2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have the top farm system in baseball. Their international program is a big part of that, with homegrown shortstop Wander Franco the No. 1 prospect in baseball, while middle infielder Vidal Brujan is also in the Top 100 and outfielder Jesus Sanchez is a top-10 prospect in the Marlins' system and a 2019 Futures Game participant. It's no surprise they elevated Carlos Rodriguez to vice president of player development and international scouting and promoted Steve Miller to international scouting director.
Top Of The Class
For some scouts, Venezuelan shortstop Carlos Colmenarez was the best player in the 2020-21 international signing class. He's a well-rounded player who has the unusual mix of explosiveness and great tools combined with easy actions on both sides of the ball at a premium position. Colmenarez has a pretty lefthanded swing that's compact, efficient and stays through the hitting zone for a long time, helping him make frequent contact and drive the ball to all fields. It's a calm, easy swing with good rhythm and balance. He has generally performed well in games, though there are times when he could benefit from tighter plate discipline. Even though Colmenarez is not that big (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), he's strong for his size with above-average bat speed, leading to above-average raw power. He has toyed around with hitting from the right side, which might be an option, but just from the left side he could develop into a plus hitter with plus power. An average runner, Colmenarez projects to stick at shortstop. He's a smooth defender with a quick first step, good lateral agility, footwork and body control. He has soft, quick hands, exchanging the ball swiftly to an arm that earns plus to plus-plus grades. Like everyone else in the 2020-21 signing class, Colmenarez has yet to play a game in pro ball, but he has all the attributes in place to develop into an impact player. He trained with Jose Jimenez, known as Ponchipu.
The Rays also signed Jhonny Piron, an athletic Dominican outfielder who trained at the Quality Baseball Academy. Early on in the scouting process, Piron had below-average speed but moved around well in the outfield with good reads and routes. As he's added strength to a wiry frame that's now 6 feet, 175 pounds, he's now running average with an above-average arm. Depending on how he develops physically, he could stick in center field, though some think he might eventually slide over to right field. Piron has fast bat speed with quick hands and average raw power that could grow into a plus tool. He has solid swing components, staying behind the ball well, and an aggressive approach geared to hunt fastballs early in the count, though he will need to rein in his chase tendencies in to become more selective against better pitchers.
Names To Know
Sebastian Javier, RHP, Dominican Republic: Javier is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds and has trended up since a lot of scouts saw him in November 2019 for an MLB Trainer Partnership Program in Arizona, where he was up to 90 mph. He's now touching 95 mph, with starter traits between his projectable build, athleticism, delivery, loose arm action and stuff. He complements his fastball with a curveball that has good rotation and a changeup that he sells well with his arm speed. Javier trained with Laurentino Genao.
Luis Ariza, SS, Venezuela: Ariza is an instinctive, offensive-oriented middle infielder who stands out more for his game savvy and skills than his raw tools. He has a direct swing with good bat path from the right side, solid bat-to-ball skills and gap power now that could grow into near-average power as he fills out. Ariza isn't flashy or as explosive as some other shortstops, but he's a steady, instinctive defender with an average arm who does a lot of the little things well for his age already. He and a chance to stay at shortstop, though he could end up at second base or possibly third. Ariza trained with Roberto Vahlis.
Gabriel Arias, SS, Dominican Republic: Arias trained together with Carlos Colmenarez in Ponchipu's program, so the Rays had a lot of looks at Arias as well. He lacked strength early in the process, but he looked stronger later on, hitting a home run in front of hundreds of scouts at a Dominican Prospect League game in October 2019. Arias has some loop in his swing, but he has strong forearms and good bat speed to drive the ball well for a middle infielder. He should start out at shortstop but could end up at second base.
Jesus Quevedo, SS, Venezuela: Quevedo, who trained with Javier Mendoza, is one of the slickest defensive shortstops in the class. He has a smaller, slender build that lacks much strength, but he shines in the field with nimble footwork, sweet hands, easy actions and good body control, with an average arm that could tick up once he gets stronger. He's a true shortstop and a defense-first player.
German Tapia, OF, Dominican Republic: Tapia has some rawness to his game, but he has an athletic 6-foot-2 frame with plus bat speed, big power potential and a strong arm. He trained with Juan Rodriguez.
At 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Jose Perez is a smaller, thin-framed shortstop from Venezuela, but he's a talented defender. A switch-hitting, defensive-minded player, Perez has soft hands, easy actions and good body control in the field, making both the routine plays and the more difficult ones.