Baseball America releases the Rays’ top ten prospects for 2023

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

See the full list here and is behind a paywall, but is also very readable as profiles can be around 500 words. While we provide some details below, you must check out Baseball America for the full description of each player.

1.Shane Baz, RHP

When he’s healthy, Baz has some of the best clean stuff in baseball. His 94-99 mph fastball is very similar to Gerrit Cole’s in speed 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 top pitching prospects, who underwent two elbow surgeries in 2022 (preseason for loose bodies and Tommy John surgery in July). Baz’s first five of six starts before the injury showed he has what it takes. Now it’s all about getting back on the hill.

2. Curtis Met, 2B/3B

Mead would become Australia’s first positional player of the 21st century […] one of the best pure thugs in the minors. He was among the top in the minors in average exit speed (91 mph) and hard hit rate (over 50%). He’s a tinkerer, adjusting his stance and setup to see what works and what doesn’t, partly because his hands work so well. Mead’s swing is relatively flat 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 get better off the counts of the batsman can capitalize.

Scouting grades: Hitting: 70 Power: 60 Run: 40 Field: 45 Arm: 40

Due to concerns about arm strength and elbow health, BA anticipates Mead will play at second base regularly.

3. Taj Bradley, RHP

Bradley’s fastball and cutter/slider give him two large league-worthy playing fields. […] Bradley’s late-season struggles in Triple-A are likely useful for his long-term development. His intelligence and athleticism probably make him 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 to have thrived during the pandemic, limiting the number of innings on his arm after being drafted as a pitcher in 2015 despite a limited track record.

4. Carson Williams, SS

There was little doubt about Williams’ defense but his racquet proved better than expected. In 2022 he showed plus power all year round […] His 32% strike rate needs to improve with experience.

Scouting grades: Hitting: 40 Power: 60 Run: 55 Field: 60 Arm: 70

Williams is tall (6ft 2in) and plays big, with a soft but perceptive approach to his defense. He was a Low-A stallion this season with 19 HR, 22 2B and 28 SB. Overall, it’s nice to see that the top draft pick of 2021 is already overwhelmed, but he needs to move on.

5. Kyle Manzardo, 1B

Manzardo’s stance and left-hand swing are simple and well-timed. He’s a pure hitter who sets pitchers a riddle. 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

Manzardo, a second-round statistic draft pick in 2021, has shown the Rays process was right with what was then a surprising selection. Success at Double-A was his first major test, which Manzardo passed with flying colors.

6.Jonathan Aranda, 2B

Aranda’s slugger is ready for the big league, but with his defensive limitations, his best shot at a regular job in Tampa Bay is to claim a spot as 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 racquet that proved hot and then cold.

7. Maurer Auer, OF

He has demonstrably more polish than expected. It has a smooth, level swing with some adjustability. […] He has a feel for putting the run on the ball. He also has plus plus raw power and also flashes above average skill level.

Scouting grades: Hitting: 55 Power: 55 Run: 70 Field: 55 Arm: 80

It’s hard to look at these scouting ratings (including BA’s ultra-rare 80s rating) and wonder why Light Tower Auer is only seventh on this list, but combine them with the suggestion in the description, that Auer is a “better” Josh Lowe and it boggles the brain. Combine that power – 15 HR, 21 2B, 12 3B (most of any minor) – with a strikeout rate under 25% and a BB rate over 10%, the Rays have a fifth-round 2021 thought of something special.

8. Junior Caminero, 3B

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

Scouting grades: Hitting: 50 Power: 60 Run: 45 Field: 45 Arm: 60

Acquired for Tobias Myers last offseason, acting in a consistent Rays manner, a prospect to add to the roster for a teenager ready to perform beyond his age. Caminero made his US debut with a bang, reaching Low-A earlier than expected. His location is yet to be determined, but he’s far enough away that it’s not 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 stun hitters. His fastball plays above his speed of 89-94 mph due to his movement […] Montgomery’s profile as an accomplished, fast-balling left-hander with average secondaries doesn’t always work against more advanced hitters. He needs to develop his slider and his switch better as he climbs the ladder

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

2021 Rays sixth round shows this was a solid draft for Tampa Bay. Montgomery has already reached Double-A, which is a very quick climb for any Rays draft. BA’s ranking in the top-ten is aggressive given the lack of major-league-eligible secondary spots at this point.

10. Cole Wilcox, RHP

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

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 Slider: 60 Changeup: 45 Control: 60

Wilcox was acquired in the Blake Snell trade but sidelined ten by Tommy John. Late last year, Wilcox returned to health by picking up four essentially rehab gigs in Low-A to end the year. If he can return to his form in 2023, he will rocket back up the Rays prospect list.

A couple of names missing from the list get BA credits: SS Greg Jones is listed as fastest baserunner, INF Osleivis Basabe with top strike zone discipline, and Austin Vernon (who suffered a back injury at the end of the season had) switch with the best.

Actually, here are the pitching honors in full:

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

Don’t sue me, BA!

The top pick from 2022 would normally jump into the Rays top ten, but 1B Xavier Isaac only got one entry the questions and answers after a question from a guy named Adam in Tennessee. Former top ten names like INF Willy Vasquez, 2B Cooper Kinney, SS Greg Jones and SS Carlos Colmanerez are also discussed at the link.

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