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2021 DRaysBay Community Prospect List No. 1

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Is this a slam dunk for Wander Franco?

Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco at the Alternate Training Site
Toby Srebnik | @fsutoby

We are opening the Community Prospect voting early this year, and pacing the vote every 3.5 days to allow folks more time to participate.

You can find a full explanation of how we vote here, but as a recap: Voting is conducted by commenting with a +1 under the player name you feel should be the winner of the poll.

If you have another player you feel should win this poll comment their name under Other; if you have a name you’d like to enter into the conversation for the next poll put their name under Testers. The voting concludes when we close the comments to tabulate the votes shortly before running the next poll (Sunday nights and Wednesday mornings).

This is the eleventh year conducting this vote and this article kicks everything off at No. 1. Y’all are a savvy bunch, so I’m interested to see how divided this vote could be...

Here are the candidates:

OF Randy Arozarena (R/R, 5’11 185, 26 in 2021)

2020 statistics with Tampa Bay: 76 PA, .281/.382/.641, 7 HR, 9 XBH, 4/4 SB, 7.9 BB%, 28.9 K%

Arozarena’s 43-game stretch will be talked about for years. In the regular season, he kept the offense afloat over the final month. In the postseason, he was a record-setting sensation. What can he do for an encore? Over a full season, he’ll be a dynamic player, and 20-homer, 20-steal seasons aren’t out of the question. His speed allows him to play all three outfield positions.

RHP Shane Baz (6’2 190, 22 in 2021)

2019 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green: 81 1⁄3 IP, 2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 10.8 BB%, 25.4 K%

Baz was at the alternate site in 2020. A year earlier in his first full season in the organization, Baz made strides with his control, posting a career-low walk rate. After the season, he turned heads in the Arizona Fall League as the youngest pitcher in the league. MLB.com reported that he had the best fastball and breaking ball among AFL prospects. He has to continue improving his control and his changeup.

RHP Nick Bitsko (6’4 220, 19 in 2021)

Drafted in 2020

For the third straight season, the Rays took a high school pitcher in the first round, even when the rest of the industry is trending the other way. Bitsko was considered a top prospect for the 2021 draft, but he reclassified and got drafted a year earlier. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and his curveball is a potential plus pitch. His changeup has potential, and he should be a strike thrower.

IF Vidal Brujan (S/R, 5’9 155, 23 in 2021)

2019 statistics with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery: 429 PA, .277/.346/.389, 48/61 SB, 28 XBH, 8.6 BB%, 14.2 K%

He didn’t see any game action in 2020, but Brujan was nonetheless in the postseason player pool. In 2019, he led the organization in steals for the second straight season. He also spent quite a bit of time at shortstop for the first time in his career, and it’s believed he could play a good center field if necessary. At the plate, he’s known for his plate approach. He knows the strike zone and hardly strikes out. He may not hit for much power.

IF Xavier Edwards (S/R, 5’10 175, 21 in 2021)

2019 statistics with Class-A Fort Wayne and Class A-Advanced Lake Elsinore: 561 PA, .322/.375/.396, 34/45 SB, 27 XBH, 7.8 BB%, 9.6 K%

Edwards finished the season at the organization’s alternate site after being acquired in the trade that sent Tommy Pham to San Diego in the offseason. He impressed in his first full pro season in 2019, reaching the Padres’ equivalent of Charlotte. He uses his plus-plus speed to have success. He knows the strike zone and how to get his bat on the ball, but he may never develop much power. His arm strength may limit him to second base.

SS Wander Franco (S/R, 5’10 190, 20 in 2021)

2019 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte: 495 PA, .327/.398/.487, 9 HR, 43 XBH, 18/32 SB, 11.3 BB%, 7.1 K%

Despite not having played above A ball, Franco was at the alternate site all season and even a member of the team’s postseason player pool. He can do it all. What stands out most may be his plate discipline. He makes consistent contact, and it’s quality contact. He could hit 25-plus home runs later in his career. Defensively, he could stick at shortstop, but he’ll be able to play anywhere in the infield thanks to a good arm.

LHP Shane McClanahan (6’1 200, 24 in 2021)

2019 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green, Class A-Advanced Charlotte, and Double-A Montgomery: 120 2⁄3 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.9 BB%, 30.6 K%

McClanahan was the first pitcher ever to make his major league debut in the playoffs. In relief, his fastball averaged 97.6 mph, and used that with his hard slider 95 percent of the time. He’ll use his changeup — which improved in 2019 — more often when he’s back in the rotation. His control also took a step forward in 2019, giving himself a chance to remain a starter.

DH/LHP Brendan McKay (L/L, 6’2 212, 25 in 2021)

2019 statistics with Tampa Bay: 11 PA, .200/.273/.500, 1 HR, 9.1 BB%, 18.2 K% — 49 IP, 5.14 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 7.4 BB%, 25.9 K%

2019 statistics with Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham: 168 PA, .200/.298/.331, 5 HR, 9 XBH, 10.1 BB%, 30.4 K% — 73 2⁄3 IP, 1.10 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 6.5 BB%, 36.7 K%

McKay’s 2020 season never got going. He tested positive for COVID-19, and shortly after recovering, went out with a shoulder injury. He had surgery, but the team expects him to be ready for spring training, suggesting he avoided a long-term problem. If he’s healthy, he demonstrates great control of good stuff, led by his curveball. His fastball and changeup can both be above-average pitches.