I have a soft-spot in my heart for the Tampa Bay Domers. Not only do they have to play in possibly the worst MLB stadium in active duty, they split much of their local media market with annoying snowbird Northerners with their Red Sox and Yankees caps! To the good people of Tampa, the Rays Up faithful, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t promise they’ll be up anytime in the next 4-20 years based on your callup principals and tendencies. There is hope. The Rays squeeze more service time out of prospects, than Tropicana does juice from Florida’s organ groves. Some might say it backfired on Brent Honeywell, but the most hardened Rays defender will say it was all part of the plan! Now Honeywell won’t start his service clock until September of 2029! I kid, I kid! But there is no team that gets more blood from their stones than the Rays. They have an impressive development track record spanning back a decade, and the current farm is full of talent with varying degrees of upside, but plenty of MLB futures. This is one of the more underrated systems in the game. It’s the Tampa Bay Rays Top Prospects for 2018 Fantasy Baseball.
1. Jesus Sanchez, OF | Age: 20 | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: .305/.348/.478, 15 HR, 82 RBI, 7 SB
An exciting combination of power and contact from the leftside. Sanchez’s power is driven by his excellent use of his lower half, strong wrists, and uppercut bat path. While his approach from a patience perspective is still improving, he shows excellent plate coverage and the ability to hit all types of pitches. His speed is above average, and he looks to be at least a 10 steal guy early in his MLB career. What you’re dreaming on is a middle of the order power hitter with a .270-.290 average and lots of counting stats. I’ve always felt like Adam Jones is a good comp, that is if Sanchez can’t develop 8%+ walk rate type approach. ETA: 2020
2. Willy Adames, SS | Age: 22 | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: .277/.360/.415, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 11 SB
A few days after making his MLB debut we discuss Adames. He went yard off Chris Sale in his first game, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the formidable Joey Wendle. The shortstop is one of those tricky players to value in dynasty. His numbers have always been good for his age and level, but they don’t necessarily jump off the page. The combination of contact, elite on base ability, pitch recognition, developing power, and athleticism make Willy a nice player to bet on in fantasy. He’s also got the chops to stick in the middle infield, and shortstop long term. ETA: 2018
3. Brent Honeywell, RHP | Age: 23 | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: 13-9, 136.2 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 172 Ks, 35 Bb
Coming into the season Honeywell would have ranked as the top prospect in the Rays system. A polished arm, with a rich mix of offerings in his arsenal. There were few pitchers in the minors more ready for the big leagues in 2017 than Honeywell. He instead stayed down in Durham for 24 starts, plus a few in the playoffs, eventually growing frustrated with the team. He was suspended for a few games and brought back to the team. In the aftermath Durham had an International League championship, and Honeywell was still searching for his chance to crack the Rays rotation. Blessed with a mid-90’s fastball with sink, and good command, the righty mixes in a plus changeup, that he can shape like a screwball, an above average splitter, and an average cutter. Early on in Spring Training Honey’s UCL popped like a zit, and he fell victim to the elbow succubus. If all goes well Honeywell will be on the Alex Reyes timeline this time next year. ETA: 2019
4. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B | Age: 22 | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: 1-0, 20 IP, 1.80 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 21 Ks, 5 Bb | .232/.349/.376, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB
The most highly decorated two-way player… in NCAA history, McKay is attempting to Ohtani his way to the majors as a lefty starter and power-hitting first baseman. His first two tests of the New York-Penn League and the Midwest League did not pose much of a challenge. Promoted to high-A early in May, McKay is moving up the later, and meeting each challenge. Early in his Florida State League stay, Mckay has impressed on the mound, while struggling to find consistency at the plate. It’s a small sample on both sides of the ball, but how he looks in the three highest levels of the minors will be important in dictating his future role. On the mound McKay mixes a mid-90s fastball, with a plus curveball, and an above average changeup. At the plate he’s a disciplined hitter that takes what the pitcher gives him, excellent pitch recognition, and the ability to make pitcher’s pay on mistakes in the zone. His power from college is yet to translate to his pro game, which is obviously a cause for concern. There’s been much debate as to whether the Rays will make McKay pick a role. I don’t see how the Rays, a notoriously audacious and frugal organization, would pass up the opportunity to maximize roster spots with a talented two way player, one that would fit perfectly into their bullpen game strategy. If there’s any team willing to take this as far as it can go, leave it to the Rays to do it. ETA: 2020
5. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF | Age: 22 | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: .263/.368/.412, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 20 SB
An athletic first baseman with a tool-belt full of 50 grades, Bauer is a tough player to project offensively. He’s flashed above average power for stretches, and has also looked like a singles hitter for other stretches. He runs very well for a corner infielder, and has posted elite walk rates dating back to A ball. His power is more of the 16-20 variety, but if he can hit .275, and steal 10-15 bases, he becomes a very useful player for fantasy. The opportunity is knocking for Bauers, as he should be up in Tampa at some point this season. ETA: 2018
6. Ronaldo Hernandez, C | Age: 20 | Level: A | 2017 Stats: .332/.382/.507, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB
A former middle infielder, that has taken to catching like a fish to water, or Grey to pie-baking. Hernandez, flashes plus bat speed, elite contact ability, and the strength to drive the ball. He consistently barreled the ball in his Appy league debut, slashing .332/.382/.507. He’s carried over that success to this season, hitting for average while keeping up a respectable .436 slugging in his full-season debut. He’s a bit pull-heavy, and hits more groundballs than you’d like to see, but he has good plate coverage, and a future behind the dish. The latter playing up the value of his bat. ETA: 2021
7. Garrett Whitley, OF | Age: 21 | Level: A | 2017 Stats: .249/.362/.430, 13 HR, 61 RBI, 21 SB
The most highly drafted New York prep prospect since Manny Ramirez, Whitley was a cold-weather kid with a bucket of tools. It took time, but following a rough April in the brutally cold Midwest League, Whitley came on. From May 3rd to September 4th, Whitley slashed .262/.377/.450, with 12 homers, and 18 steals. The performance was good enough to earn a wRC+ of 127, the 11th highest mark in the Midwest League. Things were really moving in the right direction for Whitley, but then tragedy struck. Whitley tore his labrum, the injury required surgery, and he’s on the shelf for the entirety of 2018. Look for Whitley to bounce back in 2019. What we saw in 2017 was a hitter with an ability to punish a fastball, but one that has trouble with the curve. Wow, Clint Eastwood ruined that expression…(CU) ETA: 2021
8. Wander Franco, SS | Age: 17 | Level: N/A | 2017 Stats: Has Not Debuted Professionally
What do we really know about Franco other than what we’ve heard? In my off-season conversation with Baseball America’s Ben Badler, he dubbed Franco the top talent available in the 2017 July 2nd class, and a future impact MLB bat. Signed for $3.825 Million out of the DR, Franco’s a switch-hitter, with excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate. He’s short to the ball, and uses the whole field, while his advanced pitch recognition was a major selling point to Ben. He generates lots of power from his stout lower body, and has extra base pop from both sides. For now he’s got enough quick-twitch athleticism to stick at shortstop, but there’s some that see 2nd base in his future. A very intriguing, but far off talent. ETA: 2022
9. Lucius Fox, SS | Age: 20 | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: .266/.350/.341, 3 HR, 39 RBI, 30 SB
A athletic freak, that oozes potential, what Fox packs in upside he lacks in plate skills. The first few seasons of Fox’s professional baseball adventure, have been more on the job training than outstanding performance. Originally signed by Giants for $6 million back in 2015, Fox is a product of the Bahamas with a Florida Prep pedigree. At the moment there’s not much power, but his 2018 LD% of 22%, and his increasingly all fields approach, are great signs of improvement. He struggled in his first taste of the FSL last season, but has improved his strikeout rate by 6% year over year. The approach has been more aggressive early in counts this season, looking to make contact and use his legs to put pressure on the defense. Without above average pitch recognition, and sub-par power, Fox is smart to adjust his approach. If he’s able to stick at short, and can shorten up a longish swing, Fox has a shot to be a fantasy asset with speed and batting average. He’s still three years away, but there’s been encouraging progress. ETA: 2021
10. Joe McCarthy, 1B/OF | Age: 24 | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: .284/.409/.434, 7 HR, 56 RBI, 20 SB
One of the more unheralded bats in the system, McCarthy has impressed in 2018, finding himself on the verge of a callup. Since making his full season debut in 2016, McCarthy has never posted a wRC+ lower than 138, with a cumulative mark of 147 over that time. His short lefthanded swing generates good bat speed, and it’s natural loft helps him drive flyballs to his pullside. The early returns in 2018 show he’s tapped into more of his raw power in games. If he can be a .450 slugging % hitter with the ability to play an above average outfield corner, he might carve out a niche as a second division regular. I like McCarthy as a dynasty league sleeper, especially in an organization where he might get a real shot at meaningful time over the next few seasons. ETA: 2018
11. Josh Lowe, OF | Age: 20 | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: .268/.326/.386, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 22 SB
A early first round pick from the 2016 draft, Lowe has been a project player, with some fascinating upside. He was drafted as a third baseman, but was very obviously not going to make it at the position, so he was moved to centerfield, where Lowe could take advantage of his 60 grade speed, and strong arm. The transition is a work in progress, as is his profile at the plate. Blessed with the aforementioned plus wheels, plus raw power, and an above-average understanding of the strike zone. The power is yet to manifest itself in games, but his older brother Nathaniel has started to grow into his power at age 22, and maybe that’s an indicator of potential that lies ahead. He is far more athletic than his brother and they are very different players, for what it’s worth. Lowe is a player, much like Fox, Brujan, and Franco, you will need to remain patient with. ETA: 2021
12. Justin Williams, OF | Age: 22 | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: .301/.364/.489, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 6 SB
After a very impressive 2017 campaign with Montgomery, Williams was assigned to AAA Durham out of camp. So far in his brief International League career it’s been some good, and some bad. The Good: He’s maintained his improved BB%, and his pitch recognition continues to take steps forward. The Bad: The power he showcased at the lower levels is yet to manifest itself in games. In order to crack the MLB roster at some point in the next two seasons, Williams will need to show the ability to hit for power at the AAA level. He’s adept at turning on balls inside, but has poor plate coverage, and struggles, particularly with breaking balls away. The defense and straight line speed, is a true average. I like Williams as an underrated potential power/contact bat with 5th outfielder in 12 team league upside. ETA: 2019
13. Vidal Brujan, 2B | Age: 20 | Level: A | 2017 Stats: .285/.378/.415, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 16 SB
A future leadoff hitter, Brujan pairs a high contact skillset, with advanced pitch recognition skills, and 70 grade wheels. A switch-hitter, Brujan was one of the best talents I saw in the NYPL last season. So far Brujan has struggled to hit for any semblance of power in his full season debut. He is however, walking nearly as much as he’s striking out (26 Ks to 22 Bbs), and has swiped 17 bags through his first 38 games. He’s still a long ways away from being ready, but his combination of skills makes him an intriguing upside play. ETA: 2020
14. Austin Franklin, RHP | Age: 20 | Level: A | 2017 Stats: 4-2, 69.1 IP, 2.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 71 Ks, 31 Bb
A projectable prep righty from the 2016 draft class, Franklin mixes three above-average or better pitches, with low to mid-90’s velo. His standout pitch is an 11-5 curveball, with pronounced drop, that generates whiffs in bunches. His release point is inconsistent on his fastball, and it’s easy to pick up changeup when he loses his release point. There’s strides to be made, but his plus breaking ball, and above average fastball-changeup combo point toward mid-rotation upside. ETA: 2021
15. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B | Age: 22 | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: .274/.373/.388, 7 HR, 59 RBI, 1 SB
The older brother of Josh Lowe, Nathan is a big strong power hitter. He’s really begun to tap into his power at the plate this year, and is showing well in the Florida State League. As a lefthanded hitting power bat, he fits the first base profile, the real question is how much the power plays once he reaches the upper-levels of the minor leagues. ETA: 2020
Other Names: Resley Linares, Michael Mercado, Colin Poche, Brandon Lowe, Ryan Boldt
Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
On Twitter as @ProspectJesus
Hey Ralph, I should have room soon to add a prospect… keep forever league, if that makes a difference. 5×5 scoring. Guys that are available:
Or maybe there’s another few names I should check out to see if they’re available?
Coming to the prospect expert on this one! Was offered either of the two deals below in a dynasty league. Should I pull trigger or hold?
Deal A: Robbie Ray for Luis Robert and Dylan Cease
Deal B: Robbie Ray and Max Kepler for Luis Robert, Dylan Cease and Colton Weller
I have Alford, Hays and Graterol. Mize and Paddock are available. With hays and alford’s struggles early this season are Mize or Paddock worth owning over any of the other 3
@Dougie: Not a fan of dumping bats I rated highly but they are sucking it up. I wouldn’t unless it’s some points league or something.
More LOW(E) down…
What about Brandon Lowe? I think MLBdotCOM was very high on Brandon Lowe.
I drafter Josh in my Keeper and kind of saddened to see him leave third base. Hoping he becomes the power bat he was suppossed to be during draft day.
@Mark: To continue…what makes Brandon Lowe special and why was he not in your top 10? Curious because I also invested in Brandon Lowe to go along with Josh.
@Mark: He’s having another really good first half. I just like players ahead of him and haven’t seen a ton in person. 12-20 are pretty fluid.
Josh is a talented kid, and I’m gambling on the upside. It’s the classic debate of upside vs production. Reasonable to see Brandon higher than either.
Ralph .. forever keeper., I’m in reload mode… I can add Julio Pablo Martinez to my awesome farm right now.. Added Victor as well already thanks to you.. Do it ?
@Landisimo3: Do it!
I’m currently carrying Adames, Bichette, Tatis, AND Mateo in my 16 team. It’s only 30 man rosters so carrying 4 SS seems a bit high. I lucked into Adames pickup a a few weeks ago and it seems he has gained favor in your eye. No way I am moving Tatis or Bichette but what about Mateo? I really liked the speed he was going to bring. Is he worth stashing in a major rebuild?
Jo Adell and Jesus Sanchez are both available. I just hadn’t went OF considering I have Acuna, Robles, Trammel, and Calhoun. Plus Puig, Kris Davis, and Domingo. Still seems logical at this point to go Adell doesn’t it and drop Mateo?
@sport: Drop Mateo for Adell right now.
@Ralph Lifshitz: Done and done really fast!
I just read a piece that suggested Max Schrock as a stash for this year. A late June call up to replace Wong? Do you think that might happen?
@sport: it could the defense is in the way
What about Eloy Jimenez? I haven’t heard anything about him in a while….
I have Acuna up, Soto up, and Vladdy and Eloy in my only two Minors spots.
The other Minors guys taken by my competition are Urias, Bichette, Keller, Kopech, McMahon, Voit, Eshelman, FPeralta, Senzel, Stewart, Rodgers, Barreto, Kramer, Robles, Tatis, Frazier, Broxton, Tucker, and Greene.
@coacher: Hit another homer last night in AA.
A game winning Grand Slam at that!!!!, time for short trip to AAA, before a summer time call up.
@Ralph Lifshitz: Suh-weet. I think I will keep him. Thanks for all you do, Ralph.
@coacher: Tip is the cap
Where would you put Arcia (mil ss) on your recent top 25 prospect list (if he were a prospect as he is NA now)?
@ferris: I wouldn’t. He’s got a lot of improvement at the plate to make.
With some of my boys graduating to MLB (Buehler, Soroka and Reyes).
It is time to re-stock the farm. I have a couple pitchers on my radar, that I want you to comment on. I really like Bailey Falter. He is a lefty and he is my type of pitcher, low ERA, low WHIP, low BB and high Ks and a similar type, but a righty in Jasseel De La Cruz.
This guys are just under observation until after the June draft.
Add one more lefty to the list Caleb Ferguson. He made his AAA debut yesterday for the Dodgers and went five shutout inning and K 10.
@jose H.: Didn’t I cover Falter last week? Three pitch kid, keeps hitters off balance.
Jasseel is really interesting he’s 92-94 on the FB pops 95. Mixes in a slurvy breaking ball in the mid to low 80’s, and a projectable changeup with some fade.
I think I am going to stick with the two lefties.
I watch Ferguson’s game this morning and I am impressed by him, he seems very confident and attacks the strike zone. He was a little rusty last night, he had not pitched in two weeks, since May 14 and he still dominated.
I am going to listen to Falter’s game this morning, Unfortunately it is not televised.