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Wander remains No. 1 overall prospect

Rays impressed with Arozarena's versatility; Cash 'not sure' when Margot will return
@juanctoribio
August 6, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are excited about what the big league club can accomplish in 2020, but the organization is also thrilled about the future, due to having a plethora of highly rated prospects in the Minors. That excitement is led by Wander Franco. MLB Pipeline released its annual

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are excited about what the big league club can accomplish in 2020, but the organization is also thrilled about the future, due to having a plethora of highly rated prospects in the Minors.

That excitement is led by Wander Franco.

MLB Pipeline released its annual midseason rankings on Wednesday, and to nobody’s surprise, the 19-year-old Franco came in as the No. 1 overall prospect for the second consecutive season. Franco was also the top prospect in this year's preseason rankings.

In 2019, Franco solidified himself as the consensus top prospect in baseball after hitting .339 with three home runs at Class A Advanced Charlotte in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. But perhaps most impressive is that Franco rarely strikes out. In 768 Minor League plate appearances across '18-19, Franco has struck out just 54 times. Because of that, Pipeline gave Franco a perfect 80-grade hit tool, the highest of any prospect in the Minors.

“He has all the tools that people talk about,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash during Spring Training. “He’s fast, he has a great arm. You can see that he has a knack for making contact and a knack to hit them a long way. We haven’t seen all of that yet, but just in his little practice and pregame routine, you can tell that he has a chance to be a special player.”

Franco was one of the prospects added to the 60-man player pool this season, meaning there’s still a chance that he could accomplish his well-known goal of making it to the Majors in 2020. Though that’s unlikely, the Rays believe the future is bright for the young shortstop.

With Franco leading the way, the Rays have three other prospects on the Top 100 list: left-hander/first baseman Brendan McKay (No. 16), infielder Vidal Brujan (No. 50) and infielder Xavier Edwards (No. 80). Of the four, Franco, McKay and Brujan are in the Rays’ 60-man player pool.

Pipeline also updated the team’s Top 30 Prospects list, and some of the new additions included right-hander Nick Bitsko and shortstop Alika Williams, the club’s top two selections in the 2020 MLB Draft. Bitsko is the No. 8 prospect in the system, while Williams comes in at No. 14.

Arozarena’s versatility
After missing all of Summer Camp due to a positive COVID-19 test, Randy Arozarena continues to work on his conditioning at the alternate training site in Port Charlotte, Fla., but now he’s also taking some reps at a new position.

Arozarena will continue to be primarily an outfielder, but the Rays are also giving the 25-year-old experience at second base. Arozarena made it known that he had played second in the past, and he was taking reps at the position before spring camp shut down.

Cash also added that Arozarena has continued to impress with the bat in Port Charlotte, but the club won’t recall him to the active roster until they feel confident with his conditioning.

Around the horn
• Manuel Margot was placed on the bereavement list on Tuesday following the death of his father, and Cash mentioned that the outfielder was headed home to the Dominican Republic to be with his family.

“I’m not sure when he’ll be back,” Cash said.

• McKay pitched two innings during a simulated game at the alternate training site on Wednesday. McKay missed the majority of Summer Camp after a positive COVID-19 test. There’s still no timetable for McKay’s return to the active roster.

Weekend pitching plans
The Rays are gearing up for a key three-day, four-game set against the Yankees at Tropicana Field beginning on Friday, and they feel confident about the pitching they will have on the mound.

Blake Snell is scheduled to start the series opener on Friday against Masahiro Tanaka. For Saturday’s doubleheader, the Rays will have Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos start, but the club is still unsure which will pitch Game 1. The Yankees have Gerrit Cole on the mound for the first game, and they will go with a bullpen game for the nightcap.

Charlie Morton will wrap up the series on Sunday, and the Yankees will trot out left-hander James Paxton.

Roster moves
With roster sizes going from 30 to 28 on Thursday, the Rays decided to option outfielder Brian O’Grady and right-hander Ryan Thompson to the alternate training site.

O’Grady was recalled on Tuesday after Margot was placed on the bereavement list, but he didn’t see any game action in two days. Thompson, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise during Summer Camp and pitched well, allowing one run over six innings.

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