Tampa Bay Rays 2018 Top 50 Prospects

Tampa Bay Rays Top 50 Prospects for 2018

The Rays have long been considered one of the best player development franchises in the league, consistently developing young starting pitching that has performed well at the big league level.  However, a deeper look at the farm shows a lack of projectable top of the rotation starters and an emerging gap between big league ready players and young, raw talent at the lower levels of the minors.

The organization has spent big money on the international market signing top SS prospects Wander Franco, Adrian Rondon, Jelfry Marte, and acquiring Lucius Fox via trade.  Additionally, the front office has done an excellent job acquiring young talent via trade and developing them into solid big leaguers.

What seems to be holding the Rays back from possessing a superior farm system is a true impact player taken in the first round of the MLB draft.  Only Tim Beckham, taken 1st overall has achieved big league success, and much of that occurring after the Rays traded Beckham to Baltimore this past summer.  From 2009-14, no 1st round draft pick has become a reliable big league player for the Rays, with only Blake Snell, a supplemental pick in 2011, currently on the MLB roster.  The days of hitting big on 1st rounders like David Price, Evan Longoria, and Melvin Upton seems like a thing of the past.  Time will tell if the last 3 drafts will change that.

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Prospects1500 Tiers:

Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster






Tier 1

1. Brent Honeywell, RHP
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Honeywell is the prize pitching prospect in the system and one of the top arms in the minors.  He throws 5 pitches – 3 of which are well above average.  His FB, CH, and screwball are all 60 grade.  He put his full arsenal on display winning the 2017 Futures Game MVP.

2. Jesus Sanchez, OF
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: A
Sanchez, playing as a 19-year-old, was one of the more impressive teenagers to play in full season ball.  Slashing .305/.348/.478 with 15 HR and 29 doubles, Sanchez is a 5 tool talent with 55-60 grades across the board.

3. Willy Adames, SS
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Adames is the best defensive infielder in the organization.  His bat is a bit behind his glove but he still boasts a future above average hit tool and speed.  As is the case with most young players, his raw power has yet to translate into game power.  His floor is low double-digit HR/SB with a chance to mature into a 20 HR – gold glove calibre SS.

4. Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low A
McKay, taken 4th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, was one of the most decorated players in NCAA baseball.  A two-way player at Louisville, McKay will get the opportunity to pitch and hit at the professional level.  In a small sample size, he was impressive on the mound striking out 21 hitters in 20 IP while posting 123 wRC+.  McKay throws 3 above average pitches with good command.  In the batters box, he is a 60 grade hitter with above average power.  2018 will give us a better look at his development as he transitions to full season ball.

Tier 2

5. Jake Bauers, OF/1B
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Bauers has all the tools to become a legitimate middle of the order bat.  Bauers is disciplined and patient at the plate and should draw close to 100 walks per season.  His hit tool is a future 60 but Bauers has yet to harness his full offensive potential in-game situations.  His power is average now but should improve to a grade 55.

6. Christian Arroyo, SS/3B/2B
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Recently acquired from SF for Evan Longoria, Arroyo will look to either fill Longo’s vacated 3B or provide the Rays with a solid utility option.  While it seems the rays are always loaded with utility infielders masquerading as everyday players, Arroyo’s bat is what will set him apart. After hitting .396 in 25 AAA games, Arroyo was promoted to SF, before a hand injury cut his season short.  Arroyo has below average power which could limit his appeal as an everyday third baseman.

7. Garrett Whitley, OF
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: A
Whitley is a plus defender with plus speed in the OF.  He has good on base skills (13.4% BB rate) and future 60 power.  He has a lot of swing and miss in his game and will need to improve his hit tool.  All signs point to him doing so as he matures given his athleticism and ability to work the count.  The Florida State League, a traditionally dominant pitcher’s league, will be a good test for Whitley in 2018.

8. Justin Williams, OF
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: AA
In 135 games at AA in 2016 an 17, Williams slashed .286/.340/.477, with 28 doubles and 20 HR.  More encouraging is his improving walk rate (up from 3% to 9%) and his declining K rate (19.4% to 16.9%) covering his 2 stints at AA.  Williams has impressive raw power that is starting to translate into game settings.

9. Lucius Fox, SS
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: A+
Acquired from SF in the Matt Moore deal, Fox is a quick twitch athlete with an above average arm and defense.  His stand out tool is 70 grade speed and his future 55 hit tool should keep him at the top of line-up.  Fox lacks power and doesn’t project to add to his 40 grade. Played for the World team in the 2017 Futures Game.

10. Jose De Leon, RHP
Opening Day Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Once a top pitching prospect in the game, injuries have stalled De Leon’s career and he may be the victim of prospect fatigue.  He remains in the top 10 for me because he still has 4 plus pitches with his CH becoming his best pitch.  De Leon is also a year removed from registering an impressive 2.61 ERA in the hitter friendly PCL while striking out 11.57 hitters per 9.

11. Josh Lowe, OF
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: A
The former 1st round pick in 2016 struggled mightily the first 2 months of the season but as the weather heated up, so did he.  Lowe slashed .294/.355/.413 in the 2nd half of the season.  An excellent athlete with a lot of projection and a high ceiling,  Lowe has a quick swing and considerable raw power.  His offensive game is still raw though as evidenced by his 144 strikeouts.

12. Wander Samuel Franco, SS
Opening Day Age: 17
2017 Highest Level: N/A
Franco was one of the top international amateurs in the 2017 signing class.  A switch hitter that has a reputation for making hard contact from both sides of the plate, Franco signed for $3.825 million.  Scouts rave about his confidence, his hands in the field, and his plus speed.

13. Austin Franklin, RHP
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Short Season A
Franklin is a big righty with a future 60 grade FB and CB.  In his short career, he has struggled with his command and his change-up is below average.  He has the build to add more velo and his FB has been described as “heavy.”  As he advances through the system, the development of his change-up and his control will determine whether or not he can be a middle of the rotation starter or a middle reliever.

14. Yonny Chirinos, RHP
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Chirinos has plus command of 3 pitches and an advanced approach on the mound.  His command and maturity cover the fact that his FB, SL, and splitter are graded 50-55 with little room to improve.  However, because Chirinos controls the strike zone so well and induces a 50% GB rate, he has the floor of a middle reliever with the ceiling of a mid rotation SP that should eat innings.

Tier 3

15. Brandon Lowe, 2B
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
The 2017 FSL MVP has seen his stock rise in 2017 more than any other Rays prospect.  Lowe has elite OBP skills and doubles power.  After dominating the FSL, Lowe was promoted to AA where he was overmatched.  At Charlotte, Lowe posted a 12.8% BB rate and 17% K rate.  In 24 games at Montgomery, the BB rate declined to 2% while his K rate increased to 25%.  I fully expect Lowe to reverse that trend in 2018 over the course of a full season.

16. Joe McCarthy, OF/1B
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
McCarthy is an OBP machine.  He posted a 16.7% BB rate at AA to go with 31 doubles and 20 SB.  He lacks the arm to play CF-RF which could limit his ability to crack the MLB line-up, but his advanced approach makes his floor a solid 4th OF.  He will need to generate more pull side lift in order to turn his doubles power into HRs.

17. Brett Sullivan, C
Opening Day Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: AA
All Sullivan does is hit.  He has an above average hit tool and his speed plays up for a catcher.  Sullivan doesn’t work the count so his BB rate is low but so his K rate.  He barrels the ball to the gaps and has shown an ability to drive the ball out of the park.  It remains to be seen if he sticks at catcher.

18. Adrian Rondon, 3B
Opening Day Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: A
Rondon has a loud bat with projectable power.  One of the top bats from 2014 J2 class, Rondon has a lot of swing and miss and has shown to be more project than prospect.  He should repeat 2018 in Bowling Green and will still be one of the younger players in the Midwest League.  He will need to shorten his swing and improve his patience to untap his potential.

19. Genesis Cabrera, LHP
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: AA
Cabrera has flown through the Rays system, reaching AA in 2017.  His FB sits in the low to mid 90’s and his slider has sharp bite that can get righties out.  He lacks a true third pitch and his tendency to leave the ball up in the zone profiles his floor as a lefty middle reliever with a ceiling of a back of the rotation SP.

20. Michael Mercado, RHP
Opening Day Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Mercado, the Rays 2nd round pick in 2017, has a loose and projectable frame.  The Rays thought so much of his future projection that they went over slot to sign him.  Mercado throws 4 pitches, all rated as average to above average with good command and sharp bite on his breaking ball.  He has the frame to add velo to his FB which currently sits in the low 90’s.

21. Dalton Kelly, 1B
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
The former 38th round pick in 2015 has done nothing but hit since turning pro.  Acquired from Seattle in 2016, Kelly has shown a good eye at the plate with the ability to hunt his pitch and punish it.  He belted  7 HR and 18 2Bs in 192 AA at bats.  His gap power could translate to big league HR as he matures as a hitter.  He doesn’t have much more room for projection in terms of growth.  Think of Kelly as a Jake Bauers clone with more speed.

22. Brock Burke, LHP
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: A+
Burke dominated the Midwest League to the tune of a 1.10 ERA in 57 IP before being promoted to Charlotte.  Once in the FSL, Burke struggled to keep the ball in the park.  After allowing 0 HR at A, he allowed 6 in 66 IP and posted a 4.84 ERA.  The good news for Burke in A+ was his ability to throw strikes and avoid bases on balls.  His FB sits in the low 90’s with 2 average off speed pitches.  He has a ceiling of a back of the rotation starter.

23. Jelfry Marte, SS
Opening Day Age: 17
2017 Highest Level: N/A
Marte, one of the most highly touted prospects in the 2017 signing class, signed with Minnesota for $3M.  Due to reported vision problems in his physical, his contract was voided.  The Rays swooped in and signed Marte, who posses a plus glove and arm and should stick at SS.  The switch hitter from the Dominican Republic has a projectable bat with a reputation of being a line drive hitter.

24. Ryne Stanek, RHP
Opening Day Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: MLB
An 80 grade fastball and 55 slider.  Sounds like the makings of a dominant closer.  The catch:  40 grade control.  Stanek has been plagued by a lack of command his entire career.  If he can limit his walks, he can dominate the late innings.  However, Stanek walked 5.4 hitters per 9 IP in 20 big league innings.  He also struck out 13.05 per 9 IP and is worth keeping an eye on in 2018.

25. Chih-Wei Hu, RHP
Opening Day Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Hu should be a versatile piece in the Rays bullpen in 2018 after making 10 appearances in 2017.  The converted SP has the ability to provide the Rays a swing man starter that can throw 5 pitches in any count.  His fastball will not blow any hitters away but will play up in a bullpen role.

26. Jaime Schultz, RHP
Opening Day Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: AAA
A groin injury limited Schultz’s 2017 campaign to just 19 IP.  A starter in the past, Schultz pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in those 19 IP and was nothing short of exceptional.  He struck out 32 batters while only walking 6.  The only reason he isn’t ranked higher is the small sample size of strike throwing.  Schultz has always shown an ability to blow hitters away with his plus fastball and slider, both pitches graded 60-65, but has been plagued by control as a starter.  He should earn a spot in the Rays bullpen in 2018 and could rise to late inning work quickly if he maintains his improved 2017 control.




Tier 4

27. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
Opening Day Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Yarbrough features a low 90’s fastball with an above average change up.  He will need to improve his slider in order to become a successful end of the rotation starter.  His ability to throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground solidifies his floor as a lefty reliever.

28. Nick Ciuffo, C
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
Picked in the 1st round by the Rays in 2013, Ciuffo has struggled to live up to the hype on the offensive side of the ball.  Ciuffo is an above average defender with a 60 grade arm behind the dish and his defense should carry him.  His bat will determine his role in the big leagues.

29. Robbie Tenerowicz, 2B
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: A
The Rays may have found a diamond in the rough in Tenerowicz.  Drafted in the 27th round in 2016, he made a successful transition to full season ball, hitting 11 HR while walking in 8% of his at bats.  He slashed .295/.367/.479.  His ability to work the count and put the bat on the ball makes him a intriguing sleeper heading into 2018.  The pitcher friendly Florida State League will be a good test.

30. Ryan Boldt, OF
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: A+
Boldt produced a solid season at Charlotte in the FSL slashing .295/.358/.407.  He has good speed and takes efficient routes in the outfield.  He possesses above average raw power but has not seen the raw power translate to games.  While HR are tough to come by in Charlotte, it is quite telling that Boldt did not receive the promotion to AA with Kelly, Lowe, Sullivan, and Jake Cronenworth.  I may be reading too much into the Rays keeping him at Charlotte all year, but the lack of blazing speed, a high walk rate, and below average in game power leads me to believe that the Rays view him as a 4th or 5th OF,

31. Curtis Taylor, RHP
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: A
Acquired from Arizona for Brad Boxberger, Taylor is an imposing righty with 2 above average pitches.  His fastball has hit the high 90’s and his slider can be nasty if he keeps his mechanics in check.  The D-Backs used him as a starter in 2017 to allow Taylor to work on a change up.  The results have been mixed but there is no reason to think the Rays will not be able to exact the most out of him.  If he were relegated to the pen, he could fly through the system this year.

32. Kevin Padlo, 3B
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: A+
After slugging 16 HR in A ball as a 20 year old, Padlo struggled to get anything going in the FSL.  Despite his struggles, he still produced a 13.5% BB rate and reduced his K rate 3% from 2016.  He has enough raw tools to put 2017 in the rearview and re-establish himself as a top 15-20 prospect in the system.  His .213 average was in part due to a paltry .272 BABIP.  The low BABIP and high FB rate lead me to believe that his struggles had more to do with park and league than lack of tools.

33. Drew Strotman, RHP
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Taken in the 4th round of the 2017 draft, Strotman has a plus curveball and plus command.  He dominated the NY Penn League to the tune of 1.78 ERA and nearly 60% ground ball rate.

34. Tobias Myers, RHP
Opening Day Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Acquired from the Orioles in the Beckham deal, Myers was downright nasty last season.  He has plus command striking out 73 hitters to 10 walks in 56 IP.  He was even nastier after the trade, posting a 9.5 K/BB rate.  Myers could fly up the prospect rankings if he can make a successful jump to full season ball.

35. Taylor Walls, SS
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Walls, another switch hitting SS, was taken in the 3rd round in the 2017 draft.  He struggled offensively in his first taste of pro ball.  He is an above average defender with an above average arm.  He doesn’t have a lot of projectability and lacks average game power.  His hit tool could develop to a 50 grade which would make him a solid up the middle player or utility guy.

36. Diego Castillo, RHP
Opening Day Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Castillo is a true reliever who struck out 12.65 per 9 in AAA.  He should provide bullpen depth for the Rays with stuff that is good enough to garner looks in high leverage situations.  Castillo has a  70 grade fastball and 55 grade slider.

Tier 5

37. Devin Davis, 1B
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
A former 25th round pick in 2015, Davis flashed power and patience at Princeton in the Appy League.  His 3rd season as a pro was his best, slashing .294/.372/.532 with a .239 ISO and 136 wRC+.

38. Zach Rutherford, SS
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Selected in the 6th round of the 2017 draft, Rutherford doesn’t profile as a power hitting infielder despite his 24 XBH in 52 games.  He is a patient hitter that uses the gaps.  Like Davis, his numbers suggest that he should start 2018 in A ball.

39. Chris Betts, C
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
The former 2015 2nd round pick’s career has been riddle with injuries.  He only played in 42 career games and hasn’t shown much of the promise and tools that made him a high pick.  Regardless, Betts was once a promising prospect and is young enough to get his career back on track.  A healthy 2018 makes Betts a breakout prospect candidate.

40. Travis Ott, LHP
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: A+
Ott showed flashes of brilliance at A/A+ posting a 2.06 ERA and striking out 132 hitters in 118 IP.  His numbers at Bowling Green suggest he was a bit lucky considering his 4.14 xFIP.  He was downright brilliant after a promotion to Charlotte striking 10.66 hitters per 9.  Ott projects as a lefty reliever and will need to refine his control.  He walked just under 4 batters per 9 IP at both levels.

41. Jake Cronenworth, 2B
Opening Day Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: AA
Cronenworth has progressed quietly through the Rays system, reaching AA and posting a .363 OBP in 38 games.  Cronenworth has proven to be a patient hitter that puts the bat on the ball with a solid glove up the middle.  Below average in game power profiles Cronenworth as a utility player in the big leagues.

42. Ronaldo Hernandez, C
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Hernandez was a beast in the hitter friendly Appy League slashing .332/.382/.507 as a teenager.  He has a big projectable frame and a quick bat.  He hit 22 doubles in 54 games and those doubles could turn into HR as he matures.

43. Resly Linares, LHP
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Linares is a tall and lanky lefty with a projectable body that could add velo to his already low 90’s fastball.  His curve ball is already a 50 grade but he lacks consistency with a 3rd pitch.

44. Matt Krook, LHP
Opening Day Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: A+
Krook was part of the return for Rays legend Evan Longoria.  He has three 60 grade pitches featuring a fastball, curve, and slider.  The problem for Krook is his 30 grade command.  The Rays have a knack for developing pitchers and teaching them to harness their stuff.  Krook is a deep sleeper going forward and will need to improve on his 66 walks in 91 IP to go along with 21 wild pitches.

45. Kenny Rosenberg, LHP
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: A
Rosenberg turned in a solid 2017 campaign, posting 10.5 K/9 and a 3.35 xFIP.  Rosenberg struggles to command the zone and has a tendency to leave his pitches up in the zone.  He gave up 15 HR in 113.2 IP.  He will need to limit the walks (8%) and improve his GB rate (41.5%) in order to be successful at the next level.

46. Patrick Leonard, 3B
Opening Day Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: AAA
With third base vacated by the trade of Longoria, Leonard has a chance to earn a look at the big league level.  He has a lot of swing and miss in his game and is a low OBP guy.  Barring injuries to Duffy or Arroyo, Leonard will start at AAA again in 2018.

47. Carlos Vargas, SS
Opening Day Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
There is a lot to like in Vargas’ game.  He has good pop for a teenager and a patient eye (9% BB rate).  His numbers suffer from a low BABIP and an all or nothing swing that lead to 26% infield fly ball rate.

48. Vidal Brujan, 2B
Opening Day Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Brujan, a switch hitter, has shown an exceptional bat to ball skills for a teenager playing in the NY Penn League.  He walked 34 times to 36 strike outs and posted a .378 OBP against much older competition.  He has above average speed.

49. Jose Mujica, RHP
Opening Day Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: AA
Normally a 3.03 ERA and 13 wins by a 21 year old in AA would raise eyebrows but in Mujica’s case a closer look at the numbers paints a different picture.  5.02 K/9, 4.41 FIP, 79% LOB, and 18 HR allowed. I think he has pitchability and a projectable frame.  His stuff should play up in a bullpen role.

50. Kean Wong, 2B
Opening Day Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Wong, the younger brother of Kolton, slashed .265/.328/.361 for AAA Durham.  He offers very little in regards to power or speed and his ceiling is a utility player.

5 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  4. Top 50 Rays Prospects: No. 17, Genesis Cabrera | VegasPicks.com
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