2021-22 International Reviews: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays' international department has produced a potential franchise player who should be a cornerstone in the organization for years with Wander Franco, a 2017 signing out of the Dominican Republic. They added another one of the premier shortstops in Latin America last year when they signed Carlos Colmenarez, with a mix of athletic players at different spots in their most recent class.
Top Of The Class
One of Tampa Bay's big signings in this class was Jose Lazaro Contreras, a Cuban outfielder with a strong frame for 16 at 6 feet, 205 pounds. That physical maturity produces an advanced tool set for his age, with plus speed, fast bat speed and above-average raw power. Contreras emerged relatively later on the tryout scene in the Dominican Republic, but in the games he did play, scouts highest on him saw a player who managed his at-bats well. Contreras runs well enough to play center field right now, though his body type suggests a likely move to a corner, with a strong arm that would fit in right field.
Dominican shortstop Miguel Tamares was one of the most athletic shortstops in the class. At 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Tamares isn't that big, but he's a 70 runner consistently running the 60-yard dash between 6.3 and 6.4 seconds. He has an explosive first step with quick footwork, solid hands and the arm speed to develop a plus arm, giving him the raw tools to develop into an above-average defender. Tamares has started to sting the ball a little more as he's gotten stronger, but his offensive game is more contact-oriented from both sides of the plate while using his wheels to his advantage.
Names To Know
Felix Cotes, SS, Dominican Republic: A plus runner, Cotes has improved his defense and his chances to stick at shortstop. While there's still some chance he heads elsewhere in the infield, he now looks like he has the athleticism, footwork, hands and above-average arm to potentially handle shortstop. He's a switch-hitter with solid strength behind his swing at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds.
Jose Sanabria, OF, Venezuela: An athletic, 6-foot center fielder, Sanabria has easy actions on both sides of the ball, but particularly at the plate. He has a loose, fluid stroke with good bat speed and strength to his swing, getting his barrel through the hitting zone to generate easy power. He's a plus runner, making him an intriguing potential power/speed threat who could stick in center field.
Angel Mateo, OF, Dominican Republic: Mateo has an athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame with excellent strength potential, plus speed and potentially plus defense in center field. There are some unconventional parts to his swing, but he has fast bat speed and shows flashes of future plus raw power. While swing and miss was a concern as an amateur, he cut down on that later in the process. That's still a risk factor with Mateo, but if he can make enough contact, the power, speed and defense at a premium position are all intact for him to to start generating more attention.
Nicandro Aybar, SS, Dominican Republic: At 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and new to switch-hitting, Aybar is a deeper projection player. He has a ton of space to fill out his wiry frame, which means that if his speed increases as strength comes, he could stick in the middle of the diamond, or he could end up a third baseman with power if his physical development goes in that direction. His lefthanded swing is newer so he's more advanced from the right side, showing good bat speed and surprising sock for his slender frame.
Rodrigo Romero, SS, Venezuela: Romero has promising components to build from, with a sound swing, good contact skills and good actions at shortstop. He's still 5-foot-10, 140 pounds, so layering on more strength will be his main focus.
One of the big arrow-up players from Tampa Bay's class is Neifi Vazquez, a Dominican center fielder who has grown to 6-foot-4, 175 pounds. It's an athletic frame with a ton of space to fill out, and for a young, long-limbed player, his game skills stand out both at the plate and in the field. His righthanded swing is fast and loose, with an intriguing mix of contact skills, patience and obvious power potential. He's not a burner, but he has started to increase his speed, showing around average run times with good defensive instincts that give him a chance to stick in center field.