Any system that leads off with Junior Caminero is going to be strong. When you throw in Curtis Mead and Carson Williams, and one of the more advanced hitters taken in the 2023 draft in Brayden Taylor, the system is still one of the best in baseball. All four of those players should help the Rays in 2024 and 2025, with Caminero having a chance to compete for American Rookie of the Year next season.
A little further away is Xavier Isaac. He’s a player that I felt might be a little light to play first, but his performance in High-A was nothing short of amazing. I think he calms down, but I’ve moved his ceiling up. Also, with his hit tool, he could be another that moves quickly.
I don’t want to summarize every player in this intro, but I encourage you to read them carefully. The system is strong, and most players should be considered for Dynasty Leagues.
- Top Prospect: Junior Caminero
- Biggest Mover: Xavier Isaac
- Biggest Disappointment: Mason Auer and Carlos Colmenarez
- Emerging Prospect: Brailer Guerrero
1. Junior Caminero (3B)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 3B
- Tools Summary: He produces some of the best exit velos in the Rays system, which should translate into 30+ home runs at the highest level. He’s overly aggressive at the plate, which might pressure his OBP.
Initially signed by the Guardians, the Rays quietly acquired Junior Caminero in November 2021. How the Guardians let this happen when they are so desperate for players who make hard contact is a head-scratcher. Perhaps the Rays unlocked something to allow his power to play. If this is the case, then the Guardians need to do some soul-searching about how they missed this.
Anyway, we all know about the high-end bat speed. For instance, his first hit in the big leagues left his bat at 112 MPH. He also has plenty of loft in his swing, so you can project 30 future home run pop, maybe more. What could make him a superstar is his improved contact rate. In 2023, he posted a 19.6% K-Rate, which significantly improved from what he showed in 2022. He does swing hard, so this could be his high watermark, but I think you can project at least league-average contact. He is aggressive, and that could put pressure on his OBP.
He’s a 50-runner but is starting to fill out, so he’ll likely not be a stolen base threat. Defensively, the Rays have primarily had him play third, and the reports have been encouraging. He was originally signed as a shortstop, but that ship has sailed.
Caminero’s fantasy upside is a .270/.320/.500+ hitter with 30+ home runs with minimal stolen bases. He doesn’t have the same on-base skills as Yordan Alvarez, but everything else looks pretty similar.
2. Curtis Mead (3B)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B/2B
- Tools Summary: Plus hit tool with enough hard contact could give him 18 to 20 future home run pop with a high batting average and OBP.
Curtis Mead missed two months of the season after getting hit on the wrist by a pitch. When healthy, he’s a hit-first player with solid exit velocities that should develop 18 to 20 home run pop over time. Early in his career, he could be a 12 to 18 home run player with ten stolen bases.
From a fantasy standpoint, that might disappoint some. However, his bat-to-ball skills are so mature that he could hit .280 with a .350+ OBP with plenty of runs scored. Plus, I believe there is power upside.
In his first big league exposure, he was more of a singles hitter with poor hard-hit and exit velo rates. I believe the contact quality will improve as he gets more comfortable, but the data aligns with my scouting assessment.
3. Carson Williams (SS)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 SS
- Tools Summary: He has exciting tools with some concern about how much contact he will make.
Carson Williams has extremely fantasy-friendly tools with double-plus speed and plenty of bat speed to project future plus power. What is holding him back is his swing-and-miss tendency. He expands the strike zone and tries to hit the ball 500 feet on too many pitches. He will work walks and could add 80 to 100 points to his batting average. If you add it all up, he could be a 20-20 player with a slash line of .250/.340/.475. If he does learn to make better contact, watch out!
4. Xavier Isaac (1B)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2026 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 1B
- Tools Summary: The early returns show a potential plus hit tool but with above-average power. Conditioning will likely always be an issue.
The Rays’ successful history of developing baseball players must always be considered when they draft or acquire a controversial player. Xavier Isaac was one such player when they selected him in the first round in 2021. He’s a first base-only high school that isn’t blessed with great athleticism. You can usually wait on those players, but the Rays love the bat and took him higher than most thought he would go.
In his first full-season assignment in Low-A, he was tracking to my early assessment. He hit .266 with a robust .380 OBP and showed a little more power than I thought (.462 SLG, 13 home runs in 90). However, after he got promoted, he turned up the power, slugging .898 with six home runs in a small sample size of 12 games. Granted, it came with a .452 BABIP, but he looked great.
I don’t think we are seeing a skill change, but in looking at his data, his exit velocities have improved. It should be noted they are not the official baseballsavant data, but instead a third-party dataset.
Given his body type, I worry about his long-term conditioning, but I’m moving his upside to a Top 15 first baseman with a high OBP and 20 home run pop. If he adds more loft, there could be upside to his power.
5. Brayden Taylor (3B, #19)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: High OBP skills with 20+ home run pop with solid speed.
Brayden Taylor has solid all-around skills, highlighted by plus bat speed that should produce 20+ home run pop. He walked more than he struck out in his Draft year at Texas Christian but also struck out 18.7% of the time. While that number is well above average in professional baseball, it’s on the high side for elite college hitters. That played out in 22 games in Low-A, where he struck out 32% of the time. He did go nine for nine on the basepaths, and when you combine that with him going 14 for 14 in his draft year at TCU, you have to like his ability to steal double-digit stolen bases despite not being a burner.
He’s an intriguing player. I do believe he’ll hit with high OBP skills. Plus, there is 20 home run pop that can steal double-digit bases annually. That might not be a superstar, but that’s a pretty good player and one in which I would be investing in FYPDs.
6. Cole Wilcox (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP
- Tools Summary: He has the size and arsenal to pitch at the top of the rotation.
Cole Wilcox was part of the return when the Rays sent Blake Snell to the Padres in 2021. He’s spent most of 2022 recovering from TJ Brace Surgery, but the Rays thought he was ready for Double-A and assigned him to the Southern League to begin 2023. He’s pitched well, showing a power sinker that can touch the upper 90s with a plus slider. When the sinker is working, he produces a ton of weak ground ball, but I would not expect high strikeout rates. His change-up will flash but is still inconsistent.
The control has not yet completely returned (3.7 BB/9), but I think he should have average control over time. The delivery is a little stiff, but there’s a lot to like at 6-foot-5 and a plus power sinker-slider.
7. Mason Montgomery (LHP)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: He has a promising arsenal, but he’s not been able to throw enough strikes to get deep into games.
Mason Montgomery could not build on his breakout 2022 season. His velocity was inconsistent from start to start, sometimes topping out at 97 MPH, but generally, it sat at 91 to 93 MPH (T 94). It also didn’t have great spin (2050 to 2200 RPM). His slider took an excellent step forward with 13 inches of horizontal movement, generating plenty of whiffs. His change-up has always been a plus pitch, and the data supported that in 2023.
Where he had most of his trouble was finding the plate. In 29 starts across Double and Triple-A, he walked 4.3 per nine. While that doesn’t sound horrible, the wheels can quickly fall off once he loses his release point.
I still have his ceiling as a #3 starter, but work is still left for him to reach that ceiling. I would love to see the velo and spin on his fastball become more consistent and throw more strikes. Even though we could see him in the Major Leagues next season, he’s likely two to three years away from finding that ceiling. Plan accordingly and have patience.
8. Dru Baker (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
- Tools Summary: He’s a plus runner with enough exit velo to hit for double-digit home run pop. Throw in a feel to hit; he should be a player to roster in a Dynasty League.
Dru Baker had one of the best seasons in the Rays’ minor league system in 2023. Across High and Double-A, he slashed .302/.384/.472 with 14 home runs and 49 stolen bases. The over-the-fence power fell off when he got to Double-A, but there’s enough bat speed to at least project doubles-power and 8 to 10 future home run pop.
In most systems, he’d be considered a top prospect. He’s not showing any platoon splits, and with his athleticism, at worse, he should profile as a fourth outfielder at some point for the Rays. I think he has a chance to be more, and consequently, I have put his ceiling as a Top 60 outfielder with a chance to exceed that.
9. Adrian Santana (SS, #31)
- Highest Level: Complex ETA: 2026-27 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with risk
- Tools Summary: He’s a 70-grade runner who might also be a 70 defender at short. He needs to get stronger.
The Rays selected Adrian Santana in the compensatory section of the first round last July. His carrying tool is his blazing speed with the defensive chops to stay at shortstop long-term. He needs to get stronger, but he did hit 11 home runs for his High School team in Doral, Florida (up from four in his junior year). With proper training and nutrition, there is enough size to suggest that his current 30-grade power can at least improve a grade over time.
10. Osleivis Basabe (SS/2B)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder with upside
- Tools Summary: He’s a plus hitter with speed but lacks the power to be an impact performer at the highest level.
Osleivis Basabe has always made excellent contact, and while he posted a 25% K-Rate in his MLB debut, his swing is built for contact. Unfortunately, there is little to no power. Part of the problem is that he beats everything into the ground. His exit velocity data shows average bat speed, but it’s hard to hit with power when everything you hit is on the ground. He’s also an above-average runner and can steal 15+ bases annually.
The Rays have played him all over the field, which might ultimately be his role at the highest level. He did play a lot of short in Wander Franco’s absence, but I think, ultimately, he’s a utility player at the highest level. That should put his fantasy upside as a Middle Infielder, but he could be a Top 15 2B in the right situation.