The Tampa Bay Rays were one of Major League Baseball’s biggest surprises last season as they won 90 games -- good for third place in the American League East behind Boston and New York -- and finished above .500 for the first time in six years.
Much of that success was a product of the team’s strong crop of rookies, many of whom were fixtures on the Rays’ Top 30 prospects list a year ago, when MLB Pipeline ranked their farm system as the fourth-best among all 30 teams.
The system is in even better shape now, checking in at No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 10 systems, and has the big league club poised to compete well beyond just 2019.
The fact the Rays’ system has grown stronger in the past year, despite graduating players such as Willy Adames (No. 2 in ’18), Jake Bauers (No. 5), Christian Arroyo (No. 6), Yonny Chirinos (No. 21), Ryan Yarbrough (No. 26) and Diego Castillo (No. 30), underscores its impact potential moving forward.
Teenage phenom Wander Franco headlines a Rays Top 30 list teeming with high-ceiling prospects at premium positions and on the mound. He’s one of nine homegrown players inside the Top 10, and, overall, there are 22 players on this year’s list who entered the system via the Draft or international market.
Franco also is one of 13 players on the list with a Major League ETA of 2021, and the Rays have another 12 prospects projected to debut in the next two years. The latter group includes Brent Honeywell and Brendan McKay -- the organization’s first- and second-ranked pitching prospects, respectively -- a future leadoff man in Vidal Brujan and a bona fide masher in first baseman Nate Lowe. Of course, those are just a few of the names on a long list of probable Rays contributors in the coming years.
Here's a look at the Rays’ top prospects:
- Wander Franco, SS
- Brent Honeywell, RHP
- Brendan McKay, LHP/DH
- Jesus Sanchez, OF
- Matthew Liberatore, LHP
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2018 preseason list to the 2019 preseason list.
Jump: Nate Lowe, 1B (2018: NR | 2019: 8) -- He’s on the cusp of the big leagues after hitting .330/.416/.568 with 27 homers, 32 doubles and 102 RBIs across three levels.
Fall: Garrett Whitley, OF (2018: 9 | 2019: 28) -- The former first-rounder had right labrum surgery last spring and missed all of 2018.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 70 – Wander Franco
Power: 55 – Nate Lowe (Jesus Sanchez, Ronaldo Hernandez, Moises Gomez)
Run: 70 – Vidal Brujan (Lucius Fox)
Arm: 60 – Tanner Dodson (Franco, Hernandez, Josh Lowe, Nick Schnell, Alejandro Pie)
Defense: 60 – Josh Lowe (Taylor Walls)
Fastball: 65 – Colin Poche (Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Dodson)
Curveball: 60 – Matthew Liberatore (Austin Franklin)
Slider: 65 – Shane Baz (Dodson)
Changeup: 60 – Brent Honeywell (Ian Gibaut)
Other: 65 (screwball) – Honeywell
Control: 60 – Brendan McKay (Honeywell)
How they were built
Draft: 16 | International: 6 | Trade: 8 | Free agent: 0 | Rule 5: 0
Breakdown by ETA
2019: 8 | 2020: 6 | 2021: 13 | 2022: 2 | 2023: 1
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 1 | 2B: 5 | 3B: 0 | SS: 4 | OF: 6 | RHP: 7 | LHP: 6