SS Wander Franco (S/R, 5’10 189, 18 in 2019)
2018 statistics with rookie-level Princeton: 273 PA, .351/.418/.587, 11 HR, 28 XBH, 9.9 BB%, 7.0 K%
After signing for $3.83 million, Franco quickly proved the Rays made a wise investment. He got on base in nearly every game he played and was named Appalachian League Player of the Year. In addition to his impressive tools — his hit and power grades could both be plus — he already has a mature plate approach and drew more walks than he had strikeouts. He has a good chance to stick at shortstop.
At this time last year, Wander Franco hadn’t played a professional game yet. Now, he’s one of the top prospects in baseball.
2019 Community prospect list
|1||SS Wander Franco||39||43||90.7%||13|
|2||RHP Brent Honeywell||32||49||65.3%||1|
|3||1B/LHP Brendan McKay||26||53||49.1%||3|
|4||2B Brandon Lowe||21||50||42.0%||19|
|5||LHP Matthew Liberatore||13||46||28.3%||N/A|
|6||OF Jesus Sanchez||17||48||35.4%||4|
|7||C Ronaldo Hernandez||22||44||50.0%||22|
|8||2B Vidal Brujan||32||48||66.7%||25|
|9||1B Nate Lowe||32||34||94.1%||N/R|
|10||2B Nick Solak||12||35||34.3%||16|
|11||LHP Shane McClanahan||11||47||23.4%||N/A|
|12||RHP Shane Baz||12||34||35.3%||N/A|
|13||SS Lucius Fox||14||35||40.0%||12|
|14||OF Joe McCarthy||16||36||44.4%||18|
|15||OF Moises Gomez||12||31||38.7%||N/R|
|16||LHP Anthony Banda||12||35||34.3%||9|
|17||LHP Resly Linares||13||37||35.1%||27|
|18||OF Josh Lowe||17||33||51.5%||11|
|19||LHP Colin Poche||20||37||54.1%||N/A|
|20||SS Taylor Walls||15||33||45.5%||N/R|
|21||OF Garrett Whitley||13||35||37.1%||8|
|22||OF Nick Schnell||15||35||42.9%||N/A|
|23||C Michael Perez||11||33||33.3%||N/A|
|24||RHP Jose De Leon||13||30||43.3%||10|
|25||RHP Ian Gibaut||14||31||45.2%||N/R|
|26||OF/RHP Tanner Dodson||12||27||44.4%||N/A|
|27||RHP Tobias Myers||10||28||35.7%||15|
|28||IF Tyler Frank||11||28||39.3%||N/A|
|29||OF Ryan Boldt||12||28||42.9%||36|
|30||IF Tristan Gray||10||26||38.5%||N/R|
|31||RHP Drew Strotman||32|
|32||RHP Sandy Gaston||N/A|
|33||C Chris Betts||N/R|
|34||SS Alejandro Pie||N/A|
|35||C Nick Ciuffo||35|
|36||RHP Austin Franklin||14|
|37||SS Jelfry Marte||N/R|
|38||RHP Michael Mercado||17|
|39||RHP Curtis Taylor||40|
|40||IF Andrew Velazquez||N/R|
2B Vidal Brujan (S/R, 5’9 155, 21 in 2019)
2018 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte: 548 PA, .320/.403/.453, 55/74 SB, 9 HR, 41 XBH, 11.5 BB%, 12.4 K%
Brujan was second in the minors in steals, and he had the most steals in the organization since Andrew Toles had 62 in 2013. His game is built around that impressive speed. He has a swing geared toward line drives, and he has a great plate approach that helps him get on base as much as possible. Defensively, he’s fine at second base and could probably play center field thanks to his athleticism.
C Ronaldo Hernandez (R/R, 6’1 185, 21 in 2019)
2018 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green: 449 PA, .284/.339/.494, 21 HR, 42 XBH, 10/14 SB, 6.9 BB%, 15.4 K%
Hernandez was a star with Princeton in 2017, and he was nearly as good in his full-season debut in 2018. He was second among minor league catchers in home runs (Baseball America $). He makes consistent contact as well. However, he has a lot of work to do behind the plate. His plus arm helps him manage the run game, but he has to improve his receiving to stick at catcher.
RHP Brent Honeywell (6’2 180, 24 in 2019)
Did not pitch in 2018
Honeywell was surely part of the Rays’ plans in 2018, but he went down with an elbow injury very early in spring training and soon underwent Tommy John surgery. The Rays hope he can begin pitching in games in May. Prior to the surgery, the righty worked with a deep arsenal, led by his mid-90s fastball. His screwball and changeup may be his best secondary pitches, and he also has a pair of breaking balls.
LHP Matthew Liberatore (6’5 200, 19 in 2019)
2018 statistics with the Gulf Coast League Rays and rookie-level Princeton: 32 2⁄3 IP, 1.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.2 BB%, 29.1 K%
The Rays were fortunate to land Liberatore — one of the top players available — with the No. 16 pick in the 2018 draft. His fastball sits in the low-90s, and he could add to that as he gets stronger. His curveball and changeup could both be plus pitches, and his ability to throw strikes is much better than the usual high school pitcher, although his walk rate was a bit high in his pro debut.
2B Brandon Lowe (L/R, 6’0 185, 24 in 2019)
2018 statistics with Tampa Bay: 148 PA, .233/.324/.450, 6 HR, 14 XBH, 10.8 BB%, 25.7 K%
2018 statistics with Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham: 445 PA, .297/.391/.558, 22 HR, 54 XBH, 12.8 BB%, 22.9 K%
Lowe built on a strong 2017 season with an even better 2018, and he earned his first major league opportunity — while narrowly maintaining prospect status entering 2019. He emerged as one of the organization’s top sluggers and had a solid big league debut. Not only does he have above-average power, he should make solid contact as well. He also added defensive versatility by learning left and right field.
1B/LHP Brendan McKay (L/L, 6’2 212, 23 in 2019)
2018 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte: 242 PA, .214/.368/.359, 6 HR, 15 XBH, 18.2 BB%, 21.5 K% — 78 1⁄3 IP, 2.41 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 4.7 BB%, 34.4 K%
McKay’s two-way experiment was twice disrupted by oblique injuries, costing him quite a few plate appearances and innings. When he was healthy, he showed more on the mound than he did at the plate. He locates all of his pitches well, including a plus fastball and cutter along with a breaking ball and changeup. As a hitter, he can make good contact and has a strong plate approach, but he didn’t hit for much power in 2018.
OF Jesus Sanchez (L/R, 6’3 210, 21 in 2019)
2018 statistics with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery: 488 PA, .282/.324/.433, 11 HR, 45 XBH, 5.3 BB%, 18.9 K%
Sanchez continued his steady progress toward the majors in 2018 and earned a spot in the Futures Game. He has the hit tool and power potential to play a corner-outfield spot, where he belongs defensively. Despite not stealing many bases, he is a good athlete. While he can make contact with a lot of pitches, he has to become more selective, and he will continue to be tested when he returns to Double A in 2019.