Tampa Bay Rays Top 30 Prospects

1. Wander Franco, SS

Age: 17 (3/1/01)

Level: Adv. Rookie

.351/.418/.571, 11 HR, .236 ISO, 159 wRC+, 9.9% BB, 7% K, 4 SB

Franco is an impressive hitter with elite bat-to-ball skills, double plus bat speed, and a mature eye. The tools scream future .300 hitter with plus power. His swing is short, compact, and explosive. His swing is balanced, allowing him to barrel pitches consistently. The hit tool is an easy 70 with 70 game power at peak. That means we are looking at impact bat. .300 with 30+ HR. Defensively, he can stick up the middle with a switch to second base, but like Vlad Jr. position doesn’t matter. The bat is that special.

In order to stick at short, Franco will need to improve his footwork and reads. His arm is average which plays up a tick at the keystone. ETA: 2021

2. Brent Honeywell, RHP

Age: 23 (3/31/95)

Level: AAA

123.2 IP, 3.64 ERA, 2.77 xFIP, 11.06 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, .266 - 2017 AAA

Honeywell was poised to crack the Rays rotation in 2018 before Tommy John surgery. When healthy, Honeywell throws five above-average to plus pitches with above-average command. His delivery is athletic and if you follow him on Twitter, you know he has the sort of chip on his shoulder that you want on the mound. Despite some built-in risk, TJ surgery has positive outcomes so I expect a full recovery and an arrival to Tampa by mid-season 2019. ETA: 2019

3. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B

Age: 22 (12/18/95)

Level: A+

78.1 IP, 2.41 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 11.83 K/9, 1.61 BB/9, .194 AVG

.214/.368/.359, 6 HR, .146 ISO, 116 wRC+, 18.2% BB, 21.5% K, 0 SB

The tools as a hitter haven’t yet translated on the stat line. With that being said, McKay has plus bat speed with an elite eye. I think he is a little too patient and often finds himself behind in the count. That will improve with reps, HOWEVER, I wonder if splitting time will ensure that he gets enough reps as a hitter to tap into his plus tools. If any organization can figure this out, it’s Tampa. Check out our scouting report on McKay the hitter.

While McKay is more polished as a pitcher, the bat is worth developing. There are a myriad of ways that the Rays could use him and that is what makes the two-way player experiment exciting. On the bump, McKay has a simple delivery that leads me to believe he could become a durable middle to top-of-the-rotation arm. His fastball sits mid 90s without much effort. He also throws a cutter, curveball, and slider. The slider was the nastiest offering I saw. McKay commands all four of his pitches but remains fastball dominant with his sequencing which leads to hard contact. He will need to improve his sequencing and trust his offspeed a bit more. Here is our report on McKay the pitcher.

Overall, the arm will get him to the majors quickest. The Rays have the reputation of keeping prospects in the minors longer than other teams. He should be major league ready on the mound by 2020. The bat may take a bit but if he avoids injury and gets regular reps at the plate, the bat will catch up quickly. ETA 2020

4. Jesus Sanchez, OF

Age: 21 (10/7/97)

Level: AA

.282/.324/.433, 11 HR, .151 ISO, 115 wRC+, 5.3% BB, 18.9% K, 7 SB

Sanchez is a 60-grade hitter with future 65-70 power at peak. Physically, he is a specimen, with strong wrists and plus bat speed. When he is going good, his swing is short and quick to the ball. He is more of a line-drive hitter currently. The HRs that I’ve seen are missiles as opposed to towering fly balls. However, Sanchez gets himself in trouble at times. He will expand the zone against off-speed away and his swing gets long. His front side flies open and he tries to launch everything. His game power is directly tied to the hit tool. Some guys will run into 20-plus home runs but Sanchez has to stay within himself, keep his swing short, and trust his hands in order to reach his peak. When he does struggle, as he did in Double-A, both hit tool and power struggle. Up until his promotion, Sanchez had never been exposed at the plate. I think this will be good for him and look for him to get back spraying missiles all over the field. Defensively, he is a right field profile with a plus throwing arm. Overall, I love the bat speed and the hard contact. I think he reaches a peak of .280 with 25-30 HR. ETA: 2021

5. Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF

Age: 24 (7/6/94)

Level: MLB

.297/.391/.558, 22 HR, .261 ISO, 166 wRC+, 12.8% BB, 22.9% K, 8 SB - AA/AAA

.233/.324/.450, 6 HR, .217 ISO, 113 wRC+, 10.8% BB, 25.7% K, 2 SB - MLB

I’ve been banging the Brandon Lowe drum for over a year. After winning the FSL 2017 MVP, Lowe crushed upper-minors pitching, earning a call-up to Tampa. He is one at-bat shy of graduating off this list. While he doesn’t have one standout tool, Lowe is a hitter. He posted slightly above-average exit velocities and launch angle in the big leagues. His versatility and athleticism should keep his bat in the lineup in 2019. ETA: 2018

6. Nate Lowe, 1B

Age: 23 (7/7/95)

Level: AAA

.330/.416/.568, 27 HR, .239 ISO, 178 wRC+, 12.3 % BB, 16.2% K, 1 SB

Hitters hit. Nate Lowe is a hitting machine. For a big power guy with a first base-only profile, I was expecting a long swing with a pull approach. What I saw was a plus body with a short, quick swing and the ability to use the entire field. Lowe shortens up with two strikes and has no problem spraying line drives over the shortstop for a single. When he does find the barrel, he flashes plus game power to all fields. He isn’t prone to swing-and-miss due to a mature approach that translates well at the MLB level. ETA: 2019

7. Vidal Brujan, 2B

Age: 20 (2/9/98)

Level: A+

.320/.403/.459, 9 HR, .139 ISO, 149 wRC+, 11.5% BB, 12.4% K, 55 SB

Brujan is an electric athlete with plus bat speed. The switch-hitter has a small frame with a wiry but strong build. He has excellent feel for the barrel and uses the entire field. Brujan flashed potential plus game power after being promoted to the FSL. I saw a hitter that can punish mistakes and turn on anybody’s fastball. His swing has natural loft that should translate to double-digit homers. You can check out our full scouting report for more details. ETA: 2021

8. Ronaldo Hernandez, C

Age: 21 (11/11/97)

Level: A

.284/.339/.494, 21 HR, .210 ISO, 133 wRC+, 6.9% BB, 15.4% K, 10 SB

Power-hitting catcers are hard to find but the Rays have a gem in Hernandez. He is athletic behind the plate with a plus throwing arm. If he continues to improve his game calling, pitch framing, and defense, Hernandez has a chance to become really special. His bat will carry the profile for now but the strides he has made defensively cannot be understated. ETA: 2021

9. Matthew Liberatore, LHP

Age: 19 (11/6/99)

Level: Adv. Rookie

32.2 IP, 1.38 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 10.19 K/9, 3.58 BB/9, .189 AVG

“The tall lefty has a room for some good weight in his back and torso. He may see velocity gains as a result of this body projection and had spurts throughout the spring when he displayed mid-high 90s heat. Mechanically, there is little effort in the delivery, which uses his lower half strength well. Liberatore lacks quick-twitch athleticism of many of his peers, but makes up for it with his stuff and advanced feel for his age. Liberatore’s curveball is a MFer and future 70 pitch with immense depth and two-plane break. He also has a changeup which flashes plus, but lacks consistency at present. The shape of his slider has taken strides this season and has a chance to be above average. Liberatore’s slider improvement inspires hope he will be able to make future adjustments if necessary. I think he can be a number-two starter, but has some risk considering due to the consistency of his changeup and slider.” Jason Pennini ETA: 2022

10. Shane Baz, RHP

Age: 19 (6/17/99)

Level: Adv. Rookie

52.1 IP, 4.47 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 10.15 K/9, 4.99 BB/9, .265 AVG

When the Rays acquired Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows for Chris Archer, I thought they had won the deal. When Baz was later included, I wondered what sort of voodoo magic was placed on Neil Huntington. Baz has an athletic delivery with a fast arm. He throws four pitches, but struggles with below-average command. The lack of command at present limits his ceiling, but his delivery and athleticism lead me to believe this will be a non-issue as he develops through the system.

“Easy delivery. Head remains fairly quiet. Works both sides of the plate and has a bevy of pitches to work with. Fastball 93-95 with life. Hard slider 87-89 used backdoor to left-hander an unfair, 70-grade pitch. Curveball 78 mph and changeup 83 mph”- Jason Pennini ETA: 2022

11. Lucius Fox, SS

Age: 21 (7/2/97)

Level: AA

.268/.351/.341, 3 HR, .073 ISO, 104 wRC+, 9.5% BB, 18.9% K, 29 SB

Fox is an uber-athletic switch-hitting shortstop. His main carrying tools are his speed. 70 grade from the left side and plus defense. Fox is rangy at short with soft hands and a strong arm. He is a 70 defender. With two plus tools and a strong arm, he should be higher. However, I’m not sold on the hit tool. The body still has a lot of projection at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds. He is bigger than I thought and there may be more power in the bat than has played out in the minors. Fox’s swing can get long which limits his hit tool and he’ll need to stay short and use the whole field in order for his athleticism and tool to translate at the higher levels of the minors. ETA: 2020

12. Nick Solak, 2B/OF

Age: 23 (1/11/95)

Level: AA

.282/.384/.450, 19 HR, .167 ISO, 140 wRC+, 12% BB, 19.8% K, 21 SB

Solak, like Brandon Lowe, is a guy without one stand-out tool yet he continues to get the most out of his ability. Solak can flat out hit. I watched him quite a bit in 2017 and saw a hitter that can spray line drives all over the field with emerging power. Solak is an above-average athlete with a good feel for the barrel. His line drives have carry especially to the opposite field. Solak’s bat and versatility make him an intriguing prospect. While the ceiling may not be high, the floor is. Last season, Solak reminded me of a right-handed, pre-launch-angle Daniel Murphy. I also get Martin Prado vibes, especially with the way Solak can spray line drives to the right-center gap. ETA: 2019

13. Shane McClanahan, LHP

Age: 21 (4/28/97)

Level: Adv. Rookie

7 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 FIP, 16.71 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, .130 AVG

McClanahan is a high upside lefty with a fast arm. His fastball sits 92-94 touching 96-97. He has hit 100 mph before. The key to his development is improving fastball command and sequencing. McClanahan loves to throw the fastball and when he is ahead in the count, he overthrows it and gets himself in trouble. His slider is a plus pitch and the changeup is above average with good fade and arm speed. He profiles a future reliever for me due to the lack of command however if the Rays can simplify the delivery and McClanahan starts to trust his offspeed, he could play up into a number-three starter. ETA: 2021

14. Joe McCarthy, OF

Age: 24 (2/23/94)

Level: AAA

.244/.356/.461, 8 HR, .217 ISO, 132 wRC+, 13.4% BB, 24.1% K, 4 SB

McCarthy missed most of the 2018 season due to injuries. Despite only playing in 47 Triple-A games, McCarthy matched his career high in home runs. He is an intriguing player due to his emerging power and ability to get on base. He should find a niche in Tampa in 2019 as a fourth outfielder with the chance to ride hot streaks into regular playing time. ETA: 2019

15. Moises Gomez, OF

Age: 20 (8/27/98)

Level: A

.280/.328/.503, 19 HR, .223 ISO, 131 wRC+, 6.6% BB, 26.6% K, 4 SB

Gomez is a high riser in the system, after hitting 19 home runs in Bowling Green. The power is a pleasant surprise but the walk rate and swing and miss will limit his ceiling. If he is able to replicate his success at Charlotte against advanced pitching in 2019, he could find himself cracking the top 10. His athleticism and ability to hit to all fields makes him an intriguing sleeper prospect. ETA: 2022

16. Nick Schnell, OF

Age: 18 (3/27/00)

Level: R

.239/.378/.373, 1 HR, .134 ISO, 118 wRC+, 17.1% BB, 28% K, 2 SB

The Rays went over slot to nab Schnell with the 32nd-overall pick in the draft. The body is athletic with projection. Schnell’s swing has natural loft which lends itself to power. He is a plus runner for his size although he may lose a step as he matures. ETA: 2022

17. Resly Linares, LHP

Age: 20 (12/11/97)

Level: A

84.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 3.08 xFIP, 10.35 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, .220 AVG

Linares is a thin but athletic lefty that relies on pitchability. He throws an above-average curve and changeup with good feel and command. His fastball is pedestrian which limits his ceiling. He has the makeup though to maximize the most out of his stuff but he has to stay out of the zone in order to be effective. The Florida State League will be a good test in 2019. ETA: 2021

18. Garrett Whitley, OF

Age: 21 (3/13/97)

Level: A

2017: .249/.362/.430, 13 HR, .182 ISO, 127 wRC+, 13.4% BB, 28.6% K, 21 SB

Whitley missed all of 2018 recovering from a torn labrum. When he is going good, he is a dynamic athlete and a patient hitter. The hit tool is plagued with swing and miss which limits his ceiling to a fourth outfielder, quad-A type. ETA: 2021

19. Josh Lowe, OF

Age: 20 (2/2/98)

Level: A+

.238/.322/.361, 6 HR, .123 ISO, 98 wRC+, 10.3% BB, 25.7% K, 18 SB

Lowe, the Rays 2016 first-rounder, has struggled to translate his athleticism and present strength into results. When you look at him in BP and on the field, he stands out. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, the body plays. However, Lowe struggles with pitch recognition. His swing is long and he is consistently on his front foot, which negates his natural strength and raw power. ETA: 2022

20. Anthony Banda, LHP

Age: 25 (8/10/93)

Level: MLB

14.2 IP, 3.68 ERA, 3.99 xFIP, 6.14 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, .226 - MLB

42 IP, 3.64 ERA, 3.56 xFIP, 10.5 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, .264 - AAA

Banda, acquired from Arizona, underwent Tommy John in June. His ceiling is a mid-rotation starter, but he has a long ways to go to get there. He should be back in the second half of 2019. He is mainly a fastball-changeup pitcher with minimal usage of his curveball or slider. The fastball velocity sits 94 mph so there is a lot to like with the arm, especially from the left side. I think he ends up backing up the “opener” due to average secondaries. ETA: 2019

21. Taylor Walls, SS

Age: 22 (7/10/96)

Level: A

.304/.393/.428, 6 HR, .124 ISO, 137 wRC+, 12.% BB, 14.8% K, 31 SB

Walls was simply too good for the Midwest League which begs the question. Why did the Rays leave him there all season? Walls, a switch-hitter, is a smooth defender and has a chance to stick at short. He is patient hitter that barrels everything and sprays line drives all over the field. ETA: 2021

22. Colin Poche, LHP

Age: 25 (1/17/94)

Level: AAA

66 IP, 0.82 ERA, 1.26 FIP, 15 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, .149 AVG

Poche put up video game numbers in 2018 and should find himself in late-inning situations in Tampa next season. He is incredibly deceptive with his delivery and arm action. He extends both sides of the plate with a fastball-slider combo. His fastball sits 91-93 and is a high-spinner that plays a grade higher despite the lack of velocity. ETA: 2019

23. Tyler Frank, 2B

Age: 21 (1/15/97)

Level: SS A

.288/.425/.412, 2 HR, .124 ISO, 154 wRC+, 14.6% BB, 12.4% K, 3 SB

The Rays selected Frank 56th overall in June. Frank has an excellent feel for the barrel and sprays line drives to all fields. He flashed an advanced hit tool but his overall profile may play down due to below-average power. Despite playing short, second, and third, Frank’s arm profiles as a second baseman. He is yet another in a long line of versatile middle infielders. ETA: 2021

24. Ian Gibaut, RHP

Age: 24 (11/19/93)

Level: AAA

56 IP, 2.09 ERA, 2.75 xFIP, 12.05 K/9, 3.38 BB/9, .178 AVG

Gibaut has all the makings of a dominant late-inning guy. He has a strong frame at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. His fastball touches the upper 90s, sitting 98-99 in my look. His changeup is a plus change with depth and fade while also mixing in an average slider. ETA: 2019

25. Drew Strotman, RHP

Age: 22 (9/3/96)

Level: A

46 IP, 3.52 ERA, 3.54 xFIP, 8.41 K/9, 3.52 BB/9, .238

Strotman may end up in the bullpen long-term but for now the Rays are working him as a starter. Strotman has a nasty arsenal with a high 90s heater and a plus curveball. Unfortunately, Strotman’s season ended with Tommy John in June. ETA: 2022

26. Michael Mercado. RHP

Age: 19 (4/15/99)

Level: SS A

50 IP, 5.22 ERA, 3.72 xFIP, 6.84 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, .271 AVG

Projection is the name of the game with Mercado. His FB sits low 90s, touching 94 at present but projects to the upper 90s with added strength. Mercado has an athletic 6-foot-4 frame that is enticing. Currently, he’s on the skinny side, but added weight and fastball velocity pairs nicely with an advanced feel for pitching to go with a slider, curveball, and changeup. All three offspeed pitches project to average, but will play up if Mercado adds velocity. ETA: 2022

27. Tanner Dodson, OF/RHP

Age: 21 (5/9/97)

Level: SS A

25 IP, 1.44 ERA, 3.01 xFIP, 9 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 .144 AVG

.273/.344/.396, 2 HR, .096 ISO, 87 wRC+, 8.9% BB, 15.2% K, 8 SB

Another two-way player! Leave it to the Rays. Dodson is a wiry, quick-twitch athlete. He is an above-average defender in center field with plus bat speed. On the mound, Dodson throws a 97-mph heater to go with a 90-mph slider. He is a pen arm long term with his future being more certain on the mound. If he can develop the hit tool and tap into some power, he could prove to valuable bench piece and reliever, saving the cash-strapped Rays an extra roster spot. ETA: 2022

28. Nick Ciuffo, C

Age: 23 (3/7/95)

Level: MLB

.189/.262/.297, 1 HR, .108 ISO, 56wRC+, 6.8% BB, 27.3% K, 0 SB

.258/.295/.376, 5 HR, .118 ISO, 87 WRC+, 5.3% BB, 26.6% K, 0 SB

Offensively, Ciuffo has no business being on this list. However, his defense is his carrying tool and he is left-handed. The Rays love defensive first catchers and Cuiffo has a shot to win the Rays starting catcher job in the spring. Overall, he profiles as a back-up catcher. ETA: 2018

29. Osmy Gregorio, SS/3B

Age: 20 (5/27/98)

.245/.329/.378, 3 HR, .133 ISO, 89 wRC+, 18.8% BB, 6 SB

Gregorio boasts a strong, projectable frame at 6’2” and 175 pounds. He moves well enough to cover SS but ultimately will grow into a 3B. He has soft hands and smooth defensive actions with a strong throwing arm. At the plate, Gregorio is still raw and struggles with spin but he was able to find the barrel more often than not. I like the projection here and Gregorio could add power as he gains strength. ETA: 2022

30. Jelfry Marte, SS

Age: 17 (3/27/01)

Level: Rookie

.281/.317/.314, 0 HR, .033 ISO, 83 wRC+, 3.6% BB, 15.8% K, 7 SB

Marte was one of the top players in the 2017-18 international signing class, agreeing to a $3 million signing bonus with the Twins. Marte failed the physical due to an eye issue and the Twins pulled the contract offer. The Rays swooped in and nabbed him for around $800k. Marte is a twitchy athlete with smooth defensive actions. He should stick at SS long-term. At the plate, he has good bat-to-ball skills for his age. The switch-hitter sprays line drives to the gaps with minimal power at this stage. Marte often looks overmatched though partly due to a lack of present strength. As he physically matures, I expect the gap power to flash in games making him an intriguing long-term prospect. ETA: 2023

For more Rays coverage, check out exclusive looks at Instructs. Here and here