ST. PETERSBURG -- Two things that set the Rays apart at the Major League level could also be considered the defining traits of their Minor League system: They win a lot, and they have a ton of depth.
In the big leagues, Tampa Bay is looking to reach the postseason for a fifth consecutive season despite having to use 61 players each of the last two seasons. Down on the farm, the Rays are coming off back-to-back years of remarkable success on the field made possible by a system that’s flooded with talent from top to bottom.
After winning four Minor League titles in 2021, the Rays won three last season as their affiliates went a combined 411-302, the best winning percentage (.576) among all 30 organizations. Triple-A Durham won the International League and the Triple-A National Championship. High-A Bowling Green won another South Atlantic League title. Single-A Charleston won the Carolina League and led all full-season affiliates with a .667 winning percentage (88-44). Double-A Montgomery lost in the Southern League South Division Series, and the Rookie-level FCL Rays lost in the Florida Complex League Finals after leading all domestic affiliates with a .709 winning percentage (39-16).
So it should come as no surprise that MLB Pipeline’s new ranking of the Rays’ Top 30 Prospects is packed with intriguing players, with plenty more left off the list.
It starts in Triple-A, where top prospects Taj Bradley (No. 1) and Curtis Mead (No. 2) seem poised to start this season before eventually breaking into the Majors. It extends all the way down to the lowest level of the Minors, where top 2022 Draft pick Xavier Isaac (No. 10) and international signees Brailer Guerrero (No. 19) and Jose Urbina (No. 30) figure to lead the latest wave of talent.
In between are a bunch of potential big leaguers, including the product of savvy trades like the ones they made for Junior Caminero (No. 5) and Osleivis Basabe (No. 7) and a 2021 Draft class that includes two of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects (Carson Wiliams and Kyle Manzardo) along with Mason Montgomery (No. 6), Mason Auer (No. 8), Cooper Kinney (No. 24) and a handful of interesting arms.
To keep winning the way they have, the Rays’ goal is to keep that well of talent as deep as possible.
Here’s a look at the Rays’ top prospects:
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2022 preseason list to the 2023 preseason list:
Jump: Junior Caminero, 3B (2022: 30 | 2023: 5)
It was probably a little bold to sneak Caminero onto last year’s list, considering he was an 18-year-old who’d only played for Cleveland’s Dominican Summer League affiliate. But the reports were that good when the Rays snagged him for Rule 5-eligible righty Tobias Myers, reminiscent of their excitement to land Mead in a similar deal, and they were accurate. With his elite bat speed and ability to handle the hot corner, Caminero now has the look of a potentially special player after raking for the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Rays then continuing to hold his own at the plate with Single-A Charleston. Overall, he hit a combined .314/.384/.498 with 11 homers and 12 steals in 62 games, and now he’s knocking on the door of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. Manzardo soared from No. 26 to No. 4 (and the Top 100 list), while Osleivis Basabe jumped from 28th to No. 7 and Mason Auer went from off the list to No. 8.
Fall: Sandy Gaston, RHP (2022: 13 | 2023: unranked)
Gaston jumped into the top half of the 2022 preseason list after his big-time stuff led to impressive strikeout totals and not a whole lot of hits allowed in the lower Minors in 2021, but there were still concerns about his control. Those became even more of an issue last season, as he was demoted to the bullpen with Single-A Charleston with a walk rate (56 in 54 2/3 innings) that offset his strikeout ability. He struggled even more in the Arizona Fall League, walking 15 of the 47 batters he faced. His stuff is still there, so he could figure it out as a reliever if he throws more strikes; he just doesn’t have the command to start, which dropped him off the list. Top 2020 Draft pick Nick Bitsko, No. 17 before last season as he worked back from shoulder surgery, also fell off the list as he walked 27 batters over 26 innings in his professional debut.
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: 65 -- Curtis Mead (Kyle Manzardo)
Power: 60 -- Heriberto Hernandez (Carson Williams, Junior Caminero, Brailer Guerrero)
Run: 80 -- Chandler Simpson
Arm: 70 -- Mason Auer
Field: 60 -- Carson Williams
Fastball: 65 -- Taj Bradley
Curveball: 55 – Santiago Suarez
Slider: 70 -- Evan Reifert
Changeup: 55 -- Ian Seymour (Mason Montgomery, Cole Wilcox, JJ Goss)
Cutter: 60 -- Taj Bradley
Control: 60 -- Taj Bradley
How they were built
Draft: 15 | International: 4 | Trade: 11
Breakdown by ETA
2023: 6 | 2024: 8 | 2025: 12 | 2026: 2 | 2027: 2
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 2 | 2B: 2 | 3B: 3 | SS: 6 | OF: 6 | RHP: 8 | LHP: 2