The Tampa Bay Rays possess a farm system with the most talent in the game. If you want elite top end prospects you have that with Wander Franco who many consider one of the best prospects in recent memory. If you want depth of major league talent that exists in droves.
The Rays have been known for their pitching development and the farm system has arms scattered all through it, but for the first time since the early Devil Rays era teams the team is flooded with talented bats.
The Rays drafts have been much more productive over the last three or four years and for really the first time they are starting to get talent from their pursuits in the International Free Agent market. At the major league level we’ve seen impact from Yonny Chirinos, Diego Castillo, and Jose Alvardo but more is on the way including the number one prospect in the land.
Tampa Bay’s farm system is the best in baseball, without a question, so even without games happening on the field, it’s still a great time to reflect on the Rays riches. While we would typically post this list near Opening Day, we have decided to move forward with publishing now.
In keeping with previous years, we have polled our writers who follow Rays prospects the closest and averaged the score into a combined writer’s list, which this season includes myself, Scott Grauer, Homin Lee, Bradley Neveu, and Danny Russell. The player profiles are my own unless otherwise noted.
No. 50 - 2B Esteban Quiroz
Quiroz ranked inside the Top-40 at FanGraphs, and will function as 40-man roster depth this and likely next season (although he does not need to be on the roster until 2021). Entering his age-28 season, Quiroz is a Team Mexico standout with “all-fields contact ability” despite standing only 5’7” — he was part of the Tommy Pham return.
Like Brian O’Grady, he’s the type of player you take a flier on to see what he can do with an opportunity when it comes. The overall package becomes a lot more desirable if he’s not locked into second base. (DR)
No. 49 - RHP Sam McWilliams
McWilliams got stolen away from the Rays organization in the Rule-5 draft and returned by taking a step back, which is not uncommon. He has since improved his athleticism, and settled in nicely at Double-A here he put up a 2.05 ERA in 15 appearances (11 starts).
At 6’7” he’s an dominating figure on the mound, but not dominating enough to survive the mid-season jump to Triple-A, where hitters poured it on.
Nevertheless, his final test will be mastering pitching with a major league regulation ball in Triple-A. Once that clicks, he could be up-and-down for the Rays in the near future. (DR)
No. 48 - RHP Sandy Gaston
Gaston was a famous Cuban defector thanks to a triple-digit fastball at 16 years old. Now that he’s stateside, he’s looking to develop a consistent pitching approach with a repeatable delivery that can withstand years of professional ball.
It’s unclear if his future is as a starting pitcher yet, but after one season of rookie ball that’s not a surprise. (DR)
No. 47 - C Logan Driscoll
Acquired alongside Manuel Margot in the Emilio Pagan trade, Driscoll is a solid get as the No. 73 overall pick last June. He can likely play anywhere, but the Rays will try to see if he can stick behind the plate, where his lack of any loud tools shouldn’t be a concern.
Baseball America ranked Driscoll at 27th in the Rays system, lauding his physical build, early ability to call games, and low-strikeout track record at the plate. If his muscular physique doesn’t prevent him from sticking at catcher, he will be one to follow.
He’s got the good face, and could leap up this list under normal circumstances. (DR)
No. 46 - OF Brian O’Grady
Blocked from the majors while in the Reds system, O’Grady enters his age-28 season ready to contribute at the major league level. Projected by some to fill in at first base, he’s got the defensive chops to man anywhere in the outfield, including center. He has present power and, if needed, could function well as the long side of a platoon at four positions.
O’Grady was the return for Jose De Leon this off-season. He might be Quad-A, but he also might just need the right opportunity. If you’re trying to replicate the Dodgers success in finding diamonds in the rough, O’Grady is the sort of player you’d look to acquire. (DR)
No. 45 - RHP Joel Peguero
Joel Peguero was signed by the Rays as part of the International Free Agent class of 2015.
Peguero’s stuff has taken a huge step forward over the last two years and so have the results. His strikeout rate almost doubled to 23.6% in 2018, and stayed there with his promotion to A-Ball in 2019.
Peguero could be the next flame thrower added to the Rays bullpen. His fastball sits 94-96 and can touch 98. In the Australian winter league he was reportedly up to 100 mph. He throws a plus slider in the 89-91 range. Command is below average. Peguero likely will be assigned to Port Charlotte (A+).
No. 44 - LHP Graeme Stinson
Graeeme Stinson was drafted by the Rays in the 4th round of the 2019 draft out of Duke University.
Stinson showed one of the nastiest two pitch arsenals as a reliever in 2018 with a plus-plus fastball and slider combination. In 2019 Stinson looked to make it as a starter, but only managed five starts.
Stinson made one appearance for the Gulf Coast League (R) team late in the season and picked up 0.2 innings. If the stuff returns he could be a fast mover as a potential impact reliever or they could continue to build him up as a starter. I would go the reliever route if it was my decision.
Stinson should be assigned to Bowling Green (A) but could get an aggressive placement in Port Charlotte (A+).
Graeme Stinson open face mechanics in slo-mo. Delivery reminiscent of Jon Lester #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/2xVvWCKsgq— Kyler Peterson (@KPeterson813) March 19, 2019
No. 43 - 3B Tristan Gray
Tristan Gray was received in the Corey Dickerson trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gray was a 13th round pick by the Pirates in the 2017 draft.
Gray hit .225/.332/.409 and put up a 116 wRC+ with 17 homers for Montgomery (AA) last year. He posted an abnormally low .244 BABIP, but still put up solid numbers.
Gray is a left handed hitter with thump that split time between first base (411.0 innings), second base (249.2 innings), third base (249.0 innings), and shortstop (78.0 innings). He really can’t play short in the majors. He likely is stretched playing second, but could have a future as the long side of a platoon corner infielder.
Gray should start the year in Durham (AAA). It would take a lot to see him getting his first cup of coffee in 2020, but it could happen.
No. 42 - RHP Austin Franklin
Austin Franklin was a high ceiling pitching prospect in the Rays system ranked 11th and 10th after the 2016 and 2017 seasons, respectively, by Baseball America. A mid-July need for Tommy John surgery derailed his 2018 season, and he went unranked by that publication in 2019 while he was unable to play.
Franklin’s ability to return to pitching, and where in the system he returns, will impact his ranking moving forward, but with nothing to report, there’s not much to do than keep tabs on the pitcher as he recovers. (DR)
No. 41 - 2B Ford Proctor
The Rays selected Ford Proctor with their 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft out of Rice University.
Proctor hit .290/.383/.402 and put up a 131 wRC+ for Bowling Green (A) with 6 homres and 11 stolen bases. He posted a 12.9% walk rate and 16.8% strikeout rate. The 22 year old was old for the competition and should be pushed harder to really get an idea of what he can be.
Proctor split time between second base and shortstop. He has the potential to stick at shortstop, but his left handed bat has matchup potential for a team that’s willing to platoon middle infielders.
Proctor should be assigned to Port Charlotte (A+) and a promotion to Montgomery (AA) could be in the cards.
No. 40 - 2B Tyler Frank
Tyler Frank was selected by the Rays with their 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft out of the Florida Atlantic Univeristy. Frank missed almost all of the 2019 suffering a shoulder strain. He only picked up 63 plate appearances and hit .154/.286/.173 at Port Charlotte (A+) in 2019.
Frank has below average power, but has an above average to plus hit tool. He plays a competent shortstop even if he might be better suited to play second base. He’s split his time evenly among the two positions in his professional career.
Frank needs to show he’s healthy but has the skills to be a low end major league regular at his best, but more likely is a utility infielder at the major league level. Frank should be assigned to Port Charlotte this sesaon, where he’ll have a chance to shine.
No. 39 - RHP Caleb Sampen
Sampen is a starting prospect in A-ball that is apparently divisive for evaluators, as he was not even mentioned by Fangraphs but ranked 25th overall by Baseball America. He was acquired for Jaime Schultz in 2019, and has not pitched above Low-A as he enters his age 24 season. He was drafted by the Dodgers in the 20th round in 2018.
Sampen is slight for a professional athlete two years removed from college, reportedly 6’ 2” and 185 lbs, but has shown feel for his pitches that hints at a major league quality arm. The velocity previously reached 95 mid-season and seems to have ticked up this off-season:
Hey @calebsampen this is... GAS ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/QEsfjpKLaE— Samps Hack Shack (@SampsHackShack) February 16, 2020
Sampen’s arsenal will be a fun mix to follow as he journeys through the minors. He is the son of former Expos pitcher Bill Sampen.
For comparison purposes, fellow 2018 college draft choice Shane McClanahan is one year younger, one inch shorter, 15 lbs heavier, and has already reached Double-A. (DR)
No. 38 - C Chris Betts
Betts was a second round draft pick who fell to the Rays back in 2015 and has since played through injury and developed respectable power, but has not broken out of A-ball due to those injury concerns. His bat should be tested as he continues to climb.
Betts’s profile is similar to that of Rene Pinto, who the DRaysBay staff has not ranked here after he performed below league average at the plate in Double-A. Between the two, Pinto is closer to the majors and might make it there, but Betts is a better bet for a potential starting caliber catcher. (DR)
No. 37 - LHP Josh Fleming
Fleming has been described in Rays circles as Ryan Yarbrough with a better fastball. He unlocked his stuff in Double-A after a mid-season shift from the third base side to the first base side of the pitching rubber, where he then pitched consecutive complete games for the Montgomery Biscuits.
Fleming was promoted from that level with 127.2 IP and a 3.31 ERA, and was given four appearances in Triple-A to up his season total to nearly 148.2 innings. He struck out 16 but allowed 32 baserunners in that brief appearance.
FanGraphs projects a bullpen move for Fleming, and does not yet see a major league floor, a rare divergence from TB’s internal evaluations for that site. (DR)
No. 36 - LHP Michael Plassmeyer
A low-armslot lefty, Plassmeyer edges Fleming here thanks to his minuscule 16 walks in 2019, and between the two seems more destined to play the role of young Yarbrough than Fleming would be.
Starting in A-ball, he allowed only four runs in five starts before a promotion to Port Charlotte, where he still held his own with a 2.12 ERA over 19 appearances, bringing in innings total to 131.0 IP.
Neither Fleming or Plassmeyer are expected to be more than sport starters or swingmen at this stage, but both might have a major league floor for a multiple inning role. (DR)
No. 35 - RHP Tobias Myers
Tobias Myers lost velocity last season, which was enough for him to fall ten places from our preseason list last year, but not completely off the list. On his promotion to HIgh-A last season Myers held his own with a 2.31 ERA in 18 appearances (13 starts) over 78.0 IP.
Myers spent about a month on the injured list last season as well, but not for a major injury. You might remember Myers as the return for Tim Beckham from the Orioles. (DR)
No. 34 - LHP Resly Linares
Resly Linares was a part of the 2014 International Free Agent class.
Linares was looking like a lock to add to the 40 man last winter before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He only threw 4.2 innings in 2019 and won’t return to the mound before late 2020 at the earliest.
There have been questions about whether Linares might be better suited in the bullpen. He sits 92-94 as a starter and could see a bump out of the bullpen. His curveball is a plus secondary that would pair nicely with the fastball. His changeup is a work in progress.
Linares likely will be assigned to Port Charlotte (A+).
No. 33 - INF Curtis Mead
The received Curtis Mead from the Philadelphia Phillies for Christopher Sanchez after they had to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Mead was signed by the Phillies as an International Free Agent out of Australia in 2018.
He is very raw, but he performed very well in his 2019 season with the GCL Phillies (R). He hit .285/.351/.462 and put up a 132 wRC+ with 4 homers and 4 stolen bases. He struck out 13.1% of the time while walking 7.4% of the time.
Mead split time defensively between second base, shortstop, and third base. Third base is his ideal position and he might hit enough to play there. Mead’s hit tool is plus, and the 6’2” frame projects to add strength down the line.
Mead should see a more aggressive assignment to Bowling Green (A) after a strong showing in Australia this winter, where pitching is more akin to A-ball, but could be assigned to a rookie league. Talent evaluates we have spoken to believe he would have been a 3rd-5th round draft pick had he attended an American high school.
Pour up the Mead(e), #Rays fans. Your new prospect Curtis Mead just tied it up down under pic.twitter.com/4xml967vC6— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) December 15, 2019
No. 32 - RHP Drew Strotman
Drew Strotman was the Rays 4th round pick in the 2017 draft out of Saint Mary’s College (CA). Strotman is one of the pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018; however, he returned to the mound late in 2019. He threw 24.0 innings between the Gulf Coast League (R) and Port Charlotte (A+), enough to rank higher than Franklin on this list.
Before surgery his fastball saw a spike to 93-95 and topped out at 97. He added above average secondaries with a slider and curveball. He was working on a changeup that flashed average. Strotman averaged 93.43 mph and topped at 96.18 mph with his fastball in the Arizona Fall League.
As it looks like Strotman’s stuff has mostly returned he looks like a possible backend starter, but the upside of a number three starter could be there if he continues his track he was on before surgery. Strotman should be assigned to Port Charlotte (A+).
No. 31 - OF Niko Hulsizer
The Rays received Niko Hulsizer when they traded Adam Kolarek to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hulsizer was the Dodger’s 18th round pick in the 2018 draft. At Morehead State Hulsizer hit 27 homers in his sophomore year and was the College HR Derby champion in 2017. He followed that up with 12 homers before his season was shortened with a broken wrist.
At the time of the trade Hulsizer combined for 20 homers between the the Dodgers A and A+ teams in 354 plate appearances. With the Rays he added one homer while with Port Charlotte (A+), before a trip to the Australian league where he feasted. The raw power is plus-plus. The hit tool doesn’t allow him to get to a lot of the power as he swings and misses too much with strikeout rate that hover around 30%.
Defensively he’s likely limited to left field as he’s a below average runner and has a below average arm. Hulsizer likely would start in Port Charlotte (A+), but it’s possible he could start or receive a fast promotion to Montgomery (AA), where his bat will truly be tested.
⬇️3: @The_Hulksizer hits a bomb ! Niko Hulsizer goes deep to collect his second home run of the season before Jordan Qsar drives in Jess Williams and cut the deficit to 3-5. pic.twitter.com/K1akEMMvnG— Perth Heat (@PerthHeat) December 12, 2019
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Danny Russell (DR) contributed to this article.