, Calvin Medlock, Evan Meek, and Nick Debarr. Evan Longoria was playing in the AFL, but has left to play for team USA with the other top prospects. Elijah Dukes is playing in the Dominican league, while Brian Stokes is playing in the Mexican League.
Evan Longoria - 16 Games
Longoria is hitting .310 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI's
in the 16 games between the AFL and Team USA. Longoria struggled in the first couple games, but busted out and continued where he left off in Durham. He has looked great ever since being drafted and count on him taking the starting third base job during spring training with Akinori Iwamura moving over to second base. Longoria has not only been solid at the plate, but also in the field. Rays fans should be excited by this guy and when you combine him with the other young players, the Rays should be contending soon.
Reid Brignac - 15 Games
Many people hoped and thought that Brignac would be the Rays starting shortstop in the 2008 season, but he did not play well in AA this year and is struggling in the AFL. In his 15 games, Brignac is only hitting .177 with 1 home run and 3 RBI. He is also still struggling in the field and Rays fans should not be surprised to see him in the minors for all of 2008 and compete for the shortstop position in 2009.
Justin Ruggiano - 4 Games
He had a great season in Durham and was promoted late in the year to the big club to get a small look. He has struggled in his first four games batting .154 with no home runs. It is early and Ruggiano should pick it up. He is a great player and could be a nice bench outfielder for the Rays or great trade bait.
John Jaso - 5 Games
Jaso had a great season in Montgomery and has continued it in the AFL. Thus far he is batting .333 with 1 HR and 3 RBI in only 5 games. He has a great arm, but has struggled a bit with his defense. He stayed in AA all year, but expect him to go to AAA next year and maybe get a late season all up.
Chris Nowak - 8 Games
* EDITED TO INCLUDE RAYSRULE'S UPDATE -- It was Chris Nowak that replaced Longoria in the AFL, and he played for Montogomery, not Columbus, and he did not show a lot of power, he only slugged .440 with 7 home runs. He hasn't hit any home runs in the AFL either, and he's only slugging .240 there. His best attribute is his plate discipline, he had a .396 OBP in AA this year, and .397 the year before.
Calvin Medlock - 11.2 IP
The Rays acquired Medlock in the Jorge Cantu trade with the Reds. He has done well since coming to the Rays and is having a great AFL so far. He has a 2.31 ERA, .69 WHIP, and has a 1/7 walk to strikeout ratio. Medlock is a candidate to make it to the big club and help sure up the bullpen that had been so terrible last season. Medlock was a big pick up for the Rays and if his stats in the AFL are any indication, he will be a big help.
Evan Meek - 5.2 IP
Meek has played decent thus far and has only a 1.59 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He does a 4/5 walk to strike out ratio, which isn't great, but is not bad.
Nick DeBarr - 7.1
Another one of the Rays young pitchers playing well. He has a 3.68 ERA and a .68 WHIP. DeBarr also has a 0:3 walk to strike out ratio.
Elijah Dukes - 6 Games
Dukes is tearing the Dominican up, just like you would expect. He has an OPS of 1.206 and is hitting .353. Talent has never been his problem though, but the good thing is he has not gotten in any trouble. The best thing for the Rays is that he plays great and they can trade him for something. Elijah could use a change of scenery from Tampa and his best way to do that is to play well now.
Brian Stokes - 13.1 IP
Stokes has continued where he left off this season; blowing games. He has an ERA of 6.08 and a WHIP of 1.88. The Rays just need to cut this guy.