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Keith Law highlights eight Rays players in his Top 100

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Wander Franco sits at the top of the list

Tampa Bay Rays v Washington Nationals Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It will surely shock you to learn that Rays shortstop of the future, Wander Franco, tops Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list this year. Franco, a darling of prospect evaluators everywhere, can take a lap this year, assured of his vaunted status for (hopefully) the last year, as Rays fans are surely ready to see what he has to offer at the major league level.

What might be slightly more surprising is just how many Rays prospects landed on Law’s extended list, with a total of eight players ranking in the top 70, a pretty remarkable number, and some of those names will look familiar as part of recent trade efforts.

As we dive into Law’s list, we’ll directly quote some of his observations, but sparingly, as this does come from a paid post on The Athletic, which you can read in its entirety here. Now let’s take a look at the eight players whose future’s are looking bright in the Rays system.

Wander Franco, SS, #1

Law speaks glowingly of Franco, with firm belief not only of him making it to the majors this year, but of also one day being an MVP-caliber talent. “Franco has ridiculous hand speed and one of the best batting eyes in professional baseball, rarely striking out and making consistent, hard contact even as a teenager,” Law enthused, and we have to say we share equal excitement about the young infielder.

Luis Patiño, RHP, #16

Patiño, the headliner of the Blake Snell trade, made more than a handful of Rays fans a bit nervous, but Law is quick to suggest he was a good get for the club, saying he “could end up taking Snell’s spot in the Rays’ rotation by the middle of 2021.” Law observes, “His arm is very quick, with a little effort to the delivery and some cutoff when he lands, but he’s very balanced and stays well over the rubber, and his extension out front — as high as 7.6 feet — is among the best in the majors.” If that wasn’t enough Law also suggests that Patiño has the makings of a number one starter if he can master his command.

Brendan McKay, LHP, #33

Law has long believed that McKay’s true value lies down the pitching path rather than as a true two-way player, and here he notes, “pre-surgery, McKay showed exquisite command with an above-average fastball and plus changeup as well as two breaking balls, although he barely used the change in his major-league time...” Obviously there are a lot of questions remaining about how well McKay will fare post-surgery, but Law seems to still view him as a strong bounce-back candidate on the mound.

Vidal Bruján, 2B, #35

There are few names in baseball that tickle me more than Vidal Bruján’s. For Law, it isn’t about his moniker, though, as much as his speed that puts him so high on the list. Law notes, “he’s a 70 runner and plus defender at second, and a switch-hitter who’s much better batting left-handed, with large platoon splits the last two years in the minors.” He believes Bruján has the makings of an All-Star and even the potential to be a shortstop on a team that didn’t already have a guy named Wander Franco coming up.

Randy Arozarena, OF, #45

Who? Never heard of him! Well, before the 2020 postseason almost no one had considered Arozarena someone to get excited about, and Law cautions that he’s not as good as his postseason performance might suggest. Yet there’s still a quality player there. Law notes some tweaks Arozarena made since 2019, saying, “with contact this hard and now a launch angle near 10 percent, he’s more like a 25-30 homer guy who could hit fourth in any lineup.” And that’s nothing to complain about.

Xavier Edwards, 2B/SS, #52

Another acquisition from the Padres, Edwards was a part of the Tommy Pham deal. In a prospect class crowded with middle infielders it can be hard to stand out, especially in the Rays system, but Law points out “he’s a plus runner with great bat-to-ball skills and quick wrists, generating good bat speed that should translate into fringe-average power when he fills out” and adds that if shortstop doesn’t pan out there might be an opportunity for Edwards in centerfield.

Josh Lowe, OF, #59

When the Rays added Lowe I joked “Buy Lowe, Sell High: The Rays Way” because clearly there has been a pattern of Lowe acquisitions by the team, whether the rhyme with “wow” or “slow.” Josh Lowe is the brother of former Ray Nate Lowe, and recently missed time due to shoulder surgery. Law notes that when Lowe tightened his approach in 2019 he really started to show improvement, and summarizes, “Lowe still swings and misses, but he does everything else you want: he runs deep counts and takes walks, hits for plus power, runs the bases well, and shows excellent range in center.”

Shane Baz, RHP, #69

Baz is one of the last pieces of the Chris Archer deal that Rays fans are still waiting to see in action at the major league level. Law believes that at a fundamental level Baz could be a number one starter in a rotation, but only if (and it’s a big if) he can gain some mastery of a few areas first, citing a need “to improve his changeup, the weakest offering he has, although he gets good fading action on the pitch, and he definitely has to improve his command and control.”

It’s clear Law thinks there’s a lot of up-and-coming talent in the Rays org, and that fans should expect to see some of these players in action for the coming season. While no one, perhaps with the except of Franco, is without fault, the Rays have clearly established themselves as an organization capable of building and refining raw talent.