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DRaysBay Top Rays Prospects for 2020: No. 16-30

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The quality of talent outside the top-15 is nearly unfair.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Is Lucius Fox underrated?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our DRaysBay Top Rays Prospects for 2020, from here forward the talent is sure to impress, as every player to be mentioned could be expected to have a competent role to play at the major league level.

No. 30 - RHP/CF Tanner Dodson

Tanner Dodson was drafted an outfielder/reliever with the 71st overall pick in the 2018 draft out of the University of California. Dodson can run and hit a little. The question becomes is that as necessary with 26 man rosters.

As a hitter he’s shown good contact skills with a 8.9% walk rate and 15.2% strikeout rate in 2018. He only managed 63 plate appearances in 2019 before going down with Tommy John surgery.

I like him more on the mound where he showed a plus fastball and slider combination and could be a solid major league reliever. Dodson likely won’t return to the field until late in the season if at all. When he returns he should be assigned to Port Charlotte (A+).

No. 29 - OF Jhon Diaz

When the New York Yankees landed Jasson Dominguez the Rays were able to sign Jhon Diaz when the Yankees ran out of International Free Agent pool money. The Rays signed Diaz for $1.5MM. Currently Diaz is a center fielder that has more contact than power.

Diaz has yet to play a professional game in the Rays system. A year from now this could look light or could be viewed as really optimistic.

It’s possible Diaz would get assigned to the Dominican Summer League (R) or he could get the promotion stateside to the Gulf Coast League (R). His ranking at 29th overall is evidence of just how deep the Rays farm system has become.

No. 28 - CF Garrett Whitley

Whitley had a good 2017 season with Bowling Green (A) where he showed his power and speed combination with 13 homers and 21 stolen bases while hitting .249/.362/.430 and put up a 127 wRC+. Unfortunately Whitley missed the entire 2018 season after going having shoulder surgery.

In 2019 Whitley had an interesting season. His power came back which is always a concern after surgery on the shoulder. He hit 10 homers and improved his ISO by .004 despite the Florida State League trying to hold him back. He continued to draw a lot of walks (14.1%), but the strikeout rate (37.1%) exploded. He’s always had a lot of swing and miss in his game, but this is too much. Hopefully some of that would come back down as he wasn’t able to play for a full year and had missed significant time.

Injury misfortune struck Whitley again this spring. This time it was a baseball to the face while in the dugout off a foul ball. Fortunately he seems to be doing well with only some facial fractures, and should be ready when baseball resumes. Whitley likely starts the season in Montgomery (AA) where his strikeout rate will be stress tested. He was previously the Rays 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

No. 27 - RHP Taj Bradley

Taj Bradley was selected by the Rays in the 5th round of the 2018 draft. Bradley just turned 19 on March 20 making him younger than most of the high schoolers drafted last year. The projection systems that heavily weigh age relative to league will love him.

Bradley’s fastball sits 91-94 and has a sharp low 80s curveball as his secondary weapon of choice. He has a changeup that is a work in progress.

Bradley was primarily an outfielder in high school so is relatively new to pitching and still a long way from the majors, but once you get past Johnson he might be the best shot at a number three or better starting pitcher in the system.

The results to this point have been promising. In 51.0 innings he posted a 26.5% strikeout rate, 8.8% walk rate, 3.18 ERA, 3.80 FIP for Princeton (R). The next step would be an assignment to full season ball at Bowling Green (A).

No. 26 - SS Alejandro Pie

Pie was the Rays top signing in the 2018 International Free Agent class. The 6’5” shortstop has tremendous athleticism for his size. In the Dominican Summer League Pie hit .289/.361/.342 with a 103 wRC+.

Pie just turned 18 and we don’t know how the body will develop or what position he’ll find home. If he grows out of the shortstop position he’ll likely have added enough strength to play either in center field or third base.

Pie should start the season in the Gulf Coast League (R).

Pie’s first professional HR came in the DSL ASG

No. 25 - RHP Riley O’Brien

Riley O’Brien was the Rays 8th round selection in the 2017 draft out of the College of Idaho, and split between Port Charlotte (A+) and Montgomery (AA). On the season O’Brien threw 102.2 innings while posting a 24.9% strikeout rate, 10.3% walk rate, 3.16 ERA, and 3.47 FIP.

O’Brien’s fastball has gained steam the last couple of years and now sits in the low to mid 90s and can reach 98. His best secondary is a plus curveball that sits 80-82 and an average changeup. It’s good stuff, enough to see a Nick Anderson comparison in his abilities, or even a starter if the change becomes more than fringe.

Command is the last thing O’Brien needs to clean up before really shooting up these lists. He’s more of a thrower than a threat, but that may be tied to an inconsistent delivery. If the command could catch up with the rest of his development he’d be a top-ten prospect in the system.

O’Brien could start the year in Durham (AAA) and be on the verge of getting his first cup of coffee depending on how the season goes.

No. 24 - C Michael Perez

Michael Perez was a product of the trade with the Diamondbacks that sent Matt Andriese to the desert. Perez is old to still be on prospect lists at 27, but late development for catchers isn’t as abnormal as it is for other positions.

The left handed hitter is more hit over power. With Durham (AAA) he hit .245/.338/.495 and put up a 107 wRC+. He shows good strike zone awareness and has shown recent gains in the power department. As with most catchers he clogs the bases.

Last season Perez was expected to be the number two catcher for the Rays behind Mike Zunino, but when both went down with injuries the Rays were fortunate to find Travis d’Arnaud as they looked for short term help. This forced Perez back to AAA, but he looks to be in the driver’s seat for the number two catcher job in 2020.

No. 23 - LHP John Doxakis

John Doxakis was the Rays 2nd round pick in 2019 out of Texas A&M. Doxakis saw his velocity spike 2-3 mph in his junior year, which moved him to the 90-94 mph range and helped his draft stock rise considerably.

He pairs the low 90s fastball with a 84-85 mph slider and 83-84 changeup that are average. His command allows all his pitches to play up and looks like a potential #4/5 starter.

Doxakis likely starts the season in Bowling Green (A), where he’ll start the steady climb through the Rays system. He has a bit of deception in his delivery, but it’s no crutch.

No. 22 - RHP Peter Fairbanks

The Rays traded for Fairbanks in the highly criticized trade that sent Nick Solak to the Rangers. Fairbanks is an older reliever with a big fastball that hasn’t established themselves in the majors. If you were to place bets on who provides the most value to an organization it almost assuredly will be Solak.

Faribanks averaged 97.73 mph on the fastball while hitting 100 max and 90.16 mph on his slider. It’s a potential high leverage reliever profile, but comes with huge risk as Fairbanks has recovered from two Tommy John surgeries in his past.

In 21.0 major league innings Fairbanks posted a 6.86 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 3.68 xFIP. Homers were a huge problem as he allowed five in the short time he was on the mound. On the plus side he struck out 28.3% of batters, but also walked 10.1%.

With how deep the major league bullpen is for the Rays it’s very likely Fairbanks would have started the season in Durham (AAA); however, with the trade of Emilio Pagan it opened up a possible spot for him on the major league roster. Regardless, he should throw meaningful innings for the Rays in 2020.

No. 21 - OF Moises Gomez

Moises Gomez was another prize of the 2014 International Free Agent class for the Rays. Gomez had a disappointing 2019 after a breakout 2018. The power was not able to be suppressed by the Florida State League, but his contact wasn’t nearly as good.

His walk rate surged to 9.8% from 6.6% in 2018, but so did his strikeout rate to 33.5% from 26.6%. he hit .220/.297/.402 and put up a 105 wRC+ with 16 homers, making 2019 a mixed bag.

Part of it could be trying to adjust to a more patient approach at the plate, but OBP will never be his strong suit. He needs to post solid batting averages for the OBP to be playable.

Hopefully his 2019 strikeout rate surge will be only a blip as the Rays could use his right handed thump in the lineup in the near future. Gomez likely will start the season in Montgomery (AA), where the breaking ball awaits.

(He would finish the season with 16 HR.)

No. 20 - LHP Anthony Banda

Anthony Banda came to the Rays organization as part of the Steven Souza Jr. trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Banda was the highest valued asset in the trade at the time, but now that might be Colin Poche, as Banda had Tommy John surgery in 2018.

He returned to the mound in late June last year and threw 28.1 innings in nine appearances split between starts and multi inning relief appearances for Durham (AAA). He struck out 27 and walked 11. Then Banda made his return to a MLB mound in September with 4.0 innings over three appearances.

If the Rays weren’t so deep in major league starting depth I would continue to build up his innings in that role, but the Rays will likely use him as a multi inning relief option when needed. Banda likely starts the year in Durham (AAA) in a starting role in order to fill in when needed.

No. 19 - OF Nick Schnell

Nick Schnell was the 32nd overall pick by the Rays in the 2018 draft. Schnell broke out during his senior season of high school before the draft. Unfortunately injuries have kept him off the field as much as he would like. He broke a bone in his wrist in 2018 and had knee surgery early in 2019.

Schnell spent most of the season in Princeton (A-) where he hit .286/.361/.503 with 5 homers and 5 stolen bases in 166 plate appearances. He struggled in a late season promotion to Bowling Green (A) where he hit .236/.271/.327 in 60 plate appearances.

Schnell has the plus speed and power combo that you dream of. It’s a raw package that has too much swing and miss at present. He likely starts the year in Bowling Green (A), where it will be interesting to see if his prospect status rises or falls.

No. 18 - SS/CF Lucius Fox

Lucius Fox received a large bonus of $6MM as a International Free Agent signing out of the Bahamas., then was part of the return of the Matt Moore trade with the San Francisco Giants in 2016.

Fox has plus speed with solid contact rates that help him overcome a lack of power (even if it isn’t always quality contact). He has a good eye which led to a 12.3% walk rate and 21.7% strikeout rate despite little power. Extra bases will come from doubles and triples rather than homers, and last year he stole 39 bags.

To this point Fox has been a shortstop, but in spring training the Rays announced he would be getting play in center field. This should give him more versatility to potentially help the Rays major league team.

When the Rays need a middle infielder it will be interesting if they choose Fox or Walls, who is ranked higher up this list. Fox has the foot in the door with his position on the 40 man roster.

I think Fox is a better player for the Rays off the bench with the ability to leverage his speed late in games. If they needed somebody to start, though, Walls would be my choice. Then again, they might just decide to skip to the top of the pack and choose Franco if a real need arises.

Fox likely starts the season in Durham (AAA) where he made a late season cameo last year.

No. 17 - RHP Seth Johnson

Seth Johnson was drafted by the Rays with the 40th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The draft pick was received with Emilio Pagan in the trade that sent Brock Burke and others to the Texas Rangers.

At Louisburg College Johnson spent two years as a shortstop before starting to work on the mound during his sophomore season. After then switching to Campbell University the stuff on the mound was raw but electric.

Johnson throws a 94-96 fastball with a plus slider and average changeup. The stuff doesn’t hold deep into starts, but that’s less of a concern with so few innings on the arm, as it should improve with reps.

The developmental path is similar to New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who started as a shortstop at Stetson University and didn’t transition to the mound until his junior year... Not that we should expect anything close to the outcome of being on the short list of the best pitchers on the planet... right?

The risk is probably the highest of any player on this list, but the upside is real. I personally have Johnson inside the Top-15 on my personal list. Johnson likely would have started in extended spring training and moved to either Princeton (A-) or Bowling Green (A) when the Rays felt he was ready to move on.

No. 16 - RHP JJ Goss

The Rays took JJ Goss with the 36th pick in the 2019 draft. Goss is a right handed high school pitcher that throws a low to mid 90s fastball with an average changeup that flashes plus. He throws a slider that is still in development but looks to have the makings of a future plus pitch.

Goss has good command and showed it in his short professional debut. He walked 2 batters (2.8%) of the 71 batters he faced while striking out 16.

I expect the original plan would place Goss in extended spring training with a placement in Bowling Green (A) where they could control his innings in a controlled environment before putting him games.

It’s a more traditional path and a more traditional profile than Johnson, but these two players drafted together should be ranked together until something separates them.

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