The World Wide Leader in Sport’s resident prospect guru, Kiley McDaniel, has started to release his prospect coverage in anticipation of the upcoming season.
McDaniel kicked this off on ESPN by unveiling his top-100 prospects rankings and his list includes nine members of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, with a few surprises making waves. However, it comes as no surprise that Wander Franco headlines the list at number one.
With the top overall ranking, Franco has now been tabbed as the best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, and now, ESPN. Although he’ll be just 20 years old during the 2021 season and hasn’t played above Single-A, McDaniel tabs Franco as big league ready right now and projects him as an everyday player.
Meanwhile, following his astonishing postseason run, Randy Arozarena’s stock continues to rise in prospect circles with one of his highest placements yet at 10th overall.
Newcomer Luis Patiño slides in at 21 and McDaniel has him along with Nate Pearson of the Toronto Blue Jays as ‘the most exciting to watch of this top tier of pitching prospects.’ Pairing the two is an interesting go-forward narrative to follow.
A player who is often overshadowed in the Rays system but remains highly praised in most prospect circles is Vidal Brujan, who McDaniel ranks as the 26th best in baseball. He being the man who walked onto a tryout field, was given a modest contract bonus of $15K, only to shoot up to the top of the Rays prospect lists in a matter of a year after a stellar debut season. Brujan hits from both sides of the plate, has incredible speed, developing power, and everything else you could want from a budding infield prospect; McDaniel dubs Brujan with plus contact, plus runner, and plus defender.
In total, the Rays feature four of the top 26 prospects in McDaniel’s rankings.
Farther down the list, OF Josh Lowe (despite being a former first round draft pick) and SS Taylor Walls, two of the more unheralded prospects in the Rays system, continue to receive higher praise from prospect pundits. Both players were additions to the Rays 40-man roster this past November.
Lowe slides into the top 100 at 70th overall with Walls coming in on the backend of the top 100 at 89th overall. The Rays would be very happy if Walls turns into the type of player that McDaniel is predicting in his write-up:
The odds of a number of 1-2 WAR seasons are high, and there’s a shot at three-win seasons given how power can be developed in the big leagues these days.
The complete list of Rays prospects in ESPN’s top 100:
1. Wander Franco, SS
10. Randy Arozarena, OF
21. Luis Patino, RHP
26. Vidal Brujan, INF
58. Xavier Edwards, INF
70. Josh Lowe, OF
73. Brendan McKay, LHP
89. Taylor Walls, SS
94. Shane McClanahan, LHP
Meanwhile, a couple of players who aren’t among the names in the top 100, are mentioned by McDaniel as two to watch in the Rays system as breakout candidates. Both of the players, Heriberto Hernandez and Carlos Colmenarez, are newcomers to the Rays organization. Hernandez was acquired in the deal that sent INF Nate Lowe (older brother to Josh) to the Texas Rangers, while Colmenarez was a member the Rays new international signing class in December.
With nine players in the top 100, it comes as no surprise that the Rays farm system is ranked as the top system in all of baseball by Kiley McDaniel. In his writeup of the top systems, McDaniel states that if the Rays top two prospects graduated (Franco and Arozarena), they’d still be the top system in baseball by a decent margin.
As the Rays continue to churn their prospects into solid big leaguers, who in then are turned into solid prospects, their system will remain among the game’s best for a long time to come.