Tampa Bay Rays has a new wave of stars one the way

Richie ShafferWhen the Tampa Bay Rays finished the 2015 season second the last in the American League in runs scored. That in itself kept the Rays from reaching the playoffs despite having the American League’s fourth lowest team ERA.

The Rays have pride themselves in developing a continuous pipeline that provides highly productive players year in and year out. In times during gaps of talent, the Rays would make shrewd trades to get younger and yet, even better.

This season is no different. A trio of sluggers highlight the next coming wave of young talent in Tampa and all three have already experienced a taste of the big leagues.

Richie Shaffer was one of the best college hitters in the country when he was at Clemson. He hit a total of 30 home runs last year, including four in the big leagues with the Rays. He known throughout the internet as the guy who pretended to celebrate with the team in the dugout while everyone else was huddled up pretending he  wasn’t around.

“He’s a lot of fun to watch,” Durham Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said. “I think his bat is Major League ready. I think his glove is Major League ready, and he’s got a plus arm. It’s why we drafted him in the first round.”

Shaffer plays third base primarily, where he’s an average defender with a cannon for an arm. Because that’s Evan Longoria territory, the Rays are trying him out at first base and even the corner outfield spots this season.

Another upcoming outfielder is Mitch Mahtook. Like Shaffer, Mahtook is an aggressive yet intelligent hitter that is known in the farm for his ability to make hard contact that usually results in extra base hits.

“He’s a solid hitter,” Sandberg said, “plays tremendous defense as well and plays all three positions above average.”

Right now the Rays have a very crowded outfield, especially after the trade with Colorado to bring in Corey Dickerson. Mahtook will likely be ready after one more full year in Triple-A Durham.

Ryan Brett is likely the closet of the three to big league ready. His size and position alone screams Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve, but it’s his good combination of bat speed and compact swing that really draws the comparisons.

“He hit his way to the Major Leagues,” Sandberg said. “He’s an exciting player from a speed standpoint and a hitting standpoint. He’s a fast twitch guy.”

All three guys are listed at 10-13 on the Rays top 30 prospect list. Don’t be shocked to see them when they reach the Trop.

Photos by Tony Capobianco

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Sports Kave senior writer

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