Prospects to keep an eye on at each level of the Rays' system

April 4th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Opening Week has come and gone for the Rays, and baseball has returned to Durham Bulls Athletic Park as well. With the rest of Tampa Bay’s Minor League affiliates getting ready to take the field, let’s look at one player and pitcher to watch at each level of the Rays system.

Triple-A Durham

Player to watch: INF Junior Caminero (Rays No. 1 prospect, MLB No. 4)
Caminero is on the injured list due to a mild left quad strain, but there’s no doubt he’s the player to watch in this system -- and one of the best in all the Minors, as MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect. Caminero debuted in the Majors last season, but he still has work to do defensively (where he seems likely to settle at third base) and at the plate. He has as much bat speed and power as anyone, but he’ll be challenged by tougher pitching after jumping straight from Double-A to the Majors as a 20-year-old last September.

Pitcher to watch: LHP Jacob Lopez (No. 14)
Left-hander Mason Montgomery is the top-ranked prospect on this staff, but Lopez is perhaps the most likely to impact the big league club this season. Like Caminero, Lopez debuted down the stretch last year as injuries racked the Rays’ staff, and he could be called upon again sooner than later. Lopez pitched well last season, returning from Tommy John surgery to post a 2.68 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings over 26 outings (24 starts) in the Minors.

Other top prospects: Montgomery (No. 9), LHP Joe Rock (No. 19), OF Kameron Misner (No. 26), INF Ronny Simon (No. 27)

Double-A Montgomery
Opening Day:
Friday, 7:35 p.m. ET at Biloxi

Player to watch: SS Carson Williams (Rays No. 2, MLB No. 19)
Williams handled himself well in Major League Spring Training and seems to be on the fast track. He has had some swing-and-miss issues but has all the other tools to be a star -- legitimate power, impressive speed, a cannon of an arm and slick defensive actions at a premium position. Williams is also an eager learner with admirable leadership traits, especially for someone so young.

Pitcher to watch: RHP Cole Wilcox (No. 13)
Wilcox is the last man standing from the Rays’ return for Blake Snell. He pitched well when healthy in 2021, only to require Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of ’22 and left him without his best stuff last season. But Wilcox pitched a career-high 106 2/3 innings over 25 starts in Double-A last year, so he has a baseline workload to build on as he returns to Montgomery. If his mid-to-high 90s fastball, elite slider and progressing changeup come together, he should be a factor in Triple-A at some point.

Other top prospects: C Dominic Keegan (No. 6), INF Willy Vasquez (No. 17), LHP Ian Seymour (No. 20)

High-A Bowling Green
Opening Day:
Friday, 7:35 p.m. ET vs. Hudson Valley

Player to watch: 1B Xavier Isaac (Rays No. 4, MLB No. 55)
Isaac took full advantage of the Spring Breakout platform. The slimmed-down slugger mashed two homers and a double in the inaugural game, displaying his ability to hit and his promising power. You won’t find many prospects more motivated to prove themselves than Isaac, who is determined to show he’s more than just a one-dimensional masher by playing good defense and even adding value on the bases.

Pitcher to watch: RHP Yoniel Curet (No. 18)
The Rays put Curet on their 40-man roster over the winter, an indication of their belief in him despite how far he is from the Majors. The 21-year-old recorded a 2.46 ERA with 111 strikeouts over 80 1/3 innings in Single-A last year. He has obvious strengths, namely an elite fastball, but also obvious control concerns that could bump him to the bullpen. This is a big year for Curet to move up and potentially make himself a Major League option as soon as next season.

Other top prospects: INF Brayden Taylor (No. 5), OF Chandler Simpson (No. 12), OF Colton Ledbetter (No. 16), RHP Trevor Martin (No. 21), INF Cooper Kinney (No. 24)

Single-A Charleston
Opening Day:
Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET vs. Kannapolis

Player to watch: SS Adrian Santana (No. 7)
This isn’t necessarily a year to judge Santana by his batting line, as he’s still developing physically and must play his first full season in Single-A against older competition. The 18-year-old is a gifted defensive shortstop, however, and a premium runner as well. The club believes he will eventually develop into some power as he fills out his frame, so this season is primarily about mental and physical development and seeing what his future may hold.

Pitcher to watch: RHP Santiago Suarez (No. 10)
There’s an argument that Suarez is the best pitching prospect in the system. Acquired alongside Marcus Johnson in a November 2022 deal that sent Xavier Edwards and JT Chargois to the Marlins, Suarez has performed well in both of his professional seasons. The 19-year-old was challenged with a stateside assignment to begin last season and finished the year in Single-A, where he logged a 2.29 ERA over 19 2/3 innings. Suarez throws strikes and has a mindset that’s mature beyond his years, which should serve him well as he continues to move through the system.

Other top prospects: 1B Tre’ Morgan (No. 15), RHP Marcus Johnson (No. 22, on the IL to begin the season due to a loose body in his elbow), RHP Andrew Lindsey (No. 30)