In recent weeks, Baseball America began prospect-ranking season when it rolled out its league top-20 prospect rankings for subscribers.
These lists can be interesting, maybe more than the organization lists — which is something I say every year for this post. A No. 1 prospect in an organization without depth could be a No. 5 prospect in a deeper one, but on these league lists, we really see how top prospects from competing clubs compare to one another. It adds some context to a prospect’s standing.
Players are eligible if they spent one-third of the season in that league. As you’ll see in the International League, that includes players who have graduated from prospect rankings.
Here’s how the Rays fared:
3. SS Willy Adames
5. OF Austin Meadows
16. 1B Jake Bauers
Adames, Meadows, and Bauers all graduated from prospect rankings but were still eligible for the league lists. International League managers were particularly effusive in their praise for Meadows. Norfolk’s Ron Johnson said he’s “one of the best players in the minor leagues,” and Gwinnett’s Damon Berryhill said he’s a plus defender and consistent hitter.
19. 2B/OF Brandon Lowe
With 129 at-bats, Lowe barely remains prospect eligible next season. BA’s report notes that his defense at second base and left field is “average at best.”
Eligible for list but not included: OF Joe McCarthy, OF Justin Williams
10. 2B/OF Brandon Lowe
11. 1B Nate Lowe
Montgomery manager Brady Williams is quoted in the story, answering why Lowe became such a different player in 2018. “He worked really hard on moving his weight around and becoming more athletic. He changed his swing to focus on being able to get to fastballs in ... while still being able to hit offspeed pitches in the zone.”
14. LHP Genesis Cabrera
Cabrera — who was traded to St. Louis in the Tommy Pham deal — is the top lefty in the Southern League. However, BA says that due to his violent delivery and control lapses, he could end up in the bullpen. It’s not all bad, though. He’s compared to former Rays prospect Felipe Vazquez, now an All-Star for Pittsburgh.
18. 2B/OF Nick Solak
On a very superficial level, Solak and Brandon Lowe are similar. They play the same positions, and they started at the same level this season. However, at least on this list, there’s now quite a bit of separation between them. Like Lowe, Solak is going to get to the majors with his bat, not his defense, but he’s a different kind of player with a potential plus hit tool.
Luis Rengifo — traded to the Angels for C.J. Cron — ranked one spot ahead of Solak.
Eligible for list but not included: OF Ryan Boldt
8. OF Jesus Sanchez
BA noted that Sanchez appeared stronger entering this season, and ideally that will manifest in more in-game power soon.
12. 1B/LHP Brendan McKay
There wasn’t really anything new in this report on McKay. His pitching is ahead of his hitting, although BA does say that his stuff took a step forward.
15. 1B Nate Lowe
Eligible for list but not included: LHP Brock Burke, SS Lucius Fox
4. 1B/LHP Brendan McKay
In the Midwest League, McKay was ranked higher than Tigers pitcher Matt Manning and Blue Jays shortstop Kevin Smith, but he was behind both of them in the FSL. Managers in different leagues can clearly see different things from different players.
7. C Ronaldo Hernandez
The most interesting tidbit regarding Hernandez came in the chat when writer Justin Coleman said “he has it all,” and that his glove is coming along nicely. It’s clear he can hit, and it’ll be his defense that determines how high he rises on prospect lists.
11. 2B Vidal Brujan
BA’s Brujan report pointed out something I wasn’t aware of — his significant left/right splits. Batting left-handed, he had a .938 OPS this season with all nine of his home runs. Batting right-handed, he batted .275, but his OPS was just .677 with a .044 ISO. That disparity wasn’t quite as large in 2017.
13. OF Moises Gomez
Coleman stated there’s a case that Gomez has a higher ceiling than any other Bowling Green hitter, and that’s impressive because he was on a pretty strong roster. That’s primarily due to his bat since his defense did not receive complimentary reviews.
Eligible for list but not included: LHP Resly Linares, SS Taylor Walls
6. OF/RHP Tanner Dodson
Dodson was a second rounder, but only one player from the 2018 draft is ranked ahead of him on this list — Pirates outfielder Travis Swaggerty, the No. 10 pick. BA’s report lauds his two-way play, including the athleticism to play center field and his hard fastball and slider on the mound.
14. C Chris Betts
It’s been an impressive turnaround for Betts. Injuries have wiped out much of his pro career so far, but he re-emerged as a prospect in 2018. When he was drafted, whether he would stick at catcher was up for debate, but this report says he “showed off his defensive skills,” which are described as an average arm with “good footwork behind the dish.”
Eligible for list but not included: IF Tyler Frank, RHP Michael Mercado
1. SS Wander Franco
Franco was good enough that he could’ve arguably been placed on his own list.
8. RHP Shane Baz
Baz’s stats as a professional so far have been underwhelming for a No. 12 pick. He struck out more than a batter an inning, but he also had 29 walks in 52 1⁄3 innings. The good news is the evaluators BA spoke with believe his control will improve thanks to his athleticism and repeatable delivery.
Eligible for list but not included: OF Tony Pena, OF Jordan Qsar
3. LHP Matthew Liberatore
It was clear on draft night that the Rays got a steal with the No. 16 pick, and Liberatore was ranked as the top draft pick in the GCL. He has three impressive pitches and throws strikes. I hope he pitches in the Midwest League in 2019.
12. OF Nick Schnell
Schnell is the fourth 2018 draft pick ranked on this list. He struck out quite a bit in his debut, but it was still a promising start to his professional career. I was hoping this report would shed light on why he missed the last month of the season, but it did not.