There are very few organizations in baseball that rely on player development for success at the major league level as much as the Tampa Bay Rays. Although the Rays are on track to have the third-lowest payroll in baseball for 2023, there are very few concerns that the club will field a very competitive team in the upcoming season. This has become a trend, as the organization doesn’t spend up often, but they’ve made the playoffs in each of the last four years playing in one of the most competitive divisions in the entire sport.
A confluence of elite international signees and draft selections over the past several seasons have allowed the Rays organization to continuously remain one of the deepest in all baseball. Erik Neander and the Rays front office have become known as one of the savviest groups in the sport, to the point where other teams take notice when they are interested in a player. There may be no Wander Franco currently in the system, but the Rays organization is still flush with exciting young athletes, and the club has proven the ability to maximize those talents to develop players that make a difference at the next level.
Rays Minor League Affiliates:
Durham Bulls – Triple-A
Montgomery Biscuits – Double-A
Bowling Green Hot Rods – High-A
Charleston RiverDogs – Single-A
FCL Rays – Rookie
DSL Rays – Rookie
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 a high likelihood of making the Majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster
*= signifies member of 40-man roster
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2022
1. Kyle Manzardo, 1B, 21, Double-A
There were very few prospects in all of baseball that can match the meteoric rise Manzardo experienced in 2022. Manzardo followed up an impressive 2021 debut with a sensational effort, slashing .327/.426/.617 with 22 HRs in 93 games between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery. Manzardo represents a future middle of the order powerhouse with power and well above average bat-to-ball skills. The fact that he plays corner infield in a system consistently flush with middle infield talent should only expedite his road to Tampa if he can continue to produce at such a high level throughout his development.
Kyle Manzardo lines a homer over the right field wall and we’re up 3-0 after the first! pic.twitter.com/XDjM1RbihU
— Montgomery Biscuits (@BiscuitBaseball) August 30, 2022
2. Shane Baz*, RHP, 23, MLB
Baz has long been considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball since being drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, and he was starting to realize his potential in the Majors with the Tampa Bay Rays. After a brief, yet successful debut in 2021, Baz made several starts in 2022 and showcased his immense talents on the mound during his best outing of the season, allowing only two hits and striking out seven across six scoreless innings in Camden Yards. Baz underwent Tommy John surgery in late September and is expected to be out until the 2024 season, so here’s to hoping that he can pick back up where he left off upon his return as one of the game’s dominant young pitching prospects.
Shane Baz, Dirty 81mph Curveball…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/HT1e5siP6s
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 3, 2022
3. Curtis Mead*, 2B/3B, 22, Triple-A
The former international free agent from Australia just keeps hitting. Mead continued to perform at the plate in 2022, slashing .298/.390/.532 (142 wRC+) across the two highest levels in the Minors last season. He has established himself as a well-rounded hitter after posting similarly remarkable numbers last season in a larger sample size, and possesses defensive versatility across the infield that should make him a prime candidate to be an early season contributor for the Major League club next season.
“Mead didn’t miss it.”
Third-ranked @RaysBaseball prospect Curtis Mead hits a no-doubter for the @DurhamBulls. pic.twitter.com/KybtkVJqdH
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 13, 2022
4. Taj Bradley*, RHP, 21, Triple-A
The Rays’ fifth round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft has quickly solidified his status one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. Bradley continued his rapid ascent through the Rays organization last season, posting a 2.57 ERA across 28 starts (133.1 IP) between the two highest levels of the minors. Now considered by many analysts as a high-end Top 100 overall prospect, Bradley finished the 2022 season in Triple-A and has the demonstrated the upside to be a top of the rotation starter for the Major League club in the not-too-distant future.
Would you like 14 swings and misses from Taj Bradley’s Triple-A debut? Well, you’re in luck. pic.twitter.com/qCoLI47Jtl
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) July 25, 2022
5. Carson Williams, SS, 19, Single-A
Williams showcased a noteworthy blend of power and speed in his first full season in the Rays organization, hitting 19 HR and 28 SB across 113 games in Single-A Charleston. He also won the 2022 Minor League Gold Glove, earning recognition as the best defensive shortstop in the Minors last season. This blend of loud tools and mastery in the field provides Williams with a legitimate chance to be the top prospect in the system before he eventually makes his debut.
6. Junior Caminero, 3B, 19, Single-A
Caminero was acquired by Tampa last offseason from Cleveland and put together a very impressive performance in his first year with the organization. He hit 11 homers and stole 12 bases across 62 games while maintaining a healthy .314/.384/.498 slash line against older competition. Caminero has continued to display promising development in the Australian Baseball League this offseason, where he’s hit 9 homers in only 29 games played. He is still 18-years old and if the increase in power production is a sign of things to come, Caminero looks likely to continue his ascent towards the upper echelon of overall prospect rankings.
Big time home run from Junior Caminero 💣#ABL23 pic.twitter.com/pgsqNfDc3M
— Australian Baseball League (@ABL) January 6, 2023
7. Jonathan Aranda*, 1B/2B/3B, 24, MLB
Aranda has hit his way through the minors since his professional debut in 2016 and into the Rays Major league plans moving forward. Aranda destroyed opposing AAA pitchers to the tune of a 142 wRC+ across 104 games, earning himself the distinction of International League’s Most Valuable Player last season. Aranda played 1B, 2B and 3B across his 32 game Major League debut with the Rays in 2022 and is currently projected by Fangraphs to be the club’s Opening Day 1B.
8. Cole Wilcox, RHP, 23, Single-A
Wilcox recently recovered from Tommy John surgery and returned to pitch seven starts in 2022. Although brief, the former Georgia Bulldog finished the season strong, displaying an impressive ability to control the strike zone by only giving up four walks across his seven games started. In his last game of the season, Wilcox pitched three perfect innings and looks to build off that momentum next year with potential upside as high as any pitcher yet to make their Major League debut in the system.
9. Brock Jones, OF, 21, Single-A
The former two-sport athlete at Stanford University has settled in quite nicely as a professional baseball player within the Rays organization. Jones spent six games in the Florida Complex League before a promotion to Single-A Charleston, where he then proceeded to hit 4 homers and 9 stolen bases across only 13 games. Jones’ elite athleticism and natural instincts should allow him to remain in centerfield as he continues to develop the offensive aspects of his profile. If the end of his first professional season is any indication of his upside, the Rays, and dynasty managers, could be looking at a very special talent.
10. Mason Montgomery, LHP, 22, Double-A
The Rays sixth round pick from the 2021 MLB draft was a dominant force in his first full season, pitching to the tune of a 2.10 ERA and 12.4 K/9 between the two highest levels in the minors on his way to earning the distinction of Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Montgomery has a projectable lefty frame and utilizes a deceptive delivery that has allowed his 4-seam fastballs and secondary offerings to effectively neutralize opposing hitters. He finished off the season on a high note in Double-A Montgomery, allowing 1 or fewer runs in his last 5 starts, and looked to have the ingredients required to develop into a potential ace if he can continue on his current trajectory.
11. Mason Auer, OF, 21, High-A
Auer proved to be one of the biggest risers in the system from the 2021 Draft class by putting on a show in his first full professional season. The former JuCo standout slashed .290/.372/.487 and hit 15 homers with 48 stolen bases in 115 games between Single-A Charles and High-A Bowling Green, nabbing 24 steals at each stop. The combination of present tools at the plate and impressive projectable athleticism should help Auer as he develops within the Rays organization.
Mesa strikes during power Auer!
Mason Auer goes deep to tie the ball game at Sloan Park! #AFL22 @RaysBaseball pic.twitter.com/8RruXtA6Yl
— MLB’s Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 9, 2022
12. Carlos Colmenarez, SS, 19, Rookie (FCL)
The former top international prospect has exhibited signs of becoming another highly talented middle infield prospect destined to make an impact within the Rays organization. Colmenarez demonstrated solid plate discipline in 2022 with a .379 OBP and was productive on the base paths with 13 stolen bases across 35 games in the Florida Complex League. He looks likely to begin the next season with Single-A Charleston for the first full season test of his professional career.
13. Xavier Isaac, 1B, 19, Rookie (FCL)
The Rays 2022 first round pick has drawn comparisons to Ryan Howard for his stature and massive raw power potential from the left side of the plate, but don’t tell Xavier Isaac that. “I want to be Xavier Isaac. And I want everybody to know I’m Xavier Isaac.” He profiles as a corner infielder or designated hitter going forward due to his size, but the young slugger is adamant that there is speed to his game as well. “I’m going to be more mobile than him and I have more speed.” The addition of stolen bases to Isaac’s offensive profile would make him a very interesting prospect to monitor going forward at the position.
14. Kameron Misner, OF, 25, Double-A
Misner was acquired from the Marlins last offseason in the Joey Wendle trade and has continued to establish himself as an exciting prospect with the Rays system. He possesses an exciting power-speed combo, as he was one of only three players (Yoelquis Céspedes and Misner’s Montgomery Biscuit teammate Brett Wisely) in the Southern League to hit 15+ homers and steal 30+ bases last season. Misner gets on base at an elite clip (.384 OBP across 510 PA last season) and possesses immense physical potential, but will look to improve on his plate discipline to avoid becoming a three true outcome hitter at the next level.
15. Heriberto Hernandez, OF, 23, High-A
Hernandez has one of the most powerful swings in the entire organization, setting a High-A Bowling-Green single-season record with 24 homers last season. He also impressed on the base paths by adding 6 stolen bases, a skill that has flown under the radar through his minor league career. He was once heralded in dynasty circles for his catcher eligibility, but he hasn’t played behind the plate during his tenure in the Rays organization and his eligibility likely resides in the outfield or at first base. However, his carrying tool is his bat and his success is likely predicated on his ability to continue mashing at a high level.
Heriberto Hernandez has swung himself into the @BGHotRods record books.
The No. 18 @RaysBaseball prospect tied the Bowling Green single-season home run record with his 22nd and 23rd dingers of the year: https://t.co/HlttQLXbr7 pic.twitter.com/LCRGeAxyYp
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 29, 2022
16. Osleivis Basabe, 2B/SS/3B, 22, Double-A
Basabe has displayed sensational contact ability throughout his minor league career, and the trend continued last season as he slashed .324/.385/.462 between two levels. His ability to hit for contact at a high rate while striking out at a low rate makes him an intriguing prospect if he can add any additional power to his approach. Basabe was added to the Tampa Bay Rays 40-Man Roster this offseason and looks to be a candidate to contribute sometime in 2023 if he can continue to rake in the minors.
17. Nick Bitsko, RHP, 20, Single-A
Bitsko was seen by many as an analytics darling coming out of high school when he was drafted in the first round of the 2020 MLB draft. He underwent labrum surgery shortly after being drafted and made his professional debut across two levels last season. Bitsko possesses some of the best raw talent of any arm in the system, pairing an electric fastball with a hammer curveball when he’s on his game. He will likely start next season where he left off as a member of the Single-A Charleston starting rotation and possesses significant upside under the guidance of the Rays pitching development staff.
18. Willy Vasquez, SS/3B, 21, Single-A
Vasquez followed up a Rookie-FCL Rays MVP performance from his professional debut in 2019 with an impressive first full season effort in 2022, hitting 10 HR with 25 SB across 113 games with Single-A Charleston. Vasquez continued to swing a hot stick in the Australian Baseball League this offseason, slashing .351/.455/.541 across his first 10 games. If he can continue his strides to hit for average next season, he could be a very well-rounded offensive prospect.
19. JJ Goss, RHP, 22, Single-A
Goss had several stretches of dominance last season, including July (1.73 ERA and .156 BAA across five starts, 26 IP) and towards the latter part of the season where he worked a no hitter for 5 innings. He has a history of controlling the zone with only two walks allowed across the first 27 IP of his professional career and demonstrated solid secondary offerings as the season progressed that helped to improve his strikeout numbers.
20. Greg Jones*, SS, 24, Double-AA
Jones presents an intriguing combination of bat speed and lightning-fast sprint speed, hitting 27 homers and 71 stolen bases over the past two seasons. He has stolen over 30 bases in each of the last two years; and while he consistently excels on the base paths and in the field due to his athleticism, consistency at the plate will ultimately determine his upside. Jones finished the 2021 season and spent the 2022 season with Double-AA Montgomery before being added to the Rays 40-man roster this offseason, so it will be interesting to see if he starts next season with Triple-AAA Durham or if the Rays decide it is best for his offensive progression to spend additional time in Montgomery.
Greg Jones, dead central.
The No. 4 @RaysBaseball prospect connects on a long home run for @BiscuitBaseball! pic.twitter.com/Cfo9HfGO6a
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 15, 2022
21. Cooper Kinney, 2B, 19, Rookie (FCL)
Kinney missed the entire 2022 season after experiencing a shoulder injury diving into a base during Spring Training that required surgery. He showed promise in his brief professional debut in 2021, earning a 143 wRC+ across 11 games with more walks than strikeouts. Looking forward to seeing how the bat-first middle infielder continues to perform upon his return from injury as this may be a good buy-low point due to the missed as he develops within the Rays organization.
22. Ryan Spikes, 2B, 19, Single-A
Spikes is a personal favorite. Drafted out of high school with the 100th overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft, he routinely generates hard contact with high exit velocities and has proven the capability to contribute offensively with 10 homers and 17 steals across 74 games in his full season debut with Single-A Charleston in 2022. Spikes displayed his significant upside at the plate in June, when he slashed .323/.417/.613 across 62 at-bats.
23. Ian Seymour, LHP, 24, Triple-AAA
Seymour was one of the best pitchers in the entire organization in 2021 as he dominated opposing hitters across three levels, reaching Triple-A just over two months into his professional career. Unfortunately, Seymour was injured early into the 2022 season and underwent Tommy John surgery in May. A return to the form that he previously demonstrated (1.95 ERA and 40.7 K% across 55.1 IP in 2021) would once again raise his stock as one of the more appealing pitching prospects in the system.
24. Ryan Cermak, OF, 21, Rookie (FCL)
25. Logan Workman, RHP, 24, High-A
26. Chandler Simpson, 2B/SS, 22, Rookie (FCL)
27. Austin Shenton, 1B/3B, 24, Double-A
28. Shane Sasaki, OF, 22, Single-A
39. Sandy Gaston, RHP, 21, Single-A
30. Ronny Simon, 2B/3B, 22, Double-A
31. Dru Baker, OF, 22, High-A
32. Patrick Wicklander, LHP, 23, High-A
33. Alika Williams, SS, 23, Triple-A
34. John Doxakis, RHP, 24, Double-A
35. Colby White*, RHP, 24, Triple-A
Cermak flashed loud tools in a limited sample size, and will be a fun prospect to follow into his full season debut as he continues to develop. Sasaki exploded onto the scene in his first full professional season in 2022, finishing Top 5 in the Carolina League in both average (.324, 5th) and stolen bases (47, 3rd). Gaston possesses an electric arsenal, but his ability to control his offerings will ultimately determine his ceiling as a potential starter or high-leverage reliever at the next level. Baker slashed .297/.399/.467 with 21 stolen bases across 47 games last season and could be a fast riser with a repeat performance in 2023. Williams played across three levels for the second straight season, finishing both with Triple-A Durham, indicating the organization’s investment in his individual development. White underwent Tommy John surgery early 2022 but was one of the most dominant relief prospects in baseball in Triple-A before going down, posting a 1.44 ERA and 15.0 K/9 across four different levels in 2021.
36. Angel Mateo, OF, 17, Rookie (DSL)
37. Jacob Lopez, LHP, 24, Double-A
38. Niko Hulsizer, OF, 25, Triple-A
39. Dominic Keegan, C, 22, Single-A
40. Ben Peoples, RHP, 21, High-A
41. Diego Infante, OF, 23, Triple-A
42. Blake Hunt, C, 24, Double-A
43. Tanner Murray, 2B/3B, 23, High-A
44. Jalen Battles, SS, 23, Rookie (FCL)
45. Ben Brecht, LHP, 25, High-A
46. Ruben Cardenas, OF, 25, Triple-A
47. Daiveyon Whittle, RHP, 23, Single-A
48. Alejandro Pie, 3B, 20, Double-A
49. Tristan Gray, SS/3B, 26, Triple-A
50. Jeffrey Hakanson, RHP, 24, Rookie (FCL)
Mateo won the DSL Rays team MVP in 2022 with 7 homers and 10 stolen bases in 52 games and shows promise as a young player that could slingshot up the rankings next season. Hulsizer aka “The Hulksizer” is perpetually one of my favorite prospects in the system, displaying an enticing combination of power and speed with 19 homers and 16 stolen bases in 80 games between the two highest levels of the minors in 2022. Brecht is an interesting lefty arm with an imposing 6’7″ frame and gave up one or fewer runs in each of his first seven starts last season. Whittle has an attitude and arsenal that have thoroughly impressed me during his tenure with the Rays organization and I look forward to seeing him continue to progress after returning from surgery last season. Pie played across four levels in 2022, making it all the way Double-AA, but still needs time to develop in the lower levels of the system to harness the potential physical talents packed into his projectable 6’4″ frame. Gray has massive raw power and led the Triple-A International League with 33 homers last season, but will look to improve upon a .282 OBP before earning a promotion.
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
How’s Estanli Castillo’s upside?
Castillo is a solid athlete with impressive on-base abilities, but current lack of power may limit his offensive upside.
Jacob Lopez? He’s coming back and going light it up this year ppl downplay him and overlook him
Where does Grant Witherspoon land in the top prospects? I noticed he wasn’t in the top 50 for the Rays.