Mead among trio of prospect promotions

June 29th, 2022

Welcome to the Rays prospect update, where you’ll find news, promotions and standout performances, all year long.

Rays top prospect: Rankings | Stats | Box scores

Mead among three top-performing prospects on the move (June 29)
Monday was moving day for three of the most productive position-player prospects in the Rays’ system this season. Infielder  was promoted to Triple-A Durham, infielder  to Double-A Montgomery and outfielder Mason Auer to High-A Bowling Green, and all three joined their new clubs on the field Tuesday.

Mead, the Rays’ No. 4 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 87 overall, earned his promotion by hitting .305/.394/.548 with 10 homers and 21 doubles in 56 games for Montgomery. The 21-year-old Australian soared through the Rays’ system last year and actually spent four games at Triple-A when the Bulls' roster was wracked by injuries. He returned to Durham’s lineup on Tuesday, starting at third base and going 1-for-4 as the No. 3 hitter.

Basabe, the club’s No. 27 prospect, was excellent in 55 games for Bowling Green. The versatile 21-year-old infielder hit .315/.370/.463 with four homers and 16 doubles, a noticeable tick up in power after he slugged .388 with 10 doubles and three homers in 70 games last season. With No. 5 prospect Greg Jones holding down shortstop for Montgomery, Basabe made his Double-A debut at third base Tuesday and went 1-for-5.

Auer is unranked among the Rays’ Top 30 Prospects, but he’s earning consideration amid a strong professional debut. A fifth-round pick in last year’s Draft, the 21-year-old outfielder hit .293/.378/.478 with 13 doubles, nine triples, four homers and 24 stolen bases in 60 games for Single-A Charleston. Auer spent most of his time in right field but also made 13 starts in center and one in left. He started in right, batting fifth, and delivered an RBI single in his Bowling Green debut Tuesday. -- Adam Berry

Alika Williams displays his power in multihomer game (June 26)
Alika Williams
showcased his power in a big way.

The Rays’ No. 30 prospect has been having his best month of the season, slashing .294/.351/.765 in the month of June. Williams stayed hot, going 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs in High-A Bowling Green's 9-5 win over Greenville.

The 23-year-old struggled early, striking out in the first and flied out in the second inning. He broke out late, blasting a two-run homer to left-center field in the fifth and a solo shot to right field in the eighth inning.

The Arizona State alum had his second multi homer game of the month, which brought his HR tally to seven on the season. -- Edwin Perez

Bradley tosses six scoreless (June 24)
 continues to impress in Double-A Montgomery.

The Rays' No. 3 prospect hurled six scoreless innings in the Biscuits' 2-1 victory over Mississippi. Bradley threw 70 pitches (45 for strikes) and tallied four strikeouts.

The 21-year-old added to his dominant month of June, during which he's tallied 29 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings and posted a 1.11 ERA.

Bradley lowered his season ERA to 1.82 and brought his WHIP to 0.91. -- Alyssa Gomez

Back from cancer, Hess dominates for Durham (June 21)
Time can pass in inexplicable ways. An offseason of normal length that feels like an eternity. An inning that stretches out like a rubber band in the moment only to snap back to a whirlwind when recounted.

David Hess has seen it all now.

In his first game back at Triple-A since a cancer diagnosis nine months ago, Tampa Bay right-hander Hess roared through a perfect inning with a strikeout, needing just nine pitches in a triumphant return.

“As cliché as it might sound, I just tried to tell myself, ‘Take one breath at a time,’” Hess said after his Durham side fell to Jacksonville, 9-3. “I knew the emotions were going to be high. I knew what I was probably going to be feeling. I tried to just go in and make it as normal as possible. The first pitch -- getting the sign, coming set, just thinking about everything and then throwing -- everything kind of clicked back into place. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any big emotions because inside, I felt like I was going a million miles an hour. I was just trying to make it a normal outing and keep it as low-key as possible. I don’t think there was necessarily anything low-key on the inside that I was feeling.” Full story »

Mead homers twice for Montgomery (June 19)
Curtis Mead’s seventh multihit effort of the month was also his first multihomer one.

Tampa Bay’s No. 4 prospect launched two solo dingers in Double-A Montgomery’s 7-2 loss to Rocket City. It’s his first two-homer effort of the season and his first since July 1, 2021. The 21-year-old got the scoring started by capping off a seven-pitch at-bat with a long ball to left-center in the first. His second homer in the ninth went to the same spot, giving him 10 jacks on the season through 50 games. 

Mead is slashing .305 /.395/.561 with 18 doubles, 22 walks and 34 RBIs. -- Stephanie Sheehan

Bitsko, 2020 first-round pick, makes pro debut (June 9)
Right-hander , the Rays’ first-round pick in the 2020 Draft, made his professional debut for the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Rays on Thursday afternoon at the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

Facing the FCL Twins, who had rehabbing infielder Daniel Robertson batting leadoff, Bitsko recorded three consecutive groundouts in his first inning of work. The Rays’ No. 16 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, ran into a little more trouble in the second inning. The 19-year-old gave up a single and a one-out walk followed by an RBI double. After logging his first pro strikeout, Bitsko walked another batter before exiting the game.

That was the end of a long road back for Bitsko, who had his senior season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in December 2020 -- months after Tampa Bay made him the 24th overall pick and signed him for $3 million. But after a healthy spring and a long-awaited return to competitive game action, the Rays hope it’s also the beginning of his road to the big leagues. -- Adam Berry

Baz heads back to the bigs (June 7)
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are ready to see top prospect Shane Baz back in the big leagues.

The Rays optioned left-hander Ryan Yarbrough to Triple-A Durham prior to the series opener against the Cardinals at Tropicana Field. Manager Kevin Cash confirmed that Baz will fill Yarbrough’s spot in the rotation, with the 22-year-old right-hander set for his season debut this weekend against the Twins at Target Field.

Baz has been sidelined since Spring Training after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow, but he looked ready to go during his Minor League rehab assignment. Baz allowed only two runs on eight hits and four walks while striking out 20 over 13 innings, and he built up his endurance over four Triple-A starts, giving him a standard Spring Training-style build-up. Full story »

Baz nears return with 10-K performance (June 5)
Shane Baz
 wasn't just delivering a message to his opponent in his latest outing. With each sizzling fastball, biting slider and strikeout, baseball's No. 12 overall prospect was telling his own organization two simple words: "I'm ready."

Making the fourth start of his rehab assignment, Baz equaled a career high with 10 strikeouts and surrendered a run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings in Triple-A Durham's 4-1 win over visiting Nashville. The 22-year-old was slated to go five innings but was lifted after retiring the first batter of the fifth on his 79th pitch.

Recovering from a March 22 procedure which removed loose bodies in his pitching elbow, Baz is eligible to be activated off the 60-day injured list on Monday. While it's not known if Tampa Bay will reinstate the right-hander in time for his next outing, his performances during his rehab assignment speak for themselves. Full story »

Rehabbing Baz sharp over four scoreless innings (May 30)
On the injured list since undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery in late March, right-hander  continued his rehab stint with Triple-A Durham with a solid outing. Against Nashville, MLB's No. 12 overall prospect struck out four and worked around one hit and one walk in four scoreless innings.

Baz set the tone for his afternoon by striking out Sounds leadoff man Jonathan Davis on three straight pitches at 92, 94 and 96 mph according to the Durham broadcast. He froze David Dahl on a full-count offering for his second K in the second inning before getting Weston Wilson swinging to end that frame. Baz's final strikeout came when he ended the third by getting Jon Singleton swinging.

The outing was Baz's third with Durham since returning from his procedure. In his previous two, the top Rays prospect had allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings, good for a 1.93 ERA, while striking out six with two walks. Last year, Baz pitched at Double-A, Triple-A and made his big league debut, going 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in three starts for the Rays. -- Tyler Maun

Bradley allows one hit over four innings (May 26)
Another day, another strong outing for Taj Bradley.

The No. 3 prospect allowed just one hit and two walks across four scoreless innings in Double-A Montgomery’s 4-3 loss to Biloxi, tossing 49 of his 80 pitches for strikes. After allowing a leadoff single to begin the game, the 21-year-old retired 11 of the final 14 batters and racked up six strikeouts, five swinging and one looking. Bradley lowered his ERA to 2.31 and is holding opponents to a .180 batting average while racking up 42 K’s in 35 innings. -- Stephanie Sheehan

Manzardo goes yard twice for Hot Rods (May 25)
Kyle Manzardo notched the first multihomer game of his career.

Tampa Bay's No. 26 prospect delivered two long balls in High-A Bowling Green's 11-9 loss to Brooklyn.

The 21-year-old went 3-for-5 with a career-high three RBIs and three runs. His night began with an RBI single to right field in the first. Then it was time for a pair of homers to opposite sides of the field; his jack in the fourth went to left, while the sixth-inning homer went to right.

Since returning from the seven-day injured list on May 12, the first baseman quickly got back into the swing of things. He's hitting 12-for-37 (.324) since then, including all three of his homers for the season. -- Ethan Sands

Home run ends up in ... outfielder's glove? (May 25)
The ball ended up in the center fielder’s glove. It was ruled a home run.

Wait, what?

Tampa Bay prospect Diego Infante notched one of the strangest home runs of the Minor League season when he belted his fourth of the year off a camera stand in center field and back onto the playing field as High-A Bowling Green split a doubleheader with Brooklyn with an 8-0 win in the finale.

Infante strode to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning of the second game with a man on and his team already in front, 6-0. On the first pitch he saw from Cyclones reliever Garrison Bryant, the outfielder crushed a drive to center. No. 14 Mets prospect Jaylen Palmer pursued it from his spot in center field and appeared, briefly, to have snagged the fly at the wall. Palmer held the ball aloft in triumph before putting his hands on his head in disbelief.

Upon further review, it wasn’t so. At the last second before the ball settled in Palmer’s mitt, its path changed direction, ricocheting off something beyond the fence. Full story »