Top 62 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays by Eric Longenhagen January 28, 2021 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Tampa Bay Rays. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been altered begin by telling you so. For the others, the blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside the org than within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there. Lastly, in effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both in lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher. 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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 20212020ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFGALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Rays Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Wander Franco 19.9 A+ SS 2022 80 2 Randy Arozarena 25.9 MLB LF 2021 60 3 Luis Patiño 21.3 MLB SP 2021 60 4 Vidal Bruján 23.0 AA 2B 2021 60 5 Josh Lowe 23.0 AA CF 2022 50 6 Xavier Edwards 21.5 A+ 2B 2023 50 7 Shane Baz 21.6 A SIRP 2022 50 8 Taylor Walls 24.6 AA SS 2021 50 9 Shane McClanahan 23.8 AA MIRP 2022 50 10 Seth Johnson 22.4 R SP 2023 50 11 Brendan McKay 25.1 MLB SP 2021 50 12 Blake Hunt 22.2 A C 2022 50 13 Heriberto Hernandez 21.1 A- LF 2023 50 14 Carlos Colmenarez 17.2 R SS 2025 45+ 15 Greg Jones 22.9 A- CF 2023 45+ 16 JJ Goss 20.1 R SP 2024 45+ 17 Drew Strotman 24.4 A+ SP 2021 45 18 Joe Ryan 24.6 AA MIRP 2022 45 19 Ford Proctor 24.2 A C 2022 45 20 Alejandro Pie 19.0 R SS 2024 45 21 Cole Wilcox 21.5 R SP 2023 45 22 Nick Bitsko 18.6 R SP 2024 45 23 Ronaldo Hernandez 23.2 A+ C 2021 45 24 Ian Seymour 22.1 R MIRP 2023 40+ 25 Kevin Padlo 24.5 AAA 3B 2021 40+ 26 Taj Bradley 19.9 R SP 2023 40+ 27 Osleivis Basabe 20.4 A- SS 2023 40+ 28 Alika Williams 21.9 R SS 2023 40 29 Josh Fleming 24.7 MLB SP 2021 40 30 Pedro Martinez 20.0 A- 2B 2023 40 31 John Doxakis 22.4 A- MIRP 2022 40 32 Michael Mercado 21.8 A- SP 2022 40 33 Alexander Alberto 19.2 R SP 2025 40 34 Curtis Mead 20.3 R LF 2023 40 35 Neraldo Catalina 20.6 R SIRP 2023 40 36 Hunter Barnhart 19.0 R SP 2025 40 37 Tanner Dodson 23.7 A+ SIRP/CF 2023 40 38 Tyler Frank 24.0 A+ 2B 2023 40 39 Abiezel Ramirez 21.0 R SS 2022 40 40 Tommy Romero 23.6 AA MIRP 2022 40 41 Michael Plassmeyer 24.2 AAA SP 2022 40 42 Colby White 22.6 A- SIRP 2023 35+ 43 Esteban Quiroz 28.9 AAA 2B 2022 35+ 44 Carlos Garcia 22.2 A+ SIRP 2023 35+ 45 Victor Munoz 20.1 R SIRP 2022 35+ 46 Nick Schnell 20.8 A CF 2023 35+ 47 Graeme Stinson 23.5 R MIRP 2023 35+ 48 Peyton Battenfield 23.5 A- SIRP 2023 35+ 49 Johan Lopez 20.5 R 2B 2022 35+ 50 Moises Gomez 22.4 A+ RF 2022 35+ 51 Alexander Ovalles 20.3 A- 1B 2024 35+ 52 Joel Peguero 23.7 A SIRP 2022 35+ 53 Sandy Gaston 19.1 R SIRP 2023 35+ 54 Jhonny Piron 16.7 R CF 2025 35+ 55 Jhon Diaz 18.3 R CF 2025 35+ 56 Audry Lugo 22.2 A- SIRP 2023 35+ 57 Cal Stevenson 24.4 A+ CF 2022 35+ 58 Logan Driscoll 23.2 A- C 2023 35+ 59 Daiveyon Whittle 21.2 A- MIRP 2023 35+ 60 Jayden Murray 23.8 A- MIRP 2023 35+ 61 Aneudy Cortorreal 21.1 R SIRP 2023 35+ 62 Angel Felipe 23.4 R SIRP 2022 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 80 FV Prospects 1. Wander Franco, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 19.9 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr S / R FV 80 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 60/80 55/55 45/60 60/60 50/55 55 Franco spent 2020 at the alternate site and then played just five games for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League before he was shut down due to biceps soreness, which had clearly effected his throwing, as he short-hopped several throws to first base on routine plays. It’s not expected to be a long-term issue, and Franco himself wanted to rest and return to action for Escogido (the left side of los Leones infield would have been him and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), but the Rays prevented it as a precaution. I suppose there’s some chance that this issue, combined with the presence of other good shortstops in the org like Willy Adames and Taylor Walls (assuming either or both aren’t traded) creates a heightened chance that Franco debuts in the big leagues as a second baseman, but even if we knew that was going to be the case, he’d still easily be the best prospect in baseball. In fact, last year Franco became the first 80 FV prospect of the Future Value era at FanGraphs, the best prospect on the planet, and the best I’ve evaluated during my tenure here at the site. Recall Franco’s statistical track record, which is better than Vladdy’s was at the same age and levels: He has played 175 career games, all at levels well above what is typical for a player his age (he doesn’t turn 20 until March). During those games, he hit .336/.405/.523 with 71 extra-base hits, 20 steals, and more walks than strikeouts. In fact, across two levels in 2019, Low- and Hi-A, Franco not only walked more than he struck out, but walked about twice as much. He has one of the lowest swinging strike rates in the minor leagues at a paltry 4.8%. Franco’s short levers and lightning-quick wrists make it nearly impossible to beat him with velocity, especially on the inner half. He is also especially adept at spoiling well-located back-foot breaking balls, and if you miss with one and catch even part of the zone, he can drop the bat head and yank it out to his pull side. Work away from him and he’ll extend his arms and pepper the opposite field gap with line drives, then use his speed to turn lots of those into doubles. He has impressive raw juice in BP, which he shows off because he makes such consistent contact (his 2019 Futures Game BP was better than Jo Adell‘s and Nolan Jones‘ even though those guys have bigger raw power), but it’s possible Franco’s in-game power hasn’t fully actualized yet because he still hits the ball on the ground a lot (48% in 2019, with just a 9 degree average launch angle). And yet he’s still slugging like a physically mature Quad-A hitter. How about the TrackMan data? Franco’s exit velos and hard hit rate (which are on The Board) are both above the big league average, which is ridiculous for a teenager who’s playing against competition four and a half years older than he is. He might not ever produce huge home run totals without a swing change (someone told me, “If that’s true, then imagine a Michael Brantley-type of hitter who switch-hits and plays shortstop”), but it’d be ridiculous to alter this guy’s swing considering how elite his performance has been, and I think the elite bat-to-ball skills will enable him to hit for more game power than his raw. Franco has been the best player his age on the planet since he was 14 years old. He looks like, and has performed like, a generational talent and annual MVP contender. (Alternate site, LIDOM) 60 FV Prospects 2. Randy Arozarena, LF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (STL) Age 25.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 60/60 55/60 50/50 45/45 55 Yes, Arozarena was on last year’s pre-season Top 100 but he was evaluated as a well-rounded, tough-nosed everyday player rather than someone with impact power, which he developed by doing pushups all day in his hotel room during a COVID-19 quarantine. I think this is a real, relevant change and helped drive his debut season’s triple slash line, a star-like .281/.382/.641 in the regular season and God-like .500/.538/1.042 in the playoffs. A pertinent data point here is Arozarena’s max exit velo, which was 109 mph in 2019 and moved up to 113 mph in 2020. This is a measurable change in physical ability, the reason for which is well-publicized and which is supported by a visual evaluation of Arozarena’s physicality. And I’m not too worried about the sudden uptick in his strikeout rate because it not only occurred in a small sample but is way above his career norm of 18.5% (I’m avoiding recency bias), and the circumstances surrounding it (Arozarena rolled out of quarantine bed and faced big league pitching for the longest stretch of his life) are odd. We also got our first glimpse of how opponents are going to pitch to Arozarena now that he’s a certified masher, and I think that his walk rate and OBP are both going to take a pretty serious leap. His newfound physique might also bring about a change to his approach to contact (this guy once looked like a leadoff hitter) as he continues to get a feel for what it’s like to have this much juice, but I’m not sure how that will manifest on the field. I think the added weight has made him a worse defender and now have a 40 on him in left field, not that it matters. He’s likely to anchor the middle of the Rays order for the next half decade. It should be noted that Arozarena was involved in an altercation related to a custody dispute this offseason; he was released from custody after his former partner declined to press charges. (Alternate site, MLB) 3. Luis Patiño, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (SDP) Age 21.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 192 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 65/65 55/60 45/55 40/60 93-97 / 99 Even though I don’t share it, I think it’s fair to say Patiño’s 2020 debut reinforced the doubt that some front office personnel have expressed each of the last two offseasons about his ability to start. Some of that doubt is the result of his size (I specifically don’t have these concerns), while the rest is the result of his sub-par control/command. Indeed Patiño’s BB/9 rose as he was promoted to each of his previous four minor league levels, culminating in a gnarly 16.5% walk rate during a small 2020 big league sample. For someone as short as Patiño is, his arm swing is actually quite long, and his tactile feel for release has seemingly regressed as he’s gotten more muscular. But remember that this is one of the better on-mound athletes in the minors, who is still only the age of a college prospect, and who hasn’t had elite velocity for very long. Since he signed, Patiño has gained about 40 pounds and added about 10 ticks of fastball velocity. More important context: Patiño is a converted infielder who has only been focused on pitching for about five years, and one of those was seriously disrupted by the pandemic. Certainly Patiño needs to find more mechanical consistency and his fastball location needs to move north. Plus, his changeup feel is still quite raw. But if this guy were at LSU or UCLA, we’d be talking about him as the odds-on favorite to go number one overall in this year’s draft. I still project Patiño as a multi-time All-Star starter. (Alternate site, MLB) 4. Vidal Bruján, 2B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 23.0 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 189 Bat / Thr S / R FV 60 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/65 45/50 30/45 70/70 50/55 50 Recall Ketel Marte’s progression, the underlying skills he had early in his big league career and his shortcomings. How could we have collectively anticipated that he’d transform from a light-hitting speedster shortstop into a multi-positional physical freak with a rare power/speed/patience combination? I submit that Bruján shares all of Marte’s pre-breakout traits (and has a lot in common with Ozzie Albies, too) and could take a similar leap in his mid-20s, as he progresses further into physical maturity. Like Marte, Bruján is a top-of-the-scale athlete and one of the most electric in-the-box rotators in all of the minor leagues. There are lots of other players whose measurable height and weight read as “small” who simply don’t have Bruján’s body composition (he’s angular, tapered at the waist rather than built like a stick), musculature (you can see his lats through his jersey), or explosiveness. I think he has room to add mass even though he’s short, and that he’s likely to because he’s a dedicated worker, which means some indeterminate amount of power will arrive with time. I also think that he’ll continue to harness his hellacious swing, which, based on his contact rates, he already has abnormal control over. I’ve watched Bruján swing so hard that he corkscrewed himself to the ground, only to pop back up like a Russian folk dancer, but even though he swings that hard, he has good feel for contact and ball/strike recognition, enabling him to grind out tough at-bats and walk a bunch. Let’s re-examine the statistical case. Bruján split 2019 between Hi- and Double-A and while his walk rate took a bit of a dip at those levels, his on-paper performance was still well above league average (.277/.346/.389 with 48 bags in 61 attempts, and 28 extra-base hits in 100 games) for the Florida State and Southern Leagues. His exit velo data from 2019 is not great, but remember I’m betting on more of that arriving later. There are scouts who think he can play shortstop, but I think the arm is a little light for that and instead think he’ll be play a combination of second base and center field. As I’ve passed around the early iterations of my Top 100 list for industry feedback, most have told me I’m at least a little too high on Bruján, which I think is useful for readers to know, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one because I think he has a chance to be a star. (Alternate site) 50 FV Prospects 5. Josh Lowe, CF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Pope HS (GA) (TBR) Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 60/60 40/55 60/60 40/45 60 There’s no change to Lowe’s report since he was sequestered at the alt site all year, which just wasn’t good at replicating an environment that can tell us about the things relevant for Lowe’s stock, including the balance of his walks and strikeouts, his defensive progression in center field, and if the shift in his batted ball profile that seemed to occur in 2019 (and that I’m betting is very meaningful) is real. From last year: Things may finally be starting to gel for Lowe, who has had tantalizing tools since high school. He was a power/speed prep bat without a clear position, but most of the amateur half of the industry assumed he’d be able to play center field if not shortstop or third base, where he played in high school. He quickly moved to the outfield and has played almost exclusively in center since 2017. He isn’t great there, but most of Lowe’s other abilities have been slow to develop, so it’s possible his feel for the position will come later, too. For instance, Lowe has big all-fields power but has been strikeout prone since his prep days. Once he began playing pro games and generating data, however, it became clear that, despite the whiffs, he had a great idea of the strike zone. The raw power didn’t really show up in games until Lowe’s batted ball profile began to shift in 2018. His groundball rates were in the mid-40% range until that year but slowly began shifting downward. Then Lowe had a breakout statistical 2019 as a 21-year-old at Double-A. He’s always going to strike out, but he’s also probably going to keep walking a lot, especially now that the power is a real threat. It’s pretty important that he stay in center field to take some pressure off of the hit tool. If he can do that, he’ll be an everyday player. (Alternate site) 6. Xavier Edwards, 2B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from North Broward Prep HS (FL) (SDP) Age 21.5 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 40/40 20/30 80/80 45/50 45 As seems to be the case with lots of players whose exit velos are toward the bottom of the big league scale, Edwards is somewhat divisive throughout the industry. Up until this year, it had typically been the in-office analyst types whose Edwards opinions were more tepid, as scouts (especially on the amateur side) loved his speed/contact blend and how hard he played. But his lack of impact contact was, for the first time, noted as a real problem by scouts who saw him in the Fall of 2020. As with Nick Madrigal, Luis Arraez and other players like them, I think hitters with a complete lack of power can still be good everyday players provided that they make a nearly elite amount of contact, and to this point Edwards has. Like Franco, Edwards’ 2019 swinging strike rate was just 4.8% (he just doesn’t put the ball in play as hard) and his track record of hitting in games extends way back to his underclass high school days. At one point, I thought Edwards could be a slash-and-dash Luis Castillo clone, but he doesn’t have the samurai-level feel for contact Castillo did. I still have a high degree of confidence in his bat. All of Edwards’ extra-base damage will be done down either baseline, as he’ll sneak grounders past the corner infielders and be at second base in the blink of an eye. The Rays plan to deploy him as a multi-positional catalyst, a speedy, Chone Figgins-style player. Like Figgins, Edwards has elite speed and scouts prefer X at positions other than shortstop, but he can play there in a pinch. He’ll be a super utility type who provides value commensurate with an everyday player because of the strength of his hit tool. (Alternate site, MLB) 7. Shane Baz, SIRP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Concordia Lutheran HS (TX) (PIT) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 60/70 55/60 40/40 55/60 30/40 92-97 / 100 Fastball velocities were down about a tick and a half on average across all of the alternate sites, which makes sense considering it was a non-competitive environment. Recall that the last we saw Baz, he was parked at 95-99 and touching 101 in the 2019 Fall League, working out of the bullpen with his fastball, curveball, and cutter/slider. He did not throw during Feb/March spring training and instead joined the team at the summer tuneup camp and then at the alternate site in Port Charlotte, where his velocity (according to a source not with the Rays) was more in the 93-96 range, which is where he pitched as a starter during the 2019 regular season. This could be because he was working as a starter at the alt site (he was back to throwing four pitches there, as the changeup came back) or because he was told to dial it down and throw more strikes, or because adrenaline doesn’t really flow when nothing is on the line, or some combination of these factors. I’m not inclined to move Baz in light of this (obviously) because he’s still only 21 and probably had a weird year like the rest of us. I’m still betting on his frame, athleticism, and stuff. Maturity will likely come with age, though I’m not sure better tactile feel for release and location will, so I still have Baz projected in a high-leverage relief role. (Alternate site) 8. Taylor Walls, SS Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Florida State (TBR) Age 24.6 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/60 35/35 30/30 50/50 60/60 50 So polished is Walls defensively that, were WIlly Adames to go down with injury or leave via trade, he’s the most likely internal candidate to get everyday reps. Both the dev staff and the analytics group in Tampa Bay love him at shortstop, and this comes after he only looked okay to the eye in college. From a minor league defensive data perspective, Clay Davenport had him as being worth six runs at shortstop in 2019. His first step, internal clock, and situational awareness, combined with suitable foot speed, actions, and arm strength, not only make him viable at short, but actually really good there. Offensively, Walls is a switch-hitter with great feel for the strike zone and for squaring balls all over it. He’s kinda stiff and really doesn’t have much power because his swing is so simplistic, instead punching a lot of liner singles over the heads of infielders. It’s not a sexy skillset but it is a great general profile — a switch-hitting shortstop with on base skills — with enough physical tools to compete with big leaguers. I have him as a low-variance 50 FV player based on the strength of his defense at a premium position. (Alternate site) 9. Shane McClanahan, MIRP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from USF (TBR) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 65/65 55/60 40/45 35/40 93-97 / 100 Throughout his late high school and early college careers (the latter of which was paused by a Tommy John), McClanahan’s stuff climbed from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. In the first start of his draft year, he hit 100 mph and flashed above average secondary stuff, which put him among the draft’s top prospects right out of the gate. But things started to unravel from there. A finger injury, bad weather, fluctuating stuff, frustrating control, and questions about his maturity all contributed to a draft-day tumble to pick No. 31 and the hometown Rays. A year later, those concerns seemed trite. A more consistent, balanced delivery enabled McClanahan to throw more strikes and he absolutely carved A-ball. He got especially hot over a nine-game stretch at Hi-A, where he walked just eight over 49 innings. He ended up with 154 K in 120.2 innings, and reached Double-A. Then, after he had pitched at the alternate site all year, the Rays decided to foist McClanahan onto their playoff roster, and he made his big league debut in the playoffs. It did not go well, with McClanahan giving up a lot of really hard contact, but everyone got to see how hard he throws and how nasty his breaking stuff can be. I still have McClanahan evaluated as a power reliever. (Alternate site, MLB) 10. Seth Johnson, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Campbell (TBR) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 50/60 45/50 40/45 30/50 92-97 / 99 Though it hasn’t coincided with the same kind of dramatic physical development, Johnson’s trajectory is very similar to Luis Patiño’s. He is also a converted infielder who only began pitching recently, in Johnson’s case during his sophomore season at Louisburg College (the Hurricanes), where he threw just six innings with a fastball that mostly sat in the upper-80s. He then transferred to Campbell, and it was during Fall practices there that his fastball touched the mid-90s and he flashed a plus breaking ball, instantly making him a high-priority look for the following spring (2019) when he was draft-eligible. His stock and performance peaked in late-March of his draft year, then dipped closer to the draft when he failed to get through five or more innings in five of his last eight starts. The Rays took him in the sandwich round and Johnson was only sitting 91-95 in 30-pitch outings after he signed, but remember that he had barely thrown the year before and was pitching more than ever before. The pre-draft dip left room for questions about his season-long durability, and those remain relevant after there was no opportunity for Johnson to answer them during a real 2020 minor league season. But he did show up at instructs sitting 92-98 (including entire outings toward the upper end of that range) and touching 99 with three secondaries that grade out well from a pitch data perspective. We don’t yet know how Johnson will respond to a full season of innings as a starter, but he does have starter-quality repertoire depth. His slider (which sat 85-88 at instructs) and curveball both have plus raw spin (his slider’s spin rate spiked once the Rays got hold of him), and Johnson has natural feel for killing spin and creating sink on his mid-80s changeup. There’s some relief risk created by his delivery (his arm action is still long, and the Rays haven’t tweaked his college mechanics at all) and lack of mechanical consistency, but he is a plus on-mound athlete who, again, has barely pitched. I’m comfortable projecting pretty heavily on Johnson’s secondaries and command because of the context here. Certainly the relief risk causes Johnson to slide below where he’d rank based purely on his Fall stuff, but his relief outcome isn’t all that different than Baz or McClanahan’s. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 11. Brendan McKay, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Louisville (TBR) Age 25.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 50/55 50/55 55/70 91-95 / 96 Nobody knows exactly how to adjust where McKay falls on the overall prospect continuum after his August 2020 shoulder surgery. He was just 1.1 innings shy of graduating off prospect lists entirely in 2019, and would have graduated in 2020 had he stepped on a mound even once, but a bout with COVID delayed his activity at the alternate site, and then shoulder discomfort, which had plagued him the year before, resurfaced once he began to throw bullpens. The situation is similar to Cardinals righty Alex Reyes‘, who accrued 46 big league innings before he needed Tommy John, which derailed his ability to pitch out of the rotation early in his career due to the rehab timeline. This injury is especially scary for McKay since part of the reason he peaked as a 60 FV was because he projected to throw a ton of innings and generate 3-plus annual WAR on the strength of his durability. Now it sounds like he won’t be ready for the start of camp. His fastball only sits 90-94 and touches 96, which is pretty average, but McKay keeps it away from the middle of the zone where it can really be hammered and often ties hitters up with it because he locates so well; his swinging strike rate on the heater was close to 17% in the minors, so I think it’ll play. His cutter command is arguably even better, and he peppers the glove side of the plate with it at will. Changeup usage was scarce in his 49-inning big league sample but I think it will be one of the focal points of his repertoire, perhaps usurping the curveball, which has a stronger visual evaluation than it does if you look at the spin data. It’s a repertoire/command profile similar to that of a lot of good lefties (Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진, Mike Minor, Cole Hamels), though most of them are more reliant on the cambio than McKay has been to this point. He now fits in with other major league-ready, strike-throwing 2 WAR starters toward the back of the top 100, though he needs to slide behind the ones who will be ready for the start of the season, and the ones who are coming off an elbow injury rather than a shoulder. (Alternate site, Injured) 12. Blake Hunt, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Mater Dei HS (CA) (SDP) Age 22.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/60 35/50 40/30 45/50 60 Hunt was so crowded out by other prospects (Danner, Greene, Lewis, Pratto, Crouse, Estrada, Allen, Ward, etc) that he didn’t even make the SoCal Area Code team (a regional, draft and scout-driven All-Star team) the summer before his senior year, and I didn’t know about him until the following spring when he played well at a heavily-attended Boras tournament. Hunt got a $1.6 million bonus to keep him from going to Pepperdine, then put forth three solid, if unspectacular offensive seasons (.258/.341/.384) before having a huge breakout during 2020 Instructional League, during which he was suddenly hitting for much more in-game power. As a young pro, Hunt had a conservative in-game swing swing. He’d show you average raw power during BP but deploy a contact-oriented approach in games. His swing had virtually no stride, and he relied on strength to drive balls into the gaps for doubles, but that was it. Last Fall, Hunt’s swing had more lower body movement and that, combined with another year of added body/strength maturation, makes him a much more dangerous hitter. I watched him park one halfway into the left-center field seats at Chase Field and he took Mason Thompson (who sat 96-99 that day) deep later that week, his second loud extra-base hit that day. He was one of a few buzzy Padres prospects (some of the others have also been traded) from the Fall, and he performed against a quality cross-section of pitching. Hunt’s defense has backed up a little bit. He was catching on one knee, even with runners on base, and his footwork coming out of his crouch was inconsistent, which lead to inconsistent throwing accuracy. I’ve also seen him pop as low as 1.88 on throws to second and, despite his size, he’s agile enough and has sufficiently good hands to receive and frame big league stuff. I think the style with which Hunt catches will probably grow and change, especially as he shifts to an org that seems less inclined to put their catchers on one knee with runners on, and ultimately he’ll be good back there. The thing to focus on here, though, is the potential power production from behind the plate, which now compels me to project him as an everyday player. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 13. Heriberto Hernandez, LF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TEX) Age 21.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 55/65 35/60 30/30 30/45 45 Even though the Rays have seemingly made a concerted effort to acquire catching depth this offseason and Hernandez caught during his early pro career, I think it’s likely they put him to an outfield corner or at first base and just let him hit and climb the minor league ladder as fast as his bat will take him. And that could be a very fast climb. Hernandez was perhaps the most dominant lower-level hitter in 2019, slashing .344/.433/.646 during the AZL regular season before going on an Arozarena-esque tear in the AZL and then Northwest League postseasons after he was promoted for the last week of Spokane’s season. He slugged over .900 during his final few weeks in the org. The Rangers invited Hernandez to their alternate site in mid-September and he tuned up against advanced pitching there before getting most of his 2020 run at Fall Instructional League. Then the Rangers traded him as part of a deal centered around Nate Lowe early in the offseason. Heuristically, this is not the sort of prospect I like. Heriberto is a positionless righty hitter (and thus is often at a platoon disadvantage) far from the big leagues. But his on-paper stats, underlying TrackMan data, and my multi-year in-person visual evaluation give me a high degree of confidence that this might be a very special hitter whose hit and power combination will clear the high offensive bar in left field or first base. His little T-Rex arms enable Heriberto to be short to the baseball, but he’s so strong and rotates with such ferocity that he still hits for power. I’ve seen him make mid-at-bat adjustments to quality offspeed stuff, swinging over a particularly good splitter only to recognize the next one, located in the same spot, and rope it into the left field corner for a double. He covers the whole plate (something that’s gotten better since my first looks in 2018) but is tough to beat on the inner half because his levers are so short. Because he isn’t an up-the-middle player, Hernandez is not the type of prospect with an elite-level WAR ceiling, but he has the talent to anchor the middle of an order as a hit/power combo bat. (Rangers alternate site and Fall Instructional League) 45+ FV Prospects 14. Carlos Colmenarez, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Venezuela (TBR) Age 17.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/55 25/55 55/55 45/55 60 A sweet-swinging, lefty-hitting shortstop with a good frame, Colmenarez had been among the best players in the 2020 international amateur class for quite a while, at times claiming the top spot. His swing has natural lift out in front of the plate and he has shown feel to hit in games. Based on looks at him in workouts, he is likely to stay at short, where he has plus hands and actions, and average range and arm strength. He is a caliber of prospect commensurate with a mid-first round pick. (January 15 international signee) 15. Greg Jones, CF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from UNC Wilmington (TBR) Age 22.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 50/55 30/50 70/70 40/45 55 No new information to provide here, since Jones only arrived at the Rays’ alternate site in mid-September, and then wasn’t seen at instructs due to a minor knee injury that kept him from action until he did some fielding and light hitting toward the end of camp. Teams loved Jones’ tools coming out of high school, but he was very raw as a hitter, especially for someone as old as he was relative to his high school senior peers. After a strikeout-heavy freshman year in Wilmington, Jones cut his whiff total nearly in half as a draft-eligible sophomore. He also improved enough defensively to keep the shortstop projection alive, though some scouts think he may need to move to center field. It was enough for him to be in teams’ mix in the comp round’s zip code, and he was drafted 31st overall by the Rays. A year and a half later, Jones remained the same sort of player. He struggled during Extended Spring, but had a strong summer in the Penn League, which was a pretty conservative assignment. Jones has everyday outs. Even if he doesn’t stay at short, he’s going to play up the middle, and so long as he’s getting to the power he has a shot to play everyday. I think there’s still-to-come hit tool growth, enough that the in-game power manifests. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 16. JJ Goss, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cypress Ranch HS (TX) (TBR) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 50/55 35/55 91-94 / 96 It appears as though Goss has had a pretty significant spin rate spike. Both before the 2019 draft (data collection that occurred on the showcase circuit) and after, his fastball and the better of his two breaking balls spun at 2250 rpm and 2050 rpm, respectively. But as I called around to see if Rays stuff had changed based on 2020 data, Goss came up. His fastball now spins at a whopping 2600 rpm while his breaking balls are spinning closer to 2400. He’s also throwing his fastball a little bit harder and his changeup now has much more velocity and rests in the upper-80s. Boots-on-the-ground scouts who saw instructs echoed the sentiments of the amateur arm of the industry from before Goss was drafted: he can really pitch. He was a low-90s (touching mid-90s) changeup/command high schooler whose breaking balls relied on Goss’ deceptive slot to play, but his stuff has improved without detracting from his pitchability. Pro scouts now think the breaking ball has a chance to be plus. This is a 2021 breakout candidate. (Fall Instructional League) 45 FV Prospects 17. Drew Strotman, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from St. Mary’s (TBR) Age 24.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 30/40 55/60 45/50 92-95 / 97 Strotman is back on track after his stuff was depressed upon his initial return from Tommy John rehab. Recall the Spencer Howard parallels here. Like Howard, Strotman mostly pitched out of the bullpen at a second tier California college and only began starting full-time in 2018. He was probably slightly underscouted as an amateur, and definitely underdeveloped. For a month and a half of 2018, he showed mid-rotation stuff (92-97), then blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John. His rehab was slow and Strotman’s fastball was down in the 90-93 range when he returned, then still a mediocre 91-95 with average secondary stuff late in the 2019 Fall League. When he arrived at 2020 instructs, not only had his peak velocity returned (93-95, touch 97) but he had also added a low-90s cutter that was instantly his best secondary pitch. It has late, biting, glove-side movement and Strotman already has good feel for locating it. He’s back to tracking like a 1.5-2 WAR starter and has a chance to be on the Top 100 next year if the velo bump is part of a longer-developing trend. (Fall Instructional League) 18. Joe Ryan, MIRP Drafted: 7th Round, 2018 from Cal State Stanislaus (TBR) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/50 45/50 45/45 50/60 90-94 / 96 Last year I wrote in Ryan’s report that even with the pitch data I had sourced for the lists, I could not quite explain how it was that he struck out 35% of hitters at Hi-A Port Charlotte with a fastball that only sat 90-94. In the last year, I’ve better integrated an understanding of pitches’ approach angle into my thinking, which helps explain how Ryan’s stuff works. Pitchers with a release point lower than his (some notable names include Camillo Doval, Hector Yan, Victor Gonzalez) typically project as relievers, and it’s rare for someone with a release point as low as Ryan’s to also create something even approaching a backspinning axis (Ryan’s fastball has about 1:00 tilt, whereas 12:00 would be perfect backspin) since most pitchers with lower release heights also have low arm slots. But Ryan’s delivery is starter-y. His release height is low because, like a lot of the prospects in this system, his levers are really short. So Ryan’s fastball approaches the plate at an upward angle and has some carry to it, which makes hitters swing underneath it a lot. There are some relief-only types (like James Karinchak) ahead of him, but among full-season minor league starters who threw upwards of 500 fastballs in 2019, Ryan’s heater had the highest swinging strike rate. Part of the reason to wonder if Ryan ends up starting or relieving is because his secondary stuff is less strong. What I called a cutter last year now has more length to it and is clearly a slider. Aside from that, Ryan’s mid-70s rainbow curveball and occasional changeup make up a command/control backend starter’s four-pitch mix, it’s just that he has a dominant fastball to pair with them. He used his fastball 73% of the time in 2019. There’s no precedent for that level of usage among big league starters and there’s no way of knowing how big league hitters will adjust to seeing that pitch so often until Ryan faces them. I’m going to bucket him in the multi-inning relief category where hitter adjustments are less likely to occur due to the nature of the job, and think Ryan could be a very good version of one. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 19. Ford Proctor, C Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Rice (TBR) Age 24.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 40/40 30/35 45/45 40/45 50 It was a tough year for identifying breakout players because there were no statistical flares to indicate where to poke around for new information, but Ford Proctor played more baseball in 2020 (he first played in the Houston-area Constellation Energy League, then went to the alternate site in September, then played at instructs, then went to Australia to play winter ball) than perhaps anyone else in affiliated ball (or he will have by the end of the Aussie season), so his progression was quite noticeable. Offensively, he remains a contact-oriented lefty bat with an all-fields approach to contact and doubles pop. But while Proctor played shortstop at Rice and several infield positions in pro ball, he began converting to catcher in 2020 and made a remarkable amount of progress as a defender in a short period of time, going from “bad” to “hey, this might actually work” in a span of about four weeks during instructs according to the scouts who saw him there. He’ll pop some mid-1.9s down to second base, too. The offensive bar at catcher is very low and Proctor has a chance to clear it by virtue of his bat-to-ball skills and ball/strike recognition. (Constellation Energy League, alt site, Fall Instructional League, Australian Baseball League) 20. Alejandro Pie, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 19.0 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 45/60 20/55 60/55 40/50 60 There’s not enough new dope on Pie (pronounced pee-AY, like Felix Pie) to alter his FV since he did not come stateside for instructs and instead participated in a Rays camp held in the Dominican Republic. It’s worth noting that he has become much stronger-looking and his defensive actions at shortstop, especially his footwork, have improved. It’s tough for long-legged infielders to be able to shorten their strides, increase the tempo of their steps, and bend like infielders need to, but Pie is pretty good at it for his size. He has an NBA wing player’s frame, uncommon athleticism and body control for his size, uncapped power projection, and much more abstract intrigue than certainty about any aspect of the profile, but if you compare his frame, athleticism and showcase tools to those of same-aged domestic high school players, Pie looks like a first round talent. He runs well enough that center field is a possibility if he outgrows the infield. Even if Pie tumbles down the defensive spectrum, it likely means he’s grown into substantial raw power, enough to profile at any position. His current tool grade projections indicate what I think things will look like if his frame develops such that it allows him to stay at shortstop (the Goldilocks Zone), but I think it’s going to take a long time before Pie’s skillset truly comes into focus and we were robbed of a 2020 look because of COVID. (DR Instructs) 21. Cole Wilcox, SP Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Georgia (SDP) Age 21.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 55/60 45/55 35/45 93-97 / 100 Wilcox was a 50 FV high school prospect who fell toward the bottom of teams’ first tier of prep pitching due to the shape of his fastball and his physically-mature frame. He ended up at Georgia, pitched out of the bullpen throughout much of his freshman year and routinely sat 97-99 in that role, often touching 100. As a starter in 2020, Wilcox sat 93-96 with more consistent command (he walked no hitters in his final three starts and walked just two in 23 total innings) than he had as a freshman, and more effective slider shape. The Padres drafted Wilcox in the third round and gave him $3.3 million, which broke the record for a third rounder’s bonus, one they set the previous year with Hudson Head. Wilcox went to instructs — I have one report from the Fall and Wilcox was 93-94, which is fine considering the context — and was then traded to the Rays as part of the Blake Snell deal. When it’s right, Wilcox has a biting, two-plane out pitch in the slide piece, which sits in the 85-89 range and often has more length than any pitch that hard has a right to be. Those two pitches and his current command would be enough to project Wilcox in a late-inning bullpen role, but a better change or split (the development of which was slowed by his freshman role) would enable him to be a mid-rotation piece so long as he retains his velo in pro ball, since the shape of the heater makes it velocity-dependent. (Fall Instructional League) 22. Nick Bitsko, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Central Bucks East HS (TBR) Age 18.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/60 50/60 35/50 25/50 92-95 / 97 Bitsko announced in January of last year that he was reclassifying from the 2021 draft class to 2020’s, making him one of the youngest players in the class but also giving teams a short window of time in which to evaluate him with his imminent availability in mind. That window closed quickly due to the pandemic, so teams’ opinions of Bitsko were driven by what he did in the Fall of 2019 (he was 92-96 in front of heavy-hitting eyeballs at East Coast Pro) and, in the case of some teams, what they saw in the bullpen just before the shutdown and any pitch data Bitsko generated thereafter. In all instances, Bitsko’s arm strength, curveball, and touch-and-feel command were on par with first round high school arms, though that demographic’s track record is scary and has been devalued by teams. That, combined with the possibility that some teams weren’t be comfortable taking a player they’ve barely seen, made Bitsko’s stock pretty volatile. He seemed like someone’s overslot target in the comp round but the Rays took him before he could fall that far and gave him $3 million. After experiencing fits and starts of shoulder soreness and discomfort during his post-draft remote training, Bitsko elected to have labrum surgery. His timetable to the big leagues isn’t really any different but he’s certainly now a more volatile prospect since recovery from shoulder issues is much more variable than elbows. (At-home dev) 23. Ronaldo Hernandez, C Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Colombia (TBR) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 60/60 40/50 30/30 40/45 70 For a little while this offseason, Hernandez was the only catcher on the Rays 40-man. Then Mike Zunino signed, and Francisco Mejía was acquired via trade, and now Hernandez is part of a very volatile mix of strikeout-prone catchers with, especially where Mejía and Hernandez are concerned, big defensive questions. If you just look at raw tools, Hernandez compares to Gary Sánchez and is not only a potential everyday catcher but one who might have real impact. He has big raw power and run-stopping, plus-plus arm strength, but his approach is bad (which might impede the power), and his swing only generates power in certain parts of the zone. He loads his hands very high and deep and then cuts down through the typical hitting zone, which causes Hernandez’s power to come toward the top of the zone and out in front when his swing starts to lift, making his point of impact of paramount importance to his power production. My crude video analysis of my in-person looks at Hernandez compared to his 2020 spring training and alt site swings show his footwork has changed. He’s starting with an open stance and using more of a leg kick than before. If it improves his timing, this change will be important, and I’ve slid Hernandez up from the 40+ tier based on it. But his defensive ability, specifically the receiving, might still be a problem and is part of why Kevan Smith was ahead of him on last year’s depth chart. He’s still a high-variance prospect with some flaws that may be exploited in a significant way at the big league level, but Hernandez has a shot to be an everyday player due to his power. (Alternate site) 40+ FV Prospects 24. Ian Seymour, MIRP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Virginia Tech (TBR) Age 22.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/55 50/55 40/55 93-95 / 96 Seymour is another Rays prospect who scouts liked during Fall instructs, and another of the several who exhibited a bump in velocity. My pre-draft report had him in the sinker/slider pitchability bucket, but in the Fall suddenly Seymour was sitting 93-96 with a plus, mid-80s changeup that he was throwing in any count, and a slider with an unusually wide velocity range, anywhere from 82 to 87 mph. He comes at hitters from the extreme third base side of the rubber and has a pretty gnarly head whack, so there’s effort-based relief risk here. That keeps him behind some of the other high-upside arms in the system. I have Seymour projected as a multi-inning leverage relief prospect now. (Fall Instructional League) 25. Kevin Padlo, 3B Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Murrieta Valley HS (CA) (COL) Age 24.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 60/60 45/55 40/40 45/45 50 There’s no change to Padlo’s report based on his alternate site activity. He still projects in a power-hitting corner role, but not an everyday one. Typically I’ll 40 FV this sort of player but Padlo’s power is substantial, and his swing and body transformed throughout 2019. After undergoing some swing alterations — there have been a few changes to how open Padlo’s stance is and how big his leg kick is — and after gutting through a terrible April and May, Padlo became a pull and lift machine for the final few months of the season. It’s a one-note approach that might be pitched around effectively at the big league level, but to this point Padlo has shown himself to be selective enough to wait for pitches he can yank that way. His slugging performance is beyond what’s realistic in the majors but there is relevant big league power output now. I think Padlo is too heavy-footed to play third base every day but industry opinions are mixed. I think he’s ticketed for a four corner platoon role of some sort, similar to the one Rays fans have seen Yandy Díaz occupy. (Alternate site) 26. Taj Bradley, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Redan HS (GA) (TBR) Age 19.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 50/55 30/45 30/45 93-97 / 97 Bradley’s instructs look moved him all the way from the honorable mention section of the list to here. After sitting 90-93 in 2019, he was parked in the 93-97 range in the Fall and showed a more consistent delivery and well-conditioned body. Scouts thought his mid-80s slider was average and his mid-80s changeup was a bit below that. Now 20, Bradley is similar to a typical draft year’s best JUCO arms. He should continue to be developed as a starter but a third pitch needs to develop. (Fall Instructional League) 27. Osleivis Basabe, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (TEX) Age 20.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 45/50 30/40 60/60 30/45 55 You can project Basabe to play a multi-positional, up-the-middle role similar to the one Edwards and perhaps Bruján are expected to play, albeit with much less certainty in his hit tool because Basabe swings at everything, and swings really hard. He takes full-body hacks that help him generate surprisingly hard contact from someone so small and young. Basabe also isn’t a viable shortstop defender right now. He has the range and athleticism to play there and make some effort-based plays others might not, but his ability to make routine plays lags behind what is typical of a stalwart middle infielder, hence the multi-positional projection, which includes center field. But there’s feel for contact and some pop here, an up-the-middle fit even if he doesn’t improve as an infielder. The twitch and feel for contact are exciting, but you have to project on lots of technical components (defensive actions and hands, any amount of selectivity) to see a regular. As of 2020 instructs and during his stint with Aguilas de Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, those had not yet arrived. (Fall Instructional League, Venezuelan Winter League) 40 FV Prospects 28. Alika Williams, SS Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Arizona State (TBR) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 35/40 20/30 60/60 50/60 55 I’ve now lived in Arizona since 2014 and have seen about as much of Alika Williams as I have any player during that stretch, and I still don’t know whether his swing is going to work in pro ball. He swings a lot like Zack Greinke (at least Alika’s pull shot homers tend to look like the ones Greinke would yank out), ambushing fastballs middle-down and scooping them out to left field. Williams’ swing is geared for low-ball contact. He’s short to the ball and can lift balls down and in, while he serves pitches away from him the other way. As currently constituted, I think he may have trouble with power-pitchers who work the top of the zone. He’s also not very physical. The Rays love his frame and think he’ll get stronger but he just left one of the best athletic programs in the country — ASU has a nice weight room — without much strength. I’m skeptical it will come in a relevant fashion. He is an acrobatic defensive shortstop with great feel for contact, though, so I think he’s a high-probability utility man. (Fall Instructional League) 29. Josh Fleming, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2017 from Webster University (TBR) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 40/40 50/50 45/45 70/70 89-92 / 94 Fleming neither threw enough innings nor was he on the big league active roster long enough to graduate, and so here he is as a major league-ready backend starter, a good example of how I value this sort of profile. He doesn’t throw hard at all but his tailing fastball and slider do have a considerable amount of divergent lateral movement, and Fleming has pinpoint control of both. His changeup almost never, ever finishes in a hittable location, so even if a hitter contacts it, it’s almost always driven into the ground (he boasted a 63% groundball rate). Perhaps some pitching-starved contenders would value him more highly than this, somewhere in the 45 FV tier, but I think Fleming ends up with a 1-to-1.5 WAR output. (Alternate site, MLB) 30. Pedro Martinez, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 20.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 45/50 30/50 45/40 40/50 50 In September, Martinez was acquired as a PTBNL from the Cubs to complete a trade centered around José Martínez. Due to his physical maturity and the quality of his performance, the Cubs pushed Pedro to short season ball for the last month of 2019 even though he was still just 18 years old, and he responded by hitting a respectable .265/.357/.347 against a lot of college-aged pitching. Aside from maybe Brennan Davis, who separated himself from that group is a huge way, Martinez was the most well-rounded and advanced hitter often seen on the Cubs backfields. He’s a strong switch-hitter with a power-over-hit approach, but not an extreme one. He’s a heavy-footed runner with a thicker lower half, which limits Martinez’s range at second base. His lateral agility might be a problem if he keeps getting bigger and slowing down. For now, I think his hands and actions are good enough to continue projecting him as a shift-aided second and third baseman. He projects into the late-career Asdrúbal Cabrera role, as a thumping infielder who comes off the field late in games when you want better defenders out there. (Fall Instructional League) 31. John Doxakis, MIRP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Texas A&M (TBR) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 50/55 50/55 45/60 88-92 / 93 There was no change to Doxakis’ arm strength during 2020 instructs (still sitting about 88-91), but his breaking ball did have a little more depth, which might help it play better as a back-foot bat-misser against righties. His arm slot and that breaking ball were already death to left-handed hitters, but Doxakis needs to develop a third pitch to profile as a starter. The shape of his fastball theoretically should enable his changeup to play off of the heater but he lacks feel for locating it competitively, so perhaps he’ll need to find a second breaking ball, which might be tough from his arm slot. You can see the layering of pitchers like Doxakis throughout the system, soft-tossing sinkerballers who can execute their breaking ball with consistency. I think pitchers like that can work through a lineup once with heavy use of their breaking stuff and unpredictable sequencing. (Fall Instructional League) 32. Michael Mercado, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Westview HS (CA) (TBR) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 45/50 40/50 45/55 45/55 90-94 / 95 Mercado was a 2017 sandwich round pick who got just north of $2 million to eschew a commitment to Stanford. He was a lanky, ultra-projectable righty with upper-80s velocity and a shapely curveball, and that’s what he remained for the first two years of his pro career before he had Tommy John in May of 2019 and missed the entire season. He trained remotely and then was back for 2020 instructs with a lot more velocity, now sitting 93-94 with two distinct breaking pitches: a mid-80s slider and curveball that hovers around 80 mph. His truncated 40-man timeline, combined with the long layoff, may alter his role projection, but for now my hope is still that he’s allowed to develop as a starter and see how this newfound stuff reacts to a starter’s workload. (Fall Instructional League) 33. Alexander Alberto, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 19.2 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 At age 19, Alberto is built like Mikal Bridges and unusually twitchy for a teenager with limbs this long. He has a near ideal pitcher’s frame, with a high, tapered waist and broad shoulders. He’s already sitting 92-94 with some breaking ball feel. (DR Instructs) 34. Curtis Mead, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Australia (PHI) Age 20.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 45/55 20/50 45/40 40/50 50 The Rays acquired Mead from Philadelphia for 40-man crunch reliever Cristopher Sánchez early during the 2019 offseason. Because of the pandemic Mead still hasn’t played an affiliated game for the Rays, but he did play at instructs and has posted a raucous statline during winter ball in his home country of Australia. Last year, scouts described Mead as raw but toolsy, and even though his on-paper performance during his pro debut didn’t indicate it (Mead hit .285/.351/.462 with a 13% strikeout rate), they were right, and a year later that remains true. His swing, especially his stride, is weird and atypical (the front foot lifts, dangles, and slowly drifts back to his rear foot, then comes forward again for what is a huge move forward) but it’s also really athletic, and Mead has freaky bat control even though he takes a very healthy hack. He has the physical ability to both hit and hit for power, and offensively looks like a toolsy, crude junior college sort of prospect. Defensively, Mead has some of the more bizarre infield throwing mechanics I have seen on a pro prospect; he just sort of rainbows the ball over to first base without real zip. He might have a better shot of playing second base due to a lack of arm strength, though the outfield is a distinct possibility because of how odd his mechanics are. He remains a very interesting developmental project. (Fall Instructional League, Australian Baseball League) 35. Neraldo Catalina, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYM) Age 20.6 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 60/70 45/55 30/35 93-96 / 97 He was part of a huge group of hard-throwing teenagers in last year’s 35+ FV tier, but now Catalina has separated himself by virtue of his frame projection and mechanical ease relative to the others. He’s still not a very good strike-thrower, but the goal here is to find a second impact pitch that might enable Catalina to work high-leverage relief innings at peak. He was the PTBNL in the Wilmer Font trade with the Mets. (Fall Instructional League) 36. Hunter Barnhart, SP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from St. Joseph HS (CA) (TBR) Age 19.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/55 50/55 30/45 20/45 88-92 / 94 Barnhart was in the second or third tier of 2020 high school righty curveball-centric prospects because he wasn’t quite as projectable as some of the others. I saw him 88-92 and up to 94 as an amateur, and sources who saw him in the Fall also saw him about 88-93. He also has some feel for creating arm-side action on a changeup but it was rare to see that from him as an amateur and it doesn’t sound like it made magical progress during instructs, which is fine. Of note, his curveball had a little more power late in 2020, more in the 74-77 range than in the low-70s, where it was at times before the draft. (Fall Instructional League) 37. Tanner Dodson, SIRP/CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Cal (TBR) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 40/40 30/30 60/60 40/45 80 Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 55/60 45/50 40/45 91-95 / 97 There’s no change to Dodson’s report as he was not seen because a forearm strain prevented him from pitching: Roster expansion and the looming universal DH makes it less likely that someone like Dodson sees actual time as an outfielder, as teams now have the roster room to house someone who is both better at the things Dodson does as a position player (he switch-hits, has contact feel from the left side, and throws and runs well), and can also do something else. I think it’s more likely he ends up a two-pitch reliever who only plays the field or hits in case of emergency. The three-batter minimum make obsolete the scenario where Dodson faces a hitter then plays center for a hitter or two before re-entering the game. (At-home dev) 38. Tyler Frank, 2B Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Florida Atlantic (TBR) Age 24.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 45/45 30/40 50/50 45/50 45 There’s no change to Frank’s report since, due to injury, he wasn’t seen at all in 2020; I can’t confirm it in a concrete way, but it sounds like the same shoulder injury that prevented him from playing in 2019. Remember this was supposed to be a player who moved quickly through the minors, which is part of why he was ranked highly last year. Now he’s 24 and has barely played full-season ball. From last year: Frank was first seen by most scouts as a utility player on college Team USA the summer before he was draft eligible. The setting in which you scout a player can do wonders, and the Team USA look didn’t give Frank much of a chance to show what he could do. He didn’t really stand out, playing all over the field and making contact, but lacking impact tools. He shined much brighter in the spring for Florida Atlantic, with 13 homers and an OPS just shy of 1.000 while playing a passable shortstop. Scouts who saw Frank in pro ball after the Rays popped him in the second round see a slightly lesser version of Taylor Walls, another under-tooled Rays middle infielder with lots of feel. Frank is seen as more of a second baseman going forward and his 45 raw power, 50 speed, and 50 defense still aren’t loud, but his ability to hit, take a good at-bat, and have advanced feel for the game give him the look of a potential low-end regular who could move quickly through the minors. He missed almost all of 2019 with a left shoulder strain. (Injured) 39. Abiezel Ramirez, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 21.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 50/55 30/45 60/60 40/50 60 Two years in the DSL plus one season lost to the pandemic mean Ramirez’s 40-man timeline was more compressed than the horrible pop country music people are forced to listen to in most ballparks. He was passed over in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft in part because he has never played above rookie ball, and also because his swing may not work. He is a physical, switch-hitting infielder with plus bat speed that produces whizzing line drives from the left side of the plate, but he has a tendency to chase and his swing has an awful lot of length to it. His arm strength fits on the left side of the infield and gives him a shot to stay at short if he keeps his body in check. Barring a swing change, this is likely to be more of a doubles-oriented power profile similar to Martinez listed above, just with a higher-risk sort of swing and aggressiveness. (Fall Instructional League, Australian Baseball League) 40. Tommy Romero, MIRP Drafted: 15th Round, 2017 from Eastern Florida State (SEA) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 45/45 45/50 50/55 90-93 / 94 It’s fair to say the Rays lost the Alex Colomé trade as Colomé eventually went on to be a pillar of the White Sox ‘pen last year, and the return for him (and Denard Span) was Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Romero has always been a spin axis freak, sort of like Oliver Drake in that his ball actually spins to the left of the 12:00 axis even though he throws right-handed. This creates big vertical movement on his fastball, but Romero never threw hard enough for me to rank him (he was 86-90 in 2019). Then he showed up to instructs sitting 92-94, and at that velocity I think it might work in short stints, in a role similar to the one Josh Collementer played for a while. (Fall Instructional League). 41. Michael Plassmeyer, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Missouri (SEA) Age 24.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 192 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/45 45/45 50/55 55/60 87-91 / 93 Another Day Two college pitcher quickly flipped by the Mariners, Plassmeyer (who was part of the Mallex Smith/Mike Zunino deal) spent most of his first full pro season at Hi-A, where he walked just 16 hitters in 101.2 innings. Like many of the lefty pitchers the Rays seem to like for the org’s change-of-pace, bulk relief role, Plassmeyer’s fastball has a lot of lateral action because of his lower slot. He works his fastball in on righties (it has tough angle) and sometimes tails it off the plate away from them for swinging strikes. He can back foot his breaking ball consistently and his changeup has sufficient fade to miss bats. (Fall Instructional League) 35+ FV Prospects 42. Colby White, SIRP Drafted: 6th Round, 2019 from Mississippi State (TBR) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 55/60 50/55 30/40 92-95 / 97 No change here. White is a power relief prospect with a violent delivery. He spent two years at Pearl River Community College, then transferred to Mississippi State, where he dominated, striking out nearly two batters per inning. He’s of the vertical fastball/breaking ball power pitching variety. (At-home dev) 43. Esteban Quiroz, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (BOS) Age 28.9 Height 5′ 7″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/55 45/45 35/35 40/40 40/40 45 There’s no real change to Quiroz’s scouting report except to say that he looks to be in the best shape of his life, or at least the best shape he’s been in since I last saw him in person. He spent 2020 at the Rays’ alt site and then had yet another amazing winter ball performance in Mexico. Quiroz was Team Mexico’s leadoff hitter during the 2017 WBC (he hit two homers and a double in six at-bats) and spent 2015-17 crushing the Mexican League. He signed with Boston in November 2017, and was hot the following April at Double-A, but then missed three and a half months with an abdominal strain. He only played in 24 games at Double-A, then had 62 extra plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League, where he played well and was seen by the entire pro scouting community. San Diego traded a 40-man crunch relief arm to Boston for Quiroz, then later flipped him to Tampa Bay as part of the Tommy Pham deal. This is a very Rays sort of prospect. He has deft, all-fields contact ability and can (kind of) play an up-the-middle position. Quiroz presents rare 40-man flexibility because he’s arguably ready to contribute to a big league lineup (albeit near the bottom) right now, but because of how recently he signed, doesn’t have to occupy a 40-man spot until this December, meaning he can act as viable, above-replacement upper-level depth without occupying a 40-man spot. He lacks the defensive versatility to play a long-term bench role but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up being a low-end second base regular for someone for a couple of seasons. (Alternate site, Mexican Pacific League) 44. Carlos Garcia, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 22.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 45/50 40/50 30/40 90-94 / 95 Garcia sat 90-94 during the 2019 season then began to show more arm strength during the offseason in Australia. He had an athletic delivery and really got down the mound but was also a little bit of a softer-bodied guy at that time. His velocity has continued to climb and he’s now comfortably in the mid-90s, occasionally popping 97s and 98s. Both of his secondaries were average in 2019 but his slider has emerged as the better of the two weapons. He’s a fast-moving elief prospect. (DR Instructs) 45. Victor Munoz, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/55 45/50 40/50 35/50 90-93 / 95 After he exhibited no velo bump in 2019, Munoz is now more physically mature (he signed at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds and is now 6-foot-4, 195) and throwing harder. He was 93-97 in the Fall, up from 90-95 in 2019. It caused me to slide him up within this FV tier but not to move him up into the 40s. He’s shown an average curveball and some starter traits in the past, but his 40-man timeline is going to make it tough for him to start if he comes stateside and really blows up. The Rays would have to make a 40-man decision at the end of the year, so he might be more likely to be fast-tracked in relief. (DR instructs) 46. Nick Schnell, CF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Roncalli HS (IN) (TBR) Age 20.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 55/60 35/55 60/60 40/50 60 Schnell did not have a good 2020 instructs, continuing to redden a flag that popped up later in 2019 when he swung and missed a ton amid superficial statistical success with Princeton and then even more upon promotion to Bowling Green. Here’s the list of reasons for scouts’ hit-tool trepidation: Stiff lower half, doesn’t track pitches well, grooved bat path, length, poor swing decisions. That’s a lot, and was enough for me to slide Schnell even though he has high-end bat speed, power, and straight line speed. He also has an injury history (a broken bone in his right wrist in 2018, minor surgery on his right knee in April of 2019 to correct an ailment he described as stemming from wear and tear). He’s a high-variance corner outfield power projection prospect. (Fall Instructional League) 47. Graeme Stinson, MIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Duke (TBR) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/60 60/70 40/40 35/45 93-95 / 98 I don’t have any new info on Stinson, except that he used the layoff to create a sports performance tracking app called StatStak. He’s been throwing at the Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville, NJ; had I known that a few days earlier I’d have (ideally) sourced some of his pitch data from bullpens there, but I learned of it too close to publication to acquire it. At one point, Stinson had the nastiest two-pitch combo in his draft class. As a sophomore mostly-reliever at Duke and during the following summer, he worked with two 70-grade pitches in his mid-90s heater and 3000 rpm slider. The following spring, Stinson was set to get his first extended look in the rotation but his velocity was mostly in the 80s without a clear reason. He was quickly shut down for the remainder of the college season, though specifics regarding the injury were not divulged at the time; sources have indicated to FanGraphs it was a nerve issue that may not require surgery (update: it didn’t). Stinson made just one appearance after he signed and sat 88-90. He has high-leverage relief potential with good health. (At-home dev) 48. Peyton Battenfield, SIRP Drafted: 9th Round, 2019 from Oklahoma State (HOU) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 224 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/45 45/50 35/45 92-95 / null Battenfield was drafted by Houston and then acquired along with Cal Stevenson when the Astros needed to added depth arm Austin Pruitt. Battenfield sat 91-94 in 2019 and his fastball has plus vertical movement, but he was comfortably in the mid-90s during instructs and now has a plus cutter, the best of his four pitches. He’s a 2021 breakout candidate. (Fall Instructional League) 49. Johan Lopez, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (TBR) Age 20.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 167 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Lopez didn’t turn 16 until late in July of 2016 so he had to wait a little longer to sign than others. He hasn’t yet climbed out of the lower levels of the minors but he has impressive feel for the strike zone for his age and has begun to grow into his frame. Lopez is short to the ball and has bat control, but doesn’t have huge bat speed or strength. He’s young enough and has the frame for some more weight and strength but is more likely to be a light-hitting multi-positional infielder rather than a thumping regular. (Fall Instructional League) 50. Moises Gomez, RF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela (TBR) Age 22.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 60/60 40/55 50/40 45/50 55 Gomez has now been passed over twice in the Rule 5 but I’m still on him to some degree because he has nautical mile power and sneaky good plate coverage. He’s also still just 22 and would have spent the entirety of 2020 the age of most college draftees. He does have a maxed-out frame (he began his pro career as a speedy center field prospect but now has a chonky corner build) and can’t diagnose pitches, so he swings at most everything. Even scouts who saw him in the Fall told me to move on, but I think there’s more upside here than just an org guy. (Fall Instructional League) 51. Alexander Ovalles, 1B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 20.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 45/50 20/45 30/30 45/60 50 Nothing new on Ovalles, who was one of the pieces in the Nate Lowe trade: Ovalles is a smaller-framed first base and corner outfield prospect whose build and limited raw power are the sorts normally found in the honorable mention section of this list. But I’ve seen him do some precocious defensive stuff at first base and I think he has a chance to be plus there while also making enough contact to offset his limited raw juice. He’s a long-shot, but I value him more than is typical because of the bat-to-ball and projected defense. (Fall Instructional League) 52. Joel Peguero, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 23.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 70/70 55/60 35/40 93-97 / 98 Peguero is a late-blooming power arm who took a step forward stuff-wise in 2018, then continued to pitch effectively out of Bowling Green’s bullpen in 2019, typically in two-inning outings. He pitched for Toros del Este in LIDOM and was touching at least 98 there, but the pitch still seemed to get hit hard more often than a pitch of that type should. He’s in the up/down relief bucket after he was passed over in the Rule 5. (LIDOM) 53. Sandy Gaston, SIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Cuba (TBR) Age 19.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/65 45/50 45/50 30/45 93-96 / 97 There are no change to Gaston’s report, as he was the same guy during 2020 stateside instructs. Gaston was a 15-year-old Cuban defector who, right around his 16th birthday, hit 100 mph while working out for teams. That nearly unprecedented velocity for his age obviously garnered a lot of attention in the scouting community, though Gaston often had 20 control when he scraped triple digits. He also isn’t classically projectable — his velocity is already at the top of the scale and he has a maturely-built frame at 6-foot, but he’s done some arm slot and arm action tinkering over the last few years that has affected his control and command. So while Gaston may get stronger as he physically matures, what’s more important is the projection of his feel for pitching, which appears to be more natural at a three-quarters arm slot with velocity more in the mid-90s, where his arm action is also more naturally online, than the higher slot where he was throwing harder and wilder. Gaston’s best pitching performance was as the main event on the mound at the Víctor Víctor Mesa workout at Marlins Park, where the better version of his arm slot, arm action, and control was first seen by a large scouting audience. It didn’t hold. Gaston walked a batter per inning in his first pro season while sitting in the 93-97 range with the fastball. He’s a teenage relief prospect at this point. (Fall Instructional League) 54. Jhonny Piron, CF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 16.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 40/50 20/40 70/70 40/60 55 Piron is a speedy, raw athlete with a pull-happy swing. He is very likely to stay in center field and could be an impact defender there, but needs to add strength to be a viable hitter of any kind. He’s a long term developmental project. (January 15 international signee) 55. Jhon Diaz, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 18.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 40/45 20/45 50/45 45/50 55 The Yankees’ all-in pursuit of Jasson Dominguez enabled the Rays to swoop in and offer Diaz more money than New York could trade for in pool space; Tampa inked him for $1.5 million. He had more present skill than physical projection as an amateur, atypical for the July 2 market. What was a projectionless frame is now a high-maintenance one as Diaz arrived for 2020 instructs with a maxed-out looking build. He also struck out a lot, but was the youngest Ray in the whole camp. Diaz still has clear twitch and explosiveness and has barely begun his career, but his stock is down a bit after how things looked in the Fall. (Fall Instructional League) 56. Audry Lugo, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 22.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/55 55/60 40/45 40/50 92-94 / 96 No new info here. A short, athletic righty with a high arm slot, Lugo pairs a mid-90s fastball and power curveball in a two-pitch relief profile. Of all the hard-throwing arms in this tier of the system, Lugo has the best combination of stuff and athleticism. (At-home dev) 57. Cal Stevenson, CF Drafted: 10th Round, 2018 from Arizona (TOR) Age 24.4 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/60 35/35 30/30 60/60 40/40 40 No new info on Stevenson, so here’s last year’s report: Stevenson is relatively positionless but he has great contact and on-base skills. His numbers are likely inflated due to his age relative to the level, but the industry undervalued him during his draft year because of injury, so it’s possible we’re seeing something closer to the real Stevenson now. He’s already been traded twice (from Toronto to Houston, then Houston to Tampa Bay), so clearly teams are interested in him. I think he’s a fourth outfield prospect but he’s performing like a table-setting leadoff hitter. (At-home dev) 58. Logan Driscoll, C Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from George Mason (SDP) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 50/55 30/45 30/30 40/45 55 Driscoll is a physical catcher who has the athletic tools to stick behind the plate, but he is still pretty raw and faced mid-major competition in college. He’s an older developmental project. I didn’t think he looked particularly good during his first pro Fall but he was probably gassed since the Padres asked him to do instructs and then catch in the Fall League after he had just gotten done with his junior year and 40-game Northwest League run. They later dealt him to the Rays along with Manny Margot for Emilio Pagán. He was not listed on Tampa’s instructs roster. (At-home dev) 59. Daiveyon Whittle, MIRP Drafted: 23th Round, 2018 from Fresno City JC (CA) (TBR) Age 21.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops 40/45 45/50 55/60 40/50 89-92 / 94 No change here as Whittle was not seen in 2020: A Rubenesque junior college righty, Whittle signed for $100,000 as a 2018 23rd rounder and had a velo spike in 2019. He’s now 89-92 with heavy sink (he had an over 60% groundball rate in 2019) and a good splitter, as well as a passable slider. He’s quite athletic and gets down the mound well for a 5-foot-11 guy, and he lives around the zone. It’s probably important that Whittle’s stuff keep improving, but it’s trending up enough now that he’s popped onto the radar. (At-home dev) 60. Jayden Murray, MIRP Drafted: 23th Round, 2019 from Dixie State (TBR) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 45/55 50/60 35/45 90-94 / 96 No new info on Murray except that scouts who saw him in the Fall thought he belonged in this tier, as they thought his 80-82 mph slider has a chance to be plus. Murray was a $3,000 senior sign but it quickly became apparent in pro ball that he had workable stuff because of his ability to spin the baseball. After working three or fewer innings at a time for the first several weeks after he signed, the Rays took the reigns off late in August and Murray turned in some fantastic starts, including a 10 strikeout, one hit, six-inning outing to close out the season. He’s a spin rate sleeper. (Fall Instructional League) 61. Aneudy Cortorreal, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 21.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 65/70 40/50 40/45 40/45 30/40 93-97 / 99 Cortorreal’s velocity took a huge leap in 2019 when he improved his conditioning. It appears that conditioning has regressed a bit but his velocity has not. He still needs to find a secondary weapon, and fast. (DR Instructs) 62. Angel Felipe, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 45/50 45/55 20/35 93-96 / 98 Felipe is still sitting 94-97 with good underlying fastball traits, but he has one of the longer arm actions you’ll ever see and a very casual, unathletic delivery, a “tall and fall” caricature. (DR Instructs) Other Prospects of Note Brent Honeywell Jr. Brent Honeywell Jr., SIRP Honeywell has not pitched since 2017 and has had four surgeries since then. He was once a 60 FV prospect with a five-pitch mix, including a screwball that was one of the cooler pitches in all of baseball. There was probably a period of time when he was ready for the big leagues and the Rays could have pulled the trigger and gotten something out of him before all this began. He’s still hoping to play a role sometime in 2021, and I imagine most of the baseball world will be rooting for him, but there’s no way of knowing how that’s gonna go. Could Pop With Stateside Looks Jose Pena, CF Yuniel Curet, RHP Wilmer de la Cruz, MIF Willy Vasquez, SS Odalys Peguero, MIF Juan Rivera, RHP This is the group of really young players for whom there was some support for inclusion on the main section of the list (especially Pena, who teams have asked about in trade talks) but for whom there is insufficient information. Pena has a well-rounded collection of average tools, which is pretty good for his age. He has modest physical projection. Curet has a thicker lower half but has been 92-96 already. Peguero, de la Cruz, and Vasquez are advanced infielders. Rivera has been 95-99 at times but walked twice as many hitters as he threw innings in 2019. Depth Arms Chris Ellis, RHP Caleb Sampen, RHP Tobias Myers, RHP Matthew Peguero, RHP Ellis was once an early-round draft pick out of college who hopped around with a few orgs as an upper-level depth starter. Then he went to 2020 LIDOM and was sitting 93-95, so the Rays signed him. Sampen was creeping into the mid-90s with a good breaker in the Fall. He was acquired from the Dodgers for Jaime Schultz. Myers has had fluctuations in stuff since being acquired from Baltimore a couple of years ago. It was back up in the Fall and his heater is once again in the 93-95 range. And after waiting for young Matthew Peguero to show a little bit more velo, he was also 92-95. Any of these guys could move into the 35+ tier during the year. Catcher Depth Jonathan Aranda Christian Cerda Chris Betts Aranda, 22, is a converted infielder who raked in Mexico after instructs. He’s one of the more likely names from this year’s honorable mentions to ascend next season. Cerda is the youngest of this group. He’s a medium-framed, athletic catch-and-throw type who had a strong DR instructs. Betts has power and had among the better hard-hit rates in the entire org in 2019, though he’s a 1B/DH type for some scouts at this point. One Note Profiles Michael Gigliotti, OF Niko Hulsizer, OF Tristan Gray, 1B Oneill Manzueta, LF Osmy Gregorio, 3B Garrett Whitley, CF Stir Candelario, LF Gigliotti has elite strike zone discipline. Other than Gray (hit-tool first baseman, fringe power), this entire group has a suspect hit tool. Manzueta posted big exit velos (averaged 89, maxed 109) in the 2019 DSL. He’s a stocky, maxed-out corner outfielder. Gregorio has a big frame and still has power projection at age 21, though it will likely mean he moves to right field and has to hit more than he has so far. Whitley has dealt with myriad injuries since he was a first round prep pick and he’s still a raw bat for a 23-year-old, though his power/speed combo is still dynamic. Candelario hasn’t hit in two DSL seasons but he has 70 raw power projection. System Overview This is the most talented system in baseball, and a third of it was acquired via trade. The Rays take the occasional big, opportunistic swing in both amateur markets, which makes sense considering they’re unlikely to acquire high-ceiling talent via free agency. They’re also apt to hop on younger players and save some pool space to use if a new player hits the market or to flex when other teams can’t acquire enough pool space to ink a guy they thought they could. But the pro department also does work here. As I said, about a third of the system has been acquired via trade. The financial restrictions imposed upon the ops department by ownership have forced the club to be one of the most transactional teams in baseball, and the Rays pro department finds good players. Often they target players with one or two elite carrying tools (bat-to-ball skills often being one of them) and then put those guys in a position to succeed at the big league level. Building the big league roster with positional flexibility in mind has helped enable this, as has some of the creative pitching usage. There’s also both a player development and an analytically-driven talent acquisition component here. Think Aaron Loup, John Curtiss, Oliver Drake, Ryan Thompson, etc. These guys have been around, and yet nobody gets quite as much out of guys like them than the Rays seem to, though that might underestimate how far behind some teams have been at pitch usage optimization and understanding complementary movement. Now, imagine if this club were actually well-funded.