2021 Tampa Bay Rays Top 5 Prospects

2021 Tampa Bay Rays Top 5 Prospects

by March 11, 2021 1 comment

When you look at the top prospects in the Rays’ system, there is a perfect blend of acquisitions from great trades, good draft picks, and smart international signings. Every team has prospects acquired through these means, but no one is quite like the Rays. Their eccentric forward-thinking has kept their system elite, even after a World Series run.

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Team Top Prospects.

1. Wander Franco – SS

Hit: 75
Power: 60
Run: 55
Field: 50
Arm: 55
Overall: 75

The consensus top MLB prospect, Franco is a switch hitter who we could see in 2021 if the Rays get impatient. After signing with the Rays for $3.825 million in 2017, Franco was immediately one of baseball’s most hyped-up prospects. Once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. graduated from prospect status, all eyes were on the shortstop who turned 20 on March 1. At five-foot-ten and 190 pounds, Franco isn’t the biggest guy, but his hitting makes up for that.

Franco spent 2019 splitting time between Single-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte, and the results were promising. Franco hit nine home runs and swiped 18 bags while hitting .327 with an .885 OPS. The stat that the Rays probably care about the most is that at age 18, Franco walked 56 times in 114 games, while striking out just 35 times, showing his maturity. He spent some time in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, going 7-for-20 in five games.

For Franco, starting at either AA or AAA makes the most sense. If the 2020 minor league season was not canceled, there is a good chance that Franco would start with the big club, unless he oddly regressed. We could see him make his MLB debut by the end of the season, or in April of 2022, after some service time manipulation, of course.

2. Luis Patino – RHP

Fastball: 70
Slider: 55
Changeup: 50
Control: 45
Overall: 65

The Rays obviously are intrigued by Patino, as the Padres’ offer starring Patino was enough for the Rays to trade away ace Blake Snell. He is an undersized righty who has increasingly grown his stock over his minor league career. Patino finally made it to the majors in 2020, and while he had a 5.11 ERA, he also had a 4.13 xERA and a .191 xBA against.

After a 2.35 ERA and 279 strikeouts in 234 minor league innings spanning over three seasons, Patino’s highly anticipated MLB debut came on August 5th. Things didn’t start great, as he allowed five runs in 3.2 innings over his first two appearances. But, Patino allowed just one run over his next 7.2 innings. He flexed his three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball, changeup, and slider. The fastball averaged 96.7 miles per hour and touches 100. A high-80s pitch, the changeup is about a 600 rpm difference from any of his other pitches, and the slider is Patino’s go-to for swing-and-misses.

3. Randy Arozarena – OF

Hit: 60
Power: 55
Run: 60
Field: 40
Arm: 55
Overall: 60

Arozarena was an intriguing, but not amazing, prospect when the Rays acquired him last offseason from the St. Louis Cardinals with Jose Martinez for Matthew Liberatore. He showed power and speed with a 1.028 OPS in 64 games at AAA in 2019 but was small, and an older prospect (he is now 26). Arozarena spent the first half of the season at the Rays’ alternate training site, before getting called up around the Trade Deadline. He instantly made a name for himself, hitting seven home runs with a 1.022 OPS in 23 games. He somehow improved even more in the playoffs, hitting 10 home runs in 20 games, and he won ALCS MVP against the Houston Astros, hitting four home runs with a 1.152 OPS.

Arozarena’s power was shown off on the highest of platforms, but his speed went under-the-radar, as he didn’t steal a base in the playoffs. But, Arozarena stole four bases in those 23 regular-season games, and he had an average sprint speed of 28.8 ft/s, which is well above average. He will start 2021 as the starting left fielder of the Rays, where he obviously deserves to be.

4. Vidal Brujan – 2B/SS/CF

Hit: 55
Power: 40
Run: 75
Field: 55
Arm: 50
Overall: 60

At five-foot-ten and 180 pounds, Brujan has a similar build to Franco, but with Franco and Willy Adames being the future of the Rays’ middle infield, Brujan’s future may be in centerfield. His offensive game hasn’t really been impressive in the minors, but Brujan is one of baseball’s brightest speed prospects. He stole 48 bags in 2019 between High-A and Double-A and was successful in 55 of 74 attempts in 2018.

On the offensive side, the switch-hitting Brujan could definitely improve. He hit .277 with a .735 OPS in 2019, and he has a .794 OPS over five minor league seasons. Brujan will likely make his AAA debut sometime in 2021, whenever it is that the AAA season starts.

5. Brendan McKay – LHP

Fastball: 55
Curveball: 50
Changeup: 45
Cutter: 55
Control: 60
Overall: 60

Since his MLB debut on June 29th, McKay’s stock has taken a downfall. The game itself was great, as he allowed just one hit through six scoreless innings. But in the 2019 season, McKay pitched in 49 innings and had a 5.14 ERA. Drafted 4th overall in 2017, McKay had promise as a potential two-way prospect, and he actually went 2-for-10 with a home run and a walk in the majors. Shoulder issues and a positive COVID-19 test cost McKay to miss all of 2020, and he had surgery in August. The Rays are hoping to see some of him in 2021, but they do have a crowded roster.

While McKay’s MLB stats weren’t great on the outside, if you dive deeper they were even worse. McKay allowed an average exit velocity of 91.2 mph, and batters slugged over .500 against his fastball, which only sits in the mid-to-low-90s. This adversity was odd for McKay, whose highest ERA in a season at a level since reaching college was 3.21, which he had in 11 High-A games in 2018. There is still a ton of promise here, but McKay is 25, so he is already an older prospect.

More prospects

The top Rays prospect outside of the top-five might be middle infielder Xavier Edwards, who may deal with the same middle infield issue as Brujan will. You may know Edwards by the nickname Blake Snell gave him. Acquired as a part of the Chris Archer trade with Pittsburgh, Shane Baz can touch 100 miles an hour on his fastball and had a 2.99 ERA in 17 starts at Single-A in 2019. Lefty Shane McClanahan made his MLB debut in the postseason in 2020 and struck out 154 batters in 120.2 innings in the minors in 2019. Drafted 13th overall in 2016, Josh Lowe had a .783 OPS in AA in 2019, hitting 18 home runs with 30 stolen bases.

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