Shining Star: Enny Romero, LHP
The 23-year-old showed flashes of dominance with Double-A Montgomery in 2013 and will start 2014 a step away from the Majors with Triple-A Durham. Romero can drive his heater into the mid-to-high 90-mph range, pairing it with a swing-and-miss curveball and a promising changeup.
What the Rays want to see from Romero before giving him another crack at the Majors -- he logged 4 2/3 scoreless frames in an emergency start with Tamp Bay last September -- is consistency.
In Durham pitching coach Neil Allen's eyes, Romero is still more thrower than pitcher. Task No. 1 for Allen this spring was to help Romero find more consistency with his breaking ball.
"I'm going to teach him how to throw the breaking ball for strikes," Allen said. "There are going to be sides where I'm not even going to let him throw his fastball.
"We're going to go out and throw a 25-pitch side and … maybe throw two or three fastballs just to break it up, but it'll be curveball, curveball, curveball."
If Allen's methods are effective -- history sets a good precedent -- Romero could reach Tampa Bay to stay at some point in 2014.
At the crossroads: Alex Colome, RHP
Colome was already staring down a make-or-break campaign before Major League Baseball handed him a 50-game suspension for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. That temporary banishment -- earned with a positive test for boldenone -- has upped the pressure even more for Colome when he returns.
The 25-year-old was, finally, making the strides Tampa Bay wanted to see when they first sent him to Triple-A in 2012. The consistency of his offspeed pitches, especially his changeup, was improving, with the fireballing right-hander showing better aptitude using the changeup when behind in the count.
Consistency, though, is still the target improvement for Colome.
"He'll show you some of the best stuff of any Triple-A pitcher in the league two times around the order," Allen said. "Then the third time around the order, we can lose it. We have a little trouble retaining and maintaining our stuff and our attitude and our composure."
If Colome returns from the suspension and makes further strides, he still has great potential. If his erratic nature persists, he could prove useful in a big league bullpen.
Breakout prospect: Grayson Garvin, LHP
Garvin's trek through the Minor Leagues has been marred by injury. In 2012, doctors performed Tommy John surgery and removed an unusual bone growth from Garvin's throwing elbow, hoping to put years of discomfort behind the Vanderbilt product.
Finally healthy, Garvin is flashing the stuff and pitchability that convinced Tampa Bay to ignore his injury history and select him 59th overall in the 2011 Draft. The 24-year-old pitched briefly in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Advanced Florida State League at the end of 2013, then logged six encouraging starts in the Arizona Fall League. This spring, he's made even more progress regaining his velocity, stuff and command.
The left-hander should begin 2014 in Double-A, where he'll try to sharpen his three-pitch mix and log innings without pain for the first time in his pro career.
"Absolutely, he could be a breakout guy," Rays director of Minor League operations Mitch Lukevics said. "He has the stuff. He has the intangibles to do that. If anybody can overcome Tommy John, Grayson Garvin can do that. No doubt in my mind."
More to keep an eye on: Right-hander Jake Odorizzi picked up a new changeup from teammate Chris Archer -- a split-change dubbed The Thing -- that helped him sew up the final spot in Tampa Bay's rotation out of Spring Training. … Ryne Stanek, Tampa Bay's first-round pick (29th overall) in last year's Draft, has yet to throw a pro pitch, undergoing hip surgery in the offseason. He'll open 2014 in extended spring training, with the team evaluating his progress from there. … The Rays have been encouraged by catcher Nick Ciuffo's defensive progress. The 2013 first-rounder (21st overall) has the Rays confident in his makeup behind the plate, too. "He has the toughness," Lukevics said. "He has the moxy to do it."