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Baseball America releases top ten Rays prospects for 2023

Scottsdale Scorpions v Mesa Solar Sox
NOVEMBER 08, 2021: Curtis Mead #44 of the Scottsdale Scorpions waits for a pitch during a game against the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park on November 8, 2021 in Mesa, Arizona.
Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Baseball America has released its top ten prospects for the Rays organization, which features a familiar name at the top of the list — you’ve seen him in the majors! — but fresh names throughout for those who do not follow the Rays system closely, making this year’s list a bit more dynamic than most.

The full list can be found here and is behind a paywall, but also well worth the read, as profiles can clock in at around 500 words. So while we will provide some detail below you’ll need to check out Baseball America for the full write up on each player.

1. Shane Baz, RHP

When healthy, Baz has some of the best pure stuff in baseball. His 94-99 mph fastball is very similar to Gerrit Cole’s in terms of velocity and movement.

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 80. Slider: 60. Curveball: 45. Changeup: 50. Control: 60

At this point, you should be familiar with Shane Baz, one of baseball’s best pitching prospects who had two elbow surgeries in 2022 (pre-season for loose bodies, and Tommy John surgery in July). Baz’s first five of six starts of the season, pre injury, showed he’s got the stuff. Now it’s a matter of getting back on the mound.

2. Curtis Mead, 2B/3B

Mead should become the first Australian position player regular of the 21st century [...] one of the best pure hitters in the minors. He ranked among the best in the minors in average exit velocity (91 mph) and hard-hit rate (over 50%). He is a tinkerer who will adjust his stance and setup to see what works and what doesn’t, partly because his hands work so well. Mead’s swing is relatively level and conducive to line drives and high batting averages more than massive home run numbers, but he’s expected to develop into a 25-plus home run threat as he learns how to better capitalize on hitter’s counts.

Scouting Grades: Hitting: 70. Power: 60. Run: 40. Field: 45. Arm: 40.

Due to concerns regarding arm strength and elbow health, BA anticipates Mead to be a regular at second base.

3. Taj Bradley, RHP

Bradley’s fastball and cutter/slider give him a pair of big league-ready pitches. [...] Bradley’s late-season struggles in Triple-A are likely useful for his long-term development. His intelligence and athleticism make him likely to develop into a mid-rotation starter

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65. Curveball: 40. Changeup: 45. Cutter: 60. Control: 60

Bradley has proven to be the real deal, and may be one of the few prospects who developed well through the pandemic, which limited the number of innings on his arm after being drafted as a pitcher despite a limited track record at the time in 2015.

4. Carson Williams, SS

There was little question about Williams’ defense, but his bat has proved better than expected. He showed plus power all year in 2022 [...] His 32% strikeout rate will have to improve as he gains more experience.

Scouting Grades: Hitting: 40. Power: 60. Run: 55. Field: 60. Arm: 70

Williams is tall (6’ 2”) and plays tall, with a soft but rangy approach to his defense. He was a stud in Low-A this season, with 19 HR, 22 2B, and 28 SB. Overall, it’s nice to see the top draft pick from 2021 already over achieving, but he’ll need to keep it up.

5. Kyle Manzardo, 1B

Manzardo’s stance and lefthanded swing are simple and well-timed. He is a pure hitter who presents pitchers with a puzzle. He rarely swings and misses [...] Despite his lack of foot speed, Manzardo is a competent first baseman

Scouting Grades: Hitting: 70. Power: 55. Run: 20. Field: 50. Arm: 50

A stat-forward draft choice from the second round in 2021, Manzardo has shown the Rays process was right on the money with this selection that was surprising at the time. Succeeding at Double-A was his first big test, and Manzardo passed with flying colors.

6. Jonathan Aranda, 2B

Aranda’s bat is big league ready, but with his defensive limitations his best shot at a regular job in Tampa Bay is to claim a spot as a first baseman/DH who can play elsewhere in a pinch.

Scouting Grades: Hit: 65. Power: 50. Run: 30. Field: 40. Arm: 50

Aranda made his big league debut last year with a bat that proved to be hot and then cold.

7. Mason Auer, OF

he’s proven to have more polish than expected. He has a smooth, level swing with some adjustability. [...] he has feel for getting the barrel on the ball. He also has plus-plus raw power and flashes above-average game power as well.

Scouting Grades: Hitting: 55. Power: 55. Run: 70. Field: 55. Arm: 80

It’s hard to look at these scouting grades (including the ultra-rare 80-grade from BA) and wonder how Light Tower Auer is only seventh on this list, but combine them with the insinuation in the write up that Auer is a “better” Josh Lowe and it boggles the brain. Combine that power — 15 HR, 21 2B, 12 3B (the most in all the minors) — with a sub-25% strikeout rate and above 10% BB-rate the Rays have themselves something special in the fifth round pick out of 2021.

8. Junior Caminero, 3B

Caminero is more physically mature than many 18-year-olds [...] A thinker at the plate, Caminero rarely makes the same mistake twice.

Scouting Grades: Hitting: 50. Power: 60. Run: 45. Field: 45. Arm: 60

Acquired for Tobias Myers last off-season, in a consistent Rays way trade of dealing a prospect that needs to be added to the roster for a teenager ready to perform above and beyond his age. Caminero made his US debut with a bang, reaching Low-A sooner than expected. His position is as of yet undetermined, but he’s far enough off that it isn’t a problem. BA projects his power to be the best in the Rays system.

9. Mason Montgomery, LHP

Montgomery’s plus fastball has carry and the flat approach angle to baffle hitters. His fastball plays above its 89-94 mph velocity because of its movement [...] Montgomery’s profile as a savvy, fastball-heavy lefty with fringe-average secondaries doesn’t always work against more advanced hitters. He’ll need to better develop his slider and changeup as he climbs the ladder

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60. Slider: 45. Changeup: 40. Control: 55

The Rays sixth round pick from 2021 shows this was a solid draft for Tampa Bay. Montgomery has already reached Double-A, which is a very fast rise for any Rays draft choice. The ranking by BA in the top-ten is aggressive given the lack of major league ready secondary pitches at this time.

10. Cole Wilcox, RHP

Assuming his arm strength returns to his pre-surgery levels in 2023, Wilcox should profile as a sinker/slider power pitcher.

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60. Slider: 60. Changeup: 45. Control: 60

Acquired in the Blake Snell trade but then sidelined by Tommy John, Wilcox returned to health at the end of last year by picking up four essentially rehab appearances in Low-A to finish the season. If he can return to form in 2023 he’ll be rocketing back up the Rays prospect list.

A couple names missing from the list do get honorable mentions from BA: SS Greg Jones is listed as the fastest baserunner, INF Osleivis Basabe with the top strike zone discipline, and Austin Vernon (who had a back injury to end the season) with the best change up.

Actually, here’s the pitching honors in full:

  • Best Fastball: Shane Baz
  • Best Curveball: Calvin Faucher
  • Best Slider: Shane Baz
  • Best Changeup: Austin Vernon
  • Best Control: Taj Bradley

Don’t sue me, BA!

The top selection from 2022 would usually jump into the Rays top ten, but 1B Xavier Isaac only got a write up in the Q&A following a question from some guy named Adam in Tennessee. Formerly top-ten worty names like INF Willy Vasquez, 2B Cooper Kinney, SS Greg Jones, and SS Carlos Colmanerez are also discussed at the link.