This week, ESPN’s Keith Law released his annual Top 100 prospects list, and it was positively bursting with Tampa Bay Rays farm hands. Nine Rays players hit Law’s list, among the best showings for a single team (the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves were also heavily featured).
You can read the complete lists below with an ESPN+ membership, and we strongly recommend giving the whole list (and specifically his write ups for the Rays) and look.
Let’s take a look at the Rays players who hit Law’s Top 100.
100. Lucius Fox, SS
The staff of DRB have always been big fans of Fox, especially after his turn in the 2017 Futures Game, so it’s nice to see him get a nod on the list, after being unranked last year. Law doesn’t seem sure if Fox will make it to the big club, but if he does his defense will be a welcome addition to the team. Law points out, “He always has been an above-average defender at short with great hands and a 60-grade arm, and he is a plus-plus runner with a 75 percent career success rate in pro ball.”
94. Shane Baz, RHP
Baz, who was acquired by the Rays as part of the Chris Archer trade last year, has taken a bit of a tumble in the rankings from his place at 65 last year. Law speaks highly of Baz’s fastball, but also adds, “He still is learning to harness his stuff, to throw more and better strikes, and to make better use of the weapons he already has.”
Command and control, it appears, will be the key in future starting pitcher success for Baz.
84. Ronaldo Hernandez, C
Law praises Hernandez for his smooth transition from an infielder to a catcher, something the Rays could definitely benefit from having in their arsenal. “There’s potential here for an All-Star regular who controls the running game with 20-plus homers a year,” Law said of Hernandez’s bat, but does note he’ll need to work on his catching a little more, especially his receiving and blocking.
71. Jesus Sanchez, OF
Sanchez’s future would appear to be in right field, and he has what it takes to be an every day starter, according to law. “With his potential to hit .300 regularly with 18 to 22 homers, even with low walk rates he should be at least an everyday regular with the potential to grow into more.” It does appear that Sanchez is a wee bit swing-happy, which is great when he hits, but he could perhaps stand to learn a little more plate discipline before graduating to the majors.
59. Vidal Brujan, 2B
Brujan is debuting pretty high on Law’s list, from unranked last year to 59 this season. Law credits Brujan’s ability to hit well at every level he’s been at so far, and adds that “he seems like a good candidate for the kind of swing optimization that has acquired a cult-like following around the game, given his hand and upper body strength and feel for the zone.”
He might not be splashy, but he’s definitely one to watch.
36. Matt Liberatore, LHP
“Liberatore is, to borrow a scouting term, boring good -- he does so much so well, without any clearly plus-plus tool or pitch, that it’s a little easy to overlook him.”
19. Brent Honeywell, RHP
Honeywell didn’t slip as far down this list as you might think, relative to his injury. He only ranked 15th last year. Still, Law doesn’t see the missed year as a hit against Honeywell’s future as a starter. “He had, and the hope is that he still has, a No. 2 starter ceiling when healthy, which assumes he’ll tighten that slider and continue to improve his command over time.”
A lot of Honeywell’s success will depend on how quickly he’s able to return to his 2017 form.
14. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B
McKay has climbed substantially from his 28th place position on Law’s list last year, when Law was already pretty positive of McKay’s future in the majors. Now, it is clear that Law believes the Rays should stop looking at McKay as a two-way prospect and focus on him as a pitcher. According to the list, “McKay could pitch in the majors this year if the Rays permit it, as he has exceptional command of a three-pitch mix that might not include a true plus pitch but probably has three grade-55 offerings.”
3. Wander Franco, SS
Making his debut on the Top 100, 18-year-old Franco comes in at third place on the list, just under superstar prospects Fernando Tatis Jr, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. Law also predicts that Franco could very well be number one on the list next year. Wander Franco is so good he might have briefly turned Law into a poet. “Franco has otherworldly hand speed, and when he squares it up, it’s exothermic.” If that doesn’t get you excited about the thrilling young prospect, perhaps his .351/.418/.587 in the Appalachian League last year will do it. Law also hints that at shortstop, Franco could be “a top-five player in all of baseball.”