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Prospect Poche making strong first impression

MLB.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Colin Poche's fastball won't light up the radar gun, but it proved to be one of the most effective pitches in the Minors last season.

Poche, 25, is one of the non-roster invitees this spring after completing one of the most dominant seasons in the Minor Leagues in 2018. Between Double-A and Triple-A, the left-hander struck out 110 batters in just 66 innings, en route to posting a 0.82 ERA last season.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Colin Poche's fastball won't light up the radar gun, but it proved to be one of the most effective pitches in the Minors last season.

Poche, 25, is one of the non-roster invitees this spring after completing one of the most dominant seasons in the Minor Leagues in 2018. Between Double-A and Triple-A, the left-hander struck out 110 batters in just 66 innings, en route to posting a 0.82 ERA last season.

Perhaps more impressive than his numbers is the fact that Poche's main pitch is a fastball that sits at about 92 mph.

"I know that guy has an invisible fastball," Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo said. "He's left-handed, and he has a spin rate that's off the charts."

Ciuffo, who spent most of the 2018 season withTriple-A Durham working with Poche, believes the reliever will make an impact at the big league level at some point in 2019.

"He makes some guys look really bad," Ciuffo said. "He's really, really good, and he's going to help this team out a lot in the future."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Poche, the Rays' No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was a player-to-be-named in the deal that sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the D-backs last spring. Prior to setting sail for Tampa Bay, Poche said he started to feel there was a possibility he could end up being a part of the trade.

"They have scouts at Spring Training, and you can tell which players they're looking at because when you're throwing a bullpen, they'll put a camera up for you and not for others," he recalled. "You kind of know about it, but at the end of the day, you don't really know."

A couple of months later, the deal was finalized and Poche, along with Sam McWilliams, headed to Tampa Bay.

"It was an interesting situation," he said. "But I'm definitely happy to be here."

The Rays are also happy to have Poche in the organization. It hasn't taken long for him this spring to turn some heads.

Wednesday was the first time manager Kevin Cash got a chance to meet and watch Poche pitch, and he came away impressed with what he saw out of the lefty reliever.

Video: Kevin Cash discusses his first day back, rain

"I was going to joke around with him that he needed to do this better, and I was like forget it, man," Cash said Wednesday. "I sat behind him, and you see that something is different. He really hides the ball well, and when it comes out, he has a lot of that elite-pitch action to the fastball."

Despite his success last season, Poche is focused on 2019. The fastball will continue to be his primary pitch, but pitching coach Kyle Snyder and Poche have discussed developing a split-finger and a forkball in camp.

"We're just trying to get something that has some depth going down toward the plate because of the way the fastball backspins," Poche said. "It kind of seems like it rises to the hitters, so anything that I throw that stays on the same plane and then goes the opposite way is going to be beneficial."

Poche said that it's "really encouraging" to hear Cash tell him to just do what has been working. While Poche's mission is to make the Opening Day roster, he won't put any added pressure on himself.

"It's not something that I can control," he said. "For me, I'm more focused on going out and performing so the people think I deserve that spot."

In just one spring bullpen, Poche is starting to build his case to break camp with the Rays.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

Tampa Bay Rays, Colin Poche

Rays two-way prospect McKay to DH only in '19

MLB.com

Brendan McKay is still going to be a two-way player, but the Rays are planning to narrow his focus on the hitting side by keeping him to designated-hitter-only duties, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Juan Toribio on Monday.

This season, McKay's schedule will be to pitch one day, take the next day off, and then strictly DH until his next game on the mound.

Brendan McKay is still going to be a two-way player, but the Rays are planning to narrow his focus on the hitting side by keeping him to designated-hitter-only duties, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Juan Toribio on Monday.

This season, McKay's schedule will be to pitch one day, take the next day off, and then strictly DH until his next game on the mound.

According to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, who first reported the Rays' plans for McKay, the team thinks it will help McKay's development if he doesn't have to juggle all the responsibilities of pitching, hitting and playing first base. The Rays also hope the move to DH will help McKay stay healthy after he dealt with oblique injuries last year.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"This is all about prioritizing the things we think are most important in Brendan's development at this stage," Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom told Topkin. "This will allow him to organize his pregame program more efficiently and keep his in-game focus on the areas we think are most critical to his development."

The 23-year-old McKay is ranked as the No. 29 overall prospect entering 2019 by MLB Pipeline, as well as the No. 3 left-handed pitching prospect, No. 4 first-base prospect and was the Rays' No. 2 overall prospect in '18. But in his first full professional season last year, McKay was much better as a pitcher than as a hitter.

McKay pitched 19 games in 2018 between Rookie ball, Class A and Class A Advanced, and compiled a 2.41 ERA and 103 strikeouts to just 14 walks in 78 1/3 innings. In his 75 games, he slashed .214/.368/.359 with six home runs.

Bloom told Topkin that the Rays moving McKay to DH in 2019 doesn't change their plans to keep developing him as a two-way player, and that McKay could also eventually return to playing first base.

David Adler is a reporter and researcher for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Tampa Bay Rays

Inbox: How will potential new rule affect Rays?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers fans' questions
MLB.com

How would the proposed three-batter minimum impact a team like the Rays, who think so differently on pitcher usage?
-- @k_tools

For those who don't know, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that MLB is considering implementing some big rule changes for the 2019 season, one of them being a requirement for pitchers to face at least three batters each outing.

How would the proposed three-batter minimum impact a team like the Rays, who think so differently on pitcher usage?
-- @k_tools

For those who don't know, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that MLB is considering implementing some big rule changes for the 2019 season, one of them being a requirement for pitchers to face at least three batters each outing.

This rule would definitely affect and alter the way Tampa Bay -- and every other team in the league -- approaches its roster, especially the bullpen. It would affect guys like Adam Kolarek, who is much more efficient against left-handed hitters than he is against righties. But aside from that, the rule change wouldn't affect a lot of the players on the 40-man roster due to the fact that the Rays have a good amount of players who can pitch multiple innings.

The opener role received a lot of attention last season, but in the strategy, the Rays looked for their opening pitchers, like Ryne Stanek, to get through at least one inning. It wasn't until Brewers manager Craig Counsell used Wade Miley for just one hitter against the Dodgers in the playoffs that the perception of the opener began to change. If the rule were to be implemented, it would affect the game in ways, but the Rays have plenty of multi-inning options out of the bullpen. There aren't many teams in the league that are better in adapting than Tampa Bay.

Video: Counsell on removing Miley after one batter in Game 5

Is there any chance the Rays will go for at least one of the experienced relievers in the free-agent market? There are still some guys who have pretty solid arms, like Ryan Madson, AJ Ramos, Tony Sipp, Jake Diekman, Bud Norris, or Craig Kimbrel?
-- @whsxpfl26

There's always a chance of a team adding a player during Spring Training, but the Rays feel confident in their bullpen and will likely go into camp with what they have. Tampa Bay understands that the best way for the young players to keep improving is by giving them a chance and seeing what they're able to accomplish. If the younger players struggle, the Rays could go with one of the non-roster invitees or go out into the free-agent market and add a veteran on a one-year deal.

Any chance the Rays bring back Carlos Gomez or Sergio Romo on a one-year or Minor League deal? They both seemed like great clubhouse leaders, and I'm surprised they are both still available.
-- @acardinali88

Because of the way the roster is constructed, there's a better chance of Romo coming back than Gomez, although neither is expected back. Romo is reportedly close to signing a one-year deal with an undisclosed team, and Gomez is still waiting for his interest to pick up. They made key contributions to the team last season, especially with the younger players, but because of all the young players in the outfield and in the bullpen, it's probably in the best interest for the parties invovled to go their separate ways.

Video: TOR@TB: Romo K's Smoak, earns 25th save

Any chance at seeing Lucius Fox on the big club?
-- @AidenOnAir

You'll get a chance to see Fox with the big league club during Spring Training, as he's one of 24 non-roster invitees. It's unlikely Fox will see time in the Majors once the season begins, but he could make an appearance in September as a pinch-runner if the Rays are in contention and need a good basestealer. Other than that, it's probably a safe bet to see Fox in Triple-A Durham next season, where he hopes to continue to climb as one of the best prospects in the Rays' organization (he's ranked No. 9, per MLB Pipeline).

Do you get the sense that the Rays' front office doesn't really think 2019 is the first year of their window to really try to compete, or is this current iteration of the roster is really what they had in mind going into the offseason? I want to trust the process, but it also feels that we're just a few moves away from really competing, and that we missed the chance to make some of those moves.
-- @ZachBellesq

I don't think the Rays feel they're not ready to compete in 2019, and while they didn't necessarily make a splash by adding a big bat to the lineup this offseason, they did go out and spend money on Charlie Morton in order to bolster the rotation. Tampa Bay believes it can make a run at the playoffs in '19, but the club is not limiting itself to just this season. The Rays want to continue to build a roster that will be good in '19 and beyond.

Video: Rays, Charlie Morton in agreement on 2-year deal

With that being said, if Tampa Bay jumps out to a good start this season and believes it can make a run at a title, the Rays will be an active team around the non-waiver Trade Deadline in order to add to the roster. Until then, they are going to be aggressive, but also mindful of the fact that they have a young core that has the potential to make the club a yearly contender in the American League.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

Tampa Bay Rays

Bright future: Rays land 6 prospects on Top 100

MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Saturday, MLB Pipeline unveiled its Top 100 prospects heading into the 2019 season, and the Rays are well represented once again.

On this year's list, the Rays have six players in the Top 100, which ties them for third with the White Sox and Astros. Only the Padres (10) and the Braves (eight) have more players listed than Tampa Bay.

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Saturday, MLB Pipeline unveiled its Top 100 prospects heading into the 2019 season, and the Rays are well represented once again.

On this year's list, the Rays have six players in the Top 100, which ties them for third with the White Sox and Astros. Only the Padres (10) and the Braves (eight) have more players listed than Tampa Bay.

:: Complete 2019 Top 100 Prospects coverage ::

Shortstop Wander Franco leads the way for the Rays, as the 17-year-old makes his debut on the preseason Top 100 list as the No. 13 prospect after a dominant performance, finishing with a .351/.418/.587 slash line and connecting on 11 home runs in just 61 games in Rookie ball. Right-handed pitcher Brent Honeywell comes in as the No. 28 prospect, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. Two-way player Brendan McKay checks in at No. 29, giving Tampa Bay three players in the top 30.

The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB Pipeline Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2019 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.

Outfielder Jesus Sanchez (No. 39), 2018 first-round Draft pick Matthew Liberatore (No. 55) and catcher Ronaldo Hernandez (No. 84) round out the list for the Rays.

With the six players listed in the 2019 preseason Top 100, the Rays have now had more players (62) than any other team on the Top 50/100 preseason lists. They're also one of five teams that have had at least one player on all 16 lists, dating back to '04.

Video: Top Prospects: Wander Franco, SS, Rays

The Rays finished with 358 prospect points, which is only behind the Padres (574), Braves (429) and White Sox (397). This shows how the clubs rank in terms of representation on the Top 100 list, with each prospect on the list being assigned a point value as follows: 100 for No. 1; 99 for No. 2; 98 for No. 3, etc. The 358 points for the Rays in 2019 is the highest for the organization since compiling 428 points in '08.

Tampa Bay also made history earlier this week as the organization had 10 players (with McKay listed twice; once as a pitcher and once as a hitter) listed on the MLB Pipeline Top 10 positional lists. That's the most any organization has had listed in a single year since the inaugural list in 2011.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

Tampa Bay Rays

Honeywell on mend, excited about 2019

Rays prospect recovering from Tommy John, keeping expectations in check
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Rays won 90 games in 2018 and, to a degree, had a successful season, the club was unable to reach the postseason for the fourth straight season. As Brent Honeywell watched the team play, he couldn't help but think, "What if?"

"I think every day, what would've been the difference if I was there," Honeywell told the media Friday. "That's just the way I think. That's just the way I go about this game. I want to win as soon as possible. I'm going to do everything in my power to win games as soon as possible."

ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Rays won 90 games in 2018 and, to a degree, had a successful season, the club was unable to reach the postseason for the fourth straight season. As Brent Honeywell watched the team play, he couldn't help but think, "What if?"

"I think every day, what would've been the difference if I was there," Honeywell told the media Friday. "That's just the way I think. That's just the way I go about this game. I want to win as soon as possible. I'm going to do everything in my power to win games as soon as possible."

Honeywell, the organization's top pitching prospect and the No. 28 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, was one of several players in attendance for a voluntary workout at Tropicana Field. He has spent most of his offseason at the stadium as he continues to rehab from the Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2018 season.

It's been 11 months since the injury, and Honeywell said he's in better shape heading into 2019 and he hasn't suffered any setbacks during rehab.

Inbox: What's in store for Duffy?

"Everything is going good," the 23-year-old said. "Main thing is, I can't look too far ahead. I don't want to get behind, but at the same time, I don't want to do something to counteract everything I've done the last 11 months."

Over the last three weeks, Honeywell has been throwing his fastball, changeup and screwball and has been able to ramp it up a little more each time out. His progression is coming along and while the Rays hope to get Honeywell back sometime around June or July, they won't rush the right-hander as he projects to be a key piece of the team's rotation for the next couple of seasons.

Tweet from @juanctoribio: #Rays pitchers Yonny Chirinos (left) and Brent Honeywell (right) getting some work in today pic.twitter.com/1Up9L5qtPM

"Obviously with the prospect status and everything he has done in the Minor Leagues with the Rays up to this point, he's a special case," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure that we temper some of those expectations."

Before suffering the injury last spring, Honeywell was projected to make a contribution at the big league level in 2018. He flashed his strikeout potential at Triple-A, striking out 152 batters in 123 2/3 innings of work.

When healthy, Honeywell has the potential to help a Rays rotation that will be headlined by Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. It's a rotation that, when fully healthy, Honeywell believes could be the best in baseball.

"It's going to be the best in baseball. We have a Cy Young winner on our team. Two of them," he said, referring to Snell and potentially Morton. "We're close. We're close."

Other Rays injury notes
Jose De Leon, who also suffered a torn UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery during last year's Spring Training, is on a similar schedule with Honeywell. The 26-year-old Puerto Rican right-hander is hoping to be pitching in Minor League games by May.

"I don't want to get too much ahead," he said Friday. "But I'm 26, and I'll be 27 this year, so the time is now. I feel really good. Today has been the best day I've felt so far."

Wilmer Font, who was acquired from Oakland in May, began throwing bullpen sessions last week. Font suffered a lat strain during his June 29 start against the Astros. Originally, the expected recovery time was two months, but Font continued to feel discomfort and went to New York to see a specialist. He was told that no surgery would be needed, but that the recovery was going to take some time.

Font began throwing bullpen sessions last week and has been limited to just his fastball. However, he said Friday that the plan is to start throwing his changeup next week and be 100 percent when Spring Training begins on Feb. 13.

"Physically, I feel excellent," Font said, in Spanish. "I've been throwing bullpens without any discomfort. I'm just working out over here five days a week."

Video: NYY@TB: Font strikes out Judge in the 1st

• Catcher Michael Perez, who suffered a left hamstring injury on Aug. 28 that ended his season, played a couple of winter ball games in his home country of Puerto Rico. He was in attendance for Friday's workout and said he's "completely" ready to go for Spring Training. Perez projects as the backup catcher behind newly acquired Mike Zunino.

Other players in attendance for Friday's workout included Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos and Glasnow.

Tropicana Field going cash-free in 2019
On Friday, the Rays announced that, in partnership with hospitality partner Levy and tech firm E15, Tropicana Field will become the first cash-free sports venue in North America.

The concessions, team stores and box offices will operate cash-free. Forms of payment accepted at concession stands and retail stores inside the ballpark will include major credit cards, Rays gift cards, NFC mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and Season Ticket Holder Rays Cards. 

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brent Honeywell

Rays sign touted Cuban RHP prospect Gaston

MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays announced on Thursday that they have signed international free agent right-handed pitcher Sandy Gaston to a Minor League contract. The Matanzas, Cuba, native is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and he will turn 17 on Dec. 16. Gaston's signing bonus is worth $2.61 million, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. El Nuevo Herald's Jorge Ebro first reported the Rays' deal with Gaston last month.

Gaston was scouted and signed by Rays director of international scouting Carlos Rodriguez and Dominican Republic scouting supervisor Danny Santana. Among international prospects eligible to sign this year, MLB Pipeline rated him the No. 16 prospect overall. 

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays announced on Thursday that they have signed international free agent right-handed pitcher Sandy Gaston to a Minor League contract. The Matanzas, Cuba, native is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and he will turn 17 on Dec. 16. Gaston's signing bonus is worth $2.61 million, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. El Nuevo Herald's Jorge Ebro first reported the Rays' deal with Gaston last month.

Gaston was scouted and signed by Rays director of international scouting Carlos Rodriguez and Dominican Republic scouting supervisor Danny Santana. Among international prospects eligible to sign this year, MLB Pipeline rated him the No. 16 prospect overall. 

"We believe Sandy is a high-caliber pitching prospect with potential elite Major League fastball, quality secondary components and possesses the physical and mental characteristics to develop into an impactful Major League pitcher," said Rodriguez. "His size, arm talent and age make him a very unique pitcher. We are thrilled to add him to our signing class and into the Rays organization."

The question isn't if Gaston can pitch. It's whether he will be a starter or pitch out of the bullpen one day. The most skeptical scouts wonder if he will throw enough strikes.

Here's why: Gaston is an especially hard thrower. His fastball has been clocked as 97 mph, and it's not uncommon for him to sit at 94-95. That type of velocity is rare in any market and not surprisingly, some scouts wonder if he will be able to command the high velocity on a consistent basis. But his skill is extraordinary, and Gaston is the type of pitcher any club would like to put it in its system.

In terms of secondary pitches, the belief is that those will develop once he signs with a team and receives daily instruction in an academy.

Gaston gave up one hit, struck out a batter and walked one at MLB's International Prospect Showcase in February. He didn't show his best fastball or command.

Tampa Bay Rays

Fox off to red-hot start in Arizona Fall League

Six other Rays prospects competing for Peoria
MLB.com

The Rays have remained patient in their development of shortstop Lucius Fox since his acquisition from the Giants in the 2016 Matt Moore trade. This past season, however, the club began to push the Bahamas native a bit more aggressively, giving him a late bump up to Double-A Montgomery after nearly a full season with Class A Advanced Charlotte.

Though Fox scuffled in his first taste of the Double-A level, hitting .221 over 27 games after departing Charlotte with a .282 average, he believes the experience has played a part in his red-hot start in this year's Arizona Fall League.

The Rays have remained patient in their development of shortstop Lucius Fox since his acquisition from the Giants in the 2016 Matt Moore trade. This past season, however, the club began to push the Bahamas native a bit more aggressively, giving him a late bump up to Double-A Montgomery after nearly a full season with Class A Advanced Charlotte.

Though Fox scuffled in his first taste of the Double-A level, hitting .221 over 27 games after departing Charlotte with a .282 average, he believes the experience has played a part in his red-hot start in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams

"Going to Double-A in August, for that one month…you learn a lot, and it's not the ability anymore; it's about the mental part of the game," said Fox, the Rays' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline. "I was able to see that for a month, and that helped me."

Entering Tuesday, Fox, 21, has hit safely in all eight games for Peoria and currently leads the circuit with 11 runs scored. His .412 average, meanwhile, ranks third, and he's tied for third with six steals.

"This opportunity has blessed me with the teammates that have been in Double-A and Triple-A," Fox said, "and being able to see what they do before the game, how they prepare, what they think about pitchers, how they think about the game…it all makes me a better player. I'm taking it all in and learning something new every day."

Specifically, Fox is using the Fall League to improve his throws from shortstop.

"Being closer to the big leagues, you want to almost be perfect with your throwing -- you don't have time to figure it out up there," Fox said.

At the plate, the switch-hitting speedster is continuing to fine-tune aspects of his game that could make him a top-of-the-order catalyst at the highest level.

"Just working on stealing more bases and hitting -- working counts better, taking pitcher's pitches, swinging at my pitches and being more disciplined," Fox said.

Video: Fox on game, lessons learned at Arizona Fall League

Making Fox's AFL experience all the more memorable is that he has been able to share it with fellow Bahamas native Jazz Chisholm (D-backs' No. 3 prospect), who plays for the Salt River Rafters.

"It's always a competition with me and him," Fox said about his relationship with the 20-year-old Chisholm. "The biggest thing is he likes to hit home runs. He definitely won that this year.

"We have a competition of who can make it to the big leagues fastest. Hopefully I win that one."

Rays hitters in the Fall League

Joe McCarthy, OF -- The Rays' No. 17 prospect's season was truncated by a back injury that cost him nearly three months, but he returned to the field fully healthy in August and helped lead Triple-A Durham to its second straight Governors' Cup. The 24-year-old outfielder has long shown an advanced bat and elite on-base skills, and many evaluators expect McCarthy to eventually tap into his above-average raw power from the left side of the plate.

Video: Joe McCarthy on Arizona Fall League experience

Ryan Boldt, OF -- No. 25 on the Rays' Top 30 list, Boldt was enjoying his best professional season, hitting .274/.348/.461 with 25 extra-base hits and 12 steals through 62 games, in his first Double-A campaign before an injury prematurely ended his season late in June. The 23-year-old likely profiles as a bench outfielder at the highest level, though an uptick in power could help him surpass such a projection.

Video: Boldt on performance vs. Salt River, season so far

Rays pitchers in the Fall League

Matt Krook, LHP -- Krook pitches at 89-91 mph with his fastball and pairs it with a hard, 85-88-mph slider as well as a changeup. Acquired from the Giants last offseason in the Evan Longoria deal, the 24-year-old southpaw spent all of 2018 at Double-A, posting a 4.26 ERA with a 63-percent ground-ball rate and .218 opponents' average across 37 games (six starts). In 74 innings, he racked up 95 strikeouts but also issued 50 walks.

Brandon Lawson, RHP -- The Rays' 12th-rounder in the 2016 Draft tossed a career-high 112 2/3 innings while splitting his season between Charlotte and Montgomery. The 23-year-old was an effective multi-innings reliever in the Southern League after starting for Charlotte. Overall, Lawson registered a 4.15 ERA, with 78 strikeouts and 34 walks between the two levels.

Dalton Moats, LHP -- The 23-year-old scuffled in his first Double-A campaign after an excellent first full season. Making 41 appearances, including 10 starts for the Biscuits, the 6-foot-3 left-hander compiled a 5.34 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 62 1/3 innings, striking out 65 and walking 29.

Phoenix Sanders, RHP -- The 10th-rounder in the 2017 Draft out of the University of South Florida posted 89 strikeouts against 22 walks in 64 1/3 innings in his first full season, spending the bulk of his time at Class A Bowling Green before a late-season promotion to Charlotte. The 23-year-old completed at least two innings in 23 of his 34 appearances between the two spots.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Tampa Bay Rays, Lucius Fox, Matt Krook

Rays strike $2.6M deal for Cuban RHP Gaston

MLB.com

The Rays have an agreement in place to sign 16-year-old Cuban pitching prospect Sandy Gaston, who will get a $2.6 million bonus, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on Tuesday.

Gaston is ranked baseball's No. 16 international prospect by MLB Pipeline. The right-hander has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked as fast as 97 mph. The belief is Gaston will develop his secondary pitches, currently a slider and changeup, once he enters an MLB organization and receives daily instruction in an academy.

The Rays have an agreement in place to sign 16-year-old Cuban pitching prospect Sandy Gaston, who will get a $2.6 million bonus, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on Tuesday.

Gaston is ranked baseball's No. 16 international prospect by MLB Pipeline. The right-hander has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked as fast as 97 mph. The belief is Gaston will develop his secondary pitches, currently a slider and changeup, once he enters an MLB organization and receives daily instruction in an academy.

The Rays had $3,621,500 remaining for this international signing period, which was second only to the Orioles' $6,563,500. According to El Nuevo Herald's Jorge Ebro -- who first reported the Rays' deal with Gaston late Monday night -- the Rays and Orioles had been in competition to sign Gaston.

The Marlins previously had the most money available, $6,569,500, but they used most of that when they signed the Mesa brothers on Monday. Per Sanchez, $5.25 million of the Marlins' international bonus pool money went to 22-year-old Victor Victor Mesa, the No. 1 overall international prospect, and about $1 million went to his younger brother, 17-year-old Victor Mesa Jr.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Tampa Bay Rays

Pipeline names Rays' Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nathaniel Lowe and Brendan McKay were named the Rays' Prospects of the Year by MLB Pipeline.

McKay, 22, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 3 prospect in the organization.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nathaniel Lowe and Brendan McKay were named the Rays' Prospects of the Year by MLB Pipeline.

McKay, 22, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 3 prospect in the organization.

Video: Top Prospects: Brendan McKay, 1B, Rays

McKay played for Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte, along with a brief stint with the Rays' Gulf Coast League team in 2018, going 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 19 games.

Though McKay is the organization's pitching prospect of the year, he also hits, serving as a two-way player.

He finished the year batting .214 with six homers and 39 RBIs.

"He looked fantastic on the mound," Rays general manager Chaim Bloom said. "And I think at the plate, there's a lot of underlying things -- in terms of how well he controlled the strike zone, how hard he hit the ball -- that the stat line doesn't show."

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Injuries limited McKay to 56 games in 2018.

The injuries "just curtailed the amount of time he could play," Bloom said. "I think overall, we're really encouraged. … He continued to show just an enormous amount of maturity. Just a calmness with the way he goes about his business. He has a very good idea about what he's trying to do. He's really advanced beyond his years in a lot of respects.

"Where this ends up going, I don't think we know exactly still. But we're really encouraged. Just would have liked to have had him out on the field a little bit more."

As for the answer as to whether McKay will continue to be a two-way player, Bloom responded: "Yes. He will continue to do both."

Lowe, 23, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Rays' No. 13 prospect. He hit .330 with 27 home runs and 102 RBIs in 130 games at Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.

Between the three levels, the first baseman led the organization in home runs and RBIs.

Video: WLD@USA: Lowe opens the scoring with an RBI single

"Coming into this year, I don't think any of us really expected him to do what he did," Bloom said. "I think we were encouraged that there was a better version of him in there than we got to see -- especially in the Florida State League. ... But to see him come back and just simplify things was more than I think we had a right to expect.

"His body, was stronger, looser; his swing was simpler. His approach was simpler and more conducive to hitting, and it unlocked the natural talent that he has.

"What an impressive season for him to blast his way through three levels. And really, at the highest level he played at this year, he still had a lot of success. It really encourages you about what he can do next year."

Bloom allowed that Lowe serves as an excellent example for others in that every player has a chance to write his own story.

"That's so important," Bloom said. "Jim Hoff, our field coordinator, likes to tell guys we have tremendous instructors here, but none of us can get you to the Major Leagues. Only you can get you to the Major Leagues."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays

Prospect Ciuffo smacks first big league homer

Choi adds second grand slam of '18 as Rays club quartet of HRs
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Ciuffo's first career home run got the Rays' long ball party started Friday night.

Three additional home runs followed, with the quartet accounting for 11 of the Rays' runs in a 14-2 win over the Orioles at Tropicana Field.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Ciuffo's first career home run got the Rays' long ball party started Friday night.

Three additional home runs followed, with the quartet accounting for 11 of the Rays' runs in a 14-2 win over the Orioles at Tropicana Field.

View Full Game Coverage

Ciuffo's homer came with two aboard in the second inning off Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, staking the Rays to a 3-0 lead.

"I got a good pitch to hit, and I didn't miss it," said Ciuffo -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Rays' No. 25 prospect.

The Rays' bats were far from satisfied.

Kevin Kiermaier's turn came when he stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the third.

Video: BAL@TB: Kiermaier smacks 3-run dinger off foul pole

Kiermaier hit a pair of home runs in the Rays' 10-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday. On Friday night, he jumped on a 1-2 Bundy offering, driving the ball over the right-field wall near the foul pole to put the Rays up, 6-0.

Sean Gilmartin replaced Bundy in the fifth, and the results were similar. With one out in the inning, Tommy Pham homered over the center-field wall to push the lead to 7-0.

Video: BAL@TB: Pham launches a solo homer to center field

Ryan Meisinger took over from Gilmartin with two out in the sixth and he walked Matt Duffy, the first batter he faced. Ji-Man Choi followed with his seventh home run of the season -- and his second career grand slam, both coming this season -- for an 11-2 lead.

Video: BAL@TB: Choi launches a grand slam to right-center

But it all started with Ciuffo, whose contract was selected from Triple-A Durham on Monday, when he made his Major League debut as part of a whirlwind season.

During last year's Winter Meetings, the Rays gambled by not protecting their first pick of the 2013 Draft, and they were pleased that no teams selected him in the Rule 5 Draft.

In the spring, Ciuffo received a 50-game suspension without pay for testing positive for marijuana.

Ciuffo then hit .262 with five home runs and 28 RBIs in 60 games for Durham, while throwing out 43.2 percent of attempted basestealers behind the plate.

He recorded his first Major League hit Wednesday night in Toronto, then stepped up his game with his first homer Friday to help a team trying to make a charge in the AL Wild Card race.

"We scored a lot of runs tonight, and a lot of people contributed," Ciuffo said.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays

Rays may be grooming next teenage phenom

Appalachian League Player of the Year Franco, 17, 'can do everything on a field'
MLB.com

Wander Franco's gameday routine officially starts when he struts into H.P. Hunnicutt Field, pushes through the metal door of the Princeton Rays' cramped home clubhouse and steps on the blue carpet.

First, he devours a large bowl of fruit. Then come the fist bumps, the handshakes and the playful greetings from his teammates as he makes his way past the two card tables in the middle of the musty-smelling room to his blue locker.

Wander Franco's gameday routine officially starts when he struts into H.P. Hunnicutt Field, pushes through the metal door of the Princeton Rays' cramped home clubhouse and steps on the blue carpet.

First, he devours a large bowl of fruit. Then come the fist bumps, the handshakes and the playful greetings from his teammates as he makes his way past the two card tables in the middle of the musty-smelling room to his blue locker.

"Bueno días, Patrón!"

"Good afternoon, Patrón."

"Patrón, let's get a win today!"

Patrón, which loosely translates in English to "boss man," is what Franco's teammates call him, and so far, the teenager has lived up to the nickname. At 17, Franco was named the Appalachian League's Player of The Year, and the Rookie League star already has the baseball world wondering if he will follow in the footsteps of Washington's Juan Soto and Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. as the next international prospect to play in the big leagues as a teenager, or if he will take a more deliberate path.

"We'll see how his career goes, but here's a young guy that's very mature at 17, and he has a smile on his face and plays every game like every game is the final game of the World Series," said Mitch Lukevics, the Rays' director of Minor League operations. "I call him 'Wonderful Wander Franco' for more reasons than him being the league MVP. It's about who he is and how he goes about his business, and the wonderful person that Wander Franco is."

Franco, whom MLB Pipeline ranks No. 4 among Tampa Bay prospects and 40th in baseball, sported a .351 batting average and slugged .587 with a .418 on-base percentage in 242 at-bats in 61 regular-season games for Princeton. He also racked up 10 doubles, seven triples and 11 home runs with 57 runs driven in. He walked more times (27) than he struck out (19).

He went 5-for-13 with four RBIs, a run scored and a walk in the three Appalachian League East Division Semifinal games against the Bluefield Blue Jays over the weekend to advance to the final. The league's Championship Series between the Rays and the Elizabethton Twins starts Tuesday in Princeton.

Video: Top Prospects: Wander Franco, SS, Rays

"He can do everything on a field," one National League scout said. "There's a plus bat from both sides and projectable raw power that he's barely scratching the surface of right now. He can run, he can pick it at shortstop and the arm is strong. He's real."

Scouts gush over Franco's hand-eye coordination, his quick hands at the plate and his ability to recognize pitches. The teenager also has an uncanny ability to barrel up baseballs.

But like many prospects his age, Franco is a work in progress. He needs to experience the workload of a full season and take the several hundred at-bats that come with it. He's also still working on using his legs more during his swing and learning the finer points of being a professional.

"I'm learning this game is about adjustments, adjusting to the pitchers that are trying to get you out," Franco said. "My goal and what I am working hard for, is to make it the Major Leagues so I can have a good career and help my family. That's all I want to do."

Franco's big league debut might not come for a couple of years. It could happen when he reaches his 20s. Here's what we know: Franco currently shares a stadium and a clubhouse with a local West Virginia high school team, another sign of how far away he is from Tropicana Field.

"He was at the right level and there's nothing wrong with having a great kid have a great year like he did, and he turned out to be league MVP," Lukevics said. "We're known as a conservative organization. But were more so conservative with the lower levels in terms of getting the players acclimated to the league, apartment living, living on their own and all of the nuances that come with being a first-year professional baseball player."

Franco will participate in the club's instructional league in Florida later this month. Where he goes from there remains to be seen. How Wander Samuel Franco reached this point can be traced back to a dirt field in Bani, Dominican Republic.

Franco's father, also named Wander, pitched in the Minors with the White Sox. He passed down his love of the game -- and his name -- to his sons. Some days, the Franco brothers spent all day fielding ground balls on the rocky terrain of the baseball field near their childhood home.

When the boys weren't busy chasing bad hops, they were in the backyard or on a nearby street swinging a broomstick at large water jug caps in a game called "vitilla." Think stickball, only much harder.

The work paid off. The shortstop's oldest brother, Wander Javier Franco, 23, and his second-oldest brother, Wander Alexander Franco, 21, are Minor Leaguers in the Giants' organization. Wander Javier was recently named the Offensive Player of the Year for Class A Advanced San Jose. It helped that their uncles, former Major League infielders Erick and Willy Aybar, were around to offer tips and guidance.

Tweet from @SJGiants: Congratulations to Wander Franco for winning Bubba Burger Offensive Player of the Year! pic.twitter.com/yu69GPtb69

The Francos also had the advantage of growing up in the same neighborhood as Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez. Ask Ramirez about the youngest Franco, and his face lights up. He pounds his chest a few times, the universal sign for "that's my boy."

"I have him over to my house, we practice, we train together, I'm helping him a lot," Ramirez said. "He's good. Better than me. He has more strength, more of everything. He really knows how to play."

Franco's training began in earnest at age 10 when joined a family friend named Oritel "Chiqui" Peguero. "Chiqui" had his own baseball program, but it was small, and he only had a few kids. He did, however, have relationships with well-known trainers at much bigger programs. One of those trainers was Rudy Santin, a former Major League scout and executive that had spent a combined 27 years with the Yankees, Rays and Giants before becoming a player trainer in 2011.

"I was on a trip to Bani to look at a pitcher to add to my program, and I asked Chiqui if he had anyone else to see. He told me he had a 10-year-old that was a natural," said Santin, who was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame in 2008. "I'm like, 'OK, sure.' But as soon as the kid got to the second ground ball, I'm like, 'Wow, this guy is special.' He looked like a miniature big leaguer. I wanted to work with Wander right then, but he was too young, so I left him a pair of spikes and a glove and told them to call me in a few years."

A little more than two years later, Chiqui sent Franco to Santin's MVP Sports Academy in Santo Domingo, D.R. The longtime scout was so excited that he held a press conference at a local restaurant to announce the news a few weeks after Franco turned 13.

"I invited all of the press and told everybody that this kid will be legit and they're looking at the next superstar," Satin said. "People were telling me I'm nuts. They were all laughing at this crazy man saying this kid is going to be special. The radio stations killed me. Everyone destroyed me, but I was right."

Under Santin's guidance, Franco visited MLB team academies in the D.R., starred in showcases and worked out on the tryout circuit that's common for top international prospects. The Rays first laid eyes on him back in 2014 while scouting outfielder Jesus Sanchez, who was also in Santin's program. The Rays signed Sanchez, now No. 3 on the club's prospect list, on July 2 that year. They signed Franco, then the No. 1 prospect on the international market, on July 2, 2017, for $3.85 million.

Video: Sanchez on Rays landing top international prospect

"The truth is, it is so incredibly difficult for the stars to align with the talent, the cultivation of that talent and for the player to be in the hands of a trainer who puts him in the position to succeed and get proper evaluation," said Tampa Bay director of international scouting Carlos Rodriguez. "And then you have to be in the financial position to compete. It's one thing to identify the guy, it's another thing to be able to sign him. But through hard work and over time, teams are rewarded for the commitment to the international market and development. We are seeing that with Wander."

Franco's development could still propel him into Soto's and Acuna's exclusive big league club, but the Rays are not taking any chances with him.

"We are the Tampa Bay Rays. We are who we are," Lukevics said. "We depend and rely on our scouting and player development system on domestic or international more than any team in baseball and we have less margin of error here. If some teams have errors, they can go buy some players. We don't have that luxury, so we would want to do what's right for the player and err on the side of caution."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Tampa Bay Rays

Lowe, Wendle lead Rays to series win vs. Tribe

Special to MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Oakland and Seattle have been battling for the American League's second wild-card spot all summer.

The Tampa Bay Rays believe they can make it a three-team race.

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CLEVELAND -- Oakland and Seattle have been battling for the American League's second wild-card spot all summer.

The Tampa Bay Rays believe they can make it a three-team race.

View Full Game Coverage

Brandon Lowe established single-game career highs of three hits and three RBIs, Ryan Yarbrough pitched five strong innings of relief and Joey Wendle was a one-man defensive highlight reel Sunday, powering the red-hot Rays to a 6-4 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.

Video: TB@CLE: Yarbrough allows 1 run over 5, K's 3

Tampa Bay is 11-2 since Aug. 19 and has outscored its opponents 65-36 during the stretch to move into the periphery of the playoff picture. The Rays trail the Athletics by eight games with 26 to play.

"Everyone in this clubhouse feels like we're still in the race," Yarbrough said. "And we're going for it. We all support each other."

Video: TB@CLE: Cash, Rays discuss the 6-4 win vs. Indians

Manager Kevin Cash has noticed, saying, "I don't think I could ask for much more from these guys. Whatever they're doing, they can keep doing. We're not playing to survive, we're playing to win."

Lowe, who made his Major League debut Aug. 5, hit a solo homer for the second consecutive day and added a two-run double in the seventh. The second baseman is ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline and is one of a team-record 21 rookies to play for Tampa Bay this season.

Video: TB@CLE: Lowe belts an RBI double off the wall

Wendle, Tommy Pham, Willy Adames and C.J. Cron had two hits apiece for the Rays, who are 10 games above .500 for the first time under Cash. Wendle also made four flashy plays at third base, including three in a row in the sixth inning.

"Joey Wendle's day at the plate and defensively was something to see," Cash said. "That had to be fun as a fan to watch. He's a stud defensively and offensively, and you could hit him anywhere in the lineup."

Yarbrough earned the win and held Cleveland hitless during his first four frames. His 13 wins are tops among AL rookies, largely fueled by Tampa Bay's innovative "opener" strategy that saw him enter the game one batter into the second inning.

Diego Castillo, normally a reliever, started and pitched one inning as the Rays used a bullpen day for the 40th time. Jose Alvarado picked up his seventh save, retiring two batters after the Indians scored three times in the ninth off Hunter Wood.

Video: TB@CLE: Alvarado strikes out Kipnis, records save

"Yarbrough has put together a lot of good performances, but that one was right at the top," Cash said. "This was a really big win for our team. We did a lot of good things real well the whole day."

Tampa Bay center fielder Andrew Velazquez appeared in his first big league game, entering as a defensive replacement in the eighth.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pham smashed a run-scoring triple to center in the seventh to chase Carrasco. The hit extended Tampa Bay's advantage to 4-1 and ensured Carrasco would not move into a tie for the Major League lead with his 17th victory. Pham finished 2-for-5 in the win and is batting .417 during his eight-game hitting streak.

Video: TB@CLE: Pham hammers an RBI triple to center field

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Wendle -- in his eighth start of the season at the position -- made a diving stop on a Francisco Lindor one-hopper over the bag in the third inning, then threw out the speedy All-Star shortstop. He robbed Lindor of another hit with a second diving stop, and flashed a slick barehanded play to steal a hit from Greg Allen as well. Matt Duffy regularly plays third, but had the afternoon off.

Video: TB@CLE: Wendle puts on a defensive clinic vs. Indians

"When I started playing third base, I was told to try and be like a hockey goalie and glove everything," Wendle said.

HE SAID IT
"Joey will probably be all over SportsCenter tonight." -- Yarbrough

UP NEXT
Designated hitter Ji-Man Choi has reached base in 15 consecutive starts heading into the 7:07 p.m. ET series opener Monday in Toronto at Rogers Centre. Choi matched his career high with three hits Saturday in Cleveland. Tampa Bay, which is 7-2 against the Blue Jays, has not named a starter. Right-hander Marcus Stroman (4-8, 5.27 ERA) will pitch for Toronto.

Brian Dulik is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cleveland.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brandon Lowe, Joey Wendle

Lowe boosts Rays, odds of sticking around

Second baseman strokes important 2-run single vs. Royals
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Lowe earned his Major League shot, and Tampa Bay has been patient with the prospect who blistered Minor League pitching en route to Tropicana Field.

Wednesday night, the Rays' patience paid off when Lowe came through on offense, leading a 6-3 Rays win over the Royals. Tampa Bay has won four consecutive games to move to 51-46 on the season and 6-0 against the Royals in 2018.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Lowe earned his Major League shot, and Tampa Bay has been patient with the prospect who blistered Minor League pitching en route to Tropicana Field.

Wednesday night, the Rays' patience paid off when Lowe came through on offense, leading a 6-3 Rays win over the Royals. Tampa Bay has won four consecutive games to move to 51-46 on the season and 6-0 against the Royals in 2018.

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Lowe hit .297 with 22 home runs and 76 RBIs in 100 games between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham this season. The Rays selected him on Aug. 4 and he's struggled since, going 0-for-19 before getting his first Major League hit.

"You get up to the big leagues and you think you have to go out and prove yourself rather than just really taking it in," Lowe said. "You earned your way here, you have the skills to be here, [you should just] relax and let yourself play. And I've been really stressing, trying to really prove that I belong here."

Lowe entered Wednesday night's start hitting .091 and riding an 0-for-9 stretch, but his fortunes changed in the second when he came through with a two-run single to put Tampa Bay up 2-0. He finished 2-for-4 in the win.

"He came up and broke it open there with the two-out single to score two," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "And that's all we're looking for. Give him a little bit of confidence. Since he's been here it hasn't gone the way he's wanted it to, but he's put together a tremendous season between Double-A and Triple-A, and I want to see that continue here."

Lowe told reporters that the confidence the Rays have shown in him has been a "real help to let me settle down and not stress out that I haven't been tearing it up."

"They're giving me a shot to settle in and give me some experience," said Lowe, who is hitting .278 with four RBIs in his past four games.

Tampa Bay scored on a Carlos Gomez squeeze bunt in the sixth, and Mallex Smith added an RBI single to push the lead to 4-1. Smith and Matt Duffy added RBI singles in the eighth to give the Rays a little breathing room heading into the ninth.

Video: KC@TB: Gomez plates Adames with squeeze bunt in 6th

Whit Merrifield had a solo home run in the fourth and Hunter Dozier added a two-run homer in the eighth to account for the Royals' runs.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
With the Rays clinging to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Gomez singled with one out then stole his 10th base of the season. One out later, Smith came through with a single to drive home Gomez.

Video: KC@TB: Smith rips 2nd RBI single of the game in 8th

SOUND SMART
Kevin Kiermaier is heating up. He went 2-for-3 Wednesday night and is now hitting .357 in eight games since Aug. 15, including multiple hits in three of those games.

STANEK TOUGH
Ryne Stanek served as the Rays "opener" Wednesday night and retired each of the six batters he faced, giving him his sixth start this season without allowing a hit, the most for any pitcher within a single season since Baseball Reference data is available (1908).

Video: KC@TB: Stanek K's O'Hearn to finish 2 perfect innings

HE SAID IT
"It looked like he was throwing a bowling ball up there for most of the outing." -- Cash on Yonny Chirinos, who allowed three runs on four hits in five innings to pick up his second win

Video: KC@TB: Cash on Chirinos and Gomez in win vs. Royals

UP NEXT
Tyler Glasnow will start Thursday night when the Rays wrap up a four-game series against the Royals with a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. He is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts since joining the Rays. Excluding openers, he is the first pitcher in franchise history to allow three or fewer hits during the first four starts of his Rays career. Danny Duffy (7-11, 4.90 ERA) will start for the Royals.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brandon Lowe

Rays get Bucs' No. 4 prospect to cap Archer deal

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The final piece of the Chris Archer trade with the Pirates came into focus on Tuesday, when Pittsburgh sent right-hander Shane Baz, its No. 4 prospect, to Tampa Bay as the player to be named in the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal.

That unnamed player was expected to be one of consequence, and Baz certainly fits that bill. The 19-year-old from Texas was the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2017 (12th overall selection), and he signed above slot value for $4.1 million.

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NEW YORK -- The final piece of the Chris Archer trade with the Pirates came into focus on Tuesday, when Pittsburgh sent right-hander Shane Baz, its No. 4 prospect, to Tampa Bay as the player to be named in the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal.

That unnamed player was expected to be one of consequence, and Baz certainly fits that bill. The 19-year-old from Texas was the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2017 (12th overall selection), and he signed above slot value for $4.1 million.

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"I know we're excited to get him," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's a really high-end prospect. Twelfth overall pick. Very powerful right-handed kid. There's probably going to be some time before we see him, but to put a kid like that into our system ... I know he's a guy that during the Draft, we talked a lot about. We were happy with who we picked at four, but we were disappointed we didn't get the opportunity, and now with that trade, we have him."

Video: Top Prospects: Shane Baz, RHP, Rays

Baz, ranked No. 95 among all prospects by MLB Pipeline, projects as a top-of-the-rotation arm, with fastball velocity that touches 98 mph and sits between 92-96 to go with a plus cutter that scouting reports suggest can be turned into a true slider. He also spins a unique curveball, giving him an elite multi-pitch arsenal that not many his age possess.

Baz went 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 10 starts (45 1/3 innings) this year for the Bristol Pirates, a Rookie-level affiliate. He made 10 starts for the Gulf Coast League Pirates last year, going 0-3 with a 3.80 ERA. He has 73 strikeouts in 69 pro innings and was named the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week on Monday after recording back-to-back scoreless outings for the first time this season.

Breaking down Archer trade with final piece set

In total, the Pirates sent Baz, outfielder Austin Meadows and right-hander Tyler Glasnow -- each of whom is expected to play a significant Major League role in the coming years -- in exchange for Archer, who has made two starts for the Pirates and is scheduled to start on Wednesday. Meadows was Pittsburgh's first-round pick in 2013, and Glasnow was taken in the fifth round in 2011.

Glasnow, who was moved to the Pirates' bullpen earlier this year, has returned to the rotation for the Rays, filling in behind All-Star Blake Snell and Jake Faria. Glasnow has made three starts for Tampa Bay, giving up three earned runs while holding opposing hitters to a .150/.209/.325 slash line in 12 innings. He topped out at 99.7 mph and averaged 97.1 mph in his most recent start, on Sunday in Toronto.

Video: TB@TOR: Glasnow sharp against Toronto in no-decision

Meadows, who had been up and down between the Pirates and the Minors, was assigned to Triple-A Durham the day following the trade. He's hitting .333/.372/.718 with three homers in 42 plate appearances over 11 games for Durham.

"I think it's a pretty good haul," Faria said. "I wouldn't have expected anything less. Trading a guy like Arch, you expect to get a pretty good haul.

"But we got two big league-ready guys, and one guy who was a first-rounder last year. Seems like a pretty big guy. I mean, Twitter fell apart as soon as his name was announced. Looks like a really good return on our part."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Chaz Roe is back with the team after being activated from the 10-day disabled list (torn left meniscus). Roe made two appearances during a rehab assignment for Class A Charlotte, retiring all six batters he faced.

Cash noted that having Roe back means "a lot" to the team.

"We've asked Chaz, basically ever since he got here last year, we've challenged him with getting some big outs," Cash said. "Late in the ballgame, a lot of big outs with right-handed hitters. The knee thing popped up. He tried to pitch through it. Went and got that procedure done.

"He's in a much better spot physically, and probably mentally, knowing he can go out there and perform pain-free. He'll add to some of that veteran leadership. Kind of complement Sergio [Romo] and continue to get big outs for us."

Roe told reporters he's back to full speed and that he has no restraints in regard to what he can and can't do in games.

• Outfielder Tommy Pham (10-day DL, fractured right foot) is with the team in New York as he continues to progress.

"Tommy's doing well," said Cash of Pham, whom the Rays acquired from St. Louis for three prospects on July 31, and who will begin a rehab assignment at Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley. "It's not the easiest thing to come here, then go on the DL and be away from the team for 10 days.

"There's no urgency [for him to return]. We want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy. I know he's going in the right direction. But when you fracture a bone, it takes some time to heal."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays

Rays get Pham from Cardinals

3 prospects sent to St. Louis for outfielder, international bonus pool money