A Prospect Perspective from the Rays-Padres Trade

Cam Gibson & Jake Cronenworth. Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays. Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, FL. March 26, 2018. Photo credit Tom Hagerty/MiLB.com on Flickr (lakelandlocal)

A major deal went down late Thursday night between the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres, just a few days before the official opening of this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego. The full details of the trade are below:

Rays Receive:

Padres Receive:


For the purposes of this article, I will mainly be discussing the prospects swapped in the deal; 2B/SS Xavier Edwards and SS/2B/RHP Jake Cronenworth, but it’s definitely worth noting the major league players being moved as well. It’s also important to mention that according to sources, there is a mutual agreement in place between the two clubs to nix the trade in the event that Pham’s recent right elbow injury is determined to be a cause for concern by Padres medical staff during post-agreement physicals over the weekend. Although possible, this scenario is highly unlikely and expect the trade to go through as planned.

This bold move has the opportunity to be beneficial for both organizations. Tommy Pham has been incredibly productive at the plate, averaging .284/.381/.475 with 22 HR and 22 SB over the last three seasons. Pham, similar to Renfroe, also has major league experience playing all three outfield positions. Hunter Renfroe, the former Padres first round pick, has flashed immense upside on both sides of the field. He hit 85 HR over the past three seasons and was named a National League Gold Glove finalist for the first time in his career last year, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t continue to improve on these facets of his game. At this stage in their respective careers, Tommy Pham has more experience and has been a more productive player than Hunter Renfroe, and in that regard the Padres immediately benefit from this deal. However, the prospects may be the pieces to ultimately define this trade. Let’s take a closer look: 

 

Jake Cronenworth

Age: 25 (01/24/1994) — 26 on Opening Day 2020

2019: .329/.422/.511, 10 HR, 12 SB, 11.9 BB%, 15.3 K%

7.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 9.8 BB/9

Jake Cronenworth experienced the biggest leap of any Rays prospects this season, moving up 30 spots from No. 46 in my 2019 Rays Preseason Top 50, to No. 16 in the Midseason update. Simply put, Cronenworth boomed in his fifth minor league season, as he was arguably the most dominant offensive force in the International League. In 88 games played last season, Cronenworth finished with the league’s highest average (.334) and on-base percentage (.429), earning the nod as starting shortstop for the 2019 AAA all-star game. The former 7th round selection was a two-way star for the University of Michigan before being selected in the 2015 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays as a second baseman.

After playing the previous four seasons with appearances all across the diamond (1B, 2B, 3B, SS and LF), Cronenworth took the mound and resumed pitching in his fifth minor league season. Although the sample size is small, the results have been promising so far. Cronenworth operated as an “opener” for AAA Durham last season, and did not allow a run across seven appearances. His pitching arsenal currently contains a mid-90s fastball and two breaking pitches, including a curveball that looks to be a very effective secondary offering for the promising two-way prospect. The Padres haven’t utilized the “opener” concept as frequently as the Rays to date (to their defense nobody does), but Cronenworth (who ranks second in saves all-time at the University of Michigan) has a track record of success and the natural talent to be a great piece for the Padres’ bullpen on days he’s not being used in the field or at the plate. After sustained adjustments at the highest minor league level last season, Cronenworth is a candidate to break camp with his new Major League club in an effort to secure everyday at-bats. If that does happen, Cronenworth can be a very solid and versatile contributor for a young Padres team looking to make a move towards postseason relevance.

 

Xavier Edwards

Age: 20 (08/09/1999) 

2019: .322/.375/.396, 1 HR, 34 SB, 7.8 BB%, 9.6 K%

Xavier Edwards, the 38th overall selection (Competitive Balance Round A) in the 2018 MLB draft, has done nothing but hit and steal bags at an impressive clip since his professional debut last June. Recently ranked 7th on our Padres 2019 midseason Top 50, he’s exhibited a mature plate approach and elite contact skills from both sides of the plate so far in his career, hitting .328 over 662 AB over the last two seasons. Edwards has also displayed a natural ability to be a gamechanger once he gets onto the basepaths. He already owns a plus-plus speed tool that he’s demonstrated consistently throughout the early stages of his minor league career, stealing 22 bags in 45 games in his 2018 debut and 34 last season across two levels. Edwards experienced success at the plate after a midseason promotion to Padres affiliate Class A-Advanced Lake Elsinore, hitting .301 with a 8.8 K%, the lowest at any level so far in his professional career. He even demonstrated continued improvements at his most recent stop, with 7 multi-hit games (.439 AVG) over his last 10 games of the season.

Although he doesn’t project for much power production now or in the future, it has become crystal clear that the smooth, switch-hitting middle infielder already has undeniable all-star potential that should help him evolve into a top of the order force for the Rays in a couple years. Edwards joins a farm system stacked with elite, contact-speed oriented middle infield prospects, such as Vidal Brujan (Prospects1500 No. 26 overall prospect) and Greg Jones (No. 119 overall.) Each of these young studs project to be key Major League contributors in the near future, so it will be interesting to see how, and where, the organization will work to develop each of their individual skill sets. Edwards could start next season with a promotion to a new level, AA Montgomery, perhaps receiving reps at second base as double-play partner to the best prospect in baseball, Wander Franco. Edwards also possesses the physical gifts and natural athleticism to translate to the outfield if deemed necessary due to organizational depth, giving the Rays renowned Player Development staff myriad ways to advance the über talented prospect. For now, Xavier Edwards can safely be considered as a Top 5 prospect in the Rays loaded system.

There are also rumors circulating that the Rays may receive an additional prospect as the PTBNL to finalize this transaction. Stay tuned for updates.




About Jake Wiener 8 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

3 Comments

  1. Heard today the Padres are now trying to move Myers. Wonder if they’ll have to pull one of those ‘Eat some salary & lose a prospect with him just to move him for something decent’ kinda deals with a team like Cincinnati or somebody.

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