Piece by piece, pick by pick, signing by signing the Tampa Bay Rays have quietly built the best farm system in baseball. Stocked at all levels with players of all types. This balanced blend of pitching and hitting, power and speed, big stuff guys and pitchability types. There’s no shortage of prospects to discuss on the Rays farm. While much of the recent discussion and helium has followed wunderkind Wander Franco and his assault on the Appy League. He’s not the hottest player in the Tampa system at the moment. That honor belongs to recently promoted second baseman Vidal Brujan. The 20 year old switch-hitter is a contact machine, showing an uncanny ability to get his bat on balls in all quadrants of the zone. With a mature approach at the plate, it’s apparent right away that Brujan has a plan. His ability to recognize and make in swing adjustments is rare. When I caught the spark-plug (coded short person language) in the New York-Penn League last year with Hudson Valley, he stuck out like a green hat with an orange bill. Rarely do you see a player this athletic in short season ball, that seemingly has the foundations figured out. But there was Brujan. He’s never going to be an impactful power hitter, but his swing does have loft, and he has the ability to drive balls to the gaps. Quick hands generate his plus bat speed, but it’s his laid back approach, and ability to make split second reads on spin that really set him apart. That’s before we even talk about his speed and base-running ability. He’s quick, getting clocked at 4.26 on the turn by Jason Woodell just weeks ago. He uses that speed too, wrecking havoc this season between the Midwest League and Florida State League, stealing 49 bases on 67 attempts. I envision a top of the order table setter with 25+ steals, a high batting average and 12-15 homers, but 30+ doubles. If I was in a dynasty that used points scoring, I’d make it a priority to add Brujan. Through 12 games in High-A he’s slashing .409/.519/.614 with a homer and 6 steals. Go add Brujan da 5’9 (that’s his listed height) before he goes BOOM!

  • It’s five consecutive multi-hit games now for the Padres Luis Urias. He’s 14-for-20 over that stretch with 9 runs, 4 doubles and a pair of triples. This stands as a perfect example of not only what Urias is capable of, but also his limits. There’s doubles power, but little over fence muscle. Despite being a high average middle infielder with a plus glove, he doesn’t have the quickness common with that profile. That doesn’t stop me from coveting Urias in fantasy. The makings of a future batting title champ are there, with the ability for him to get to more power. I’ve come to learn that capping power for players with this quality of contact based on early returns is foolish. That said, I’d be shocked if we see 20+ homer power at any point. These should be the final days of his minor league tenure, I expect the call to come sometime between now and the first few weeks of September.

  • After a rough stretch in July that saw him slash .237/.283/.290, Nationals shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom has emerged from his slump with a run of hot hitting the last week plus. Over his last ten games Kieboom is hitting .310/.383/.571, with two 3+ hit games in his last three. He went off on Wednesday night going 4-for-5 with a double, a triple, 5 runs, and two homers. After a 1-for-3 night on Thursday, Kieboom went 3-for-5 with three runs scored on Friday night. It’s good to see Kieboom settling in after his first slump above A ball. I haven’t backed off of my high expectations for Kieboom.

  • One of the better starts of MacKenzie Gore’s young career came on Tuesday night. He went 6 innings, throwing 59 of 86 pitches for strikes, striking out 5, walking none, allowing a run on 6 hits. He had 11 swinging strikes in the game, marking the second time in the last three starts he’s totaled double digits in that regard. Don’t sweat the pedestrian ERA in A ball. Gore has 70 Ks to 16 Bb in 57 innings in his first full season of professional baseball. His pitch mix, athleticism, and deception make him possibly the highest upside arm in the minors.

  • The Red Sox Mike Shawaryn has been a somewhat under the radar breakout this season in the upper minors. Since his promotion to AAA Pawtucket, the righthander with low three quarters delivery has improved with every start. His turn Tuesday saw Shawaryn go 7 scoreless vs Norfolk, striking out 6, walking 1, and conceding just 2 hits. The game was part of a doubleheader so Shawaryn got through the complete game shutout on just 84 pitches. He had an impressive 17 swinging strikes of that 84, to go with only a pair of hard hit balls all night. He’s on the cusp of the majors and I have no doubt that he could get major league hitters out. That said, the AL East in September is a baptism by fire. A start or two wouldn’t shock me, depending on the matchup Shawaryn could be a decent stream. He goes this afternoon at McCoy vs Durham.

  • It’s like this Rays system never stops. First rounder Matthew Liberatore has been dominant thus far in his short pro career. Through 22.2 innings across 7 appearances, Liberatore has allowed just 3 earned runs, with 24 Ks to 11 Bb. The control could of course be better, but for an 18 year old fresh out of high school, I’ll cut him some slack. The lefty pairs a fastball that sits low 90s, but can touch 95+ in short bursts, a hammer curveball, an above average changeup, and an average slider. If you’ve read me for awhile you know my feelings on young helium arms. Stay away. But at the right price and in the right scoring a player like Liberatore can have a lot of value. So my advice is to follow Liberatore, draft him when the value is there, but don’t overpay.
  • Why haven’t the Twins given Stephen Gonsalves an extended look? Sure his control comes and goes, and he’s constantly out pitching his peripherals, but he’s consistently gotten results over the years. Right? Well honestly after digging around a little there’s some stuff to be concerned with. First, swinging strikes, over the 23 starts he’s made on the season less than half have seen him tally double digit swinging strike totals. The next issue is the amount of strikes he’s getting looking. That’s telling of two things, one good, the other bad. He’s either completely fooling people with his changeup or curveball, unlikely, but possible, both flash plus. Or, the more likely scenario, he much like Jalen Beeks before him, and is a benefactor of the slightly more generous black of a minor league strike zone. There’s still a lot to like with Gonsalves, he has two above average secondaries in his curveball and changeup, as well as a lower velocity fastball with reportedly good spin. So the Twins might have their reasons for holding him down. That said, wouldn’t you like to see what they have?
  • I usually have no time for prospect catchers, but there’s always one sucking me in. The man of the hour is the Braves William Contreras. The younger brother of the Cubs Willson, William is a quality backstop, with the defensive chops to stick behind the dish. But his bat, not unlike his brother before him, sets him apart from the pack. Since his recent promotion to High-A Florida, his skills have been on full display. Through 13 games he’s slashing.289/.340/.378. Obviously the slugging leaves something to be desired but he hit for power in the Appy League, so I’m not overly concerned. What you can take away from it is Contreras has not been overmatched at the level. He’ll likely repeat High-A early next year before seeing AA.
  • I’ve caught a few Orem games as I’ve mentioned previously and the team is absolutely stacked. At one point the lineup featured Jordyn Adams, Jeremiah Jackson, D’Shawn Knowles, Kevin Maitan, and Livan Soto. Maitan is still a mess, Livan Soto is interesting, but we’ll save him for another time, we’ve covered Jackson, and Jordyn Adams. The latter of which is now injured after colliding with Nonie Williams in Tuesday’s game. He has yet to return to action. This gets us to D’Shawn Knowles, in a very roundabout way, but we’re here. What I’ve seen from Knowles hitting lefthanded has been impressive. He’s hands a quick, his bat whips through the zone, and he jumps all over mistakes. However, Knowles is a switch-hitter, and his righthanded hitting just isn’t there yet. He shows power and good feel for the barrel on the left side, but becomes more of a weak contact guy from the right side. I’m sure he’ll improve in this area, after all he’s only 17. Yeah, that’s right, I’m picking apart a 17 year old mashing in advanced rookie ball. Knowles has one of the brighter futures of any player in the minors.

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  1. Harley Earl says:
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    Good stuff Ralphie. I’ve been watching Contreras for a while now, too. Any hitting catcher is a catcher to keep serious tabs on! Hadn’t heard of Brujan, but you definitely have me intrigued. I’ll be watching him closely too. Thanks!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Harley Earl: Brujan is amazing definitely someone to consider.

  2. Scott says:
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    Do you think we see vlad at all this year? Tor has Donaldson, Drury and solarte on the dl all of whom play 3b and vlad still isn’t up with about 6 weeks left. Thx

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Scott: I don’t think until later in September. Once the MiLB season is over we may. Or they go Acuna, send him to the AFL, and call him up in late April of 2019.

  3. SBW says:
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    Ralph,

    Rank these hitters and pitchers on the wire for me in dynasty?

    1. J. Rossario, Cabello, Paredes, Knowles and Rengifo?

    2. Allen, Patino, Oviedo and Loaisiga?

    SBW

  4. Screwballs says:
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    Thanks again to you and Razzball for the great advice. I have been able to add Gleybar, Soto and Acuna’ to my team this year.

    As I prepare for the playoffs, I also have an eye on stocking talent for next year and beyond. In our keeper league, you can reserve 5 players off your active roster, including major league players once they hit a “NA” designation. You can keep them there once the return to an active roster if you don’t play them.

    Currently I am holding Alex Reyes, Buxton, Sano, Jo Adell [thanks for that tip], and Kyle Tucker. I could pick up Jesus Lazardo, Keston Huira, Taylor Trammel, Royce Lewis, and Alex Kirillof who have not been reserved.

    I would appreciate it if you could list your top 5 out of these choices.

  5. Mike says:
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    Brujan or Jahmai Jones?

  6. BM says:
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    Do you know anything about Luis Rengifo? SS spect in the Angels system. Looking at his stat line in 115 games through 3 levels he’s at 98 Runs, 28 Doubles, 12 Triples, 6-58 HR-RBI, 41 SB, gutting .305 and walked more than he’s K’d. Why haven’t we heard much about him anywhere? If you’ve mentioned him in the past and I missed it I apologize.

  7. Harley Earl says:
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    Ralph, got a question here about the Rays’ prospects. You mention Brujan obviously with great affection. But I’m wondering about Nick Solak down in Montgomery. The kid has 18 bombs, 71 RBIs and is hitting .282. For that matter, he’s a career .296 hitter in the minors with a career .390 on-base percentage. I’ve seen him projected elsewhere as the Rays’ starting 2B by 2020. Are you not that impressed with Nick? I’m intrigued by him but I’m afraid I might be wrong. Got any thoughts on him?

  8. The Vaporizers says:
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    Who do you like better, long term? Rengifo or Brujan??

  9. Super Terrific Carpal Tunnel Virusy Box vs Mail Robot (who wins) says:
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    with how many extra infielders MIL has traded for (esp rather than just turn their awesome SP prospects into i don’t know, staring freaking pitchers, or i don’t know TRADE for SP (i.e. the only thing they need, at all)) is k.hiura still a better this year only stash than luzardo? in a 16 teamer with QS/OPS h2h league and one stash slot somebody just dropped luzardo, i have hiura stashed for a while. used to be willie longer ago.

  10. Ryan Walker says:
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    Ralph,

    I don’t like posting but wanted to let you know I really enjoy reading (and listening) to your work. Love the content.

    Ryan Atl

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