Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Wander Franco, Bowling Green Hot Rods - Photo credit Rikk Carlson, @rikkcarl10 on Twitter

After a very strong 2018 showing that ended in a 90-72 record (good for third in the AL East), the Rays have prospered this season and look poised to make their first playoff run since 2013. Perhaps the most vital component of the team’s success over the last couple seasons has been the presence of a loaded minor league farm system that consistently ranks among the best in the league. The Rays’ front office has generally been able to establish a talented minor league organization through underrated international signings and draft day success stories. They’ve also remained active during the season to acquire talent. This season, the Rays made multiple deals around the trade deadline, including a deadline day blockbuster in which the Rays traded Prospects1500 preseason No. 2 prospect Jesus Sanchez to the Marlins for major league pitching help. Although losing Sanchez would be a massive loss for any organization, the unprecedented depth and talent of many promising young prospects will help to fill the void.

Here’s a breakdown of one of the best minor league organizations in baseball. The only player to reach the innings/at-bat limits from my Preseason Rays Top 50 List is No. 12 Brandon Lowe. Before going down with an injury on July 4th, Lowe was in the midst of an All Star campaign that had him in early discussions for AL Rookie of the Year. The upside for many of these prospects will continue to improve as they gain experience under the organizations’ highly touted Player Development program.


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

To qualify for this list each prospect must be at or under the limit of 130 AB or 50 IP


Tier 1:
1. Wander Franco, SS
Age: 18 (3/1/2001)
Preseason Rank: 1
Current Level: A+
.323/.396/.496, 9 HR, 18 SB, 11.5 BB%, 7.0 K%,
“This time next year, we could very well be talking about him as the top prospect in all of baseball. Yeah, he’s that good.” That’s from my the Preseason List. It’s Wander’s World now, and we’re all just living in it. After promotions to some of baseball’s top prospects this season, Wander Franco is the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. He was just seventeen (and you know what I mean) during last season’s legendary effort and he’s continued to display elite tools in pretty much every facet of the game. Combined with that fact that he’s over 4 years younger than the average player in the Florida State League, there really doesn’t seem to be a defined ceiling for Franco’s potential at this time. I could write a whole article about Wander Franco and it probably still wouldn’t be enough, but this piece is dedicated to myriad other young talented prospects in this system. You can check out more about baseball’s top prospect here.


2. Brendan McKay, LHP/DH
Age: 23 (12/18/1995)
Preseason Rank: 3
Current Level: AAA
AA/AAA: 70.2 IP, 1.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
                 .200/.298/.331, 5 HR, 1 SB, 10.1 BB%, 30.4 K%
MLB: 35.2 IP, 5.55 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
McKay was promoted to the Major League rotation in late June after a very impressive start to the 2019 season in both AA & AAA. He’s displayed an advanced arsenal all year, including his time against some of professional baseball’s best competition in the AL East, while maintaining K/9 and BB/9 totals relatively similar to his three year minor league averages (11.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9.) McKay was demoted back to AAA Durham on Monday after a couple rough outings, but it’s not a long term concern and perhaps working to find the zone against minor league hitters will help him regain his confidence on the mound.  At this time, it looks like the Rays will prioritize developing McKay as a starter as he continues to progress with experience, but his past success with the bat will always be there if the Rays decide to experiment. 


3. Vidal Brujan, 2B
Age: 20 (2/9/1998)
Preseason Rank: 5
Current Level: AA
.278/.352/.392, 4 HR, 45 SB, 9.6 BB%, 14.5 K%
“Some may see Brujan at 5 on this list and think that it’s too high. Going forward, I see this as his floor in a loaded system.” Vidal Brujan has met and exceeded preseason expectations, as he rises from No. 5 on my Preseason List to No. 3 on the Midseason update. Brujan has proven to be one of the fastest players in the minors, and he currently ranks 3rd in all of MiLB with 45 SB this season. A switch-hitting middle infielder, he’s fared better against RHP this season, but he’s continued to get on base at a clip that allows him to demonstrate his elite base running abilities. He earned a promotion to AA in June, and possesses a special hit-speed combination that should allow him to flourish in a leadoff role as he progresses in his development.


4. Matthew Liberatore, LHP
Age: 19 (11/6/1999)
Preseason Rank: 6 
Current Level: A
71.1 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Liberatore is the best pitching prospect in the Rays organization and one of the top LHP prospects in all of baseball (No. 4 according to MLB Pipeline.)  He was a man on fire in the first half of the season (6 GS, 34.0 IP, 1.85 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .169 BAA) before coming back to earth after the All-Star break. Liberatore utilizes an imposing delivery with a nasty that mainly feature a mid-90s fastball and a curveball with exceptional vertical break. Last year’s first round pick has  played well against a new level of competition in 2019 and has a good chance to one day pitch at the top of the Rays rotation.

 

Tier 2:
5. Nate Lowe, 1B
Age: 24 (7/7/1995)
Preseason Rank: 7
Current Level: AAA
AAA: .289/.416/.527, 14 HR, 1 SB, 16.8 BB%, 20.7 K%
MLB: .294/.365/.510, 5 HR, 0 SB, 8.7 BB%, 25.2 K%
Lowe, a 13th round pick in 2016, hit .301 over 4 minor league seasons before receiving his first promotion to the big leagues in April. He went on to play well in the majors, but Lowe was sent back to AAA and has since made a few brief trips to Tampa. Although he’s only played in 30 MLB games total this season due to a deep active major league roster, Nate Lowe has proved that he belongs in the majors. He’s even proven that he can be highly successful against same-sided pitching at next level (.304/.407/.652, 2 HR vs. MLB LHP in 2019), removing any concern of a platoon situation at 1B in Tampa’s future.


6. Brent Honeywell Jr., RHP
Age: 24 (3/31/1995)
Preseason Rank: 4
Current Level: AAA (Has not played since 2017 due to injury)
2017 AAA : 136.2 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
Honeywell missed all of 2018 after being diagnosed with a torn UCL in his pitching elbow suffered last February. He underwent Tommy John surgery was expected to return to AAA this season with a chance to make the big leagues over the summer, but he fractured a bone in his throwing elbow during a bullpen session in June further delaying his return to the mound. Talent and track record are present for Honeywell to be highly successful, but the injury concerns are very real going forward.

7. Shane McClanahan, LHP
Age: 22 (4/28/1997)
Preseason Rank: 9
Current Level: AA
107.1 IP, 2.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
Simply put, McClanahan has been a dude this year. Some were convinced heading into the season that McClahanan would be destined for a bullpen role, but he’s started in 19 of 21 appearances and the results have been dominant. Across 3 minor league levels in 2019, he’s held opposing hitters to a paltry .185 AVG and the elite K/9 numbers from last season seem to be here to stay. He dominated in his AA debut early August, going five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. 


8. Ronaldo Hernandez, C
Age: 21 (11/11/1997)
Preseason Rank: 10
Current Level: A+
.268/.304/.404, 8 HR, 6 SB, 4.3 BB%, 14.9 K%
Hernandez was one of three Rays minor league players (Wander Franco and Brendan McKay) chosen to represent the organization in this years MLB All-Star Futures Game. Although his power numbers are visibly down from last year’s prolific effort, Hernandez has been more efficient on the basepaths this season, stealing six bags without being caught. Hernandez has also displayed a very strong arm from behind the plate since the Rays moved him to the position, but will need to continue to improve as a receiver this season.

9. Shane Baz, RHP
Age: 20 (6/17/1999)
Preseason Rank: 11
Current Level: A
64.2 IP, 3.34 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
The “Player To Be Named Later” in the Chris Archer trade last August has been phenomenal for his new organization. Baz’s numbers have essentially improved across the board this season and he has showed signs of the dominant starter many believed him to be as a first round prep selection a few years ago. This season, opposing hitters are only batting .216 against him, compared to .267 AVG in 2018. Baz is only scratching the surface of his potential in A-ball, and looks primed to be an ace of the future in Tampa.


10. Greg Jones, SS
Age: 21 (3/7/1998)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A-
.344/.415./.496, 1 HR, 13 SB, 9.5 BB%, 23.8 K%
Jones was the Rays first round pick in this years major league Baseball draft at No. 22 overall, and so far the returns are looking sensational. The UNC Wilmington product has mashed against opponent pitching since his June debut in the New York-Penn League. His noticeably quick swing and obvious advanced feel at the plate at such a young stage in his career suggest that he’s only getting started. Jones’ carrying tool is his blazing speed, but he’s proven a capable hitter so far and a .496 SLG (would rank 3nd in the NYPL if he were eligible) suggests that his power may be a very underrated aspect of his game at this point of his career. As amateur scouting director Rob Metzler said earlier in the year, “We think he has the capability to be an impactful major league player, and we’re excited to have him.” 


11. Josh Lowe, OF
Age: 21 (2/2/1998)
Preseason Rank: 24
Current Level: AA
.238/.330/.414, 15 HR, 27 SB, 11.4 BB%, 27.6 K%
Lowe has proven to be a very talented power-speed threat in 2019, with a career high 27 SB and 15 HR (matching his total from the last two seasons combined) in AA so far this season. Lowe also has shown the athleticism and natural instincts to be a plus outfielder for the organization for years to come. Similar to a preseason note, improving upon a high K% might be the key that unlocks Lowe’s promising offensive potential to the next level.

12. Lucius Fox, SS 
Age: 22 (7/2/1997)
Preseason Rank: 8
Current Level: AAA
.218/.332/.339, 3 HR, 36 SB, 12.6 BB%, 20.7 K%
Fox has impressed with his speed and athleticism on the field and around the base paths this season, but it hasn’t all been great he’s struggled at the plate in his brief stint in AAA. However, he also had difficulties making the transition to a new level at the end of last season before tearing the cover off the ball in the Arizona Fall League. Fox’s bat may never be special for his position, but if he’s at least able to get on base at a consistent rate he will be a difference-maker on the basepaths and a gold glove caliber shortstop for the Rays.

13. Nick Schnell, OF
Age: 19 (3/27/2000)
Preseason Rank: 17
Current Level: ROK
.270/.341/.491, 5 HR, 5 SB, 9.9 BB%, 31.9 K%
The Rays’ first round pick in 2018 (No. 32 overall), Schnell has had an impressive season at the plate, displaying a consistent approach that has allowed him continued success against opposing Appy league pitchers. He’s displayed improvements on the basepaths and he’s been white hot recently, hitting .378 AVG with 14 hits & 3 HR in his last 10 games. If Schnell can improve upon this season’s 31.9 K%, these numbers will only trend in the right direction. 


14. Joe Ryan, RHP
Age: 23 (06/05/1996)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A+
114.1 IP, 1.97 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12.8 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
A seventh round pick in last year’s draft, Ryan has dominated minor league competition in 2019. Across three levels, he’s held opposing hitters to a .172 AVG in 22 games (20 GS) this season. Ryan also strikes out hitters at a high level and displays elite control of the strike zone, both likely indicators of success as he pursues a rapid ascent through the organization. His best outing of the season came on 8/7 where he went 7.0 IP and only gave up 1 hit, while striking out 13, a performance that earned him the honor of Prospects1500 High-A Prospect of the Week


15. Mike Brosseau, 3B
Age: 25 (3/15/1994)
Preseason Rank: 39
Current Level: MLB
AAA: .317/.408/.590, 15 HR, 2 SB, 11.3 BB%, 17.5 K%
MLB: .284/.324/.490, 5 HR, 1 SB, 3.7 BB%, 23.9 K%
Brosseau has excelled this season and has skyrocketed up my prospect lists as a result. A .300 AVG career hitter in 4 minor league seasons, Brosseau has moved on to rake at the highest level. After playing all of last season for AA-affiliate Montgomery Biscuits, he’s been an impact player at the plate and in the field, providing flexibility at multiple infield positions for a major league ball club competing for the playoffs. 

 

Tier 3:
16. Jake Cronenworth, SS

Age: 24 (01/21/1994)
Preseason Rank: 46
Current Level: AAA
.342/.432/.540, 10 HR, 11 SB, 11.7 BB%, 15.0 K%
Cronenworth has absolutely owned opposing pitchers this season, on his way to earning the nod as starting shortstop this year’s AAA all-star game. He leads the International League in OBP by a wide margin over second place (teammate Nate Lowe, .414 OBP.) Tampa has a deeper and more versatile middle infield than ever in the majors, but Cronenworth’s bat should play at the next level provided he’s given the chance.

17. Colin Poche, LHP
Age: 25 (1/17/1994)
Preseason Rank: 13
Current Level: MLB
AAA: 27.1 IP, 6.26 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 15.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
MLB: 33.0 IP, 5.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 13.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
A preseason favorite of mine to win over the Rays closing job at some point this season, Poche has experienced some difficulty preventing runs in both AAA and the majors this season. He’s piled up Ks at an elite level, but has also allowed 2.2 HR/9 in his brief exposure to big league competition. Poche’s WHIP and K/9 in 2019 look very similar to the numbers he produced in 4 minor league seasons, so perhaps a mechanical adjustment will him to return to the statistical mean in other categories as well.


18. Moises Gomez, OF
Age: 20 (8/27/1998)
Preseason Rank: 16
Current Level: A+
.218/.297/.403, 14 HR, 2 SB, 9.9 BB%, 33.2 K%
Gomez has struggled to make much contact in the Florida State League this season as evidenced by his low average and a K% trending in the wrong direction, but the potential for plus-plus power is still present. Gomez had made the most of a platoon advantage in 2019 vs. LHP (.268/.308/.563), but still needs to work with Rays development to establish a more balanced plate approach to maximize his high upside as a slugger.

19. JJ Goss, RHP
Age: 18 (12/25/2000)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: ROK
11.0 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
Goss was seen by many scouts as a first-round talent coming out of high school this year (ranked as high 14th overall in Keith Law’s Top 100), but he fell to the Rays in the second round at No. 36. Although the talented prep arm has been highly inconsistent so far in the Gulf Coast League this season, essentially alternating between good and bad starts, his projectibility offer plenty of promise for a Rays organization that prioritizes player development.

20. John Doxakis, LHP
Age: 20 (08/20/1998)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A-
19.2 IP, 2.29 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
Doxakis dominated the SEC as a frontline starter over the last two seasons, and he’s pitched well so far after being selected in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. He doesn’t have elite velocity for a starter, but the big lefty displays solid control for his age and has a deceptive release point that has proven effective in the New York-Penn League.


21. Niko Hulsizer, OF
Age: 22 (2/1/1997)
Preseason Dodgers #42
Current Level: A+
.264/.375/.551, 20 HR, 7 SB, 13.2 BB%, 30.8 K%
This may be a very aggressive rank, but I’m a big fan of “Hulksizer” and I know I’m not the only one. Hulsizer was a trade deadline acquisition from the Los Angeles Dodgers this year and has played very well throughout the season, hitting 20 HR in only 83 games to go with multiple highlight reel plays. He profiled as an advanced hitter coming out of Morehead State and has continued to display very impressive raw power in his professional debut. Definitely a name to keep an eye on if he can improve upon a high K% against a higher level of competition, as a slugger of his caliber could quickly ascend through the Rays organization.


22. Riley O’Brien, RHP
Age: 24 (02/06/1995)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: AA
102.2 IP, 3.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 
O’Brien has made significant developmental strides since being drafted by the Rays a couple seasons ago. O’Brien rips mid-upper-90s heaters to compliment two potential plus breaking balls, and his stuff should only get better as he grows into his 6’4” frame.

23. Seth Johnson, RHP
Age: 20 (09/19/1998)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: ROK 
13.0 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
Johnson was lights out to begin the season, not allowing a run in 5 starts before being promoted to the Appalachian League earlier this month. He struggled in his most recent outing, but Johnson possesses an electric fastball and a few underrated secondary pitches in his repertoire that will look to progress as the converted pitcher gains more experience on the mound.

24. Jose De Leon, RHP
Age: 27 (8/7/1992)
Preseason Rank: 25
Current Level: AAA
A+/AAA: 49.0 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 11.9 K/9, 5.0 BB/9
MLB: 2.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 13.5 K/9, 9.0 BB/9
De Leon missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL. He’s been effective as a starter in the minors this season while recovering from the injury, but he made an appearance out of the bullpen in the majors this season (his first since May 2017.)  De Leon needs to work on his command for sustained success, but he looks ready to help a Tampa team in the thick of a playoff hunt.

25. Peter Fairbanks, RHP
Age: 25 (12/16/1993)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: AAA
A+/AA/AAA: 36.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 14.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
MLB: 8.2 IP, 9.35 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 15.6 K/9, 7.3 BB/9
A mid-July acquisition from Texas in exchange for Rays Preseason No. 15 prospect Nick Solak, Fairbanks features an upper-90s fastball and sweeping slider that both miss bats at a high rate. Early struggles in the majors can be attributed to the fact that started the season playing for Texas’ High-A affiliate, but he’s played well so far in AAA since the trade to Tampa.

26. Anthony Banda, LHP
Age: 26 (8/10/1993)
Preseason Rank: 22
Current Level: AAA
22.1 IP, 4.43 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
Banda has had 10 rehab outings this season since undergoing from Tommy John surgery last June. He is currently building up his pitching out in AAA, and has shown definite signs of improvement in his last 2 outings: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0.00 ERA, 6/2 K/BB. Banda could profile as a long relief option for the Rays in the near future given his proximity to the bigs.

 

Tier 4:
27. Taylor Walls, SS

Age: 23 (7/10/1996)
Preseason Rank: 27
Current Level: AA
.261/.338/.419, 7 HR, 26 SB, 11.3 BB%, 18.2 K%
The switch-hitting shortstop has struggled mightily in 2019 against LHP (.156/.170/.289), after batting a strong .352/.429/.535 against them last season. Walls has been solid vs. RHP (.289/.390/.471) and he’s put up a career best in homers so perhaps a return to the statistical mean is all he needs to take his production to the next level.

28. Tanner Dodson, OF/RHP
Age: 22 (5/9/1997)
Preseason Rank: 23
Current Level: A+
17.0 IP, 5.29 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 4.8 BB/9
.250/.286/.350, 0 HR, 3 SB, 4.8 BB%, 15.9 K%
Dodson has continued to develop as a two-way prospect in the Rays minor league system. His stats this season are a slight downtick compared to his production in 2018, but he hasn’t played since May due to injury. I fully expect Dodson to perform better as both a hitter and pitcher as he acclimates to the new level of competition.

29. Drew Strotman, RHP
Age: 22 (9/3/1996)
Preseason Rank: 29
Current Level: A+
14.2 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 4.3 BB/9
Strotman underwent Tommy John surgery last June and he’s only pitched in five starts this season since his return in July. Strotman has only given up one home run in 111.1 career IP in the minors, but progressing to refine the control of his offerings (5.4 BB/9 at his current level) will be the key factor in Strotman’s progression through the organization.

30. Kean Wong, 2B
Age: 24 (04/17/1995)
Preseason Rank: 36
Current Level: AAA
.326/.389/.490, 9 HR, 6 SB, 8.0 BB%, 22.0 K%
After an invite to Spring Training this year, Wong has put on a clinic against opposing pitchers on his way to a career-best season. He’s consistently remained amongst the best hitters in AAA this season in most hitting categories and at this point, it certainly seems Wong has done everything he can do to deserve his first taste of MLB when rosters expand come September.


31. Michael Plassmeyer, LHP
Age: 22 (11/5/1996)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A+
121 IP, 2.01 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
Plassmeyer was the lone prospect dealt to the Rays when they traded Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley to the Mariners in the offseason. He’s registered a QS in over half of his starts this season and has held opposing LHB to average against under the Mendoza Line. Plassmeyer’s 1.6 BB/9 is an indicator of elite control from a young hurler, and would match top prospect Brendan McKay’s ratio from last season.

32. Ben Brecht, LHP
Age: 21 (01/07/1998)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A-
16.2 IP, 1.62 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 0.5 BB/9
Brecht, a 5th round pick in this year’s draft, has demonstrated tremendous control of the strike zone (13/1 K/BB) this season in his brief stint with the Hudson Valley Renegades. Continuing to find the zone at an elite level will be key for his development as a potential backend starter.

33. Tyler Frank, 2B
Age: 22 (1/15/1997)
Preseason Rank: 26
Current Level: A+
.154/.286/.173, 0 HR, 3 SB, 14.3 BB%, 20.6 K%
Frank struggled during a brief 16 game stint in the Florida State League before succumbing to a left arm injury. There’s plenty to look forward to when he returns though, as he’s been a professional hitter since college (more walks than strikeouts in all three years of college and his 2018 pro debut) and look for that trend to progress once he acclimates to a higher level of competition.

34. Tobias Myers, RHP
Age: 21 (08/05/1998)
Preseason Rank: 31
Current Level: A+
74.2 IP, 2.29 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
Myers has been lights out since returning from an injury that kept him out for the month of June. In seven games (5 GS) since July 5th, Myers has not allowed a run in 23.2 innings. He’s also still a few years younger than his average opponent in the Florida State League, making this recent stretch of dominance even more impressive.

35. Ryan Boldt, OF
Age: 24 (11/22/1994)
Preseason Rank: 32
Current Level:  AAA (Has not played since 2018 due to TJ surgery)
2018: .274/.348/.461, 7 HR, 12 SB, 8.8 BB%, 21.2 K%
Boldt has missed all of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm in early May. He should be ready for Spring Training 2020.

36. Ford Proctor, SS
Age: 22 (12/04/1996)
Preseason Rank: 49
Current Level: A
.289/.374/.402, 5 HR, 11 SB, 11.7 BB%, 16.5 K%
Proctor has made a good impression in his first full season, consistently ranking among the top ten hitters in the Midwest League this season in AVG, OBP and SLG. He’s shown a propensity to hit since his college days at Rice, and he’s only improved on last year’s debut performance. Proctor has a pretty sweet glove, too.


37. Tommy Romero, RHP
Age: 22 (07/08/1997)
Preseason Rank: 43
Current Level: A+
108.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
Romero has impressed as a starter in the Florida State League this season, managing to lower his ERA and WHIP from a solid 2018 campaign. Romero has also held opposing hitters to a .209 AVG, and given the fact that he’s a couple years younger than most FSL opponents, Romero looks ready for a promotion.

38. Erik Ostberg, C
Age: 23 (10/12/1995)
Preseason Rank: 40
Current Level: A
.275/.383/.348, 1 HR, 0 SB, 13.6 BB%, 23.5 K%
Since being promoted to Midwest League in July, Ostberg has gone on to hit very well for a catcher in his first exposure to full-season ball. One interesting stat to note from Ostberg’s season so far is that he’s been mashing LHP as a lefty (.391/.440/.565), and has actually performed better against the platoon advantage in all 3 professional seasons to date.

39. Joe LaSorsa, LHP
Age: 21 (4/29/1998)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A-
30.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
An 18th Round pick out of St. Johns in this year’s MLB draft, LaSorsa has been near unhittable out of the Hudson Valley Renegades bullpen. He maintains control of the strike zone and has an advanced approach on the mound, as opposing bats have only managed to hit .157 AVG against him to this point in his career. LaSorsa may remain in a bullpen role throughout his development due to organizational depth, but he has starter stuff and could be the steal of the 2019 Draft for Tampa.


40. Simon Rosenblum-Larson, RHP
Age: 21 (02/11/1997)
Preseason Rank: 35
Current Level: A+
46.0 IP, 3.52 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 5.3 BB/9
SRL has struggled a bit with his command so far in his first taste of the Florida State League, but the Harvard product continues to be a key minor league bullpen piece for the Rays organization. He utilizes a low arm slot release to stymie hitters and has been very effective as a high strikeout closer, converting all 7 save opportunities this season.

41. Rodolfo Sanchez, RHP
Age: 19 (01/12/2000)
Preseason Rank: 41
Current Level: A-
46.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Sanchez had arguably the best outing of his career in his debut for Class A Short Season Hudson Valley (4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 9 K.) He’s had success in most of his 10 GS this season, including quality starts in his last two outings.

 

Tier 5:
42. Sandy Gaston, RHP

Age: 17 (12/16/2001)
Preseason Rank: 14
Current Level: ROK
22.2 IP, 4.37 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 6.8 BB/9
Gaston has plenty of velocity on his fastball, but in a limited sample size he’s struggled with his control throughout stretches this season. However, Gaston is almost three and a half years younger than his average opponent in the Gulf Coast League this season and experience may be the best remedy for his struggles. The ceiling still may be that of an ace, but at this point it may be a pipedream until he can more effectively command the offerings in his arsenal.

43. Garrett Whitley, OF
Age: 22 (3/13/1997)
Preseason Rank: 20
Current Level: A+
.227/.340/.411, 8 HR, 15 SB, 14.3 BB%, 36.7 K%
Whitley missed all of 2018 and got off too a slow start this season .218/.326/.388 pre All-Star break) He’s played better in the second half (.240/.358/.459 post All-Star break), but success may prove hard to come by for the former first round pick unless he can improve a 36.7 K%.

44. Austin Franklin, RHP
Age: 21 (10/02/1997)
Preseason Rank: 38
Current Level: A (Has not played since 2018 due to TJ surgery)
2018: 82.0 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
Franklin has not played in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. If recovery goes as expected, he should be ready for the 2020 minor league season.

45. Curtis Taylor, RHP
Age: 24 (07/25/1995)
Preseason Rank: 42
Current Level: AA
17.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
Taylor hasn’t played since May due to injury. Prior to the injury, the 6’6” RHP performed well as the Class-AA Montgomery Biscuits closer, converting 7 of 9 early season save opportunities. Even though his stint was brief this season, he was still named to the 2019 Southern League All-Star squad.

46. Dalton Kelly, 1B
Age: 25 (08/04/1994)
Preseason Rank: 44
Current Level: AAA
.280/.391/.409, 9 HR, 11 SB, 13.3 BB%, 23.2 K%
Kelly has fared well at both AA & AAA this season, batting .278 at each level. He’s even managed to boost his slugging percentage from .377 to 408 over the course of the season thanks to a.434 SLG in 54 games since promotion to AAA.)

47. Tristan Gray, 2B
Age: 23 (03/22/1996)
Preseason Rank: 45
Current Level: AA
.222/.326/.385, 13 HR, 2 SB, 11.8 BB%, 18.0 K%
Gray has played all of the 2019 season so far in AA Montgomery. After a very slow start, Gray’s bat seems to be showing signs of life in August. In his last 10 games, Gray is hitting .344 with 5 HR, 12 RBI and a 5:12 K/BB.

48. Resly Linares, LHP
Age: 21 (12/11/1997)
Preseason Rank: 18
Current Level: A+
4.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 2.57 WHIP, 3.9 K/9, 11.6 BB/9
Linares started only two games in the Florida State League before being diagnosed with a left forearm strain in early April. His struggles this season have been in an extremely limited sample size, so it’s best to play the wait-and-see approach with Linares.

49. Chris Betts, C
Age: 22 (03/10/1997)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: A
.215/.340/.410, 17 HR, 3 SB, 14.6 BB%, 27.0 K%
Betts won this year’s Midwest League Home Derby, beating finalist Alek Thomas with a sensational display of power. He has proven a solid offensive presence for his position and the ceiling may be even higher if he can lower his 27.0 K% this season, but may be blocked down the road given the organization’s solid depth. 


50. Estanli Castillo, OF
Age: 17 (10/07/2001)
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Level: ROK
.286/.316/.357, 2 HR, 6 SB, 4.7 BB%, 23.1 K%
Sleeper Alert: Another impressive international prospect from the Dominican Republic, Castillo’s power first caught public attention when he was only 14 years old. He signed with the Rays last season, and has shown signs of an aggressive hitter with a projectible frame that could benefit greatly from development within the Rays organization. 

 

Honorable Mentions:
Dylan Cozens, OF
Age: 25 (05/31/1994)
Preseason Rank: (33 on Phillies Preseason)
Current Level: AAA
.167/.333/.462, 6 HR, 5 SB, 20.2 BB%, 42.4 K%
Cozens was recently DFA’d by the Phillies at this years trade deadline, and subsequently signed a 2-year minor league deal with Tampa. He hit 40 HR in 2016 playing for AA Reading Fightin Phils, but his extreme swing-and-miss approach has severely limited his success in two brief major league stints.

Jim Haley, 1B
Age: 24 (02/23/1995)
Preseason Rank: 48
Current Level: AA
.271/.321/.396, 10 HR, 26 SB, 5.3 BB%, 22.2 K%
Haley has cooled down a bit since his promotion to AA (.280/.333/.403 in 345 PA in Class-A Advanced, .238/.283/.369 in 92 PA for AA Montgomery), but he’s made improvements on the basepaths to double his SB total from last season.

Osmy Gregorio, 3B
Age: 21 (5/27/1998)
Preseason Rank: 30
Current Level: A
.197/.271/.282, 5 HR, 16 SB, 8.4 BB%, 25.5 K%
Gregorio has struggled in his first exposure to full season baseball, but there is hope he can continue to grow into his 6’2” frame. There has always been some projection required with Gregorio, so the Rays development staff will have to do their magic to maximize his future value.

Connor Hollis, 3B
Age: 24 (11/18/1994)
Preseason Rank: 47
Current Level: A+
.265/.367/.427, 4 HR, 6 SB, 10.1 BB%, 18.3 K%
After a very successful 2018 against Rookie level pitching, Hollis has played for 3 different affiliates in the Rays organization this season. He’s a couple years older than the average age of his opposing competition in the Florida State League, so he will need to perform at a very high level to advance going forward.

Jelfry Marte, SS
Age: 18 (3/27/2001)
Preseason Rank: 34
Current Level: ROK
.186/.275/.216, 0 HR, 2 SB, 7.8 BB%, 26.0 BB%
Marte has struggled mightily against Appalachian League pitchers this season. It’s worth noting that the young switch-hitting shortstop performed admirably in 2018, batting .281 in his first season stateside after being signed from the Domican Republic just a couple years ago.




About Jake Wiener 4 Articles
Jake Wiener is a lifelong sports fan who leads Tampa Bay Rays minor league farm system coverage for the Prospects1500 team. Growing up playing baseball, Jake developed a love and genuine excitement for the game that grows stronger every year. Jake, who was born and raised in New York with family in Ohio, is a New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians fan. Jake participates in daily, redraft, dynasty and prospect-only fantasy baseball formats during each season and knows that when it comes to baseball, there truly is no offseason. Stay connected and feel free to reach out on Twitter @GatorSosa

4 Comments

    • Great question.. Mercado was assigned to Extended Spring Training in June, and there hasn’t been much reporting on him since. He struggled mightily last year (5.22 ERA, 1.42 WHIP), so he’ll need to pitch well once he comes out of the woodworks to make it back onto my rankings.

        • I was actually very impressed with Myers this season, ranking him 34th in this edition of my Top 50. Myers finished the MiLB season with a 2.13 ERA & 1.19 WHIP in 84.2 IP, and only got stronger as the season went on, as evidenced by his .202 BAA in 27.1 second half innings against more advanced competition.

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