clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tampa Bay Rays midseason top prospect list 2019: Franco leads deep organization

Despite graduations, injuries, and trades, the Rays have one of the top farm systems in baseball.

Adam Sanford

Now that the draft, deadline to sign draft picks, and trade deadline have passed, it’s time to update our top prospects list. We had four prospect followers on the staff put together top-10 lists, and we then combined those lists — 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second-place vote, and so on.

From the preseason list, Brandon Lowe has graduated, and Brendan McKay and Nate Lowe almost certainly will soon. They won’t be featured here.

All stats are through games on Aug. 4.

1. SS Wander Franco (S/R, 5’10 189, 18 years old)

2019 statistics: 404 PA, .328/.399/510, 9 HR, 39 XBH, 18/31 SB, 11.4 BB%, 6.9 K% (Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Offseason rank: No. 1

Somehow, Franco’s first full season may be even better than his pro debut. He’s walking more, striking out less, and still hitting for some power in leagues it’s difficult to hit for power in. He’s the best prospect in baseball, and he will be until he graduates.

2. 2B Vidal Brujan (S/R, 5’9 155, 21 years old)

2019 statistics: 334 PA, .282/.345/.389, 21 XBH, 41/51 SB, 8.4 BB%, 15.0 K% (Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)
Offseason rank: 7

Brujan missed about a month on the injured list, but he could still end up stealing 50 bases. Once again, he’s making consistent contact and getting on base to affect games with his speed. For the first time since he was in the Dominican Summer League, he’s also getting some time at shortstop.

3. LHP Matthew Liberatore (6’5 200, 19 years old)

2019 statistics: 69 13 IP, 3.25 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.1 BB%, 22.5 K% (Class-A Bowling Green)
Offseason rank: 6

The night he was drafted, it was believed that Liberatore was one of the steals of the 2018 draft. Every time he pitches, that becomes more and more clear. After starting the season in extended spring training to manage his workload, he’s been effective nearly every time out for Bowling Green.

4. C Ronaldo Hernandez (R/R, 6’1 185, 21 years old)

2019 statistics: 333 PA, .270/.304/.407, 7 HR, 25 XBH, 3.9 BB%, 15.0 BB% (Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Offseason rank: 5

Hernandez had a slow start to 2019 — although that included time on the inactive list in April and May due to a family matter. July was his best month of the season, and his walk rate is up. Defensively, he has reportedly made strides, which is the key to his development. He earned an opportunity to play in the Futures Game in Cleveland.

5. RHP Brent Honeywell Jr. (6’2 195, 24 years old)

2019 statistics: Has not pitched
Offseason rank: 3

The last two seasons have been a nightmare for Honeywell. After undergoing Tommy John surgery on the cusp of the majors before the 2018 season, his rehab was derailed by setbacks and a broken elbow that required further surgery. By the time he’s back on the mound, he’ll have missed at least two seasons, and it’s impossible to guess how he’ll perform.

6. RHP Shane Baz (6’3 190, 20 years old)

2019 statistics: 58 23 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.0 BB%, 25.7 K% (Class-A Bowling Green)
Offseason rank: 12

Baz also started the season in extended spring training and then burst onto the scene in the Midwest League, making six straight starts of five innings with two or fewer runs allowed. Since then, the results haven’t been as good, and his strike rate has decreased significantly. Still, the Rays are likely more than happy with the third player in the Chris Archer deal.

7. LHP Shane McClanahan (6’1 200, 22 years old)

2019 statistics: 102 13 IP, 2.46 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.4 BB%, 32.1 K%
Offseason rank: 15

After an inconsistent — albeit still very good — start to the season, McClanahan has been one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball over the last two months. After a promotion to Charlotte, he greatly improved his strike rate, which would increase his chances of remaining a starter as he progresses through the system.

8. SS Taylor Walls (S/R, 5’10 180, 22 years old)

2019 statistics: 341 PA, .258/.340/.400, 26 XBH, 26/39 SB, 11.7 BB%, 18.5 K% (Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)
Offseason rank: 24

Walls hit well in the Midwest League last season, as he should have done as a college player coming from a tough conference. After starting the season a little banged up, he continued to hit well with Charlotte to earn a promotion to Montgomery. Now getting time at second base and third base in addition to shortstop, he has increased his versatility.

T-9. SS Greg Jones (S/R, 6’2 175, 21 years old)

2019 statistics: 138 PA, .341/.413/.496, 14 XBH, 13/20 SB, 9.4 BB%, 24.6 K% (Short-season Hudson Valley)
Offseason rank: Not in organization

Prior to the draft, the Rays were rumored to be interested in Jones, and they did select him with their first pick in June — No. 22 overall. Due to a lingering shoulder injury, he didn’t take a position in the field until his 25th career game, but he was still able to impress at the plate. He’s in the top five in the New York-Penn League in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

T-9. RHP Joe Ryan (6’1 185, 23 years old)

2019 statistics: 103 13 IP, 1.92 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 5.7 BB%, 36.0 K% (Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Offseason rank: Not ranked

Ryan is the top pop-up prospect in the organization. He was a seventh-round pick last year and had a nice pro debut, but no one saw this performance coming. He’s one of the minor league leaders in strikeouts and one of just a handful of pitchers with 100-plus innings and an ERA under 2.00. He owes his success to his fastball and water polo (Baseball America $).

Also receiving votes (in alphabetical order): SS Jake Cronenworth, RHP JJ Goss, RHP Seth Johnson, CF Josh Lowe, 3B Kevin Padlo

Videos from 2080 Baseball, Baseball America, and Emily Waldon