Tampa Bay Rays

Ranking The Top 10 Farms of All MLB Teams

Ranking The Top 10 Farms of All MLB Teams

Now that we’ve covered all top 10s for each team, we zoomed out and ranked all 30 MLB organizations. Congrats to Rays fans, condolences to Brewers fans.

Top 10 Prospects of Each AL East Team

Top 10 Prospects of Each AL East Team

We’re beginning our Top 10 coverage of each team, listing out each team by division. We are considering defense in these lists, so it’s not just purely plate production. The AL East is stacked, led by the Tampa Bay Rays who have an embarrassment of riches.

Big League Debut: Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays

The arrival of one of the most decorated collegiate players ever, The Rays called up Brendan McKay to make his big league debut this past weekend at home against the Texas Rangers. The lefty went six shutout innings, only surrendering one hit with one walk while striking out three. His 12.4% swinging strike rate indicates more strikeout upside down the line. McKay also made his offensive debut when he hit eighth against the Baltimore Orioles going 0-for-4.

The Rays selected the 2017 Golden Spikes Award winner with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft and gave him a $7,005,000 bonus. He was a force at the University of Louisville, putting up eye popping numbers in the box as well as on the mound on his way to three first team All-American selections. Over his three year career on campus he hit .328/.430/.536 while throwing 314 innings with a 2.23 ERA. His best season was easily in 2017 when he hit .341/.457/.659 with 18 bombs while throwing 109 innings with a 2.56 ERA.

When the Rays selected McKay they immediately announced they were moving forward with the plan to keep him as a two-way player, and this was before the arrival of Shohei Ohtani so it came with plenty of questions. McKay was playing first base everyday, except the day after he starts, and they were keeping him on his collegiate schedule which meant just pitching on Sundays while also limiting him to around 50 pitches per start.

He was assigned to Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League to begin his career, and his first taste of pro ball was a success as he threw 20 innings with a 1.80 ERA and hit .232/.349/.376 with four homers in 36 games. He’s since stopped playing the field and has started DH’ing, but the two way experiment is still very much underway. While the offensive stats likely aren’t what people expected, his pitching has surpassed expectations. He’s a career .216/.348/.356 hitter, but in his small Triple-A sample this year he’s hitting .265/.400/.551 in fifteen games. His career numbers on the mound are highlighted by a sparkling 1.85 ERA in 165 minor league innings with 212 strikeouts and 34 walks. The Rays haven’t allowed him to surpass the 85 pitch mark in any pro start prior to his call up, so that is something to watch.

THE RANKINGS

Brendan McKay was the 61st ranked prospect on our cumulative top 100 list, and 90th on our fantasy list. We ranked McKay as the third prospect in the Rays system entering 2019.


The Tools

Fastball (60 Present/60 Future): McKay’s best pitch is his fastball, and its a plus pitch because of his ability to command it. It’s 92-94 and he can reach back for a tick or two extra when he needs it. He relies on this pitch heavily and is working to sequence better. Can become a bit too predictable with the heater and will go to it when he falls behind in the count. He can also cut his fastball at times, and it can be his best pitch often looking like a hard slider getting in on the hands of right-handed hitters.

Curveball (60 Present/60 Future): The curveball is a true 12-to-6 breaker and he will throw it against lefties and righties. It’s an above average pitch on it’s own, but when you factor in the command it bumps up to plus. He will often steal strikes with this pitch early in at-bats after the fastball has been established and then will rely on it more heavily as the game goes on.

Change (50 Present/55 Future): McKay throws this pitch primarily against righties. It’s deceptive and the arm speed is the same as the fastball but comes in in the 83-85 velocity range. The pitch has some depth to it and plays up a half grade due to his ability to command it. It has flashed plus at times and can become his primary swing and miss pitch against righties.

Pitching Conclusion: McKay showed off his command and Kluber-esque robotic demeanor on the mound during his debut. His six-foot-two frame lacks physical projection but there is room to add some muscle. It’s an athletic build, and one that appears to be able to hold up to the two-way possibilities. McKay has number two starter ceiling for me on the mound, with three above average or better pitches that play up due to plus command and groundball lean. I trust the Rays as much as anyone with this profile.

Hit (40/55): This is an interesting case. On hitting tools alone, McKay would likely be in Double-A right now working on getting the skills to translate to the stat line, but with his arm being big league ready the Rays are also seeing what they have with the bat. The bat speed is above-average. He’s becoming more pull heavy in the last year or so, but does hit a lot of balls on the ground. The Rays have gotten more out of ground ball heavy guys like Yandy Diaz this year so maybe they can work their magic here. McKay has plus walk rates and will work counts, but is often too passive and part of his struggles in the box are due to finding himself in pitchers counts. Again, the Rays are one of the best development organizations and have a raw bat here in McKay to work with.

Power (50 Game/60 Raw): It’s a short, quick swing and the ball will jump off of McKay’s bat. He can leave any park pull-side but will live in both gaps when he’s going right. He’s been working to utilize his lower half more in the the swing and is far from a finished product here. It’s hard to say how the lack of 100% focus on the bat has hindered him here. Look for him to have some 20-25 homer seasons down the road if he gets more consistent reps.

Speed (30 Present/30 Future): Don’t get greedy. The man can pitch and hit, don’t expect him to run. He’s more athletic than he looks though, and can move a bit when underway.

Hitting Conclusion: The bat isn’t big league ready right now, but he’s got future big league tools here. It’s hard to see his college numbers and not get excited about what he could be offensively though. I can see McKay at peak becoming a .250/.340/.450 bat, which will never be as valuable as what he can do on the mound, but will make him a very valuable asset with his skills. OBP league asset here.

Big League Debut: Bobby Bradley, Mike Brosseau, and Domingo Leyba

Big League Debut: Bobby Bradley, Mike Brosseau, and Domingo Leyba

Bobby Bradley, Mike Brosseau and Domingo Leyba are here. In what leagues should you use them and what type of production should you expect?

Fantasy Fallout: Zunino Back to Florida

The Seattle Mariners made the first move of the hot stove by sending starting catcher Mike Zunino, OF Guillermo Heredia, and left-handed pitching prospect Michael Plassmeyer to the Rays in exchange for OF’s Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley.

I’ll give some quick thoughts on the Major League assets in the deal, but most of our focus will be on the prospect side of things, as that’s out wheelhouse here at Prospects Live.

Former Florida Gator Mike Zunino is the headline grabber in this five-player deal. Zunino has a reputation as a positive defender behind the dish and an overall asset defensively. On offense he struggles making consistent contact but when he does it normally goes a long way. Zunino was a below-average offensive player in 2018, hitting .201/.259/.410, and an 84 wRC+. He has hit a combined 45 homers the last two seasons and is controllable for a few more, so he gives the Rays a few things they are looking for. For fantasy, Zunino is only relevant because of how bad the catching position has become. His ADP in the #2EarlyMocks was pick 263, which has him as the 12th catcher off the board.

2019 Projection: 55/22/57/1 …. .227/.302/.465 in 123 games

Guillermo Heredia gives the Rays a solid 4th OF behind injury prone Kevin Kiermaier, Tommy Pham, and Austin Meadows. Heredia just steps into the role that Mallex Smith vacated with the deal. He’s a positive defender who can play center and has a strong arm, and fits the run prevention style of the Rays. He’s a below-average hitter that doesn’t drive the ball but makes contact at an 85% clip. Like Zunino, Heredia also has a few years left of team control.

2019 Projection: 38/3/40/4 … .240/.323/.340 in 53 games

Michael Plassmeyer was the Mariners 4th round pick (118th overall) in the 2018 draft out of the University of Missouri. The left-hander out of St. Louis stand 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds, giving him the frame and look of a potential innings eater. Plassmeyer pitched 203 career innings on campus and only walked 35 batters, 1.55 per 9, and that skill carried over to his pro debut. He pitched in 13 innings, making 12 starts and only walked 4 batters over 24 innings, 1.50 per 9. Obviously the Mariners were taking it easy with him after he threw over 91 innings in his final collegiate season. He sits 89-92 with the heater with an average slider and a changeup with a chance to get there. Here’s some video from his collegiate days:

The Mariners added a pair of outfielders in this move in Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley. 25 year-old Mallex Smith had a breakout in 2018 as he hit .296/.367/.406 with 40 stolen bases. Smith took advantage of Kiermaier missing almost the entire season by playing in 141 games and producing a 117 wRC+. I’m expecting a bit of regression going forward for Smith in the batting average department, as a career high BABIP pushed him up around .296. I think he’s more of a .260-.270 bat but one that will have significant fantasy value due to the stolen bags. Mallex Smith was coming off the board around pick 111 in the #2EarlyMocks.

2019 Projection: 83/3/47/34 …. .283/.342/.387 in 150 games

The big long-term winner in this trade might be Jake Fraley. Fraley gets out of the deep Rays farm system and finds himself now one of the top five prospects in a barren Mariners system, with a much clearer path to the big leagues. Fraley was a Competitive Balance Round B selection (77th overall) by the Rays in 2016 out of LSU. He has an average hit tool with average power projection with an above-average glove and plus wheels. The issue here is health. Fraley hasn’t been able to stay on the field but could move quickly if he does. Jason Woodell ranked Fraley as the 23rd prospect in a deep Rays system.

2018 Arizona Fall League Preview: Peoria Javelinas

2018 Arizona Fall League Preview: Peoria Javelinas

The Peoria Javelinas’ roster is comprised of players from the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners. A case could be made that the Padres, Braves, and Rays are the top three organizations in the game when it comes to prospects, but, at first glance, the Peoria squad appears to be lacking firepower.

2018 Tampa Bay Rays Instructional League Rosters and Schedule

2018 Tampa Bay Rays Instructional League Rosters and Schedule

Pitchers (25)

Newly acquired Shane Baz, 2017 1st rounder from Pittsburgh. Baz was included in the Archer deal. 2018 first rounders Matthew Liberatore, Shane McLanahan, and 2017 1st round pick Brendan McKay.

RHP: Shane Baz, Taj Bradley, Vincent Byrd, Eleardo Cabrera, Tanner Dodson, Miguel Lara, Easton McGee, Michael Mercado, Joel Peguero, Tommy Romero, Simon Rosenblum-Larson, Joe Ryan, Jhonleider Salinas, Alan Strong, Alex Valverde, and Stephen Yancey.

LHP: Matthew Liberatore, Resley Linares, Jose Lopez, Shane McLanahan, Brendan McKay, Luis Moncada, Steffon Moore, Francisco Sanchez, Nick Sprengel.