I doubt there’s any good way to explore this, but this week I found myself wondering if this year’s rays prospect list might be the fastest top 10 in baseball history or at least in the last several years. Perhaps the turf-burning Cardinals and Royals of the 80’s could measure up in parts, but they wouldn’t have three 80 runners and a Wander, I think. 

Fantasy baseball players love the Tampa Bay Rays to some extent already, but they should probably just lean in and pick up all the profit. Avisail Garcia was a great example of this last year. As were Emilio Pagan and Nick Anderson and Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. And that’s all just last season. Oh, Brandon Lowe, too, though he was from within. 

This year it’s Brendan McKay and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo; Kevin Padlo and Joe Ryan; Josh Lowe, Colin Poche and Brent Honeywell Jr.

Also Hunter Renfroe.

Because crazier things have happened. 

Presumably.

Jesus Aguilar did not drink the lazarus water in 2019, so it’s not like Tampa Bay bats a thousand, but the Midas touch element here is real. Consider Nick Solak. Traded for Peter Fairbanks. When a prospect leaves Tampa, it’s because there’s no room at the inn, and they see an angle they want to play now. Our move is to realize their bar is incredibly high, so when they “sour” on a prospect enough to move him, it means a little less than it might in other smart organizations. Solak is still probably a value, depending on how you acquire him, and Fairbanks should be tracked in leagues where his profile (high K reliever) matters. 

I veered off the path there. Suffices to say you could do worse in dynasty leagues than focusing on the organizations that are best at this particular game of finding talented players and helping them maximize their abilities. Or even just using it as a tiebreak when looking at two players of similar appeal. Estanli Castillo and Alberto Figueroa won’t make many lists this off-season, but I will be checking in on throughout the season because they’re with Tampa. I will check their game logs every few weeks or so just in case Castillo begins a noisy home run binge or Figueroa starts swiping bases in bunches. I just don’t want to be late to a Tampa party because a Tampa party rarely stops.  

 

1. SS Wander Franco | 19 | A+ | Mid 2021

There can be only one. Nothing I say here could ever change the coming tsunami that is Wander’s world. You probably can’t trade for him. If you get a chance to draft him in a startup of any kind, do so. 

 

2. 2B Vidal Brujan | 22 | AA | Early 2021

I’ve had lots of thoughts about Vidal Brujan.

Point is I like him. 

I like him a lot. 

 

3. LHP Brendan McKay | 24 | MLB | Early 2020

4. SS Xavier Edwards | 20 | A+ | Late 2021

Brendan McKay of the clan McKay was a two-way legend in college and will focus on pitching alone for the first time in his baseball life this winter and in 2020. Might not matter all that much, might unlock a whole new way of approaching the game that equals a leap for him. He mastered the AAA juicy balls before a tough first run through the majors, and I think he’ll master big league juicy balls this time around.  

So I loved Xavier Edwards as a Padres prospect, but now that he’s in Tampa I’m Romilda Vane hunting Harry Potter. Or even Ron Weasley after eating the love drugs Romilda had intended for Harry. The Rays teach hitting. Specifically power hitting. The Padres might’ve been more content to let Edwards be whatever he’d be, he’d be. The Rays, I believe, will see him more as a topside play than a push-and-flip. His hit tool is extreme enough it makes sense to try and rework the swing from the ground up. Sure, you might be hurting a guy who can get by as he is, but you might be building a Mondesi. He’s not without physicality. If he learns to launch his lower half and take more risks in the box, he’ll be something few are expecting at the moment. Maybe they go the other way and leave him be, and yes I realize I’ve thus far ignored any number of slapdick opportunities, but even if he’s just the guy he is right now, he’d be tremendously valuable for fantasy if he could secure the playing time. 

 

5. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo | 28 | NPB | Early 2020

6. SS Greg Jones | 22 | A- | 2022

7. OF Josh Lowe | 22 | AA | Late 2020

8. RHP Joe Ryan | 23 | AA | Late 2020

9. RHP Brent Honeywell Jr. | 25 | AAA | Mid 2020

Exciting name here at the five spot in Yoshi Tsutsugo. Nobody’s an Ohtani level athlete, but Tsutsugo might be comparable in the batters box as a high OBP, good power bat. He’s already got 3B eligibility in Fantrax and could wind up with 1B, 3B, and OF in some leagues before he even plays a game. Pretty sweet deal for guy who wouldn’t shock anyone if he hit 30 bombs with a .350-plus on base percentage.

It’s not the most exciting name: Greg Jones. Nine letters. Few sounds. Incredible sexiness. 

Excuse me, what? 

On a baseball field, Jones is very fast, and his bit has been developing at an accelerating rate this past year-plus. He’s a scary fit for Tampa, who seems to be doing something fairly obvious but still a little under the radar–prioritizing speed-rich profiles even if the development gulf between present and potential is so wide it would give pause to most teams. The gambit seems a perfect fit with their organizational strengths, and I’m excited to see how it plays out. 

You need Amazon Prime to watch Joe Ryan, but last season was very enjoyable. We haven’t gotten around to season two yet, but I’m expecting much of the same even against the increased difficulty of raised expectations. 

I’d love to know how the Rays really feel about Josh Lowe. He certainly has a name they like, but I’m not sure he’s good enough to force-push his way to the majors. They’ll use him if he’s their most logical, cost-effective option, but that’s a winding road for corner bats in Tampa Bay. 

I traded Brent Honeywell Jr. in one league this winter–not because I wanted to but because I had him in all my leagues and saw an opportunity I liked. Seemed like sound portfolio management. 

But perhaps you know the feeling I’m having now . . . 

as a believer in Honeywell’s skills for some time . . . 

writing about him here thinking to myself, “Wow, this is not helping my Pooh Bear level of pining for that lost Honey.”

I mean I just wrote a whole thing about buying up all the Rays, didn’t I?

I did. 

Anyway, I think he’s a fun player to try and acquire in dynasty leagues. Never know when you’ll find someone feeling over-leveraged as this last train to Clarksville meets us at the station. 

 

10. LHP Matthew Liberatore | 20 | A | 2022

10.5. RHP Shane Baz | 20 | A | 2022

Doing a top ten for a team like Tampa, you’re going to omit some extremely valuable players. LHP Shane McClanahan, 3B Kevin Padlo, C Ronaldo Hernandez and more have a great case for the spotlight. But we’ll round up this list with two elite arms in the lower minors. Matthew Liberatore and Shane Baz are as good a pair of 20-year-old pitching prospects as you’ll find. Baz put on a fire show in the fall league and has good buzz right now, but I think Liberatore is more likely to be a dynamic fantasy starter, whereas Baz might fit best in the back of the bullpen. 

  1. Harley Earl says:
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    Itch,

    Great piece, except I’m wondering about your thoughts on Brujan. Seems like you were going to imbed some links or something and they didn’t post? I know you like Brujan, yes. But I’d still like to read why you like him!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Harley!!!

      Good lookin out!

      Meant to link three things there—one of em being our conversation about his Mondi topside—should all work now.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        Great stuff Itch!

        The Brujan-Mondessi comp gives me goosebumps LOL !!!!

  2. TC says:
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    I was lucky enough to pick up Wander on the last day of the season, two seasons ago and people thought I was crazy using one of my 15 keeper spots on him all last year. I just happened to read some random article that morning and took a wild shot. What are some floor and ceiling expectations I can look forward to for hopefully many years? Thanks.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Great pickup, TC!

      Tough to say before he faces the big league spin, but I think Wander is a .320 hitter as a rookie.

      .350 hitter in his prime.

      He’s not really like the guys who’ve come before. How the power and speed fall will be largely up to him, but I’m thinking he has a season where he’s flirting with 30/20 while hitting .350.

  3. Masta Ming says:
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    Thanks for the content. I have been reading your site’s stuff for a few years now and love all the prospect talk. I took Brujan last year for 1$ in my 14 player 38 man 260$ salary cap dynasty leauge. I keep getting excited the more I hear you talk about him as my team will be loosing Trea Turner at the end of next year to an expiring contract. Do you think that Brujan will get a taste of the show this year with a chance to start in 2021?
    My dynasty league is very competitive and I like to take elite talent a year or two before they become a thing, and I also like to grab them for 1$ so when I have To extend contracts i can do it To maximum value and length. Just one of the reasons I am excited to see the Brujan/Mondesi comps.
    I would Also like to thank you for the talk about Tsutsugo. I passed on him in last years draft in favor of taking Tetsuo Yamada for 1$ to sit on him like I did ohtani years before he came stateside. I also took Yuki Yanigita for 1$ as well last year, with the knowledge that 2020 will be his last year under contract in Japan if I am correct.
    What do you think of taking yamada and yanigata over tsutsugo. The adam Dunn comps i heard about tsutsugo scared me off of him, when i Drafted i don’t like to carry more than 5 prospects as my team is very competitive and done rebuilding in my mind. (Finished 2this year1.5 point out of 1st). Do you think Yamada and Yanigita will be better than Tsutsugo and what do you think that their timeline is stateside as well? Thanks be safe.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks for reading, Masta Ming!

      And thanks for the kind words on Tsutsugo.

      Your case kinda depends how much these guys go for in the year after signing. I think Yamada’s a great hold bc he’d be super expensive after posting, I imagine, but I’d probably take Tsutsugo over Yanigata. Not real confident about it because of all the grey areas here, and you’d know what works in your league better than me, but I feel like you’d have a chance to buy back in on Yanigita at a price that makes the time-value of Tsutsugo worth the trade.

      Oh and the timelines, I think the new CBA is a little scary, but there is momentum toward more postings under the current one, making next winter a decent guess for both, though I don’t know the ins and outs of Yamada’s contract.

  4. Smitty says:
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    Somehow, someway I believe Vidal finds his way to the big leagues in ’20. With B. Lowe and Wendle at 2B (Wendle possibly at 3B?) it may take an injury, a huge spring, a great start in the minors or a combination of all of these factors for the kid to get a shot. When that day comes, he will be one hot commodity with the potential to be a difference maker. Very high on Brujan! Thanks for all you do Itch

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Smitty!

      From your fingers to God’s smart phone, I hope!!

  5. goodfold2 says:
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    going over the top 150 before i get deeper into the team lists, got some questions:
    1. mags sierra is 81, but is well over at bats to qualify, so what determinants are used in your rankings for that? i DO like that you are guys in such as him, since many times they get left off lists and people forget to rank them entirely. with him exactly, i dropped him last year as his hit tool looked pretty garbage, and wasn’t getting tons of at bats and couldn’t be put into minors anymore once i brought him up the first time (and certainly no production with those at bats). he’s not eligible to be drafted, but could be bid on in FA and probably will be cheap.

    2. Tsutsugo above i see is above g.jones but jones is 76th (if Tsutsugo is in the 150 he’s later than jones). is this due to him signing later than when you did your top 150 list? if this is so how many/what other guys got missed from the time lag here? i don’t want to miss ranking these guys properly.

    so far i’m into about 100th overall guys and about 18 are draftable (maybe 19 if Tsutsugo would be in that). one thing on the internationals, if they aren’t signed by start of year your pick didn’t count, but you do get 1 pick later next year for the pick you wasted (so if i went somebody at 1.22 this year, guy doesn’t sign till say july, i would NOT get that guy, but would get pick 1.22a next year). that’s on me to check on making sure everybody is signed if i’m drafting them (or it’s VERY likely they will in the next few months and not after that)

    • goodfold2 says:
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      ooops, by “start of year” above i meant start of MLB season, NOT jan 1st 2020. so these players drafted to count as being drafted have to sign by end of march or so.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        #2: (cont) so if i’m right where in the top 150 would tsutugo go, i’m at bracho at 66th.

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Thanks for reading, goodfold2!

          That seems like a decent spot for Yoshi, whose value varies a fair bit depending on win curve and league type. In a deep OBP league where you’re making a title push, he’s about as much as you could hope for. Might be wise to trade up if he’s falling a little.

          I’ll make another rankings run after the org reports, which have been illuminating.

          Oh and good call on Sierra. Missed that one. And some others. Was using 130 at bats but not well. Think (hope) I’ve got it mastered now.

          ?: does that pick tie up that spot for the year? If so, I’m out. Can do better w hustle. If not, yes please. Pretty much a free roll.

          • goodfold2 says:
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            i didn’t check how old he was, if he’s like 30 already i probably won’t put him this high. yeah if i say drafted international unsigned guy X at 1.20 and he doesn’t sign by start of MLB 2020 season i forfeit this year 1.20 and get a next year 1.20a (so the pick itself is one spot worse AND i have to wait a year for it). sorry, my league is 6×6 with holds/OPS added so OBP guys go up in value. and yep he’s 28. so what you think like around 100ish or later for him then? a few years ago this used to happen to people all the damn time, now people tend to draft guys that are already signed OR they wait till say round 3 to get them. problem is we draft so MF’ing early that there’s 2 or whole months left in which a guy could sign by the time we’re done.

            • The Itch

              The Itch says:
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              Oh well Tsutsugo signed with the Rays, so no worries on that front.

              He’s a gamble with a near-term fork in the road coming early in the year for his perceived value. I’d want him.

              • goodfold2 says:
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                ok, so just slot tsutsugo into around bracho land (66th). yeah forgot the difference between somebody on the top 150 (might not be signed) and seeing an international on team list (likely means signed already).

            • goodfold2 says:
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              oh should clarify somehow this team always gets me competitive but only made playoffs last year (and that was since i lucked out on WW guys dannys antana/pence). i always draft 18th-22nd in like all 6 or so years. but now for the first time i’ll have a ton of money with very few prospect types at league min (b.martin, v.alcantara, v.reyes for sures probably, likely sherfy, adell (at some point maybe), e.rios (LAD), maybe staumont (but he’s never fixed his wildness after more than 3ish years now)).

              i have these picks, and am about to tag sale (restricted, hope his bid up deal is close to his real life one, both are/will be large).
              which 2 of these would you tag (i gotta franchise one (pay real life price, do NOT have to keep for entire real life contract though), and 1 either kind of tag): 115 budget to start
              dannys antana (league min here and in real life .4)
              e.rosario (4.2 per year)
              moustakas (16 per, probably will franchise if kept as his bid price will likely be near that anyway, certainly at least 12-14)

              grey says to franchise one of rosario/antana and def keep moustakas one way or the other. could also franchise sale. i have picks at 2.22, 3.20, 3.22, 4.22, 5.22 and 6.22

              2. new idea, is barreto at .4 till end of 22 worth my 2.22? owner has come around to the idea he’s no longer worth a 1st.

              • The Itch

                The Itch says:
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                I’d franchise Rosario and Santana.

                I’m out on Barreto but don’t know what the draft pool looks like so tough to say.

                • goodfold2 says:
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                  well i can name the current tagged guys, but the entire FA pool is a bit harder (even not counting young players still on rookie deals, which are numerous, there are others that are on multi-year deals), but after tags i can get back in here and give top names. tags due in less than 2 days (i believe before 25th starts)

                  our non prospect eligible players aren’t legally obtained off FA until after the near month long 6 round prospect elig draft staring jan 2nd or so. i DO know wong and segura and b.druuurry as far as MI will be on it as i’m not keeping them. looking back at my last few years 1st rounders is both nice (kirilloff and adell) but also gross (victor to the 2nd mesa and g.whitley (TB))

              • goodfold2 says:
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                had grey wrong, he says keep antana/rosario (franchised at total price for both of 4.6 per, next year antana hits arb, and when they do that we pay previous year contract so he’ll be a possible .4 franchise yet again!!!!), trade off quintana (5.24 pick), use the 16 mil to bid on moustakas or somebody just like him. and restrict sale and hope his bidding doesn’t get far worse than the 23.57 he’d cost as a franchise.

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