Prior to the season, we released a top-50 prospects list (I am aware of when that post is dated, but it’s the only post we have that contains the entire list.) With the season over, it’s a good time to check in on that list and see how the players fared.
No. 50 RHP Ian Gibaut: 2.09 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 33.8 K%, 9.5 BB% in 56 IP for Triple-A Durham)
Gibaut’s rise up the organizational ladder continued with another strong season in relief. He set new career bests in ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rate, and with a Rule 5 draft decision looming this offseason, the 2015 11th-round pick from Tulane is on the cusp of the majors. He reduced his walk rate and increased his strike rate in 2018.
No. 49 IF Luis Rengifo: Traded to Angels
Rengifo was traded to acquire C.J. Cron. With the Angels, he has become a top-10 prospect in the organization thanks to his breakout 2018 season. He played well at three levels and should become a big leaguer at some point in 2019.
No. 48 RHP Brandon Koch: 1.76 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 31.3 K%, 9.4 BB% in 15 1⁄3 IP for Class A-Advanced Charlotte
After missing most of 2016, all of 2017, and the first month of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, Koch did not last long before injuries struck again. He as very effective in his 15 1⁄3 innings, as he has been in his 54 2⁄3 career innings. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t thrown very many of them.
When Koch is on the mound, he has the stuff to succeed in key situations, but he hasn’t been able to pitch often enough.
What a return to the @StoneCrabs for Brandon Koch (@brandon_koch1)! After two years on the DL, he returns to this same stadium in which he made his last appearance and hits 96 while turning away Fort Myers in order #ComebackCrabs #BigTimeReturn— John Vittas (@JohnVittas3) May 10, 2018
No. 47 RHP Mikey York: 4.44 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 18.2 K%, 9.4 BB% in 73 IP for Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte
After 17 innings with Bowling Green in 2017, the Rays moved York up to Charlotte to begin 2018, but it did not work out. Florida State League hitters posted a .884 OPS against him, and he was sent back to the Midwest League. Back with the Hot Rods, he did settle in and pitch well, but overall, his strikeout and walk rates both went in the wrong direction this season. He spent nearly three weeks on the disabled list at the end of July and start of August making this season difficult to evaluate.
Any way you slice it, the righty failed to fully transition to full-season ball in 2018 and was unable to build on his 2017 season when he posted an ERA under 1.00 in 61 innings. In 2019, he’ll look to stay healthy in his second crack at the FSL.
No. 46 LHP Travis Ott: 3.53 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 29.5 K%, 10.4 BB% in 71 1⁄3 IP for Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham
Despite consistent success, Ott’s rise through the system has been slow, seeing other left-handers move ahead of him on the depth chart of the Rays overall system.
For the first time, he pitched mostly in relief in 2018. Initially, he didn’t take to the role — in his first 14 appearances, he had a 6.35 ERA and .872 OPS against. Over his next 13 appearances, he didn’t allow an earned run. For the season, lefties batted .189 against him with a .243 slugging percentage, but he walked 16 of the 93 lefties he faced.
He has potential out of a major league bullpen. He will again be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but is unlikely to be drafted.
No. 45 C Brett Sullivan: .266 BA/.322 OBP/.380 SLG, 7 HR, 17/24 SB, 11.8 K%, 7.3 BB% in 466 PA for Double-A Montgomery
With steady offense and promise behind the plate, Sullivan has been an under-the-radar prospects for a couple years now. Lauded for his strike-zone judgment, he continued to show a strong plate approach in Double A with a low strikeout rate and the best walk rate of his career. However, his already modest power declined in 2018 with a career-low .114 ISO.
His defense — at least according to a traditional stat like fielding percentage — continued to improve, but I don’t know if he hit enough to get on the Rule 5 radar this winter, even if catchers are always in demand.
No. 44 OF Jake Fraley: .347 BA/.415 OBP/.547 SLG, 30 XBH, 11/19 SB, 16.9 K%, 10.0 BB% in 260 PA for Class A-Advanced Charlotte
Coming off an outstanding campaign in the Australian Baseball League, Fraley was unable to build off his successful offseason due to another injury that cost him the first two months of the season. Injuries limited him to 30 games in 2017. When he was on the field, though, he was outstanding, more than doubling his career extra-base-hit total.
Although he didn’t get to play much in 2017, he was nonetheless repeating a level in 2018. In 2019, it will be key for the 2016 second-round pick to stay on the field and face a new challenge at a higher level.
No. 43 IF Tristan Gray: .238 BA/.300 OBP/.419 SLG, 13 HR, 53 XBH, 22.8 K%, 7.9 BB% in 496 PA for Class A-Advanced Charlotte
The Rays acquired Gray in the Corey Dickerson trade, and they decided to have him skip over Class-A Bowling Green. The 2017 13th-round pick started slow with a .523 OPS in April, but he rebounded to have an above-average season. He had eight more doubles than anyone else in the Florida State League. Defensively, he showed his versatility by playing three different infield positions, including third base for the first time as a professional.
In short, he rewarded the team’s faith in him by rebounding from his slow start, and his stock is up.
No. 42 RHP Hunter Wood: 3.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 38.4 K%, 6.1 BB% in 42 IP for Triple-A Durham — 3.73 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 23.5 K%, 10.1 BB% in 41 IP for Tampa Bay
Although Wood made his major league debut in 2017, it was his worst professional season. For the first time, he struggled as a starter, but he showed promise in relief.
That success continued in 2018, notably in several appearances as The Opener, flashing near triple-digit heat and making major league hitters look uncomfortable. Best of all, his strikeout rate increased with his promotion as he showed he could pitch on a major league staff.
For turning his career around in a new role, his stock is up entering 2019, with likely continued appearances as the Opener or in high leverage.
No. 41 IF Zach Rutherford: .268 BA/.345 OBP/.373 SLG, 32 XBH, 11/13 SB, 20.5 K%, 8.5 BB% in 484 PA for Class-A Bowling Green
In his first full pro season, Rutherford continued to provide above-average offense. His strikeout rate increased but not by an overwhelming amount. BA’s predraft report ($) indicated he might have some power potential, but it was not on display with the Hot Rods. He played all four infield spots, mostly at third base.
He was older than the average Midwest League player. It would have been nice to see him get a shot in the Florida State League, but the team’s infield depth — including Gray and Lucius Fox with Charlotte and Taylor Walls with Bowling Green — left him with the Hot Rods.
Failing to truly stand out in Bowling Green is not the end of the world, but it is something to watch moving forward. An early college pick could have shown a better OPS in the Midwest League, but some — like Brandon Lowe — do find success once moving on.
Editor’s Note: Luis Rengifo’s trade moved former FSU SS Taylor Walls into the top-50. The 2017 draft pick posted a respectable 137 wRC+ with Bowling Green in 2018.