Tampa Bay Rays

If you don’t see your favorite prospect on this list or if you think they are too low, welcome to one of the best minor league systems in baseball.  The Rays have their way, and while many don’t agree with how they don’t’ sign players to big contracts, you can’t deny that it’s working for them.  The system is deep and good.  I’ll let you enjoy and savor every glowing word.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Shane Baz
  • Biggest Mover: Taj Bradley
  • Emerging Prospect: Carlos Colmenarez

1. Shane Baz (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Fantasy Ace
  • Tools Summary: Plus stuff including a fastball that will touch triple-digits

Few players took a bigger step-up than Shane Baz did in 2021.  He went from thrower to pitcher, and it was dramatic.  Oh, he still throws hard.  In his three starts in the Major Leagues, his fastball sat 97 MPH.  But, he cut his walks from four per nine to less than two in 78.2 innings across Double and Triple-A.  Want more.  In his 13.1 innings in the Major Leagues, he walked 3.  So, we have a pitcher who throws strikes, with a fastball that sits 97 MPH and touches higher with three secondary pitches that are all at least above-average pitches.  Those are the qualities of an Ace.

2. Vidal Brujan (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 2B in the league
  • Tools Summary: Speed with a little bit of pop and rarely strikes out.  It’s the recipe for a fantasy God

Imagine having a potential 50 stolen base player on your fantasy team…playing second base no less.  Oh, you had that with Dee Gordon?  Well, what if I told you that player had a better approach and could hit 10 to 12 home runs.  That’s what we are looking at with Vidal Brujan.  In 103 games in Triple-A, he slashed .262/.345/.440 with 44 stolen bases and 12 home runs.   Yeah, he didn’t play well in his call-up this year, but neither do a lot of players.  The speed alone should put him on all fantasy manager’s radar in the spring.  If you own him in a Dynasty League…well, you’re in the catbird seat.

3. Josh Lowe (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF
  • Tools Summary: 20-20 upside with a bit of pressure on his batting average.  But, he works his walks and could provide a .350+ OBP

Josh Lowe put up one of the more impressive stat lines last season.  He spent most of his time in Triple-A where he slashed .291/.381/.535 with 22 home runs and 26 stolen bases.  His .361 BABIP disguised that he struck out 26% of the time, but he also walked 13% of the time.  He’s a big guy, so there’s naturally going to be some swing and miss in his game, but his plus power and speed are real.  He might ultimately hit .250 but with the amount he walks, a .350+ OBP should be in the cards with a chance to go 20-20 at least early in his career.  As he fills out, the power will likely increase with the speed taking a step backward.

4. Greg Jones (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with crazy speed
  • Tools Summary: He’s an 80-grade runner who started to showed power last season.  He needs to cut down on his strikeout rate but he’s now a legitimate prospect

When the Rays drafted Greg Jones with the first pick in the 2019 draft, I wasn’t sure if his upside was a full-time regular or that of a fourth outfielder.  He’s a great athlete, has 80-grade speed, and had an approach that should work, although he chases too many pitches out of the strike zone.  What he didn’t have was power.  He’s 6-foot-2 but needed to get stronger and that occurred. He entered the 2021 season bigger and stronger and consequently slugged .527 in High-A with 13 home runs in 56 games.   He earned a late-season promotion to Double-A.  If the power is real, then he has a chance to be Major Leaguer.  The strikeouts are still a problem but as a fantasy manager, we just need him to hit enough as the stolen bases could be ridiculous.  I’ve seen him play short and the arm isn’t great.  I’ve set his ceiling assuming a move to center field.

5. Carlos Colmenarez (SS)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with risk
  • Tools Summary: Well rounded tools with a feel to hit, plus speed and plenty of bat speed

The Rays spent big last January when they landed one of the best players available for the international signing period.  They sent him to the DSL for 22 games and he looked overwhelmed, only slugging .298 with 15 of his 18 hits, singles.  Fantasy managers should not be dismayed as the tools are all there.  He has a great feel to hit, with plus bat speed, and is a good runner.  He’s only 5-foot-10, so the speed should be maintained for a while.  Despite the poor showing in the DSL, the Rays will likely bring him stateside in 2022.

6. Taj Bradley (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: Athletic pitcher with a fastball in the mid-90s

Bradley was a two-way player in high school who played more in the field than he pitched from the bump.  The Rays liked the athleticism and took him in the fifth round in 2018 and it’s been a slow, but effective burn for him.  He’s gotten better at every level; learning to throw strikes and improving his secondary pitches.  His fastball is his best pitch as it sits in the mid-90s with good run.  I’m a big believer in athletic pitchers who throw hard and this is what we have in Bradley.  On paper, he’s a number four starter.  I like that as a floor with a chance to be a number three, perhaps even more.

7. Curtis Mead (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B or a Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Breakout player with an intriguing power-speed combination who makes enough contact to be a full-time regular

Australian-born Curtis Mead is poised to become the most famous baseball player born down under. He started the season in Low-A and finished in Triple-A showing an intriguing power-speed potential. First and foremost though, he makes great contact. As is typical for guys who know how to make contact, he’s not a big walk guy, posting average walk rates. However, when you combine his polished hit tool with 15 home runs 15 stolen bases, it’s easy to get excited. Can he be a 20-20 player and hit .280 with a .350 OBP? Perhaps, but as he matures and fills out, his current average speed will diminish and so will the stolen bases. I think a .280/.350/.425 with 15 to 20 home runs and a handful of stolen bases is a more realistic ceiling. Potentially holding him back from full-time playing time, particularly with the Rays, is he’s not a great defender. I doubt he stays at third, so a move to second or even a corner outfield position might be in the cards.

8. Xavier Edwards (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 2B or MI
  • Tools Summary: Controls the strike zone with plus speed and absolutely no power.  Is he a full-time player?

Edwards has played in 247 minor league games and has hit one home run.  His .390 OBP is fantastic, but it’s only .001 better than his SLG.  That’s hard to do.  After four seasons (well 3 really), we have a good idea who Edwards is.  He rarely strikes out, walks nearly as much as he strikes out, has plus speed, is a good defender, but has no power.  Is that a Major League player?  Maybe?  But, he’s likely a utility player.  Also, from a fantasy standpoint, it’s hard to roster players like this.  You must make up for his lack of home runs elsewhere in your lineup.  Now, if he steals 30 to 40 bags, it might work.  He’s got double-plus speed and stole 34 in 2019, but only stole 19 last season.  For fantasy managers, know the parameters and set your expectations accordingly.

9. Osleivis Basabe (SS)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B
  • Tools Summary: Controls the strike zone well with speed and plenty of bat speed.  He’s an underrated prospect

Osleivis Basabe spent most of his time in Low-A in 2021 and showed an excellent ability to control the strike zone.  He rarely struck out (13% K/9) but also took his walks (8% BB/9).  There is plenty of bat speed but most of the power is doubles-power.  As he matures and adds loft to his swing, the over-the-fence power will come.  He’s also a 60 runner.  While I’m not sure he’ll develop into a 20-20 player, I could see a 15-20 player who can hit.  He’ll likely move to third as he continues to fill out.

10. JJ Goss (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary: Tall, athletic with a big fastball and a plus curveball. 

Goss was yet another high upside pitcher that had arm trouble last season.  He sustained a shoulder impingement in the spring but was able to rehab it and pitch 10.1 innings in the Complex League before the season ended.  It’s big stuff with a fastball that will touch the upper 90s and a plus curveball that is his primary out pitch.  But, he needs to pitch.  Since being taken in the supplemental first round in 2019, he has 27 innings under his belt.  Assuming health, the upside is a number two starter.

11. Cole Wilcox (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with a big fastball.  Had TJS in September and will miss the 2022 season

The Rays did well in their return for Blake Snell last winter.  While everyone focused on Mejia and Patino, for good reason, many thought Cole Wilcox had the highest upside.  He has the big fastball with solid secondary pitches.  He didn’t always throw strikes but the Padres and Rays worked on his mechanics and in 44.1 innings in Low-A last season, he walked 4.  So, things were looking great until a late June outing when he blew out his elbow and had Tommy John Surgery a few weeks later.  The upside is at least a number three starter, maybe more but the risk just went up.  He will not pitch in 2022.

12. Ian Seymour (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Pop-up pitcher who has four viable big-league pitches with plenty of deception in his delivery

Ian Seymour broke the Rays.  No matter how talented the player is, they are methodical about their process.  It’s a level at a time and the player must spend time at each level.  Even Wander Franco went through the process.  Ian Seymour was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft and started the season in Low-A where he started 10 games where he pitched well posting a 2.55 ERA.  He then was promoted to High-A where he continued to pitch well for two starts.  Then, the Rays promoted him, not to Double-A, but Triple-A where he continued to pitch well.  The arsenal has taken a step forward since he was drafted and he now has at least above-average pitches across the board.  The delivery has some violence in it, so there is some reliever risk.  But, I’m buying in, because I think the Rays are buying in.

13. Carson Williams (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Unknown
  • Tools Summary: Athletic, toolsy, and raw.  There are questions about where he’ll play and how much he’ll hit, or maybe he’ll even pitch.  If you believe the Rays will figure it out, he’s that Jake Cronenworth type talent

Williams was the Rays first pick last June and hit the ground running in his professional debut, posting a .840 OPS in 11 games.  He’s athletic with good bat speed but there are questions on how much he’ll hit.  He’s a project for sure, but the Rays are good at this and I’m betting he develops.  Does he stay at short?  Does he move to the outfield?  Does he pitch?  He pitched in high school with a big-time fastball.  I don’t know, but again, I bet the Rays figure it out with him.  They did with Jake Cronenworth.

14. Jonathan Aranda (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: Plus hit-tool with some pop.  He’ll be limited to second base and that likely will not work in Tampa.  Fantasy sleeper who needs a chance

Aranda had an impressive 2021 season.  Across High and Double-A, he slashed .332/.420/.548 with 13 home runs and four stolen bases.  He showed excellent contact, striking out only 19% of the time and walking 10% of the time.  The Rays are so deep that players like Aranda get lost, but he has a lot of offensive potential and could slot into a full-time second baseman for a Major League club as soon as 2022.  Unfortunately, I don’t see that being the Rays given the depth of the organization.  Since he can’t play short, I think he’s a trade candidate at some point down the road. 

15. Austin Shenton (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF or CI
  • Tools Summary: Doesn’t have a true carrying tool but has a little bit of power and showed encouraging contact skills in High-A

Shenton was the return when the Rays traded Diego Castillo to the Mariners at the deadline.  It was a typical Rays trade.  Move a guy that they didn’t believe would help them long-term for a younger player who could be a cog in the engine for four to five years.  Shenton doesn’t have impact tools but does have some power and has made better contact than I would have thought.  He doesn’t have any speed and will likely have to move off third to a corner outfield.  It feels like a soft-regular who could hit 20 home runs and hit .250 to .260 with some upside.

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