Top 34 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Tampa Bay Rays. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

Rays Top Prospects
Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV
1 Willy Adames 22 AAA SS 2018 60
2 Brent Honeywell 22 AAA RHP 2018 60
3 Brendan McKay 22 A LHP/1B 2019 60
4 Jake Bauers 22 AAA RF 2018 50
5 Jesus Sanchez 20 A+ RF 2020 50
6 Wander Franco 17 R SS 2022 50
7 Anthony Banda 24 MLB LHP 2018 50
8 Christian Arroyo 22 MLB 3B 2018 50
9 Nick Solak 23 AA 2B 2020 45
10 Josh Lowe 20 A+ CF 2021 45
11 Joe McCarthy 24 AAA OF 2018 45
12 Vidal Brujan 20 A 2B 2021 45
13 Resly Linares 20 A LHP 2020 45
14 Tobias Myers 19 A RHP 2021 45
15 Lucius Fox 20 A+ SS 2021 45
16 Brandon Lowe 23 AA 2B 2019 45
17 Justin Williams 22 AAA OF 2018 45
18 Ronaldo Hernandez 20 A C 2022 45
19 Garrett Whitley 21 A OF 2021 45
20 Jose DeLeon 25 MLB RHP 2018 45
21 Diego Castillo 24 R RHP 2018 40
22 Yonny Chirinos 24 MLB RHP 2018 40
23 Michael Mercado 18 R RHP 2022 40
24 Austin Franklin 20 A RHP 2021 40
25 Nick Ciuffo 23 AA C 2019 40
26 Ryne Stanek 25 MLB RHP 2018 40
27 Genesis Cabrera 21 AA LHP 2019 40
28 Jermaine Palacios 21 AA SS 2020 40
29 Chih-Wei Hu 23 MLB RHP 2018 40
30 Curtis Taylor 22 A+ RHP 2021 40
31 Orlando Romero 21 A RHP 2022 40
32 Jaime Schultz 26 AAA RHP 2018 40
33 Deivy Mendez 22 A+ RHP 2021 40
34 Ian Gibaut 24 AAA RHP 2019 40

60 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic
Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 55/55 45/55 45/40 45/50 60/60

He doesn’t have jaw-dropping physical tools, but Adames has a well-rounded offensive skillset, has produced a long track record of above-average offensive performances at levels for which he’s been young, and plays a competent shortstop. Adames’s frame is maxed out and he’s not likely to grow into much more power without better incorporating his lower half into his swing, but he’ll hit plenty of doubles and reach base at an above-average clip. Even with Tim Beckham’s departure, the shortstop picture in St. Petersburg is crowded by Christian Arroyo, Matt Duffy, Adeiny Hechavarria, Daniel Robertson, and, some would say, Joe Wendle. It’s worth noting that Adames got his first in-game reps at second base last year. He’ll likely debut in 2018, and his bat will have big impact at second base or shortstop.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Walters St CC
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Splitter Cutter Command
60/60 50/55 60/65 55/55 45/50 50/55

Honeywell’s kitchen-sink repertoire is headlined by a potential plus-plus changeup, but he also has a quality curveball, cutter, and mid-90s fastball. He can throw just about any pitch in any count and has at least average command right now despite some mechanical inconsistency. He had a 172:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Triple-A last year and probably deserved to be in the majors. He would have gotten there this year if not for blowing out his elbow early in the spring. He profiles as a No. 3 starter and should reach the majors next year, assuming his stuff returns after surgery.

3. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Louisville
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 212 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
25/55 65/65 35/55 35/30 45/50 60/60 50/55 55/60 50/55 40/50

McKay is an incredibly rare prospect in that he would make our top-100 list as both a hitter and pitcher and was a top-10 prospect in the 2017 draft both ways, as well. He’s stood out both ways since high school. Scouts also laud his makeup, nor is it difficult to see why. He improved as both a hitter and pitcher at Louisville while also serving as a team leader and managing the fatigue and preparation necessary to be the staff ace once a week while hitting in the middle of the lineup everyday for three straight years.

McKay was generally seen as a pitcher first until scouts bore down on him last year. Many many saw greater potential at the plate — a role to which he admittedly hadn’t dedicated as much time — dreaming on a 60 bat/power combination. The Rays will let him continue to develop both ways but appear to prefer him as a first baseman. There are myriad ways to deploy his talent, but the most likely seems to be as an everyday first baseman who can throw a couple innings per week (with three 55-60 pitches that could play up in short stints) and slide into the DH spot, where he can rest his arm.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 7th Round, 2013 from Marina HS (CA)
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/60 55/55 45/50 45/45 50/55 50/50

Bauers was an under-the-radar prospect as an amateur (he was the third-best left-handed hitter on his travel team behind first-rounders SS J.P. Crawford and 1B Dominic Smith) and as a pro (where he was at least the fifth-most valuable player at the time of the Wil MyersTrea TurnerSteven SouzaJoe Ross trade that sent Bauers from San Diego to Tampa Bay). As an amateur, Bauers was young for his class and had an advanced feel to hit but was at the wrong end of the defensive spectrum and lacked the power that typically profiles there. His hit tool has continually improved, though, and in 2017 at Triple-A, his improved raw power showed up in games to a level where scouts think he can carry a corner-outfield position. He’s also slimmed down and become an above-average right fielder in the process of adding raw power in pro ball, a result of Bauers’ well-regarded work ethic.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic
Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 55/60 30/55 50/50 50/55 60/60

The Rays blew past their international signing pool in 2014, with headline prospect SS Adrian Rondon getting the bulk of their pool ($2.95 million bonus). Some called Rondon the top prospect in the class, while the Rays insisted that Sanchez ($400,000 bonus) was much closer in talent than their bonuses and reputation would indicate. Today, Sanchez is the clearly superior prospect and one of the top five in his signing class, a product of his capacity to utilize his quickly developing power in games without excessive swing and miss. He’s also deceptively quick and instinctive in the outfield, with a non-zero chance of playing center field at the upper levels, but likely settling in as an above-average right fielder.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic
Age 17 Height 5’10 Weight 190 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 45/55 20/55 50/40 40/45 55/55

While many scouts expect Franco, who has a boxy frame that is carrying more mass than a typical J2 teenager, to make a range-based move off of shortstop at some point, he has such sticky hands and quick actions that he should be able to stay there for a while. Though his left-handed swing has a beer-league-softball vibe, Franco has innate feel for generating airborne contact and can spray it to all fields. He’s more fluid and comfortable as a right-handed hitter and makes similarly strong contact. He has a chance to hit and hit for power while playing short or exhibiting plus-to-better defense at second or third.

Drafted: 10th Round, 2012 from San Jacinto JC (TX)
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Splitter Command
55/55 50/50 50/55 45/50 40/45

In 2017, Banda struggled at notoriously unforgiving Triple-A Reno, where he posted a 5.39 ERA. He made a spot start in Arizona in July and then was up again in August for a three-start look before he finished the year in the D-backs bullpen. Despite his poor on-paper production in 2017, his stuff remains intact, and he profiles as a No. 4 starter. Banda sits 92-95 and will touch 96 with his fastball. He has an above-average changeup that he should probably throw more often and an average curveball in the 77-82 mph range. In light of what’s going on with Tampa Bay right now, he’ll probably exceed rookie limitations in 2017. He’s a 50 FV prospect who appeared within the honorable-mention section of our top-100 list.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Hernando HS (FL)
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 40/40 30/40 40/40 45/50 60/60

Acquired as the headliner in the Evan Longoria deal, Arroyo bolsters Tampa Bay’s collection of contact-oriented infielders who aren’t traditional fits at shortstop. Arroyo is best-suited for third base and doesn’t project to have prototypical corner power, but he has remarkable hand-eye coordination and a lightning-quick bat, so it’s possible he’s a plus-plus hitter at maturity. His upside is something resembling Martin Prado, but it’s more likely he turns into a versatile, heavily used utility man like Eduardo Nunez or Yangervis Solarte.

45 FV Prospects

9. Nick Solak, 2B
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Louisville
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/60 50/50 30/45 60/60 50/55 50/50

Solak was a hit-first second-base prospect with elite makeup at Louisville and was targeted by the Yankees (and other teams) in the draft as a high-probability big leaguer who might also take an underslot deal. The Yankees signed him for $950,000, about $100,000 below slot, as a second-rounder in 2016. After slashing .301/.397/.460 at High-A Tampa for much of the year, Solak finished 2017 with Double-A Trenton, moving to Tampa Bay this winter in the three-team deal that sent Steven Souza to Arizona.

Solak is a plus runner and is at least an average defender at second base with a chance to be a 55. He puts a surprising charge into the baseball for his size, but his swing is flat planed and leads to hard, low-lying contact. He’s a 45 FV prospect who either needs a mechanical tweak to tap into more power or to outhit the current 60 projected on his bat to soundly profile as a regular if the Rays plan to move him to another position. They’ve been giving him reps in the outfield in addition to time at second base.

10. Josh Lowe, CF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Pope HS (GA)
Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 60/60 20/45 60/60 45/55 60/60

Lowe was a volatile high-school prospect who had tremendous perceived upside because of his combination of speed and power. He was also strikeout prone and didn’t have a clear position, with some projecting him to third base, while others had him ticketed for center field.

After one full year of pro play, things are starting to come into focus for Lowe, but not in the way many expected. He’s been moved to center field and has had issues with swing and miss while also showing premium ball/strike recognition. Lowe’s approach to contact has become very conservative, and all the power he’s generating comes from what he can do with the strength in his hands and wrists. Essentially, he’s tracking much like Brandon Nimmo did — that is, as a tooled up, raw high-school prospect who adopted a conservative approach and whose plate discipline (an afterthought on his amateur report) ended up being his best skill. Lowe is new to center field and should continue to grow there while his prodigious physical tools remain intact. There’s a chance Lowe rekindles the lift in his swing and starts hitting for power that’s still in there and just masked by the style of hitting he’s currently adopted.

11. Joe McCarthy, OF
Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from Virginia
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 55/55 40/50 40/40 50/50 50/50

McCarthy’s physical tools are pretty fringey for a corner-only prospect, in part because a back injury in college took away some of his lithe explosiveness. But his physical skillset is bolstered by one of the best eyes for the strike zone in the minors (14.0% career BB%, 15.6% K rate), which also lets McCarthy get into counts when he can hack at pitches he can pull. He’s a pretty unique statistical performer and has the necessary physical components to clear the big-league talent bar.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 5’9 Weight 155 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 40/50 20/40 60/60 45/55 50/50

Look past Brujan’s size and see that he does just about everything. He performed in the New York-Penn League as a 19-year-old, is a plus runner, a terrific defensive second baseman, has great feel for the zone, barrel control, and sneaky pop for his size. His swing also has natural loft, so if Brujan’s 5-foot-9 frame fills out, then he’s going to hit for some power, too. He’s twitchy and electric, plays really hard, and makes great decisions for his age. We think he’s an everyday player and could move quickly due to his advanced feel for baseball.

13. Resly Linares, LHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 55/60 45/55 45/55

Linares was 20th on this list last year as a projectable lefty with curveball feel, sitting 87-92. In 2017, he was 90-93 and touching 95 while exhibiting a more powerful curveball and maturing changeup. He now has a chance for three above-average-or-better pitches from the left side, and everything plays up due to his down-mound extension. He’s a potential No. 3/4 starter.

14. Tobias Myers, RHP
Drafted: 6th Round, 2016 from Winter Haven HS (FL)
Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 193 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/60 45/55 40/50

Myers was acquired from Baltimore ahead of the 2017 trade deadline for Tim Beckham. He was a two-way player in high school who some teams preferred at shortstop, but early-career indications are that Baltimore was correct to stick him on the mound, as Myers dominated the New York-Penn League last year ahead of the trade and has already grown into mid-rotation stuff. Myers sits 92-94, touches 97, and the velocity plays up due to good extension. His curveball and changeup each flash plus and, while they’re closer to average right now, both project due to Myers’ athleticism. He’s a 6-foot righty, but his vertical arm slot creates downhill plane on his pitches, and he’s sturdily built, so his size is not concerning. He has mid-rotation upside and will pitch in full-season ball as a teenager all year.

15. Lucius Fox, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Bahamas
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 30/40 20/30 70/70 40/50 55/55

Fox has premium speed, some feel for contact, and a good idea of the strike zone. He’s still more flashy than consistent at shortstop, and while we think he’ll be fine there with time, we’re intrigued by what he might be able to do in center field. Fox’s tools are going to allow him to play somewhere favorable on the defensive spectrum, and he has enough going on offensively that he’s likely to be a big-league contributor of some kind. That said, it’s unlikely he makes a huge offensive impact; therefore, his overall ceiling is probably quite limited. Unless he becomes an elite defensive player (again, we think there’s a better chance that’s possible in center than at short), he’s more a fringe-to-average regular than he is a star.

16. Brandon Lowe, 2B
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Maryland
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 50/55 30/50 50/50 40/45 45/45

Lowe’s swing had better hand separation in 2017, and the quality of his contact drastically improved. He slashed .300/.400/.520 in the Florida State League before closing the season with a bad month at Double-A and a solid Fall League. His swing plane will probably result in doubles-oriented power, but there’s going to be a lot of loud contact and passable defense at second base, where big-league hitters averaged a 94 wRC+ last year. Lowe is seeing time in left field, as well, in order to accommodate the acquisition of Nick Solak. He projects as an average everyday player at second base.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Terrebonne HS (LA)
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 215 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 60/60 50/55 40/40 45/50 50/50

Williams has had plus raw power for a while but hasn’t hit for in-game power due to a combination of swing plane and impatience. It’s possible he made a subtle swing change in 2017 (though he’s still hitting the ball on the ground a lot), but he undoubtedly was more selective and was able to tap into more of his raw thunder. If this trend continues, he’ll move up this list. If it doesn’t, his tools are fairly vanilla for a corner-only guy, and there’s always a chance his patience (9% walk rate last year, compared to a paltry 5% for his career) was more single-season noise than true signal.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Colombia
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 50/55 30/50 30/20 40/50 60/60

Hernandez is a converted infielder who has taken to catching pretty quickly. He has plus raw arm strength and is already a decent receiver and ball-blocker. He also has power, though it’s mostly a pull-only approach to contact right now that might be exploited at upper levels if it doesn’t evolve. Some of his offensive production was BABIP-driven last year, but the tools are for real, and as long as Hernandez continues improving defensively and is open to adjustments on offense, he could be an everyday catcher with power. The rate of failure for catchers is pretty high, but it’s also rare for well-rounded catching prospects to reveal themselves this early in their career while also producing on the field.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Niskayuna HS (NY)
Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 55/60 20/50 60/60 40/50 55/55

Whitley was drafted as a power/speed lottery ticket with a raw, cold-weather high-school pedigree. His speed gave him favorable defensive projection, so all Whitley needed to project as a regular was some combination of (a) above-average contact rates, (b) superlative patience, or (c) full utility of his raw power despite the strikeouts.

Whitley has exhibited surprising patience since he signed (12% career walk rate) and started tapping into his power last year as his swing became more athletic and alive. Whitley is going to miss all of 2018 while recovering form labrum surgery, which is going to eat a year of development (which is especially important for this type of prospect). It also creates risk that he has to move to left field if his arm strength is gone. He was starting to answer a lot of the pre-draft questions; now we have a bunch of new ones.

20. Jose DeLeon, RHP
Drafted: 24th Round, 2013 from Southern
Age 24 Height 6’1 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 45/45 50/50 60/60 50/60

De Leon was acquired from the Dodgers for Logan Forsythe. His stuff was up and down during his amateur years due to inconsistent physical conditioning but took off when De Leon got in shape. At his peak, he was sitting 90-93 with life, touching 95, and locating his fringe breaking stuff and plus changeup at will. He has had a multitude of injury issues (seven DL stints since 2015) during his career, and in 2017 his stuff was down amid more of them. His arm slot dropped and he was sitting 88-91 instead. Now he’s having Tommy John. Assuming all goes well, he’ll still be a mid-rotation arm when he comes back, but he might not take a big-league mound again until he’s 26.

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
70/70 55/55 40/45 40/45

Castillo is a husky, relief-only prospect who pitched well in the upper levels of the minors last year and should reach The Trop this season. His fastball sits 96-99, touches 101, and has hefty sink befitting its progenitor. Castillo also whips in a plus slider in the mid- to upper 80s and an occasional bad changeup. He profiles as a late-inning relief piece.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Venezuela
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
50/50 55/55 45/50 50/55

Chirinos tweaked his delivery in a way that better clears his front side and helps him rotate over it. The alteration naturally lowered his arm slot to something closer to the three-quarters mark. He works with a fastball in the 92-94 range with sink. On the surface, he has fifth-starter or relief-only stuff, but his delivery is still funky and his changeup might play up enough for him to pitch at the back of a rotation — or, possibly, in some kind of creative multi-inning role like the one in which the Rays have deployed him early this year.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Westview HS (CA)
Age 18 Height 6’4 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
45/55 30/40 45/55 40/50 30/50

A wispy pitcher with arguably as much physical projection as any high-school righty since Triston McKenzie, Mercado was thought of as a tough sign by many clubs who was likely headed to Stanford. He signed for $400,000 over slot ($2.1 mil) as the 40th overall pick. Mercado will likely add zip to his currently fringey fastball as his body matures. He has some breaking-ball feel and could have an abov-average curve at peak. Like most high schoolers this size, Mercado needs mechanical refinement, but his delivery isn’t inherently violent or messy and he should develop starter’s control with reps. His ceiling will be dictated by how much velo he can add as he fills out, but he projects as a fourth or fifth starter fairly conservatively; it just might take a while.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Paxton HS (FL)
Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 50/55 40/50 40/50

Franklin is a sinkerballer who sits 90-92 and touches 95. His frame is maxed out, so that’s probably all the velocity there’s going to be, but Franklin’s curveball is good while the changeup and strike-throwing don’t have far to go. He projects as a No. 4/5 starter, and most of the components are already in place.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Lexington HS (SC)
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 55/55 40/45 20/20 50/50 55/55

Ciuffo doubled his career walk total in 2017, in part because he was healthy and also because he’s been historically impatient. He’s still not a very selective hitter but has average raw power and can move the bat head around the zone. He’s a good defender and does enough with the stick to profile as a backup; some see a little more ceiling than that just because of the lost reps. He’s starting the year on a 50-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana.

26. Ryne Stanek, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Arkansas
Age 25 Height 6’4 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
60/60 50/50 55/55 45/45

Stanek sits 96-100, but it plays down a bit. It’s still plus but doesn’t blow hitters away like most upper-90s fastballs. Our sources were pretty split on which secondary they preferred, but both are at least average and the changeup plays well down, beneath the zone, off of the high fastball. Stanek probably won’t be as dominant as you hope given his radar-gun readings, but he’s still likely to make an impact in the bullpen.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 40/45 45/55 30/40

Cabrera is a very explosive lefty with mid-90s stuff and a good curveball. He has benefited from a mechanical tweak similar to the one implemented for Chirinos. The command and other two pitches are fringey, so there’s a strong chance Cabrera is a hard-throwing bullpen lefty, but he’ll probably be a good one if the fastball ticks up in relief.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Venezuela
Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 145 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 45/50 30/40 50/50 45/50 55/55

Tampa Bay acquired Palacios from Minnesota in exchange for RHP Jake Odorizzi. Palacios has a fairly long track record of offensive performance — he’s a career .290/.345/.426 hitter over four pro seasons — and is a viable defensive shortstop, but his game has some blemishes that may be exploited at the upper levels of the minors. Chief among those is Palacios’s approach. He’s not a selective hitter. He has a quick bat, is loose wristed, and has terrific hand-eye coordination, but his propensity to swing at just about everything is likely to be exploited as he reaches the upper levels of the minors.

Defensively, Palacios makes the occasional great play at short but is also prone to mental missteps and, in aggregate, is average. He’s a shortstop prospect but isn’t such a good defender that he’ll profile without providing dome offensive value, too. Whether or not that happens will depend on how his approach and general baseball acumen matures. If it doesn’t, he looks more like a utility guy, and he might be that anyway with Willy Adames in the farm system.

29. Chih-Wei Hu, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Taiwan
Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Splitter Cutter Command
50/50 45/45 60/60 45/45 50/55 45/50

Tampa Bay continues to run Hu out as a starter, and he has been remarkably durable throughout his career. But he may profile best as a kitchen-sink reliever because the fastball doesn’t really play in the zone despite its velocity and because, other than the changeup, the secondaries, though many, are vanilla.

30. Curtis Taylor, RHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from University of BC (Canada)
Age 21 Height 6’6 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
55/55 55/60 40/45

Taylor was acquired from Arizona in exchange for Brad Boxberger. He sits 92-95, touches 98, and his huge frame adds to his fastball’s effectiveness. His slider plays up due to his size and delivery but is average in a vacuum. He’s likely a reliever, but there’s some changeup feel here as well as several late-blooming traits due to size and geographical background.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Venezuela
Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 211 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 40/45 30/40

Romero is a pretty typical high-variance relief prospect. His stuff is electric (mid- to upper 90s fastball, vicious curve), but his command needs to develop pretty significantly for him to be a big leaguer at all. His delivery is violent, so there’s some doubt about him doing it. If Romero grows into 40 command, he’s a middle reliever. Anything more than that and he’ll pitch in more important innings.

32. Jaime Schultz, RHP
Drafted: 14th Round, 2013 from High Point
Age 26 Height 5’10 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command
55/55 60/60 40/40

Schultz made a long-anticipated move to the bullpen in 2017 but missed most of the year with groin and knee issues. When he was healthy, his stuff was intact and should play fine in middle relief.

33. Deivy Mendez, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 40/45 55/60 50/55 30/40

Mendez has a starter’s repertoire, but his delivery is very tough to repeat and he very probably won’t develop starter’s control. The pitch mix renders Mendez a potentially special bullpen piece, but he’s probably still three or four years away, especially considering how slowly Tampa Bay brings along their pitching.

34. Ian Gibaut, RHP
Drafted: 11th Round, 2015 from Tulane
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 250 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 50/50 70/70 40/40

Gibaut is a big-bodied reliever at Triple-A and his plus-plus changeup gives him a chance to make a big-league impact this year. He also has a mid-90s fastball that’s fairly straight and an average slider.

Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Big Arms Who Probably Don’t Start
Yoel Espinal, RHP
Drew Strotman, RHP
Sandy Brito, RHP
Jhonleider Salinas, RHP
Matt Krook, LHP
Stephen Woods, Jr., RHP
Brandon Koch, RHP
Peter Bayer, RHP
Zack Mozingo, RHP

Espinal touches 98, plus has a plus curve and average change, but the delivery isn’t great. Strotman, the club’s 2017 fourth-rounder, also tops out at 98 and has a plus slider, but his change is fringey. Brito is 93-95, touches 98, and has average slider. Salinas, acquired from Cleveland for Brandon Guyer, sits 93-97, and throws an average changeup plus a fringe slider that flummoxes hitters more than it impresses scouts right now. Krook and Woods were acquired as part of the Longoria deal. Krook has several medical red flags (the Marlins voided his deal after they picked him out of high school and he needed TJ in college), and his velo was down a bit last year. On the other hand, he has three plus secondaries. Woods sits 92-94 and has a plus curve, but also just a fringe change and slider with below-average command. Koch is 92-95 with a plus slider. Bayer resurrected his career at Driveline and is now 91-95, touching 97, with a 55 slider and 50 change. Mozingo is a side-armer with a 55 fastball and slider.

Trick-Pitch/Deception Lefties
Kenny Rosenberg, LHP
Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
Travis Ott, LHP
Chris Kirsch, LHP
Brock Burke, LHP

Rosenberg sits in just the upper 80s but has two plus breaking balls and a viable change. Yarbrough has a good changeup and is big-league ready as a 6th starter who might fetch something on the trade market if contenders are starved for viable arms. Ott is a side-armer with three average pitches that play up against lefties. Kirsch has a slew of average pitches and above-average curve which, from the left side, gives him a good chance to pitch in a big-league bullpen. Burke’s stuff is also average but plays up because it comes it at a tough angle caused by his vertical arm slot.

Guys Who Didn’t Fit in Other Buckets
Mikey York, RHP
Adrian Navas, RHP
Kevin Gadea, RHP

York has 55 command and three average pitches. We have inconsistent reports on Navas’s velocity, but he’s 21, has performed, and can spin a breaking ball. Gadea can’t stay healthy but has three 55s when he actually pitches.

Maybe We’re Missing Something?
Nathaniel Lowe, 1B
Michael Brosseau, INF
Taylor Walls, SS
Jake Cronenworth, UTIL
Jake Fraley, OF
Zach Rutherford, SS
Tristan Gray, 2B

We think these guys probably end up as bench pieces, but some of our sources like them more than that. Lowe and Brosseau are appealing to teams looking at a TrackMan readout. Lowe is 1B/DH only but has monster raw power and is a very selective hitter, whereas Brosseau’s exit velos and peripherals are closer to average but he can play multiple positions. Fraley looks like a stone-cold fourth outfielder for most and can’t stay healthy, but some think he runs well enough to be an elite defender and love his makeup. Cronenworth is another gamer with on-base skills who can’t play shortstop for most, but the Rays are pretty liberal about that position so he might be able to do it for them. Walls has a great eye for the zone and a good chance to stay at short because of his arm. Gray can hit and play second like most of the guys Tampa has on the 40-man.

Unclear Young Prospects
Jelfry Marte, SS
Carlos Vargas, 3B
Adrian Rondon, 3B
Kevin Padlo, 3B
Chris Betts, C

Reports on Vargas have backed up a bit. He looked like a potential power-hitting third baseman, but now there’s some doubt about his ability to stay at the hot corner. Marte was a big-money July 2 prospect whose deal was voided by the Twins after his physical due to vision issues. It’s not clear whether or not it’s an issue that could be corrected and if the deal was voided in part because the Twins wanted to pursue Shohei Ohtani, or if we have another Wagner Mateo situation on our hands. Padlo (selective, has power, no bat control, fringe glove) and Rondon (big-money amateur who just hasn’t hit) are trending down. We haven’t seen much of Betts since he was drafted due to injury. He’s 21 and not on a roster right now.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Robbie Tenerowicz, OF (?)
As is the case among the many players already included here by Longenhagen, a number of the Rays minor leaguers omitted from this list also feature promising offensive skills and uncertain defensive homes. Peter Maris, Miles Mastrobuoni, Michael Russell, and Tenerowicz have all recorded starts in the middle infield. They’ve all also recorded generally poor defensive numbers in the middle infield according to the methodologies used by Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport.

Tenerowicz, a 26th-round pick out of California from the 2016 draft, distinguishes himself from the other three in this group by complementing his relatively strong control of the plate with relatively impressive power on contact. Tenerowicz recorded isolated-power figures of .172 and .183 in 2016 and -17, respectively — in leagues that recorded isolated-power figures of .125 and .129, respectively. He’s started the 2018 campaign in much the same fashion.

System Overiew

Put simply, this is one of the best farm systems in baseball. The abrupt teardown during spring training was dismaying, and it’s unfortunate that the front office is forced to operate this way by ownership’s supposed lack of funds, but not only are there real reasons for Rays fans to be optimistic, but it’s possible that the Rays will have the most fascinating roster construction in baseball two or three years from now. We can already see the glut of second- and third-base types on the 40-man roster. There are five more players of that ilk on this list and a few others in the honorable-mention section. If you’re betting on which team moves to some kind of amorphous, positionless style of baseball, this franchise seems like the favorite.

This system is also going to be at least five names deeper in a few months. The Rays still have a PTBNL coming from Arizona to complete the Steven Souza deal and the names on the list are rumored to be pretty interesting. They also pick 16th, 31st, and 32nd in June’s draft and are the favorites to land projectable Dominican SS Alejandro Pie in the upcoming international signing period. This club’s future looks quite bright, though it might take better funding for it to be sustainable once this system starts bearing fruit.

We hoped you liked reading Top 34 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Michael
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Member
Michael

I feel like the Pirates and Rays are clones of each other in opposite Leagues.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Except that this system is way better than the Pittsburgh’s, and the Pirates are 11-4 instead of 3-12. And they have radically different pitching philosophies. And the Rays spend less, although there are good reasons for that (the Rays have some serious cash-flow problems).

pudieron89
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pudieron89

Thanks for parroting the org line about cashflow when Stu just made $69 million from revenue sharing and bamtech.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Should I have specified “recurring cash flow” instead?

Here is a neat visualization of team revenue: https://www.statista.com/statistics/193645/revenue-of-major-league-baseball-teams-in-2010/

The Marlins were largely at the bottom because they were jerks, and then we have the Rays next. The Pirates are at $265 million.

I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made the Rays should spend more, but if you’re comparing them to the Pirates they look much better. They make $60 million less a year and are being outspent by $10-$30 million (depending on the year).

Joe Joe
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Member
Joe Joe

Pittsburgh and the Rays both try to accumulate WAR with little regard to consolidating it one player or specific year. They are at different places in regards to competitiveness, farm system, and may try different things, but that one guiding principle makes them very similar. The Pirates and Rays are the teams most likely to trade 1-2 years of a good player for a lot of different guys with a lot of combined years left.