During the early days of the offseason, among the first moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays front office was to add several players to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.
At the time however, the Rays 40-man roster was filled nearly to the brim so the team had to make sure they added the players that they 100% wanted to make sure were still with in the organization the following season. So, on November 20th, the Rays added outfielder Josh Lowe, right-handed pitcher Drew Strotman, and... shortstop Taylor Walls.
Walls, 24, is a prototypical shortstop who is just really good at most things while not receiving all that much attention in the process. He was the Rays 3rd round selection in the 2017 draft and had a decent debut season with Hudson Valley. Then in 2018, he really excelled as he displayed some surprising pop to go along with his solid contact skills as a switch-hitter, all the while playing impressive defense up the middle.
During the last two minor league seasons (2018-2019), Walls split time between Single-A, High-A, and Double-A and hit .289/.371/.439 with a 134 wRC+. The offensive numbers don’t exactly blow you away, but combined with his abilities with a glove, Walls is proving to be very capable player in the Rays system. However, despite all of his success, Baseball America in their latest update had him tabbed as just the 22nd best prospect in a vaunted Rays system.
During the chaotic pandemic-shortened season, the Rays felt confident enough in Walls’s abilities to add him to their 40-man roster this past November, despite Walls having never played above Double-A, crowding an already complicated infield situation.
In a recent article on The Athletic, Jim Bowden notes that the Rays front office is enamored with Walls
“There is no doubt Walls is the most underrated prospect in the Rays’ farm system — unless, of course, you talk to their front office. Walls is as good of a defensive shortstop as you’ll see in the minor leagues, and he’s a switch-hitter with strong offensive components. ... He’s a much better prospect than he’s been given credit for.”
The Draysbay community however, seems to be higher on Walls than most as he was voted the 10th best prospect in the team’s system.
MLB Pipeline had Walls ranked slightly higher than Baseball America entering the 2020 season as he placed 19th among the Rays prospects. His tools grade out to him being a solid big league player: Hit - 50, Power - 45, Run - 55, Arm - 55, and Field 60.
Walls is a plus defender at shortstop with great hands, picturesque fielding mechanics and a strong arm that leave little doubt about his ability to remain at the position. His above-average speed, quick first step and strong instincts translate to above-average range in all directions. That Walls has dabbled at second and third base as a pro and can theoretically play anywhere in the outfield could make him a valuable super-utility type player, or possibly even a second-division regular, at the highest level
The Rays do have several prospects that are likely ahead of Walls on the overall infield depth chart, including the near-majors Vidal Brujan and Wander Franco — who may project best to second and third base, respectively — and farther away Xavier Edwards and Greg Jones. The Rays also have a quality short stop already locking down the position at the major league level in Willy Adames, at least for now.
Nevertheless, Walls is getting treatment from the front office as a future everyday player and he could be taking his place on the Rays active roster very soon.