Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Top 30 MLB Prospects Midseason Update
UPDATE: The Rays Top 30 now includes all moves made through the July 31 trade deadline. Also, Tanner Dodson's injury was incorrectly reported and has ben updated.
The Rays entered the All-Star Break 6.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, but also on top of the wild card standings. Despite losing Tyler Glasnow to injury for much of the first half of the season and watching Blake Snell struggle to come close to matching his 2018 Cy Young form, the Rays have had a strong starting rotation than last year and a very deep and versatile lineup, even if it lacks stars.
That depth is why the Rays could opt to avoid making any dramatic changes at the trade deadline, but it’s also why they can be very flexible in who they target--a star at almost any spot could fit into the lineup, although first base and catcher depth are the best possibilities. Like most teams, the Rays also could use bullpen help.
The good news for Tampa is they have plenty of prospect depth to offer. They are especially deep in middle infielders–shortstop Wander Franco is untouchable, but there are plenty of other middle infielders and outfielders who could be shopped if the right trade partner lines up. Even after trading Nick Solak to the Rangers for righthander Peter Fairbanks, the club has more middle infielders than spots in the upper levels of the minors.
Tampa Bay also has a crowded 40-man roster, so it makes sense for them to try to swap 40-man roster players for players who don’t need to be on the 40-man.
1. Wander Franco, SS
Baseball’s best prospect hit .311 in April as he adjusted to the cold of a Midwest League April. That wouldn’t seem notable, but it’s the worst batting average he’s had in a month as a pro.
2. Brendan McKay, LHP/DH
McKay’s two-start cameo with Tampa Bay reinforced who he is–a pitcher whose plus control and command keeps him a step ahead of hitters.
3. Matthew Liberatore, LHP
The Rays held Liberatore back in extended spring until mid-May, but from the day he reached Bowling Green, he’s been a step ahead of his peers.
4. Ronaldo Hernandez, C
Offensively, Hernandez seems to have taken a slight step back, but defensively, his receiving and game calling have improved, although his pitch framing still needs to get better.
5. Vidal Brujan, 2B/SS
Brujan has started playing shortstop for the first time since he was playing in the Dominican Summer League and he’s shown he can at least fill in there. It wouldn’t be shocking if he gets some time eventually in center field as well.
6. Brent Honeywell, RHP
Honeywell’s 2019 season has been wiped away, just like his 2018 season, but if he can return to health, he’s a big league ready mid-rotation starter.
7. Shane Baz, RHP
The Rays have switched Baz from a two-seamer/curveball pitcher to a four-seam fastball/slider pitcher. It’s paid off as Baz’s fastball now stays in the zone better and he throws more strikes. It still has enough velocity (he’s touched 100 mph) and late life to miss bats.
8. Nate Lowe, 1B
Lowe’s season has been a little bit disappointing so far, but he has made his first two trips to the major leagues and has shown sporadic signs of the power that was so impressive in 2018.
9. Greg Jones, SS
The athletic Jones is the kind of speedy, versatile player the Rays love. He’ll likely spend the rest of the season at short-season Hudson Valley.
10. Moises Gomez, OF
2020 MLB Top Prospects For Every Team
Baseball America's annual Top 10 prospects rankings are underway as we build toward the 2020 season.
RHP Riley O’Brien blitzed his way to a quick promotion to Double-A Montgomery. His velocity has tailed off a little as the season has worn on, but when he’s on he can sit 93-95 mph and touch 97, while mixing in a hard-breaking slider.
SS/RHP Jacob Cronenworth has been a revelation. The college first baseman/reliever has proven he can play an average shortstop. His bat has taken a big step forward as well as he’s added strength and a more aggressive approach that allows him to drive the ball more consistently. And midseason, he returned to the mound for the first time since college to prove that he can be a potential MLB reliever as well thanks to a mid-90s fastball, a slider with one of the higher spin rates in the Rays organization and a cutter.
RHP Joe Ryan’s 91-94 mph fastball has excellent rise in the top of the zone, as he generates plenty of swings and misses.
RHP Caleb Sampen’s cutter has proven to be a true plus pitch as it’s hard (88 mph) with excellent late movement. He’s a four-pitch righthander with a 91-93 mph fastball that can touch 95, solid control and developing command.\
LHP Christopher Sanchez is old for the Midwest League, but it’s hard to ignore a 6-foot-5 lefthander with a 94-97 mph fastball and improving control.
1B Kevin Padlo is healthy and has added some productive power to go with the plate discipline and high on-base percentages he’s always posted. His excellent exit velocities give hints of more power to come.
OF Niko Hulsizer is getting to his plus-plus raw power in games and received a midseason promotion to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga with the Dodgers, where he continued to mash before being dealt to Tampa Bay in the Adam Kolarek trade.
1B Nate Lowe has struggled to hit with the same authority that he did in 2018. He still made it to the major leagues, but with the depth of talent coming up behind him and his limited defensive value, he has to hit quickly to claim his spot.
SS Lucius Fox has shown his defensive ability and athleticism, but he’s not erasing any of the doubts that he can hit with enough authority to let his glove play. The Rays have a very crowded middle infield with Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe in St. Petersburg, Cronenworth and Fox, Brujan, Triston Gray and Walls at Double-A Birmingham and Franco at high Class A Charlotte, so Fox has very little margin for error.
RHP/OF Tanner Dodson will miss the rest of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
OF Nick Schnell was slowed last year by a wrist injury. This year a nagging knee injury has kept him off the field for most of the season.
LHP Anthony Banda has just gotten back on the mound as he returns from Tommy John surgery. The Rays are slowly stretching him back out.
RHP Brent Honeywell’s return from Tommy John surgery hit a significant detour as he broke a bone in his pitching elbow. He’ll miss the rest of the season.
RHP Austin Franklin and RHP Drew Strotman are well along in their rehab from 2018 Tommy John surgeries. Both have a chance of getting back on the mound to pitch before the season ends.
OF Joe McCarthy missed much of the first half as the back injury that has bothered him for a while flared up. He returned to Triple-A Durham in early June.
2B/OF Brandon Lowe has been one of the most productive players in the Rays lineup during the first half of the season.