Prospect Development Only Juice for Rays

Between 2008 to 2010 myworld rated the Tampa Bay Rays as having the top prospects in baseball. They won the AL East in 2008 and 2010 and the wild card in 2011 and 2013. Some of the prospects appearing on the Top 100 2008 to 2010 lists include David Price, Evan Longoria, Wade Davis, Tim Beckham and Matt Moore. After 2010 they lost their way and their development of prospects suffered.

The 2017 season saw the Rays return to the top ten in prospect development and last year they were number three. Some of the players who appeared on Top 100 lists in 2018 include Brent Honeywell, Willy Adames, Brendan McKay, Jake Bauers, Christian Arroyo, Jesus Sanchez and Jose Deleon. The cupboard is not bare for 2019. Below are some of the prospects the Rays hope will get them back in the playoffs, despite their inability to pay high salaries.

Many believe that the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of 2019 will be shortstop Wander Franco. Last year was his first year in rookie ball after signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2017. He hit .351 with 11 homeruns and a 1.005 OPS. The bat should be pretty special with the ability to hit for average and power. The glove is capable of playing shortstop, but his defensive chops pale when compared to his bat. He could always move to third or second, but if he can stick at short Wander will be something special.

Jesus Sanchez is another middle of the diamond defensive player with impressive offensive and defensive tools. He is a five tool player with the speed to play center field and the arm to fit in right. His bat should also hit for average and power 20 plus homeruns per year. Despite his speed there is an inability to steal bases. Last year he struggled a bit in AA (.214) after powering through High A with a .301 average and 10 homeruns. He will return to AA in 2019 and be an injury away from making the major league roster.

Lucius Fox was a $6 million signing out of the Bahamas by the Giants. The Rays acquired him in the Matt Moore trade. The Giants may have over paid him. His glove is stellar but his bat is quiet, lacking power. He has the speed to steal bases. Last year he showed the ability to get on base with a .371 OBA that resulted in 23 stolen bases at High A. Like Sanchez he will repeat AA where he hit just .221 in just over 100 at bats.

Colombia seems to be developing a lot of catchers. Ronaldo Hernandez is working his way up the Rays minor league system. The arm is powerful and the bat can provide light tower power. His other defensive tools still need a lot of work if he hopes to stick behind the plate. First base could be another option if his defense fails to come through. Next year he will see High A carrying a .306 career minor league average.

They pronounce their names differently and they are not related but Brandon Lowe and Nate Lowe could make an impact with the Rays this year. Brandon appears to be a utility type player whose glove will not be stellar. The bat can dial up some power, hitting 28 last year, including six in the major leagues. Because of a weak arm his best position would be second base. Nate Lowe is his brother from a different mother and father who has big time power. At 6′4 he has the frame for first base and makes solid contact for a power hitter. Last year he yanked 27 homeruns with a 60/63 walk to whiff ratio in High A and AA, resulting in a batting average over .340. He struggled a bit in AAA which saw his average drop to .260. Brandon will start his season with Tampa Bay while Nate will go to AAA.

Vidal Brujan is a burner who shows the ability to get on base. A middle infielder who has the arm for short will probably stick at second with Wander Franco just behind him. Last year Vidal stole 55 bases and hit .320. He also had a 63/68 walk to whiff ratio. The ability to make contact and spray the gaps could make him ready for the major leagues by 2020. For 2019 he will start the season in High A.

On the pitching front the Rays hope to get some contribution from Brent Honeywell. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching for the Rays last year. He is noted for his screwball but he will survive with his mid-90s fastball that can reach the high 90s. The 2014 second round pick followed in the path of Blake Snell. In a couple years he will be the number two starter behind Blake.

The Rays are grooming Brendan McKay into a two way player. The 2017 first round pick was mainly a hitter in college who worked out of the bullpen. The Rays like his lefthanded arm better than his bat. Now that he is focusing on his pitching his velocity has gotten to the mid-90s and his secondary pitches have been effective. His bat has tailed off. He did have an impressive 28/13 walk to whiff ratio in Low A for a .484 OBA but that is his hitting highlights. His two year slugging percentage is just .366.

Matthew Liberatore was the Rays first round pick in 2018. At 6′5″ he has good height, with a fastball in the low to mid-90s. His curveball and change are quality pitches. He dominated at the Gulf Coast League (0.98 ERA and .170 average) but is still a long way from seeing time in the Rays rotation. He could start the 2019 season in extended spring with a promotion to Low A later on in the season.

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