The Tampa Bay Rays have been adroit at turning out good major league players from within. It has been a key to their success as they don’t spend much money. Three of the five players listed here actually got to the majors last year but all of them still retain rookie status. The Rays have a pitcher and a few speedsters in the top 5 so let’s break down what they bring to the field.
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1. Shane Baz, Right-Handed Pitcher
Baz made his much-anticipated debut this year. After dominating the minors at two stops to the tune of a 2.06 ERA and 113 strikeouts to just 13 walks, the right-hander started the September 20 matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays. He made three total starts and didn’t miss a beat striking out 18 in just 13.1 innings while walking just three. While he did allow three solo home runs, there are plenty of pitchers who have given up bombs to Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Anthony Rizzo.
Baz brings a lethal fastball-slider mix. He throws a four-seamer that can hit triple digits as well as a biting slider that is arguably the best in the minors. He plays his changeup off them well and has had little use for his curveball other than being a show-me pitch. He cleaned up his delivery and it has become more repeatable. It is the main reason Baz has improved his command since joining the Rays organization when he came over with Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow in the Chris Archer deal (sorry Pirate fans). Baz has all the makings to be a true ace for the Rays.
2. Josh Lowe, Outfielder
Well, Lowe should just retire now with his 1.000/1.000/1.000 slash. Just kidding of course. He had two plate appearances last year and if his year at Triple-A Durham is any indication, Lowe is going to be an important piece for the Rays. The former first-round pick out of Pope HS in Georgia slashed .291/.381/.535 with 22 homers and 26 stolen bases and committed just two errors in 104 games in the outfield.
Lowe has the ability to stay in centerfield as his glove, range, and arm were ahead of his bat originally. He is an athletic 6-foot-4, 205-pound lefty whose hitting has certainly caught up to his other tools. If he can continue to cut down on the swing and miss at the next level, Lowe will be taking Kevin Kiermaier‘s job for Tampa Bay.
3. Vidal Brujan, Super Utility
Brujan also made it to the Rays’ big club last year. He didn’t quite have the success that many had hoped for. Nevertheless, the talent is still there for the 24-year-old. At Durham, he slashed .262/.345/.440 while playing just about everywhere on the diamond. He stole 44 bases and his power potential started to show with 12 bombs. He is a switch-hitter that makes good contact and has a solid eye from both sides of the plate.
Defensively, Brujan can play anywhere. If the Rays decide to put him at a certain spot, he is probably best-suited for second base. His arm is fringy on the left side of the infield but his range and hands play up at the keystone. Speed is the name of the game for the young Dominican. He swiped 147 bags in his last 324 games in the minors. He steals bases efficiently as well with an almost 80 percent success rate.
4. Greg Jones, Shortstop
Jones was a first-round pick in 2019 out of UNC-Wilmington. He showed off his considerable speed immediately swiping 19 bags in 48 games in the New York-Penn League. He continued that thievery last year between two stops, stealing 34 bases in just 72 games. Jones struggled in his 16 games at Double-A Montgomery, but the Rays believe in his bat.
Defensively, Jones can stick at shortstop as he has good range and an above-average arm. His power is also coming around and he should be a regular double-digit guy once he settles in. Jones needs to make more consistent contact as the strikeouts are starting to pile up as he faces better competition. If he can cut down on the swing and miss and just put the bat on the ball, Jones’s speed would be even more of a weapon.
5. Xavier Edwards, Second Base
What Edwards lacks in power he makes up for with plate discipline and speed. The former first-rounder out of High School in 2018 played 79 games at Double-A Montgomery last year. He didn’t hit any home runs but had a .377 OBP and struck out just 12.5 percent of the time. the 22-year-old also chipped in 19 stolen bases.
Edwards is another switch-hitting speedster that the Rays like to have. He has played mostly at second base and is as sure-handed as they come making just two errors in 55 games there last year. His arm is a bit weak for shortstop, but he could certainly play the position if needed. Although Brujan and Jones are ahead of him, Edwards could get the call in another year or two.
What Does the Future Hold?
Recently the Rays have hit some bad luck with two of their pitching prospects, Cole Wilcox and Brendan McKay, having surgery. However, youngster Taj Bradley has been impressive. Last year between two stops in A-ball, the right-hander was 12-3 with a 1.83 ERA. He also struck out 123 batters in 103.1 innings while walking just 31. The Rays may have found a gem with their fifth-round pick in 2018.
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