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Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 prospects for 2018: mid-season review

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Checking in on the Rays system . . .

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with our mid-season organization reviews, we turn our attention to the Tampa Bay Rays system.

This list was originally published February 24th, 2018 and revised on March 13th, 2018.

*****THIS IS NOT A NEW LIST******

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE PRE-SEASON LIST

THESE ARE NOT NEW GRADES

1) Willy Adames, SS, Grade B+/A-: Age 22, from the Dominican Republic, originally in Detroit Tigers system until 2014 David Price trade, consistently strong in Triple-A, .286/.353/.412; promoted to majors and is hitting .218/.269/.346 so far through 133 at-bats, 10 walks, 47 strikeouts, five homers; he just needs to play, there’s no point in additional minor league time and I still believe in him.

2) Jesus Sanchez, OF, Grade B+: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $400,000; hit .301/.331/.462 with 10 homers, 15 walks, 71 strikeouts in 359 at-bats in High-A; promoted to Double-A a few days ago; favorite topic for daily discussion here at Minor League Ball, very quick bat with developing power and (in my opinion) a better eye/approach than the low walk total implies. Stock holding.

3) Brendan McKay, 1B-LHP, Grade B+: Age 22, first round pick in 2017, fourth overall, from the University of Louisville; college superstar as both hitter and pitcher; 2.18 ERA in 66 innings between Low-A, High-A and GCL injury rehab, 92/9 K/BB, just 37 hits; batting .222/.386/.354 in 158 at-bats with 39 walks, 40 strikeout; I prefer him as a pitcher, polish should get him to the majors rather quickly in that role.

4) Brent Honeywell, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23; compensation pick in 2014 draft from Walters State Community College; posted 3.64 ERA with 152/31 K/BB in 124 innings in Triple-A, 130 hits in 2017; out with Tommy John.

5) Jake Bauers, 1B-OF, Grade B/B+: Age 22, hit .279/.357/.426 in Triple-A, then .237/.354/.484 in 190 major league at-bats; isolated power has improved as the Rays had hoped, I think he’ll stabilize as a .250-.260 hitter with high OBP.

6) Christian Arroyo, INF, Grade B/B+: Age 23, first round pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2013, traded to Rays in Evan Longoria deal; injury-plagued season, hitting just .215/.275/.347 in 121 Triple-A at-bats, .264/.339/.396 in 53 major league at-bats; now past rookie limits; AAA numbers may be limited by oblique injury.

7) Nick Solak, 2B, Grade B: Age 23, second round pick by the New York Yankees in 2016 from University of Louisville; traded to Rays in the three-way with the Diamondbacks; solid season in Double-A, .273/.371/.420 with 14 homers, 54 walks, 20 steals in 410 at-bats; seeing time in the outfield as well as second base; should be ready for a trial sometime in 2019. Stock holding.

8) Ronaldo Hernandez, C, Grade B: Age 20, signed out of Colombia in 2014; hitting .290/.343/.515 with 18 homers, 25 walks, 58 strikeouts in 334 at-bats in Low-A; strong offensive numbers matched by strong scouting reports; receiving has improved, with dropping error and passed ball rates while throwing out 34% of runners; stock moving upward steadily, one of the top catching prospects in baseball now.

9) Lucius Fox, SS, Grade B-: Age 21, originally signed by San Francisco Giants in 2015 out of the Bahamas for $6,000,000, traded to Rays in Matt Moore deal; hitting .281/.369/.353 with 23 steals, 43 walks, 82 strikeouts in 363 at-bats, mostly in High-A, just moved up to Double-A three days ago; defense getting more reliable, using his speed better on the bases, contact hitting has improved, good season with steady progress, stock up a notch.

10) Anthony Banda, LHP, Grade B-: Age 24, out with Tommy John surgery.

11) Justin Williams, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, second round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2013, traded to Rays in Jeremy Hellickson deal in 2014; traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the deadline; hitting .257/.313/.381 in Triple-A this year, capable of better but a stagnant year overall.

12) Garrett Whitley, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Niskayuna, New York; out all year with torn labrum.

13) Jose De Leon, RHP, Grade B-: Age 26, drafted by Dodgers in 24th round in 2013 from Southern University; traded to Rays in January 2017 for Logan Forsythe; out with Tommy John.

14) Austin Franklin, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Paxton, Florida; 3.62 ERA in 82 innings in Low-A, 65/31 K/BB, now on disabled list with undisclosed injury.

15) Yonny Chirinos, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, signed out of Venezuela in 2012; 3.70 ERA in 41 major league innings, 39/14 K/BB, seems like he can be a solid four/five starter.

16) Joe McCarthy, OF-1B, Grade B-: Age 24, fifth round pick in 2015 from University of Virginia; got off to a good start in Triple-A with .265/.385/.479 line through 117 at-bats, then placed on DL with undisclosed injury.

17) Jermaine Palacios, SS, Grade B-: Age 22, signed by Minnesota Twins out of Venezuela in 2013; traded to Rays for Jake Odorizzi this past winter; ineffective in Double-A (.189/.240/.262 in 164 at-bats), sent down to High-A in June and has rebounded with .288/.343/.399 mark in 153 at-bats, good glove, will try again in AA but will get passed by other prospects if he doesn’t adjust quickly.

18) Brandon Lowe, 2B-OF, Grade B-: Age 24, third round pick in 2015 from University of Maryland; looks like a breakout season, .297/.391/.558 with 22 homers, 57 walks, 102 strikeouts in 380 at-bats between AA and AAA, just promoted to majors; steady and versatile glove, stock up.

19) Joshua Lowe, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Marietta, Georgia; .245/.325/.378 with six homers, 17 steals, 43 walks, 112 strikeouts in 368 at-bats in High-A; stock flat, needs to find his raw power more often.

20) Michael Mercado, RHP, Grade B-: Age 18, second round pick in 2017 from high school in San Diego, California; 5.44 ERA in 41 innings in New York-Penn League, 30/11 K/BB, projectable, still learning.

21) Jaime Schultz, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 27, long-time denizen of Rays prospect lists, throws hard, but control problems persist, 4.86 ERA in 17 MLB innings, 22/11 K/BB, 6.91 ERA in 29 Triple-A innings, 47/22 K/BB.

22) Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, B-/C+: Age 24, signed by Twins out of Taiwan in 2012, traded to Rays in 2015 for Kevin Jepsen; 4.83 ERA in 78 AAA innings, 64/26 K/BB, was more effective at same level last year, might be frustrated.

23) Ryan Yarbrough, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 26, fourth round pick by the Mariners in 2014 frm Old Dominion; traded to Rays in Drew Smyly deal; 4.24 ERA in 108 major league innings, 97/39 K/BB, a pretty decent year and can improve further.

24) Genesis Cabrera, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; 4.06 ERA in 120 innings in Double-A, 128/59 K/BB, 93 hits; traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the deadline, a nice pickup for St. Louis, should thrive in their system.

25) Vidal Brujan, 2B, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014, stock shooting up rapidly with .313/.395/.427 campaign in Low-A, 43 steals, just promoted to High-A; buy now if available in your dynasty league.

26) Tobias Myers, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 20, drafted by Baltimore Orioles in sixth round in 2016 from high school in Winter Haven, Florida; traded to Rays last July for Tim Beckham; 3.75 ERA in 98 innings in Low-A, 86/35 K/BB; decent season, with improving numbers over the last month, stock holding with higher potential.

Drew Strotman, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2017 from St. Mary’s, 3.52 ERA in 46 innings in Low-A, 43/18 K/BB, now out with Tommy John.

Travis Ott, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, 25th round pick in 2013 from high school in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, by the Washington Nationals; part of the 2014 Steven Souza trade; 3.49 ERA in 59 innings in Double-A, 76/28 K/BB; watch the fine K-rate, though needs to lower walks.

OTHER GRADE C+:

Kyle Bird, LHP; 2.77 ERA in 62 innings in AA/AAA, 70/30 K/BB, bullpen candidate.

Ryan Boldt, OF; decent year in Double-A until going down with injury, .274/.348/.461, 12 steals, 24 walks, 58 whiffs in 241 at-bats.

Brock Burke, LHP; 3.63 ERA in 104 innings in High-A/Double-A, 121/37 K/BB, fine campaign, needs more attention.

Diego Castillo, RHP; 4.34 ERA in 29 innings in the majors, 33/13 K/BB, should remain useful bullpen component.

Nick Ciuffo, C; .263/.296/.388 in 160 at-bats in Triple-A, eight walks, 49 strikeouts; has played very well with the glove, has some power but weak OBP skills, backup profile at this point.

Jake Cronenworth, INF; .243/.312/.337 in 338 at-bats in Double-A, 18 steals; utility profile.

Tristan Gray, 2B; Hitting .248/.303/.444 with 12 homers, 27 walks, 90 whiffs in 367 at-bats in High-A; versatile glove with some pop.

Ian Gibaut, RHP; 2.54 ERA in 46 innings in High-A, 58/18 K/BB, another relief option awaiting an opportunity.

Dalton Kelly, 1B-OF; .240/.342/.358 in 346 at-bats in Double-A, 16 steals; not enough pop for a corner guy though speed, defense are sound.

Resly Linares, LHP; 4.08 ERA in 57 innings in Low-A, 69/19 K/BB; Midwest League observers feel he has potential to break through next year.

Adrian Rondon, 3B; .177/.239/.277 in Low-A; showing no signs of living up to scouting reports that got him a $2,950,000 bonus.

Ryne Stanek, RHP; 2.27 ERA in 44 major league innings, 56/19 K/BB, just 25 hits, part of the “relievers as starters” experiment and has performed well so far.

Brett Sullivan, C; .249/.309/.353 in Double-A; unusually fast for a catcher

Robbie Tenerowicz, 2B-1B; .284/.339/.381 in High-A, hits for average but lacks corner power.

Andrew Velazquez, INF-OF; .262/.318/.416 with 10 homers, 24 steals in 332 at-bats in Triple-A; very versatile glove, has a chance as utility type.

*******

A deep system obviously, despite the injuries.

And the best is yet to come as we await the apparent glory of Wander Franco, currently destroying the Appalachian League at a .356/.406/.613 clip. Yes, it is 163 at-bats at a low level but he’s clearly too good for rookie ball and he’s only 17 years old. Scouting reports are as impressively enthusiastic as the numbers and he’s already being mentioned as a Top 20 if not a Top 10 prospect on a national basis, not just in-system.

I tend to caution about players who are nothing but scouting reports (Adrian Rondon being a salutary example) but Franco has met or exceeded all expectations so far. He’ll shoot up to the top of the 2019 list no question. I think the hype as a hitter is justified and though his glove needs a lot of work at this point, the bat is strong enough to play anywhere.