Isaac, Simpson, Morgan to rep Rays at All-Star Week

July 9th, 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.

ST. PETERSBURG -- For less than a week in the middle of May, shared a lineup with and at the Rays’ High-A Bowling Green affiliate. It was just after Morgan was promoted from Single-A Charleston and right before Simpson was elevated to Double-A Montgomery, with Isaac in the middle of it all.

“For a second, all three of us were on the same team,” Morgan said. “And man, that lineup was dangerous.”

Those three prospects will be reunited this weekend at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Isaac and Simpson will represent the Rays at the All-Star Futures Game on Saturday, while Morgan is set to participate in the inaugural Futures Skills Showcase.

All three said getting to the Futures Game, the annual midseason prospect showcase, was a preseason goal. The honor isn’t lost on them.

“It means a lot. It’s a great honor just to be around so many talented guys and to be chosen to be in that atmosphere,” Simpson said. “Just thankful for a great and healthy first half.”

“It means everything to me, honestly,” added Isaac. “It means the world. I can’t wait.”

The three feature different skill sets. Isaac, the Rays’ No. 3 prospect and No. 31 overall, per MLB Pipeline, is a middle-of-the-order bopper who can hit the ball as hard as just about anybody. Simpson (No. 10) is an incredible speedster. Morgan (No. 13) is a slick-fielding first baseman who grinds out at-bats and sprays line drives all over the field.

One skill they know they have in common? They can all flat-out hit.

“X is a phenomenal player,” Simpson said. “Phenomenal hitter, one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Said Morgan of Isaac: “When we’re both in the lineup, damage is going to be done. He’s a great player.”

“Chan is my man. Tre’ is my guy,” Isaac said. “I’m playing with Tre’ right now. It’s insane to watch him play every day, and it was even more crazy to watch Chan play and run the bags every day. … They’re [both] always getting on. Always a grind of an at-bat. Fun to watch.”

Isaac has continued to reward the Rays’ faith after initially being viewed as a risky first-round pick two years ago. He’s remade his body, calling himself “a different Xavier from the Draft to now,” but that hasn’t taken away any of his remarkable raw power. Just the opposite.

The 20-year-old first baseman is slashing .293/.382/.550 with 13 homers, 57 RBIs and 13 steals in 61 games for Bowling Green. He missed some time due to a minor wrist injury, the result of him jamming his hand sliding into a base, but nothing else has slowed him down this season.

“I’m seeing the ball very well. I just feel like I’m being a lot more aggressive than last year,” Isaac said. “Routine has been better. It’s my second full year, so I know the concept now. Everything’s just going a lot smoother.”

Blessed with incredible speed but little power, Simpson has thrived by sticking to his strengths. The 23-year-old uses his impressive bat-to-ball ability and strike-zone discipline -- plus a little added weight that’s helping him hit the ball a bit harder -- to slap hits all over the field. His wheels take care of the rest.

A former infielder who’s taken well to the outfield, Simpson hasn’t hit an over-the-fence homer as a professional, but he’s batting .353/.406/.396 with as many walks (26) as strikeouts this season. He has stolen a staggering 58 bases in 66 games, 11 more steals than anyone else in the Minors this season, despite everyone in every ballpark knowing that he’s running.

“Just sticking to what I know and who I am as a player,” Simpson said. “I know that somebody that’s a sparkplug needs to get on base, and my routine and preparation is all geared toward that and toward running and doing what I need to do to be productive on the field.”

Meanwhile, Morgan earns rave reviews from Rays officials for the unique way he battles in the batter’s box. That approach made him a natural fit for the Futures Skills Showcase.

“I looked at the format and everything, and I was like, ‘Man, other than the last round’ -- that’s the Home Run Derby round -- ‘the other two look like my [batting practice] rounds anyway,’” he said, laughing.

A third-round pick out of LSU last year, Morgan is hitting .354/.435/.505 with more walks (28) than strikeouts (26) in 250 plate appearances this season. He could join the Futures Game roster if anyone drops off the American League squad before Saturday, but the chance to put his hitting ability on display is special enough.

“It means a lot, because I take so much pride in my hitting. I think that’s a big part of my game, and the way I hit isn’t really common,” Morgan said. “Definitely contact over power, and I’ll do anything not to strike out. That’s my way of going about it.”