Spring Breakout a unique opportunity for young Rays talent to share field

No. 2 prospect Williams could lead inaugural team of Tampa Bay's best youngsters

February 16th, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Since being selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft, has taken the field alongside a lot of Tampa Bay’s top prospects.

The 20-year-old shortstop, MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect and the club’s No. 2 prospect, could get an opportunity next month to share the field with even more of them.

Williams is currently getting his feet wet in his first Major League Spring Training camp, but he figures to be a top candidate for the Rays’ inaugural Spring Breakout roster, a new MLB initiative aimed at showcasing baseball’s best young talent by pitting teams of each organization’s top prospects against each other in exhibition games throughout Florida and Arizona.

“I feel like I’ve played with a lot of our top prospects, just throughout the organization and during Spring Training,” Williams said Friday. “So put all those guys on a team together and put them against another team, it’s super cool.”

The team of Rays prospects is scheduled to face a team of Twins prospects at 4:05 p.m. E.T. on March 16 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. That will take place immediately after a traditional Rays-Twins Grapefruit League game at 1:05 p.m. It’s one of the 12 Spring Breakout games that will be played as part of a traditional doubleheader with the Major League Spring Training game that day.

“I think it’s exciting. I think it’s great for the game. You get some really good players all on the field at one time, playing against each other in front of hopefully some good crowds in Major League stadiums,” Rays senior director of player development Blake Butera said. “It’s right after our Major League game, so it gives the fans an opportunity. They’re already coming to the game to see the Major League team play, so they can hang around and watch some of the next ones up. I think it’s great.”

MLB announced more details regarding the event on Thursday, including the following information:

• Each roster will be constructed using MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Prospects list for the club as its foundation, and all players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list are eligible to participate. For the Rays, that includes Junior Caminero, Williams, Curtis Mead and Xavier Isaac.

• Rosters will be revealed live on a special MLB Network program on March 7 at 11 a.m. E.T., co-hosted by Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds. The broadcast will be simulcast on MLB’s digital platforms.

• Nearly all the games will be broadcast live and blackout-free on MLB’s digital platforms (MLB.com, MLB.TV and the MLB app), and MLB Network will air five games live. The Rays’ game was not on the initial broadcast schedule announced Thursday.

• Tickets for all games are on sale now.

Two of the Rays’ top four prospects, Caminero and Mead, have played in the Majors. Mead is competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, and Caminero seems poised to make a big impact this season whenever he’s called up. Both are already in camp at Charlotte Sports Park, as are Williams and top catching prospect Dominic Keegan.

But there are some fun possibilities for Tampa Bay’s Spring Breakout roster, like having Williams line up at shortstop with top 2023 Draft pick Brayden Taylor at third base and Isaac at first while Keegan works behind the plate. Those players might not often take the field together outside of Spring Training drill work, as they’re at varying points on their developmental path, but seeing the potential future of the organization together at the same time is the whole point of an event like Spring Breakout.

“It’s something we do in Spring Training. We enjoy putting those guys together and seeing them work together,” Butera said. “It’ll be fun to see them on the field together playing an actual game. It’s hard to do, but I can only imagine it being beneficial.”