With Kevin Gadea slotted in at #50, the next player on our list at #49 is one you may have heard of recently when organizational awards were announced. He joins an impressive core of international players who took each Rays award for every level from the DSL through to Low-A Bowling Green, as well as both their Minor League Player (Jesus Sanchez) and Pitcher (Yonny Chirinos) of the Year.
An indication that international talents are on the rise among the ranks.
Aranda is, however, the only one of the winning bunch who hails from Mexico.
No.49, 2B Jonathan Alexander Aranda, 19 yrs old
Born: May 23rd, 1998 in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
Height/Weight: 5’10” 180 lbs Bats/Throws: S/R
Signed: as an international free agent for an unknown amount July 2nd, 2015.
Twitter handle: N/A
Baseball America Rankings
DRB Writers ranking
- High: 34
- Low: unranked
Jonathan Aranda: Abilities
- Defensively: Outstanding at 2B with great range and hands
- Offensively: Above-average contact abilities with above-average speed
- Abilities Notes: Aranda profiles as a 2B who may lack of above-average power, but can develop some down the road and pair that with above-average speed. The comparison made below points to the kind of player Aranda may become - or exceed - once he fully develops.
Joined the Rays by way of....
Aranda was acquired out of the Mexican Summer League (LMB) after Rob Manfred and MLB managed the following,
“MLB has already extracted one major concession from Mexican club owners, who just dropped the onerous practice of blacklisting prospects who signed directly with big-league clubs, preventing them from playing in their home country.
The Mexico City Diablos Rojos, for example, sold pitching prospect Roberto Osuna to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 for $1.5 million and lefty Julio Urias to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for $450,000.
Once a prospect signed with an LMB team, he could only pursue a career in the majors if his rights were sold by the Mexican team, which was required to give the player just 25% percent of the purchase price. Sometimes the asking prices were so high that MLB clubs balked, denying the player a chance to seek his fortune in the U.S.”
You can read more on that practice and after effects here.
The Rays subsequently signed Aranda July 2nd, 2015, signed by scout Eddie Diaz, who oversaw his development closely.
Latest Transactions: Assigned to Yaquis de Obregon on Oct 4th and placed on their reserve list on November 15th
Note - Last regular season transaction would be his assignment to GCL June 25th, 2017
Facts, Honors, and Awards
- Tampa Bay Rays signed free agent SS Jonathan Aranda to a minor league contract.
- Having just turned 19 yrs old in May, Aranda managed a line of .293/.352/.356 in the GCL with 14 BB (7.3%) and only 28 SO (14.5%) through 193 PA
- Aranda hit well enough (51 hits) to finish 14th within the GCL and just 1 more hit would of had him in the top 10
- Among GCL 2B, finished 8th with a .719 OPS, 6th with a 108 wRC+, 9th with a 0.50 BB/SO ratio, and 7th with a .344 wOBA
- More importantly, however, he improved as the season went on, managing only a .538 OPS in June but improving that to .738 in July, and also managed 7 of his 9 doubles through his last 81 AB (Aug/Sep), and as MLB.com’s announcement noted:
Aranda, 19, hit .293/.352/.356 (51-for-174) in 49 games with the Gulf Coast League Rays. He led the GCL Rays in hits and stolen bases (14) and finished second on the team in batting average and on-base percentage. Aranda had his strongest stretch to end the season, batting .329 (28-for-85) with 11 RBI over the season's final 24 games.
- He has tremendous instincts on the bases, showing off his base stealing abilities with 14 SB (4 CS), good for a 6.4 Spd rating (7.5 Spd rating from July 20th onwards when he stole 8 bases in 9 attempts) and landed him T-6th in the GCL for SB
- Over his 407 innings at 2B, he managed 116 assists, 26 double plays, and only made 6 errors
- His performances on both sides of the ball earned the GCL level player of the year award within the Rays organization, beating out fellow stand out and ranked prospect Carlos Vargas in the process
- On his season, Aranda had this to say (translated from Spanish):
"Thank God I had a good first year in the United States, I was given the things, I took the opportunity and I am very happy to see that my effort was recognized by my organization of Major Leagues," "All this leaves me with a great teaching as the level of competition begins to be much greater, it’s demanding, but all that makes you mature very quickly as a person and as a player,"
Jonathan Aranda 2017
|SB (CS)||14 (4)|
Stats Notes: Over his last 13 games of the season (49 PA), he hit .362/.388/.426 (good for an OPS of .813), with only 8.2% SO%, and managed a wRC+ of 135.
Interesting Comparison: Jonathan Villar
- At the same age and in the same league, Villar managed a line of .277/.364/.372 with 11 SB (2 CS), 13 BB, 24 SO, 7 doubles, a triple, and 5 errors - almost a carbon copy of what Aranda accomplished in 2017.
- It’s true that Villar did so as a SS, but he wound up at 2B down the road and Aranda was a SS before being signed by the Rays.
- While Villar is slightly taller than Aranda, the speed factor is very similar and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Aranda steal 30+ bases down the road while providing similar power numbers (10 to 15 HRs)
Notes for 2018 and beyond
While promoting Aranda on this list as the 49th best Rays prospect, I must plead guilty to being a major contributor to his ranking ahead of many other worthy candidates. He landed 34th on my list, an indication of how much faith I have he may develop into something special.
Ranking among the best on the GCL Rays and managing the leap to playing in the U.S. for the first time very well, he also managed to be among the league leaders. His experience in LMB likely helped him some, but it’s the consistency he worked with and improvements he continuously made that drew many people’s attention.
As a maturing and skilled player, he has the attributes you look for in a strong prospect and his makeup gets rave reviews. If he continues to combine that with above-average contact rates and learns to use the whole field, while adding some strength, he could make a major leap up these rankings by end 2018 in a similar fashion that Vidal Brujan managed in 2017.
Aranda will likely get a shot to man 2B with Hudson Valley in 2018, taking over from Vidal Brujan who is likely to take 2B job in Bowling Green. Should Aranda’s defensive abilities continue to develop and make him into one of the better options at 2B for the Rays, he could move fairly quickly and become some healthy competition for Brujan as they move up through the minors.
Before we move along to #48, here are a couple of interviews Aranda conducted in Spanish.
Jonathan Aranda: Video (Spanish, w/Commercial)
Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 50 Rays Prospects
*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list
- #25 - C Ronaldo Hernandez
- #26 - RHP Diego Castillo
- #27 - RHP Jaime Schultz
- #28 - SS Jelfry Marte
- #29 - LHP Resly Linares
- #30 - SS Jermaine Palacios
- #31 - C Nick Ciuffo
- #32 - RHP Michael Mercado
- #33 - INF Jake Cronenworth
- #34 - 2B Brandon Lowe
- #35 - RHP Curtis Taylor
- #36 - OF Ryan Boldt
- #37 - RHP Jose Mujica
- #38 - 3B Adrian Rondon
- #39 - 3B Carlos Vargas
- #40 - LHP Brock Burke
- #41 - SS Zach Rutherford
- #42 - RHP Hunter Wood
- #43 - 2B Tristan Gray
- #44 - CF Jake Fraley
- #45 - C Brett Sullivan
- #46 - LHP Travis Ott
- #47 - RHP Mikey York
- #48 - RP Brandon Koch
- #49 - UT Luis Rengifo
- #50 - RP Ian Gibaut
- #51 - INF Taylor Walls
- #52 - 2B Jonathan Aranda
- #53 - P Jhonleider Salinas
- #54 - C Chris Betts
- #55 - RP Kevin Gadea