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Tampa Bay Rays

Dear Mr. Neander,

Congratulations on making it to the World Series and taking the Los Angeles Dodgers to six games in what was a very exciting series.  What I find fascinating is how you have constructed your team.  Most of your best players are still in the minor leagues.  Yes, Randy Arozarena got the call and looks like a stud.  Well done!  But, what about Wander Franco, Vidal Brujan, and Josh Lowe?  Wouldn’t a lineup that had those three been more potent than one that had Arozarena, Brandon Lowe, and a bunch of other guys. Sure, Rays’ analytical math says to keep players in the minors a year or two longer than most, but making it to the World Series is hard, and as good as your pipeline is, it could be years before you do it again.  And yes, speaking of analytics…you really took Blake Snell out after giving up two hits just because the data said he struggles the third time through the lineup?  Really??  Isn’t Snell your best pitcher?  Doesn’t he have a Cy Young award? Remember, predictive analytics needs new data to be effective.  Perhaps watching the game would help.

Too much…too soon?


The guys at Prospect361.com

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Wander Franco
  • Biggest Mover: Randy Arozarena
  • Emerging Prospect: Gregg Jones

1. Wander Franco (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 Fantasy Player
  • Tools Summary: Impressive tools with an even more impressive ability to hit.  Still the number one prospect in the game

Sure, I was bummed that Wander Franco wasn’t called up?  Could he have been the missing ingredient that would have brought a championship to St. Pete?  From what I saw in 2019, there’s not much more left for him to learn in the minor league. While it’s easy to call him a five-tool player, I think that’s being lazy.  Instead, I see a player with one potential 80-grade tool in his ability to hit, a 70-grade power tool, a 50, maybe slightly less runner, and an average defender (arm and catch) at short but a possible plus defender at second.  Is that a five-tool player?  I dunno…but, he has the making of a superstar that should be in the Major Leagues in 2021.

2. Randy Arozarena (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 OF
  • Tools Summary: Believe it or not, he’s still rookie eligible

By now, you know who Randy Arozarena is.  If you don’t, well go watch the postseason and he was the guy hitting the ball hard in each at-bat and hitting home runs in bunches.  But I get the following question daily…is it real?  Let’s go to the data.  In 23 Major League games, he ranked 60th in all of baseball in barrels per plate appearances, just ahead of some guy named Ronald Acuna.  His exit velocity ranked in the top 20% of the league.  If he can add some loft, there is 30 home run pop; maybe 40.  He’s also a plus runner and if allowed, should be able to steal 20 bases per year.  He does strike out too much (28% during the season but improved in the playoffs) and will expand the strike zone.  But, in the minor leagues, he did make better contact.  So, you could be looking at a .260/.340/.500 slash line with 30 plus home runs and 10 to 15 stolen bases.   I would say that’s pretty real!

3. Vidal Brujan (SS/2B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 2B
  • Tools Summary: Exciting player with double-plus speed.  Makes excellent contact with a solid approach.  I think there is star potential.

Vidal Brujan is one of the few five-tool players in the minor leagues.  He’s athletic with double-plus speed, great bat speed that should translate to at least average in-game power.  Plus, he can really hit.  He’s averaged a 15% walk rate in the minor leagues while walking nearly 10% of the time.  A potential stat line of .290/.370/.425 is not out of the question.  Most of the power will be doubles instead of home runs, but as he matures and adds loft, I think he could hit double-digit home runs.  If the Rays let him steal, he could easily steal 30 plus bags annually. 

4. Brendan McKay (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary: Premium stuff from the left side with plus control.  He missed the 2020 season with Labrum surgery which has added significant risk to his profile

In 2019, Brendan McKay was promoted to the Major Leagues and pitched to 4.80 ERA.  While it wasn’t a great stat line, the arsenal was solid.  His fastball averaged 93.7 MPH with a great active spin rate.  His secondary pitches were also solid with his cutter and curveball getting over a 20% WHIFF rate.  His change-up, arguably his best secondary pitch was used sparingly.  I was looking for a step-up season in 2020 but McKay had Labrum surgery in August and missed the entire season.  Labrum surgery is serious and not everyone comes back successfully.  He’s still a Top 100 player for me, but the risk has gone up.

5. Xavier Edwards (SS/2B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 2B
  • Tools Summary:  Double-plus speed with a solid approach and excellent contact skills.  Swing is geared for contact with no power projectable at this time.

Xavier Edwards was traded to the Rays from the Padres as part of the Tommy Pham deal in the spring.  His carrying tool is double-plus speed that has translated into 56 stolen bases in 168 minor league games.  While he makes excellent contact and does not expand the strike zone, he currently has demonstrated no power.  His lifetime SLG is .399 with one home run.  86% of his hits have been singles. 

6. Josh Lowe (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: 20-20 power-speed potential but with some swing and miss.  He will walk though, so he could even help you in OBP-based leagues.

In 2019 Josh Lowe hit 18 home runs and stole 30 bases in Double-A.  I thought there was an outside chance he would see Tampa in 2020, but they promoted some kid named Randy Arozarena instead.  While there are plus power potential and speed, he does strike out too much.  In 2019, he posted a 25% K/9 rate which was like what he produced in High-A in 2018.  He is patient and has always posted double-digit walk rates.  In the end, I like the athleticism, the power-speed potential and will live with the .250 batting average he’ll likely produce.  In an on-base percentage, he might even be an asset for that category.

7. Shane Baz (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP or Closer
  • Tools Summary: Premium stuff with currently poor control. 

Shane Baz has a power arsenal that starts with an upper 90s fastball.  It has good movement with nice riding action.  His best secondary pitch is a hard slider that also has good movement and misses plenty of bats.  While he’s athletic, he isn’t always able to repeat his delivery, so control has been a problem.  In 157.1 innings in the minor leagues, he’s walked over 4.5 per nine.  As he matures, the control should also improve.  If it doesn’t and he needs to move to the bullpen, the stuff is good enough to work at the back of the bullpen.

8. Joe Ryan (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Fastball-change-up pitcher that struck out 186 batters in 2019

Joe Ryan continues to fall under the radar in Dynasty Leagues and this despite striking out 186 batters in 2019.  He doesn’t have that fastball that sits 98 MPH but instead, his fastball sits 93 to 94 MPH touching higher.  What he does have is a double-plus change-up.  As I’ve said many times before, pitchers with an elite change-up can have early success in the Major Leagues and I believe Ryan could as well.  His slider, more of a slurve is still a work in progress but evaluators believe it will eventually grade out as average.  The ceiling for me is a number three starter but, and I will stress, he could explode onto the scene when he does get the call.  Fantasy owners need to plan accordingly.

9. Nick Bitsko (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with Risk
  • Tools Summary: Great size, easy delivery and throws hard

Nick Bitsko decided to graduate high school a year early and enter the draft.  That coupled with no baseball season in 2020 (he lives in Pennsylvania) gave scouts little to no time to scout him.  However, he was well known in the showcase circuit and the Rays had seen enough as they drafted him in the first round.  He’s 6-foot-4 with a smooth delivery and a nice present arsenal.  His fastball sits 94 to 95 MPH with a feel to spin a curveball.  It’s everything you want in a top-of-the-rotation starter. 

10. Ronaldo Hernandez (C)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: Excellent contact skills with power.  He’s poor defensively, and that does put risk that he might not stay at the position long-term

Ronaldo Hernandez is a difficult prospect to evaluate.  He’s an offensive-oriented catcher with poor defensive skills.  Part of the reason for his defensive struggles is he’s new to the position.  But the Rays love his athleticism and believe over time, he will become at least an average catcher.  He had a chance to work on his defense in 2020 as he got a chance to catch more advanced pitchers at the Alternate Site. What he can do…is hit.  He makes great contact, particularly for a catcher although he is aggressive at the plate.  There’s plenty of bat speed, so he should hit for future power.  So, you have a potential nice offensive catcher who might not be able to stay there long-term because he can’t play the position.  Thus, my dilemma.

11. Shane McClanahan (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Excellent results in 2019 with great strikeout and walk rates.  The delivery says he might be a reliever, but the Rays are developing him as a starter.

Shane McClanahan was drafted in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He’s not a big kid at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds but still touches the upper nineties with this fastball.  He has solid secondary pitches that can miss bats.  His career minor league strikeout rate is 11.8 per nine.  The delivery is not great as he comes from a lower three-quarters delivery that suggests he could eventually move to the bullpen. 

12. JJ Goss (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Young, athletic, and projectable

JJ Goss was drafted in the supplemental first round in the 2019 Draft and signed for just over $2 million.  At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, he’s an athletic, projectable right-hander that can already touch the mid 90’s with his fastball while flashing nice secondary pitches. In his first taste of professional ball in 2019, he showed swing and miss stuff with good control as he struck out 19, walked three in 19 innings of action. The ceiling is a mid-rotation starter with a chance to be more.

13. Gregg Jones (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: He has 80-grade speed with some pop.  His swing needs an overhaul though.  If he can improve his swing mechanics, he could be a premier leadoff batter. 

Gregg Jones was drafted in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft (pick #22) and played well in his professional debut.  I had a chance to see Jones in college and he’s not just fast, he’s Billy Hamilton/Trea Turner fast.  The problem is I’m not sure how much he’ll hit.  It’s a noisy setup with a lot of moving parts in his swing.  I can’t believe the Rays will let him keep the swing.  He’s also not void of power.  There is plenty of bat speed and at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, he has the size to drive pitches.  If you like the high-risk high-reward player, Jones might be your guy.

14. Carlos Colmenarez (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Int’l player expected to sign ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with risk
  • Tools Summary: Tooled up Dominican 16-year-old that is expected to sign for one of the largest international bonuses on January 15th

Carlos Colmenarez could be the most famous of all the players expected to sign out of the 2020-21 International class.  He’s a potential five-tool talent with plus bat speed that could eventually translate into plus in-game power, above-average speed, and a feel to hit.  He’s also athletic enough to stay up the middle.  Look, he’s 16 and not even signed yet as I write this, but he could sign for one of the highest bonuses on January 15th, and Dynasty League owners need to take note.

15. Nick Schnell (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Toolsy teenager but is striking out over 30% of the time.

Nick Schnell was selected in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft as a toolsy high-school kid that was very raw at the plate.  He has plus bat speed but his current swing lacks loft, so he’s currently more a doubles-hitter.  The concern continues to be his approach at the plate and his ability to make contact.  In 152 plate appearance, he’s posted a 30.7% strikeout rate and if it weren’t for a .410 BABIP, his average would have been more .230 than .285. 

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