The Tampa Bay Rays had a successful June draft, landing top two-way prospect Brendan McKay with the fourth pick, and their best prospects are shining even as they reach the big leagues. McKay won the John Olerud Award given to the best two-way college player three years in a row while at Louisville. McKay is not just a pitcher and hitter — that’s not so unusual in the college ranks — but scouts say he could be a premier pitcher or premier hitter in the big leagues. Most also say he must devote himself to one or the other to be successful. The Rays, though, plan to let him pitch and hit, at least in the beginning, to see if he can become the first major leaguer since Babe Ruth to have 100 innings pitched and 200 at-bats in a single season. His professional journey begins after the College World Series in Omaha.
Jacob Faria, the team’s #6 ranked prospect in my Rays Top 50 Prospects from January, has wowed the Rays in his first two starts, allowing only one hit in each. His record is 2-0, his ERA 1.42, his WHIP 0.95 as he struck out 13 in 12.2 innings.
Daniel Robertson, #14, continues to play stellar defense at second, third and shortstop. His offense needs improvement, as he has hit .209 with a .312 OBP in 134 at-bats in 2017. But his defensive prowess and versatility has him in the lineup virtually every day.
Prospects1500 ranked #24 Austin Pruitt, #9 Ryne Stanek, #45 Jose Alvarado, #7 Chih Wei Hu and #18 Hunter Wood have all performed well, if inconsistently, in the Rays’ bullpen. The Rays have shuttled the rookies up and down from AAA Durham as they need fresh arms.
At Durham, outfielder Jake Bauers, Prospects1500 Rays #3 prospect, has shown the most promise thus far, hitting 7 homers with 33 RBIs and a .275 batting average and .377 on-base percentage. Pitcher Jose DeLeon, who will be a top Rays prospect when rankings are updated, has seen big-league action as well but has been plagued by an arm injury that has limited his innings in Durham. Shortstop and #1 prospect Willy Adames has yet to take off, batting .256 with 4 homers and 29 ribbies.
At AA Montgomery, right fielder Cade Gotta (unranked) has 5 homers, 32 RBI, 18 stolen bases and a .337 batting average. Pitcher Mike Franco, also unranked, is 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 68.1 innings.
At High-A Charlotte, second basemen Brandon Lowe (unranked) has 9 homers, 25 RBI and a .335 average. Pitcher Genesis Cabrera , #34, is 4-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.04 WHIP and 56 strikeouts in 63.2 innings.
At Low-A Bowling Green, outfielder Jesus Sanchez, #11, leads the Hot Rods with 9 homers, 41 RBI and a .288 average. Shortstop Lucius Fox, #16, continues to be intriguing but inconsistent. He struck out five times on a Saturday, then had four hits on Sunday. He’s batting .285 for the season. Sanchez and Fox are each 19 years old. Unranked Bowling Green pitcher Brock Burke is 6-1 with a 1.60 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 61 strikeouts in 62 innings in 2017. The 6-4 lefty is now on the radar.
And now short-season Hudson Valley and rookie leagues Port Charlotte and Princeton prepare to commence their seasons. Catcher Chris Betts, #44, heads the Hudson Valley roster. Pitcher Austin Franklin, #21, has perhaps the highest ceiling on the Port Charlotte rookie league club.
Finally, Rule 5 pick Kevin Gadea, #22, remains on the disabled list because of a sore elbow. He may yet see time with the Rays or be returned to the Seattle Mariners.
Prospects1500 Rays #51: (not on the original Rays Top 50 list)
Greg Harris, whose father pitched in the major leagues, is a prospective bullpen arm for the Rays. He’s 3-5 with a 4.84 ERA in 12 games for the AA Montgomery Biscuits. But he has 63 strikeouts in 61.1 innings and if he can curb the long ball — he’s given up 11 homers this season — he could be a factor later this summer or next.
Article featured image of Jake Bauers – courtesy @DurhamBulls on Twitter and Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times