After a much too fast playoff exit, Rays fans can watch the remaining playoff teams complete, and start to think about 2023.
One of the real dilemmas for the Rays front office will be who to include in the 40 man roster heading into the Rule 5 draft. The Rays have many talented players, which will be protected?
The Sure Bets
Curtis is one of the best-hitting prospects in all of baseball. Mead hit .298/.390/.532 with an above-average walk-to-strikeout ratio that stands at 1.72. He is one of the best at crushing lefties, he gathered jaw-dropping numbers in 2022 by hitting .402/.439/.685 in 54 at-bats.
Mead started the season in Montgomery; he got promoted to Triple-A in June, but he played just briefly due to an elbow issue. Mead is a key piece of the franchise’s future, and it would not be surprising to see him in St. Pete around the All-Star Break.
Taj Bradley is the number 1 prospect in the Rays’ system (per MLB Pipeline). Taj pitched phenomenally this season, although he slightly struggled during his first starts at Durham. Overall he posted a 2.57 ERA in 133.1 innings with a 1.04 WHIP. However, in Triple-A he had a 4.83 FIP, and he wasn’t able to punch guys out as well as he did in Double-A. Taj had a 30.9 K% in with Montgomery, however with the Bulls, he managed to post 21.5 K%.
Bradley is a lock in the rule 5 draft protection. He is expected to start the season in Durham, but we might see him sooner rather than later in the big leagues.
Two to Watch
Heriberto Hernandez and Colby Withe are two players that we should keep an eye on. Both have a really strong chance of making the roster, but with the roster crunch that the Rays are dealing with anything can happen.
Heriberto Hernandez came in as the big piece in the Nate Lowe trade. He played in Single-A with Bowling Green all season long, breaking the Hot Rods home run record with 24. Hernandez put together a respectable stat line with .255/.368/.499. He hits the ball hard, he walks, but he strikes out a ton. He had a career-high in K% with 31.4 but at the same time an above-average 13.6 BB%.
Heriberto is set to play Double-A in 2023, certainly, he will not play in the majors until 2024. That’s why the decision on him will be interesting; the tools are there, but he’s not close to the majors.
Colby White suffered an elbow injury in spring training, that injury led to Tommy John surgery, which ended his season earlier than expected. In 2021 he had a dream year, he started in Low-A and escalated all the way to Triple-A, all in the same year. He won the 2021 MiLB reliever of the year with good reason, his ERA was 1.44 with 104 strikeouts, and 14 walks in 62.1 innings.
White led the minors in WHIP with 0.66 (min 40 innings pitched). He has an insane slider- fastball combo, which is essential to disrupt hitters’ timing. White can pitch some meaningful innings if he is able to sneak into the 40-man roster.
Beyond those four, there are other roster candidates. Guys like Greg Jones, Xavier Edwards, Kameron Misner, and Osleivis Basabe have a good chance to make it. However, there might be not enough roster spots for everyone. There is a strong chance that just one of these players will avoid the cut.
Jones, Edwards, and Basabe all are versatile infielders. Two out of these three promising players could get traded, with the remaining player making the 40-man roster. Who are you picking? Well, this is a hard question overall; both Edwards and Jones struggled offensively this year, but the upside is still there. If we are speaking in MLB readiness both Edwards and Jones have a slight edge over Basabe. Basabe just had his breakout year hitting over .300 in single and Double-A. The decision is complicated, and it’s impossible to know who is in, and who is out.
The rule 5 draft has always gathered controversy since the Rays usually have plenty of players ready to be added to the roster. This year is no exception, 8 to 10 players might be ready to take the next step, but there are not enough spots for everyone. What makes it even more interesting, is what the Rays have planned for the players that will be left out. Last year they traded guys like Tobias Mayers and got a fair return in Junior Caminero. Who deserves the protection? What you all think?
Other than Curtis Mead and Taj Bradley, who should be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?