J. Lowe, Baz among Rays' Minors honorees

September 27th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays on Monday named outfielder their Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander their Minor League Pitcher of the Year, headlining their annual Minor League awards.

Lowe had a two-game cameo in the Majors earlier this month, making his debut at Fenway Park on Sept. 8, but he spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Durham. The athletic 23-year-old put all his talents on display throughout the season, hitting .291/.380/.538 with 21 homers, 26 steals, 28 doubles and 75 RBIs through 107 games.

Lowe became the first Durham player with a 20-homer, 20-steal season since Justin Ruggiano in 2007. The Rays’ No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Lowe ranks second among Tampa Bay Minor Leaguers in extra-base hits (51); third in total bases (207); fourth in doubles, RBIs, steals, runs (74) and walks (58); and is tied for fifth in homers.

Lowe has shown flashes of his ability since the Rays took him 13th overall in the 2016 Draft, but his breakout season helped him earn the No. 74 spot on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. Additionally, he was named the Triple-A Durham MVP by the Rays’ front office.

“It takes very talented and special players to show the power and speed combination he could,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said the day Lowe debuted in the Majors. “A lot of those Durham hitters have done really special things this year on the bases, at the plate or defensively. I think Josh has been right there at the top of the list of all of them.”

While the Rays’ crowded outfield hasn’t created much of an opportunity for Lowe this season, Baz has been able to cap his wild climb through the Minors into the big leagues -- and potentially into the postseason.

Tampa Bay’s top prospect went 5-4 with a 2.06 ERA, 113 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 17 starts between Double-A Montgomery and Durham. He also pitched in the All-Star Futures Game and took a few weeks away from affiliated ball to participate in the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA.

Baz harnessed his elite stuff by dramatically improving his control this season, helping him fly through the upper Minors and impress the Rays in his first two big league starts.

Right-hander Colby White was named the Rays’ Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. White, 23, has pitched for all four of Tampa Bay’s full-season affiliates this season, putting together a 1.52 ERA and a 0.66 WHIP with 99 strikeouts and 13 walks in 59 1/3 innings over 40 appearances. A sixth-round pick in the 2019 Draft, White is tied for first among Rays prospects with 10 saves and ranks seventh in strikeouts despite pitching out of the bullpen. He climbed from Low-A Charleston to High-A Bowling Green on June 10, then received a promotion to Double-A on Aug. 10 and advanced to Triple-A on Sept. 9.

Unsurprisingly, shortstop was named the Rays’ Minor League Defensive Player of the Year for the third straight season (also 2018-19). The slick-fielding Walls served two stints with the Rays, graduating from prospect status, and did enough in that time to rank fourth among MLB shortstops with 10 defensive runs saved. He had a combined .975 fielding percentage at three infield spots in the Minors, making only four errors in 163 chances.

Shortstop , the Rays’ No. 5 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 85 overall prospect, was named the club’s Minor League Baserunner of the Year. Jones, who hit .270/.366/.482 in 72 games between Bowling Green and Montgomery, stole 34 bases on 36 attempts, a 94.4 percent success rate. He ranks second among Rays prospects in stolen bases, and despite being promoted to Double-A on Aug. 10, tied for third in the High-A East with his 27 stolen bases for Bowling Green.

The Rays named Montgomery infielder Jim Haley the organization’s Erik Walker Community Champion, an award named after the former Minor League pitcher who died tragically in 2006 following his first season in professional baseball. The honor “recognizes a Rays Minor Leaguer who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement,” according to the team, and the Rays Baseball Foundation will make a $2,500 donation in Haley’s name to the nonprofit organization of his choice.

Additionally, the Rays named the Most Valuable Players for each of their five domestic affiliates. Lowe received the honor for Durham, infielder Jonathan Aranda for Montgomery, outfielder Jordan Qsar for Bowling Green, outfielder Diego Infante for Charleston and infielder Willy Vasquez for the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Rays.