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DRaysBay Top-30 Prospects for 2021: Midseason Update

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Tons of movement in baseball’s best system!

United States v Japan - Baseball - Olympics: Day 10
Shane Baz
Photo by Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images

Now that the trade deadline and draft signing deadline have passed, it’s time to refresh the top prospects list. There has been a lot of movement on the list. The top three prospects on the list have graduated, and another in the top 10 has.

You can find our previous prospect ranking with more extensive write ups here: DRaysBay Top 34 Prosepcts for 2021

Once again, Danny Russell, Homin Lee, JT Morgan, and myself have ranked prospects and combined our lists.

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1. Shane Baz, RHP (preseason: No. 7)

With graduations from the top three prospects, Baz ascends to the top spot with a tremendous season that includes an Olympic medal. His strikeout and walk rates have both improved this season and he’s climbed the ladder to Triple-A.

2. Vidal Brujan, 2B (preseason: No. 4)

Brujan cooled significantly after a hot start, but he’s still having one of the best seasons of his career and earned a major league call up. With increased power to go along with his speed, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the minors. As of publishing, he has 33 stolen bases this year across Triple-A and the majors.

3. Josh Lowe, OF (preseason: No. 11)

Lowe’s power surge that began in 2019 has continued in 2021, and he’ll likely set a career high in home runs. With his defense, speed, power, and performance in the upper minors, he will soon make his big league debut. Last night he became the 1st Durham Bulls player in 14 years to record 20 HR & 20 SB in the same season since 2007 (Justin Ruggiano).

4. Taylor Walls, SS (preseason: No. 8)

Walls got an extended run in the majors and narrowly retains prospect eligibility, at least by at-bat total. He showed off his impressive defense at shortstop, and he’s not going to have to hit much to be a valuable player.

Despite appearing in only 39 games and playing less than 300 innings at the major league level, Walls put up 9 Defensive Runs Saved — tied with Kevin Kiermaier for the 17th most in baseball.

5. Taj Bradley, RHP (preseason: No. 28)

With improving stuff and great results, Bradley is the top breakout player of the organization this season. He reached High-A at just 20 years old, and he’s one of minor league baseball’s ERA leaders.

6. Greg Jones, SS (preseason: No. 12)

Jones missed the start of the season due to injury but got off to a tremendous start. The strikeout rate is too high, but he was raw coming out of college and of course missed the 2020 season. Jones made his Double-A debut last week.

7. Cole Wilcox, RHP (preseason: No. 13)

Wilcox was having a very good pro debut and was probably due for a promotion to High A. However, he hasn’t pitched since June 27 due to an injury. His control was better than expected.

8. Carlos Colmenarez, SS (preseason: No. 22)

Colmenarez recently made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. He signed for $3 million in January and is the next big name to follow in the Rays system. His 2021 season was slowed by a hamate injury. Baseball America jumped Colmenarez into their Rays system Top-10 last March, the hype is real for this teenage short stop.

9. Seth Johnson, RHP (preseason: No. 10)

Johnson’s surface-level numbers don’t stand out, but the lost 2020 season affected him more than most due to his inexperience on the mound. From May 18-June 23, batters had a .430 OPS against him in 27 23 innings.

10. Xavier Edwards, 2B (preseason: No. 9)

After starting the season on the injured list, Edwards has come as advertised. He’s hitting a lot of singles with a great plate approach and attempting a lot of steals. He has not played at shortstop at all.

11. Heriberto Hernandez, OF (preseason: No. 20)

In his full-season debut, Hernandez has hit for power as expected and taken a ton of walks. He’s no longer a catcher and has only played corner outfield, but his power plays there. Strikeouts have been an issue, but he is on a major league trajectory.

12. Blake Hunt, C (preseason: No. 16)

Hunt is another trade acquisition that has played as advertised in his first season in his new organization. He has hit for power and a low average. He’s known for his defense though, and Bowling Green’s pitching staff was successful. Rays GM Erik Neander has described his as a future everyday backstop.

13. Brendan McKay, LHP/DH (preseason: No. 5)

McKay has been working his way back from shoulder surgery last summer. At the start of the season, he didn’t have a lot of success hitting at Durham before his pitching rehab intensified, and has since struggled to regain his velocity.

14. Curtis Mead, 3B (preseason: No. 30)

Acquired from the Phillies for Cristopher Sanchez, Mead has been one of the minors’ most productive hitters. He’s among the leaders in doubles and extra base hits, and he quickly earned a promotion to High A as a 20 year old.

15. Carson Williams, SS (preseason: N/A)

Williams was the team’s top pick in July at No. 28 overall, but a deep Rays system is keeping him just outside the Top-10. For comparison, last season’s top pick, Nick Bitsko, debuted at No. 9 in midseason rankings.

16. JJ Goss, RHP (preseason: No. 14)

Goss was a popular breakout pick this season due to reported stuff improvements over the lost season, but he hasn’t pitched due to a shoulder problem.

17. Austin Shenton, 3B (preseason: N/A)

Like Mead, Shenton is a trade acquisition that has been extremely productive as one of the minors’ extra-base hits leaders. He was acquired in the Diego Castillo trade. He doesn’t have as much defensive versatility as Mead.

18. Nick Bitsko, RHP (preseason: No. 17)

Bitsko has missed the entire season due to offseason shoulder surgery. Fortunately, he’s still very young because he reclassified and got drafted a year early, but how his stuff looks when he returns is anyone’s guess. A non-shoulder injury likely would have kept him ranked alongside Wilcox.

19. Brent Honeywell Jr., RHP (preseason: No. 15)

After years of injury difficulties, Honeywell made his long-awaited major league debut in April. The results in Triple A have been inconsistent. Over the last month, he has been throwing more innings per outing as the Rays consider stretching Honeywell back out.

20. Cooper Kinney, 2B (preseason: N/A)

The Rays selected Kinney No. 34 overall in July. They’re betting on his bat and power potential to carry him through the system.

21. John Doxakis, LHP (preseason: No. 34)

Doxakis dominated Low A, as an accomplished SEC starter should. High A has been more of a challenge, but overall, it’s been a solid first full season of pro ball. The 2019 second-round pick should continue to move quickly.

22. Jonathan Aranda, IF (preseason: not ranked)

Aranda has always been decently productive, but 2021 has been a major breakout. By the end of the season, he could quadruple his career home run total prior to the season, and his new power hasn’t cost him his ability to make contact.

23. Sandy Gaston, RHP (preseason: not ranked)

Gaston has always demonstrated great stuff since the Rays signed him in 2018, and the results have been better in 2021. He won’t turn 20 until December, and he’s already in Low A. He has reduced his walk rate significantly but still has work to do in perfecting his arsenal if he’s to develop into a starting prospect, which some believe is possible.

24. Jacob Lopez, LHP (preseason: not ranked)

Acquired from the Giants for OF Joe McCarthy, Lopez has been outstanding in his first full season in the organization. Among pitchers with 50-plus innings, he’s one of the minor league leaders in strikeout rate. He went on the injured list early in August, potentially throwing some water on his breakout season.

25. Ford Proctor, C (preseason: No. 29)

Despite a low average, Proctor has impressed in 2021. Not only is he mostly playing a new position, he skipped High A. After a slow start to the season, he’s batting over .300 over the last couple months with a lot of walks.

26. Ian Seymour, LHP (preseason: not ranked)

Seymour’s pro career got off to a late start due to an injury, but he has dominated Low A since he first took the mound in July. He already has a pair of double-digit strikeout games under his belt.

27. Ruben Cardenas, OF (preseason: not ranked)

Cardenas destroyed High A pitching and didn’t take long to get to promoted to Double A, where he’s faced some challenges. His aggressive plate approach has led to a low on-base percentage, but he’s still showing great power.

28. Osleivis Basabe, IF (preseason: No. 27)

Basabe’s first taste of full-season ball has been inconsistent. However, he’s demonstrated an ability to make contact, steal bases efficiently, and play a few different positions. Will he develop any power?

29. Calvin Faucher, RHP (preseason: N/A)

Faucher was acquired with Nelson Cruz from Minnesota. The results weren’t great while in the Twins organization, but with his mid-90s fastball and high-spin curveball, perhaps the Rays can get more out of him. Upon acquisition they immediately began toying with his arsenal, and some in the organization feel he can add length as well.

30. Tommy Romero, RHP (preseason: N/A)

In his minor league career, Romero has averaged over a strikeout per inning with an ERA well below 3.00. He’s had a rough start since his promotion to Triple A, but his most recent outing was his best so far.

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Names just outside our Top-30 were SS Alejandro Pie, RHP Tobias Myers, RHP Victor Munoz, SS Alika Williams, and OF Niko Hulsizer. Draft picks also in contention for the Top-30 were 1B Kyle Manzardo and SS Ryan Spikes.