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.
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.
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.
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!