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.
Also Hunter Renfroe.
Because crazier things have happened.
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
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?
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.