On June 18, the Rays found themselves a season-worst seven games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, and their situation looked dire. David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, remained on the disabled list with a strained left triceps, while rotation mate Alex Cobb had just left the hospital after being struck in the head by a line drive from Kansas City's Eric Hosmer.
Tampa Bay's offense had been streaky but somewhat inconsistent, and the climb to get back into contention in the division looked steep. A month and a couple of roster moves later, however, the Rays were within striking distance of the Red Sox. Tampa Bay's organization is often lauded for the number of "homegrown" players that step onto the Major League stage and contribute right away, and that trend doesn't appear likely to go away anytime soon.
Wil Myers' promise made the organization's decision makers feel OK about letting go of innings-eating starting pitcher James Shields when the two swapped teams during the offseason. The Rays gave their fans what they wanted when they decided to promote the 22-year-old outfield prospect from Triple-A Durham in mid-June as an attempt to spark offensive production.
Myers has delivered at the plate (hitting .310 with four home runs through his first 28 games), in the field (error-free in 26 right-field starts) and on the basepaths (three stolen bases), but the peripheral effect he has had on the team is undeniable. The Rays are 20-8 with Myers in the lineup.
Pitcher Chris Archer also moved out of the prospect pool and onto the Rays' roster during the first half of the season when he was promoted on June 1 to steady the starting rotation. Archer struggled with command early and lost three of his first four starts, but he has since righted the ship.
Archer has won his last three starts, throwing his first career complete game at any level when he shut out the Astros on July 14. Archer's recent starts have been so impressive that many feel he has made a case to remain in the rotation when Cobb returns. Manager Joe Maddon called it "a great problem to have."
Outfielder Josh Sale, a first-round pick of the Rays in 2010, has fallen out of the top 20 after starting the season at No. 19 because, well, he hasn't been on the field. Sale was suspended indefinitely by Tampa Bay on May 29 for "conduct detrimental to the organization" and has not appeared in a game this season.
Third baseman Tyler Goeddel started the season as the Rays' No. 17 prospect but has since fallen out of the top 20. Goeddel has not graduated from Class A Bowling Green since being selected in the supplemental first round of the 2011 Draft and turning down a scholarship to UCLA. Perhaps Tampa Bay is looking at moving him around, as he has played eight games at shortstop this season.
Corner infielder Patrick Leonard started the season at No. 20 but has since dropped off the list. Leonard came to the Rays with Myers as part of the Shields trade and is batting .221 while primarily manning first base for Class A Bowling Green.
New to the Rays' Top 20 are three of their 2013 Draft picks: First-rounders Nick Ciuffo (catcher) and Ryne Stanek (right-handed pitcher) as well as second-round choice Riley Unroe (shortstop). Ciuffo tops the list at No. 7 and has appeared in 15 games for the Rookie Rays, starting at catcher in eight of them. Unroe checks in at No. 15 and has seen action in 18 games with the GCL Rays, with 16 appearances at shortstop. Stanek, No. 11 on the list, has yet to appear in a game for the Rays organization since signing with the team on July 3.
Second baseman Ryan Brett and right-handed pitcher Jesse Hahn shot into the Top 20 with their impressive Minor League performances during the first half. Brett rose seven spots to No. 14 and is hitting .349 for Class A Advanced Charlotte after spending all of last season with Class A Bowling Green. Hahn sits at No. 18 after starting the season just outside of the Top 20. Hahn has appeared in 18 games for Charlotte this season and touts a 2.11 ERA. Last season, he spent 14 games with Class A short-season Hudson Valley.
rays' top prospects
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
Right-handed pitcher Alex Colome saw the biggest first-half jump, rising from No. 11 to No. 4. His short stay with the Major League club may have something to do with that. Colome beat the Marlins without allowing an earned run during a spot start in May and was called upon again for two more starts in late June. He recorded a no-decision against the Yankees in New York on June 22 and picked up his first loss when he faced Detroit on June 28.
Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee made a modest move from No. 5 to No. 3 The 22-year-old has played 15 games for Triple-A Durham after spending last season with Double-A Montgomery.
Top 100 representation
Colome represents the only new addition to the league-wide Top 100 Prospects list, as he moved up 11 spots to No. 90. He joins right-handed pitchers Taylor Guerrieri (No. 33), Jake Odorizzi (No. 43) and Lee (No. 81). Tampa Bay's four Top 100 prospects have the club tied for seventh in Major League Baseball with five other teams.
The Rays' Top 100 prospects have the club ranked No. 16 of Major League teams, according to the prospect points system, which assigns point values to players based on where they sit on the list, with 100 points assigned to the No. 1 prospect, 99 to No. 2, and so on. Tampa Bay has lost 153 points since the preseason, which can be attributed in large part to the promotions of Myers and Archer.
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.