Rays' No. 13 prospect making good on post-Draft excitement

June 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry’s Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MIAMI -- It was clear from the moment the Rays selected first baseman Tre’ Morgan out of LSU in the third round of last year’s MLB Draft that they were thrilled to get him.

Consider what amateur scouting director Chuck Ricci said about Morgan after Day 2 of the Draft: “He is a really fun baseball player to watch. Elite defender, good contact, skills, plays the game with a ton of energy and very relaxed. I guess you could say he was one of the room’s favorite players to talk about this week, so we’re really excited.”

Two months into the 21-year-old Morgan’s first full professional season, that enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. If anything, it’s increased. He played only 26 games at Single-A Charleston before earning a promotion to High-A Bowling Green, and he couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start there.

In his first 11 games at High-A, the Rays’ No. 13 prospect has gone 19-for-42 (.452) with nine doubles, two home runs, 12 RBIs, eight walks, just one strikeout -- yes, one, in 52 plate appearances -- and a 1.359 OPS. Tampa Bay considered him an elite defender at first base as an amateur, and it's given him time in left field as well to add versatility to his game.

For his efforts, Morgan was named the Rays’ Minor League Player of the Month for May.

“He’s been outstanding,” Rays senior director of player development Blake Butera said. “Doesn’t strike out. All over the barrel. Gives you tremendous at-bats. Comes to play every day. He’s done a nice job at first base and also outfield.”

As for the Rays’ first three picks in last year’s Draft …

SS/3B Brayden Taylor, High-A Bowling Green: Taylor was the Rays’ first-round pick last year, going 19th overall out of TCU, and he’s now MLB Pipeline’s No. 84 overall prospect. The 22-year-old is hitting .267/.400/.516 with eight homers, 12 doubles, 25 RBIs and 11 steals while getting work at shortstop (25 games) and third base (17 games) -- exactly the kind of well-rounded player Tampa Bay anticipated, with the bonus of being able to play a premium up-the-middle position.

“It’s a pretty balanced profile. He doesn’t strike out a ton. He walks a good amount. Gets on base a lot. Line drives, uses the middle of the field,” Butera said. “The big thing for Brayden is kind of what we expected -- just on the barrel a lot, working really good at-bats.”

SS Adrian Santana, Single-A Charleston: The Rays picked Santana 31st overall out of the South Florida high school ranks and, without a short-season affiliate, sent him to the Carolina League. It was a challenging full-season assignment for the 18-year-old, who’s still filling out his athletic frame while getting used to playing every day. His offensive numbers reflect that, as he’s hitting just .212/.287/.250, but he has stolen 20 bases (while being caught only once) and played what Butera described as “incredible” defense at shortstop.

“We sent him to Charleston, kind of laying out some expectations of, ‘Look, we want to get you in a good routine every day. We want to make sure you’re taking care of your body the right way, getting necessary work in that you need to,’” Butera said. “That, to us, is more important than the numbers he puts up his first year, and he’s doing a nice job.”

OF Colton Ledbetter, High-A Bowling Green: The Rays’ second-round pick out of Mississippi State got off to a nice start, but he struggled through May, leading to a .225/.307/.394 slash line with 22 RBIs and nine steals in 40 games -- albeit with a 31.3% strikeout rate. Tampa Bay has been happy with its No. 14 prospect’s defense, having given him roughly equal playing time in left, center and right field.