RHP Austin Vernon (6’8” 256, 24 in 2023)
Austin Vernon was the Rays tenth round pick out of North Carolina Central University in 2021. He sits in the mid 90s and has a four pitch mix including a slider, curveball, and changeup as a reliever. He threw 78.2 innings split between A and A+ ball in 2022. He struck out 35.6% of batters faced while walking 12.8%.
2023 DRaysBay Community Prospect List
Austin Vernon (7 votes) beat out Heriberto Hernandez (4 votes), Chandler Simpson (3 votes), and Tristan Peters (2 votes) for the 25th spot on our community rankings.
2023 DRaysBay Community Prospect List
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RHP Sandy Gaston (6’3” 200, 21 in 2023)
Sandy Gaston was signed as a high octane arm out of Cuba a few years ago. He still maintains high velocity but command eludes him. In 54.2 innings in 2022 he struck out 30.2% of hitters but that also came with a 22.0% walk rate. The stuff is there if he can get to even a 10-12% walk rate that he can be an effective reliever. It’s just looking less likely that is a reasonable outcome.
OF Heriberto Hernandez (6’1” 195, 23 in 2023)
Heriberto Hernandez was one of the minor leaguers that the Rays received from the Texas Rangers in the Nate Lowe trade. At A+ he hit .255/.368/.499 and put up a 135 wRC+ over 494 plate appearances. He hit 24 homers. The power is real. He has shown the discipline to wait for a pitch he can drive with a 13.6% walk rate. The question is will he strike out too much (31.4% in 2023) to allow his plus game power to play.
2B/3B Cooper Kinney (6’3” 200, 20 in 2023)
Cooper Kinney was the Rays competitive round A draft pick (34th overall) in the 2021 draft out of high school. Unfortunately Kinney missed the entire 2022 season after tearing his labrum during spring workouts. He’s a hit over game power hitter for the time being but has shown raw power in batting practice.
OF Tristan Peters (6’0” 180, 23 in 2023)
Tristan Peters was acquired for the Rays in a trade with the San Fransisco Giants on rule 5 draft deadline day for Brett Wisely. Peters had a solid start to the season in the Milwaukee Brewers system hitting .306/.386/.485 and putting up a 141 wRC+ in A+. After the trade to the Giants he struggled when promoted to AA hitting .212/.302/.303 and putting up a 71 wRC+. He draws more than his fair share of walks (10%+) while limiting his strikeouts (below 20%). There isn’t expected to be much power in his profile but he does show a strong hit tool.
2B Ronny Simon (5’9” 150, 23 in 2023)
Ronny Simon has played all over the infield (2B, SS, and 3B) giving him some chance to move up the ladder due to his versatility. In 2022 his time was split between A+ and AA where he hit .260/.303/.479. Despite being undersized he has been able to show power in games with 22 homers this season. OBP is unlikely to be a strength due to a 5.9% walk rate and a 20.9% strikeout rate. He either will have to walk more or strike out less in order to become more than a utility infielder on the bench.
SS Chandler Simpson (6’2” 170, 22 in 2023)
The Rays drafted Chandler Simpson out of Georgia Tech with their competitive balance round B pick (70th overall) in the 2022 draft. In his first year at Georgia Tech after transferring from the University of Alabama - Birmingham he hit .433/.506/.517. He is a contact over power guy that posted a strong 12.9% walk rate and 6.7% strikeout rate. The lack of power could play if he can stick up the middle and make enough contact.