4 Rays prospects crack MLB Pipeline’s Top 100

January 27th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- If MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list is any indication, the future of the Rays’ infield is just as promising as the present.

There are four Tampa Bay prospects on Pipeline’s Top 100 list, which was unveiled Friday night on MLB Network. Third baseman Junior Caminero leads the group, at No. 4 overall, followed by shortstop Carson Williams (No. 20), third baseman Curtis Mead (No. 55) and first baseman Xavier Isaac (No. 58).

Only the Cubs (seven), Orioles (six), Pirates, Padres and Reds (five each) have more players in the Top 100. Having four of the top 58 prospects gives Tampa Bay 267 “prospect points,” sixth most behind Baltimore, the Cubs, San Diego, Milwaukee and Detroit.

The annual rankings are put together by the MLB Pipeline team, which creates the list using input from industry sources, including scouts, scouting directors and other evaluators. They are an aggregate analysis, considering the players’ skill sets, upside, proximity to the Majors and potential impact on their teams. The list only includes players with rookie status in 2024, including those like Caminero and Mead who debuted last year but did not accumulate enough service time (45 days on the active roster), at-bats (130) or innings pitched (50) to graduate.

Caminero finished last year ranked as baseball’s No. 6 overall prospect. The 20-year-old moved up two spots in MLB Pipeline’s preseason update and now sits behind only No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday (O’s), Jackson Chourio (Brewers) and Paul Skenes (Pirates).

It has been a remarkable ascent for Caminero, who joined the Rays in a low-profile trade in November 2021. Shuffling their 40-man roster ahead of the reserve list deadline, the Rays sent Minor League pitcher Tobias Myers to the Guardians for Caminero, then an 18-year-old infielder with all of 43 games of professional experience for Cleveland’s Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate.

The Rays were high on Caminero from the moment they acquired him, and he’s backed up their belief in big ways ever since. He hit .314/.384/.498 in 63 games for the Rookie-level FCL Rays and Single-A Charleston in 2022 and then truly broke out during his first full season last year by batting .324/.384/.591 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 117 games for High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery.

Caminero’s season took another incredible turn on Sept. 22, when the Rays promoted him straight from Double-A to the Majors. He debuted a day later, cranked his first big league homer in Tampa Bay’s regular-season finale in Toronto on Oct. 1 and remained on the Rays’ roster for their AL Wild Card Series defeat against the Rangers.

Caminero, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked third-base prospect, seems likely to start this season in Triple-A but should return to Tropicana Field this year. With incredible power that creates loud contact and eye-popping exit velocities, he could be a big part of Tampa Bay’s lineup for years to come.

Caminero should have quality company in the Rays’ infield of the future, too.

Williams, the Rays’ first-round Draft pick in 2021, dropped one spot from his end-of-season ranking to No. 20. The 20-year-old shortstop has all the tools to become a future star, as MLB Pipeline ranked him the seventh-best shortstop prospect. He’s got big-time power, a cannon of a throwing arm, smooth actions in the field and serious speed on the bases, not to mention excellent makeup that generated some favorable comparisons to a young Evan Longoria.

The only question facing Williams, who hit .258/.356/.497 with 23 homers and 20 steals while spending most of last season in High-A, is whether he can cut down on his strikeout rate (31.4% in 2023) as he continues climbing toward the Majors.

Meanwhile, Mead still has much to prove even after making it to the big leagues last year. The Australian infielder dominated for Triple-A Durham and got his feet wet with the Rays, hitting .253/.326/.349 in 24 games. The 23-year-old, MLB Pipeline’s No. 8 third-base prospect, dropped 21 spots to No. 55 overall, but Tampa Bay believes he could impact the club this year.

Isaac made one of the biggest leaps up this year’s list, jumping 36 spots from No. 94 to close the gap between himself and the organization’s top three prospects. MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked first-base prospect is validating the Rays’ first-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft. He worked hard to become more athletic in the field and on the bases, and his powerful bat did the rest as he hit .285/.395/.521 with 19 homers between Charleston and Bowling Green last season.