I’ve already given up on all of my resolutions. Cancel my Curves membership immediately! Where are my Camels? I need a pint of Canadian Club…ASAP! We’re still hacking through the minor league previews though. Emphasis on the hack when I’m doing them. The Rays have made some interesting moves this offseason. In chess we’d put a question mark next to them. But I’ll leave opinions to the opinion-makers. I’m just here to make sure you know who the top ten prospects are in this Rays organization. In my opinion, of course.

Grade A

1. Wander Franco, SS | Age: 17 | ETA: 2022
Given how deep and good this Rays system is, it’s pretty impressive that a 17-year-old is the consensus headliner. He’s worth the praise though. He’s a double-plus hitter and runner with above average power at short. There’s potential impact in all five standard categories, and even at this young age he’ll likely rank in the top ten prospects overall. His 2018 debut was as advertised – he hit .351 with 11 homers and four steals, walking in 10% of his appearances while striking out in just 7%.

2. Brent Honeywell, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Honeywell could have some redraft value and Grey provided his take on him earlier this offseason. There are two important things to know about Honeywell. One, he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery so patience will be necessary (don’t expect him before June/July). Two, he has a double-plus screwball that – when paired with the rest of his arsenal and his methodical approach to pitching – should impact multiple categories, especially strikeouts.

3. Vidal Brujan, 2B | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
Brujan is a plus hitter and double-plus runner. That converts to a leadoff profile that can make nice in runs, average, and steals. His power is average at best. Lemme throw some 2018 numbers at you real quick. He played in Single-A and High-A in 2018. He hit .320 with nine homers and 55 steals. Walk rate? 12%. Surely he must strike out a lot. Nah, 12%. If you aren’t excited by him, I’ll just be excited for the both of us.

4. Brendan McKay, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
McKay is a two-way player who can both pitch and hit. My guess is the Rays will convert him into a full-time pitcher though. His best pitch is a plus curve, and he had a very solid 2018 on the mound. He struck out 103 batters in 78 innings across three leagues (he topped out in High-A) with a 2.41 ERA. The ceiling is a 2/3 starter with some solid strikeout numbers – maybe not as sexy as Honeywell – but I would guess over a batter an inning.


Grade B

5. Brandon Lowe, 2B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
Welp, sometimes you’re a prospect by nature, and other times by technicality. Lowe is the latter after racking up 129 MLB at-bats in 2018. The good news is we have a decent-sized sample of what he can actually do. He hit .233 with six homers for the Rays after hitting over .300 with 14 homers in Triple-A. Steamer predicts he’ll hit .250 with 8 homers in 2019, and that’s gonna work in some deeper formats.

6. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
If I’m betting on McKay to end up on the mound, there’s a chance Lowe eventually gets the gig at first. Lowe is a big left-handed bat who can hit for both average and power. In 2018, he popped 27 homers and hit .330/.416/.568 across three levels. He’ll be ready when the Rays need him, and I’m guessing he’ll get some shots midsummer.

7. Matthew Liberatore, LHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2022
Liberatore is a 2018 draft selection (first round) with a plus heater/curve combination and above-average control and command grades that you don’t typically see with high-schoolers. There’s a lot of projectability in both his left-handed frame and his arsenal. It won’t happen overnight, but the ceiling is a 2/3 starter. His first full season should reveal a lot more.

8. Jesus Sanchez, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2020
Sanchez has average tools across the board, but there’s enough power to be fantasy relevant. I think on his current trajectory, he’d reach the majors with the potential for 18-20 homers, a handful of steals, and an average in the neighborhood of .280. He’ll need a full year in the upper minors to really see how his approach works against good pitching.


Grade C

9. Anthony Banda, LHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2019
Banda’s stuff isn’t as good as Shane Baz’s (the righty they got in the Archer deal from the Buccos). But I’m giving him the edge for proximity – he should be in the mix for some MLB innings this year. Baz can wait (he’s 19)! Banda’s stuff is back-end starterish, but he should be able to eat some innings and provide depth to both the Rays and dynasty players in deeper formats. UPDATE: Banda is another TJS victim (h/t Doug for the info!). So give this slot to Baz after all!

10. Lucius Fox, SS | Age: 21 | ETA: 2021
Fox is your typical Batman character slash SAGNOF special. He can get on base and hit a lil’ bit, but mainly his value comes from his 70-grade wheels and his ability to construct gadgets in black matte finish. I know, it’s low hanging fruit, but I grew up on Batman comics. Sorry!


2019 Index

  1. Ante Galic says:
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    Mike!!!!

    Great Spec report!

    a. Happy new year, all the best to you. If you insist on breaking out the Camels, then you have to break out the garlic too. Every cigarette smoked, you need to chew on half of a clove of garlic. Do it!!

    b. Little-known factoid about Chad for January 2

    After bashing Chad (and you all by extension) with all the bad stuff, I thought I’d give you a positive spin for 2019!!

    As we all know, Chad is near the bottom of almost every economic indicator in the world. In fact, the human development index for Chad puts them in 186th place of 189 countries who placed, beating out the failed state of South Sudan, and other economic greats like the Central African Republic (or CAR for short, but more like the car that couldn’t run) and Niger where the main means of transport is the donkey cart. The indicators that put Chad so low include.

    1. Life expectancy=53.2; USA=79.5
    2. Expected years of schooling=8; USA=16.5
    3. Mean years of schooling (mean as in average)=2.3; USA=13.4
    4. Gross national income=1750$ (seems like a lot but the money is not evenly distributed); USA=54,941$

    Okay, enough of the negative.

    Chad is #9 world producer of millet!!! In the world, #9!!! (https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-leading-millet-producing-countries-in-the-world.html) So it’s not all that bad. The grain is a staple all over the country and you can find many different varieties all over as well. The country benefited from some kind Indian dude who transplanted a few varieties from India and – to quote Grey! – Frank Voila you get world #9 producer of millet. Most Chadians use it to make their daily bread. It’s called esh (as in ash with e as in egghead at the beginning of the word) in Chad.

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thank you sir!
      a. same to you! luckily I was kidding. Quit years ago and it was hard as hell…never again.
      b. Next time I’m eating millet I’ll think of you!

      • Ante Galic says:
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        @Mike: Mike!!

        Quit too a while ago it was November 5, 1994. I smoked my last cigarette in 3 parts – 1/3 after each of breakfast, lunch and supper. I kept the unspent cig on my window sill to keep it ‘fresh’ for the next time when I lit it up! Crazy right!

        Cheers,
        Ante

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          Word, I relit some myself. Not my finest hour haha.

          • Ante Galic says:
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            @Mike: Mike!

            Yeah supposedly it’s bad for you if you re-light the cigarette. Guess what it is also bad for you? To pick up the first cigarette, duh!!

            Cheers,
            Ante

  2. Keith says:
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    If only Wander was 2 years away and not 4! I’m in more of a keeper league than dynasty league, so keeping a dead spot for that long is not really going to work. I picked him up the last week of my league last year, but didn’t realize he was that far away. It’s a competitive 10 team league where we keep 15 guys each, but not the type of league that more competitive and involved guys would play. No minor league rosters to stash him in.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Yeah with no minor league roster it’s tough to justify him. Vlad is gonna make it at 19 so you could argue Wander has a chance to be up in 2021 at the same age.

  3. Doug says:
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    Just a heads up because I know it’s hard to keep track of all this stuff. Banda had TJ surgery in June and is unlikely to see anything other than a few outings late in the year to ease his mind for 2020.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Nooo! Thanks for the heads up and thanks for being polite about it. I’ll fix!

  4. goodfold2 says:
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    finding for my super deep league n.lowe isn’t owned, popped a 70th in ralph’s top 500 midseason and he mentions him often in podcasts. my pick upcoming is 20th overall, whereish in the top 50 1st years would he be. i know ralph’s top 500 midseason is by now dated, but at same time it’s the only thing that even sort of easily might approximate how to do this (merging the 1st year lists with unowned risers). groshans is around still, but won’t be at my pick.

    • goodfold2 says:
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      @goodfold2: oh yeah and just best overall player (not targeting close ETA, as lowe here would have), we get these guys on rookie (actually free till called up) contracts at league min for years once drafted. using ralph’s midseason top 500 n.lowe is the highest unowned guy (some others tirso O, cal mitchell, biggio, o.cruz in similar ranking range).

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      If he’s still sitting there at 70 I’d grab him.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Mike: actually am starting to see some spots to merge, such as here you have liberatore just behind n.lowe. lowe went at 1.17 now i’m going either victor victor or somebody else if i can talk myself out of it. hard to believe he’s here at 1.20 though.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          Victor is solid there. Kinda surprised he fell that far too.

  5. This dude says:
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    Thanks love the work you guys do… Ronaldo H falls outside a top 10 Rays list? About where would he be? 11-20 range? Was he traded? Am I on crack…

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks man! Nah, I like him, just a victim of a deep system and catchers often take longer to develop and I believe he’s new to the position. He’s just outside like 11 – 12 or so. You aren’t on crack (I hope)!

  6. Ronaldo says:
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    Sounds good – I’m in a deep dynasty league and he is available. Many of the other places I’ve referenced for prospects been a good deal higher on him. To the point I’m focusing on him with a top ten pick this year. A few left over fall league pop up guys and the normal first year draft eligible guys. Not seeing him in this top ten gives me major pause. I had him above Groshans Mize and Bart to name a few. Actually very happy to see such dramatic difference in opinions! It will make me dive deeper. Some insist on him as an easy top 100 guy and that is where I had him… till now. Crap

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      You got it…take my ranking with a grain of salt. I’m pretty low on pitchers and catchers in general. I’ll be all in if he rakes the same way in the upper minors (AA/AAA).

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