This offseason, we’re reviewing our preseason top-50 prospects list. This group doesn’t have as many present major leaguers as the previous one, but it does have some potential contributors, as well as a player the Rays hope is the game’s next star.
No. 20 RHP Austin Franklin: 3.62 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 18.5 K%, 8.8 BB% in 82 IP for Class-A Bowling Green
In his full-season debut in 2018, Franklin was solid for 3 1⁄2 months. But in July, he underwent Tommy John surgery, according to a podcast interview with director of minor league operations Mitch Lukevics (audio link). Prior to the injury, he had lowered his walk rate a bit, but his strikeout rate was down too. In 2016 and 2017, his opponents’ ISO was .045 and .102, respectively. In 2018, it rose to .150.
Because of the timing of his surgery, the young righty may not take the field in 2019.
No. 19 OF Joe McCarthy: .269 BA/.377 OBP/.513 SLG, 8 HR, 22 XBH, 22.5 K%, 13.1 BB% in 191 PA for Triple-A Durham
As he has his entire pro career, McCarthy hit and got on base in 2018. He also added an interesting wrinkle — increased power. His slugging percentage and .244 ISO were by far career highs, and his eight homers tied a career high. Unfortunately, injuries cost him over two months. He is making up some of those at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder should make his big league debut in 2019 if there’s an opportunity. If the Rays want to keep him in the organization, they’ll have to add him to the 40-man roster.
No. 18 3B Kevin Padlo: .223 BA/.318 OBP/.353 SLG, 8 HR, 34 XBH, 26.5 K%, 10.5 BB% in 449 PA for Class A-Advanced Charlotte
Padlo missed time in 2017 with a broken hamate, but he failed to improve on those results in 2018. His ISO even decreased as he repeated the Florida State League. While he continued to draw walks at a healthy rate, his strikeouts increased, and throughout his career, he has never hit for a very good average outside of the friendly confines of the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues.
For now, the third baseman seems to be off the prospect radar.
No. 17 LHP Genesis Cabrera: Traded to St. Louis
Cabrera was sent to the Cardinals in the package that landed Tommy Pham. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 14 prospect in the Southern League ($) but noted he could end up in the bullpen in the majors. His strikeout rate increased this season, but so did his walk rate.
No. 16 LHP Ryan Yarbrough: 3.91 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 20.4 K%, 8.0 BB% in 147 1⁄3 IP for Tampa Bay
Yarbrough made the Opening Day roster, and he stuck in the majors all season. He made a few starts, but most of his work came in lengthy relief appearances following use of an opener. He was particularly effective against lefties, striking them out at a rate of 28.8 percent.
Moving forward, the 26-year-old has found a role in the majors as a solid bulk guy.
No. 15 RHP Tobias Myers: 3.71 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 19.7 K%, 8.0 BB% in 119 IP for Class-A Bowling Green
Like Franklin, Myers moved up a level and made his full-season debut in 2019. Also like Franklin, his season was just OK. His walk rate jumped up quite a bit, although he did throw more strikes over the final three months of the season. His strikeout rate also dipped, along with his groundball rate.
The changes in the righty’s rate stats were concerning, but he is still just 20 years old. He was one of three pitchers under 20 in the Midwest League to throw more than 100 innings, so time is on his side to make improvements.
No. 14 2B/OF Nick Solak: .282 BA/.384 OBP/.450 SLG, 19 HR, 39 XBH, 21/27 SB, 19.8 K%, 12.0 BB% in 565 PA for Double-A Montgomery
The Rays added Solak in the three-team deal that sent Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona in February. Offensively, he continued to excel. He drew a lot of walks and made consistent contact. He also hit for a little more power than usual, finishing just a homer shy of a 20-20 season. Defensively, he played left field and center field for the first time.
With increased defensive versatility and performance in the upper minors, his stock is up.
No. 13 RHP Jose De Leon: Did not pitch
In March, De Leon underwent Tommy John surgery. Injuries — including to his shoulder and forearm — in recent seasons have limited his innings, and it’s hard to figure out what to expect from the 26-year-old. He’ll begin his rehab at some point in 2019.
No. 12 SS Lucius Fox: .268 BA/.351 OBP/.341 SLG, 25 XBH, 29/38 SB, 18.9 K%, 9.5 BB% in 524 PA for Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery
Fox’s 2018 season was quite similar to his 2017 season. He posted solid numbers at a level he was repeating before struggling to settle in at a higher level late in the season. He cut down on his strikeouts, and putting the ball in play is key for a player with his speed. However, he’s still only a singles hitter, and his ISO didn’t improve at all.
Although it’s disappointing he didn’t add any extra-base-hit power, I’d still say his stock has improved. He reached Double A as a 20-year-old, and his defense is reportedly improving (ESPN $).
No. 11 SS Wander Franco: .351 BA/.418 OBP/.587 SLG, 11 HR, 28 XBH , 7.0 K%, 9.9 BB% in 273 PA for Rookie-level Princeton
After going 0-for-4 in his fourth professional game, Franco went on a 25-game hitting streak and an on-base streak that lasted nearly the entire season. Every night, he seemed to impress. He homered in back-to-back games — including a four-hit game — in the first week of his career. He hit for the cycle in a two-homer game. He walked more than he struck out.
It only took 61 games, but he’s now one of the top prospects in the game. He’s still just 17, and the sky is the limit.
Wander Franco's double in slow motion pic.twitter.com/hHOuZRKswW— Adam Sanford (@Adam_A_Sanford) July 22, 2018