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Rays’ Franco, McKay among top prospects in respective leagues

Some of the Rays’ top talent stacks up well against prospects from other organizations.

Wander Franco was the top prospect in each league he played in this season
Adam Sanford

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.

International League

3. LHP/DH Brendan McKay

Bob Sutton described the International League prospect class as top heavy, and with a top three of Luis Robert, Bo Bichette, and Brendan McKay, that did seem to be the case.

14. 1B Nate Lowe

Last season, Lowe was on the Southern League and Florida State League lists but didn’t get enough at-bats in Durham to qualify for the International League list. This season, he ranks one spot behind Cleveland first base prospect Bobby Bradley.

16. 2B/OF Nick Solak

The Rays reduced Solak’s time in the outfield this season, and BA noted that the “attempt to add to his versatility by playing him in the outfield didn’t really take.” The Rangers are trying to see if third base is a fit for him.

19. SS/RHP Jake Cronenworth

Cronenworth played himself into strong 40-man roster consideration this season. It will be interesting to see how he’s used as a two-way player over a full season, given his “quickly developing high-spin rate slider.”

Eligible for list but not included: IF Mike Brosseau, RHP Jose De Leon

Southern League

6. LHP/DH Brendan McKay

McKay again ranked behind Robert, as well as several other players. Matt Eddy noted that it was a very deep league this season, and the Rays’ non-inclusions would indicate that.

19. OF Jesus Sanchez

20. OF Josh Lowe

Sanchez came into the season as a consensus top-100 prospect, and Lowe was coming off a nondescript 2018. Now, Sanchez has still not tapped into his raw power — and is now in another organization — and Lowe is top-100 caliber (ESPN $).

Eligible for list but not included: 2B Vidal Brujan, SS Lucius Fox, 3B Kevin Padlo

Florida State League

1. SS Wander Franco

This wasn’t a question.

10. RHP Joe Ryan

11. LHP Shane McClanahan

I thought it was interesting that Ryan ranked ahead of McClanahan, but since they’re back-to-back, it’s likely not a significant difference. With those two plus Matthew Liberatore, the Rays’ 2018 draft could provide a lot of pitching depth for years to come.

15. 2B Vidal Brujan

Brujan did make the cut for the Florida State League, just a couple spots behind 2017 No. 1 pick Royce Lewis. FSL managers viewed his defensive ability very favorably.

20. C Ronaldo Hernandez

Hernandez’s stock may be down, and his aggressive plate approach was a detriment this season. However, his defense is improving.

Eligible for list but not included: OF Moises Gomez, LHP Michael Plassmeyer, RHP Tommy Romero, OF Garrett Whitley

Midwest League

1. SS Wander Franco

2. LHP Matthew Liberatore

4. RHP Shane Baz

5. LHP Shane McClanahan

Is having four of the top five prospects in the league good? I enjoyed this quote from a scout that Emily Waldon shared: “He knows he’s good and he wants to win. (Like) Michael Jordan (he) wants to beat you at everything.”

She also had this quote on Baz: “He’s a wild pony who needs to be maintained. His pure stuff jumps at you, but he needs time. The arm is so big and so easy he just hasn’t needed to learn how to incorporate his lower body. That’s where consistency and command and release point come in.”

Cubs lefty Brailyn Marquez is the only non-Hot Rod in the top five.

Eligible for list but not included: C Chris Betts, RHP Caleb Sampen

New York-Penn League

3. SS Greg Jones

Justin Coleman noted that the New York-Penn League was deep this year, and Jones is only behind two of the top five picks in the draft. Why was he so good this season? “Jones was prone to swinging and missing in college but showed more feel to hit in the NYPL. His two-strike approach has helped him make more consistent contact.”

13. LHP John Doxakis

Based on this quote from an NYPL manager, Doxakis pitched exactly how the Rays expected when they drafted him in the second round:

“This is a guy that is very advanced for his age and knows how to approach each hitter.”

Eligible for list but not included: RHP Edisson Gonzalez

Appalachian League

8. OF Nick Schnell

It’s not a surprise that Schnell hit well, but what caught my eye in this evaluation was Carlos Collazo’s impression of his defense, saying he has a chance to stick in center field. I wasn’t optimistic about this when he was drafted, but the Rays are giving him every opportunity to do so.

Eligible for list but not included: RHP Taj Bradley, OF Diego Infante

Gulf Coast League


Eligible for list but not included: LHP Franklin Dacosta