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DRaysBay Top Rays Prospects for 2020: Who just missed our list?

These are the players on our radar this season, but outside the Top-50

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox
Phoenix Sanders
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

DRaysBay just rolled out our top-50 prospect list, and let me tell you, it was difficult to decide where to cut off the list for baseball’s top farm system. You can find our rankings at these links:

Below is a short list of names we had in consideration for the Top-50, and then a list of players not ranked but still on our radar for the 2020 season. Players in each category are listed alphabetically by last name. Buckle up folks, this system is deep.

Just Missed

OF Ryan Boldt was ranked at this time last year, even despite a DL stint that necessitated he get reps in the Arizona Fall League. Come Spring Training, he was still banged up, and eventually had Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm in May of 2019. Had this been a normal season, he’d be taking reps in the batter’s box by now, but it’s unclear where he’s at in his development at this time.

SS Johan Lopez demolished rookie ball in his third go in the Dominican Summer League with a 172 wRC+ in 30 games, earning his promotion to the GCL Rays mid-season where he put up a respectable 117 wRC+ in 34 games at 18 years old. He had a 7.2% strikeout rate and 10.1% walk rate on the season as a whole, and had 24 steals in the DSL, although he only swiped two in the GCL. Keith Law flagged this name in his write up, beating Homin to the punch. He was bumped from the Top-50 by the acquisition of Esteban Quiroz.

RHP Michael Mercado returned from Tommy John surgery too late to pitch in-season in 2019, although he was throwing again. A former second round draft pick is always worth keeping tabs on.

SS Abiezel Ramirez is a 20-year old Dominican who rocked in the stateside rookie leagues in 2019, but is running out of time to earn a spot on the 40-man roster due to his signing date. If everything clicks as it should with his development he could be an above average contributor at the major league level, it just might not be with the Rays. He was ranked 20th in the system by Keith Law.

RHP Tommy Romero is a soft tosser (88~92mph mostly) so his ceiling is limited, but he changes the hitter’s eye level well with a high fastball and quality breaking ball. His command is good and what he lacks in projectability is made up for in durability. In somewhat of a translation oddity, Homin referred to Romero as “Fat Joe Ryan” in our group chat and I’ll be damned if that ain’t spot on. Romero had a 1.89 ERA in High-A last season over 119.1 IP with a 22.3% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate, but needs to show his breaking ball works in Double-A to be a real contender for the Top-50 in a deep system.

RHP Phoenix Sanders (pictured above) has everything you want in a pitching prospect, except maybe height (he’s 5’ 10”), and a fastball... really. It’s odd to have a pitcher make it to Triple-A without a respected heater, but here we are. If he can figure that out (perhaps by adding velocity), or pitch off his curveball as his primary, he’s a major league reliever, albeit an odd one. Sanders allowed only 10 earned runs (1.81 ERA) in 49.2 IP over 37 appearances in Double-A last season with a 28% strikeout rate in Double-A before his promotion, then allowed only three runs in 11.1 IP over eight appearances in Durham. He’s got moxy.

RHP Tyler Zombro wrecked Double-A last season and has serious projectability, putting up a 1.87 ERA in 57.2 IP at that level. Although he only got a taste of Triple-A last season, he was named the team’s minor league reliever of the year and got a long look in big league camp, which is a bit of the Rays showing their hand in regards to his potential. Rocking a two-seam/slider combo, Zombro is a data driven pitcher that uses his twitter account to boost the profile of other pitchers looking for opportunities with teams. He was first flagged by CBS Sports’s RJ Anderson as a Rays prospect to follow, and might be a name we regret not having in our Top-50 before the end of 2020 if his change up locks in. Rays Radio did a profile on Zombro in the off-season that is worth your time.

For Your Consideration

If you’ve made it this far, you must be really interested in Rays prospects, so let’s highlight some notable names from the system that didn’t make our Top-50 or just-missed short list, but have come up in our conversations or in the prospect sphere.

LHP Ben Brecht, 6’7” tall, is well liked by MLB Pipeline and seen as a fast mover through the system thanks to a strong showing in his professional debut in Low-A, with only 6 ER allowed in ten appearances (24.2 IP), 23 K and 4 BB. A fifth round draft pick from 2019, he’s said to have feel but nothing spectacular yet in his arsenal.

RHP Paul Campbell is hot and cold on the mound when it comes to pitching like a pro, which may be due to injury concern, but if he can gain confidence in his 95+ MPH fastball he could be on his way to the majors. He’s got a plus curve and had a mere 5.9% walk rate in Double-A, so keep him in the back of your mind.

RHP Neraldo Catalina was the return for Wilmer Font from the Mets and, according to Baseball Prospectus, would have been in the Mets top-20 had he stayed in that system. He’s a two-pitch pitcher and 6’6” with a fastball up to 97. His delivery reads reliever, but if he’s something more this could be a coup. As of now, it’s wait and see, not much unlike the outlook on Gaston. If this list went to 60 he’d be in.

2B Alberto Figuerero is yet another projectable second baseman in the Rays system, but only as a bench bat unless something changes in his physique or results at the plate. Ranked at FanGraphs, he’s only 19, and has previously been tagged as a future-Brujan type by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel.

SS Jelfy Marte is a switch hitting, 19-year old prospect with all the tools you could want, but a vision issue (which led to his signing with Tampa Bay at a bargain rate after his $3 million deal with the Twins fell through) seems to be unresolved, leading to inconsistent contact at the plate. Last season, Marte has a .188 AVG, bottom of the the Princeton rookie league roster.

RHP Jayden Murray has been described by FanGraphs as a spin-rate sleeper who the Rays were keeping under a pitch count in 2019, the year he was drafted in the 23rd round. He could impress in 2020 and break into the list.

SS Jermain Palacios was the return for SP Jake Odorizzi, a trade that has evolved from a steal by the Twins to the highway robbery you expect the Rays to inflict on other franchises. Palacios gets a nod here for having the best arm among the Rays infield prospects and for improving his hitting by 150%. And by that, I mean he improved his hitting all the way up to a 64 wRC+ in Double-A in 2019, as compared to last season’s 42 wRC+. He’ll be 24 this season.

LHP Kenny Rosenberg pitched his way into a quality Double-A season in 2019, which is surprising given that he doesn’t have anything loud in his arsenal. His velo is only up to 93, and his best pitch is a change, but as a southpaw that will do just fine. It shouldn’t be surprising to see him climb the ladder to the major league roster, but he ain’t making enough waves yet to crack the Top-50 due to the low ceiling.

RHP Simon Rosenblum-Larson is a sidearm pitcher with a slider dreams are made of. The former Harvard product looks more like a relieve at this point, so he needs to throw for strikes a bit more often to make the list.Baseball Prospectus had him in their top-20.

OF Shane Sasaki, the 99th overall pick in the 2019 draft, barely got his feet wet last year and doesn’t have any loud tools, but he’s at least light on his feet. The Rays picking Hawaii’s top draft prospect in the third round was aggressive at the time, and there’s not much information yet to change that opinion. Slight with speed will do for an 18-year old outfielder. Let’s see how he develops in his first season of pro-ball.

CF Cal Stevenson is a fast and loose, albeit light, outfielder that looks adequate as a bench player down the road if he can prove himself up the chain. He hits from the left side, which helps his case, but doesn’t offer much in the way of power, nor has he yet turned heads on defense. He’s been traded twice, and was a top-40 prospect in Houston’s system at FanGraphs. If he can hit still upon his promotion to Double-A he’ll meaningfully enter the prospect conversation.

LF Brett Sullivan converted from third base to catcher in 2016, but unfortunately that transition did not stick. He played only 14 of 102 games played behind the dish and showed up to camp in 2020 with a utility mindset. The good news is that without catching a primary focus Sullivan was able to return to form beside the plate, finally posting above average results in his third trip through Double-A, with a 127 wRC+ and 21 stolen bases. It’s not out of the question for Sullivan to play a multi-position bench role down the line, but from a prospect valuation perspective, he’s not ranked in a deep farm system.

Other pitchers ranked by FanGraphs that could be names to follow: Colby White, Audry Lugo, Aneudy Cortorreal, Daiveyon Whittle, Victor Munoz, Angel Felipe, Carlos Garcia.