Three of the Rays’ top seven prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, will be heading to Cleveland to participate in the 2019 Futures Game.
Announced earlier today, the Rays will be represented by MLB’s number one overall prospect Wander Franco, two-way player and recently promoted left-hander Brendan McKay, and rising catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez.
The switch-hitting teenage phenom Wander Franco headlines the trio of Rays prospects being sent to Cleveland. Franco was recently promoted to High-A Charlotte, earning that promotion thanks in part to his .318/.390/.506 slash line in A Bowling Green.
There is so much that can be said about Franco’s success so far at only 18 years old, but the most notable thing that Franco has shown has been his ability to not swing-and-miss. Earlier this season during a stretch with Bowling Green, Franco saw over 100 pitches and did not swing and miss at a single one. Franco’s advanced feel of hitting brings a lot of hype around the young prospect.
Two-way player and number two prospect in the Rays system Brendan McKay was also selected to represent the Rays in this year’s Futures Game. Set to make his MLB debut this weekend, McKay’s selection to the event could be in doubt, as the Futures Game is for prospects and Major Leaguers are not eligible to participate. McKay’s terrific 2019 campaign at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels have earned himself a chance to show the big club what he is capable of, and even if McKay does not play in Cleveland, he is deserving of the recognition to be selected for the event.
With a 1.30 ERA in 41.2 innings with Montgomery and a 1.08 ERA in 25 innings with Durham, McKay’s pitching has ascended to another level this year, receiving high praise from the organization. McKay’s bat took a step back at the beginning of his season with the Biscuits, but in 60 plate appearances with Durham, McKay is slashing .265/.400/.551 with four homers and a wRC+ of 141.
The last — but definitely not least — deserving Rays prospect heading to Cleveland is catcher Ronaldo Hernandez. Signed by the Rays in 2014, Hernandez was not even ranked in MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Rays prospects list in 2017. Known for his strong throwing arm, Hernandez has shown an ability to hit consistently for three seasons now.
Hernandez has spent the 2019 season in High-A Charlotte, slashing .266/.300/.409 with a wRC+ of 107. Last season, Hernandez hit 21 home runs in 109 games for Bowling Green. Hernandez has thrown out nine runners from behind the plate while allowing 13 stolen bases, good for a 41% thrown out percentage.
Other top prospects around the league that have been invited to this game include 2017 MLB Draft first overall pick, shortstop Royce Lewis from the Minnesota Twins and MLB Pipeline’s number three overall prospect, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore from the San Diego Padres.
The 2019 Futures Game will take place on Sunday, July 7 at Progressive Field in Cleveland at 4 pm ET, and will be broadcast on MLB Network. One of the trio of Rays prospects will look to win the Futures Game MVP Award and join Brent Honeywell and Toby Hall as the only Rays prospects to win this award.