2023 International Reviews: Tampa Bay Rays
With a $6,366,900 bonus pool, the Rays spent more than half of it to sign one of the top sluggers in Latin America. They filled out the rest of the class with one of the premier pitching prospects for this year and a mix of intriguing shortstops, outfielders and catchers with diverse skill sets.
Top Of The Class
For $3.7 million—the fifth-highest bonus for any player this year—the Rays signed one of the elite power hitters in the Dominican Republic, outfielder Brailer Guerrero. He is still 16 but he’s already 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with plus raw power that could eventually be a plus-plus tool. He has high-end bat speed and packs plenty of strength behind a sound lefthanded swing, registering exit velocities up to 111 mph already. If everything clicks, Guerrero has a chance to develop into a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, and scouts highest on him thought he had a patient approach with the ability to identify offspeed stuff to help him tap into that power against live pitching. Guerrero’s value will come from what he does at the plate. Some scouts thought his size and athleticism might eventually lead him to first base, while others thought he moved better than he got credit for and saw average speed underway with a strong arm that could fit in right field.
Names To Know
Jose Urbina, RHP, Venezuela: The Rays signed Urbina for $210,000, an amount that doesn’t reflect that he is one of the elite pitchers in Latin America this year. He’s 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, an athletic mover on the mound with an easy operation, good arm action and arm speed. During the tryout process, Urbina was touching 90 mph, but his stuff has skyrocketed since then. He turned 17 last year in November, and soon after that he was touching 97 mph. With his easy arm speed and strength projection, there could still be more velocity coming. Urbina has the ability to manipulate his secondary stuff, too. He snaps off a tight-spinning curveball that’s flashing plus and has shown feel for a changeup that has already been a bat-missing pitch against pro hitters. Urbina is the same age as the high school players in the 2024 class, and he would fit right at the top of that group of prep pitchers if he were in that draft.
Wilian Trinidad, SS, Dominican Republic: Trinidad, 17, signed for $500,000 after showing a promising bat with the ability to handle the middle infield. At 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, Trinidad is short but strong with his stocky build, standing out most for his hitting ability. He performed well in games as an amateur, making frequent contact from the left side with the ability to tune up good velocity and spread the ball around the field. He can sting the ball with surprising authority for his size, with occasional pull power over the fence, though it’s still a hit-over-power profile. Given the way he’s built, a lot of scouts projected Trinidad to end up at second base, but the defensive progress he has made gives him a better chance to continue developing at shortstop. He’s improved his speed to become an average runner with a better first step and enhanced quickness at shortstop with the arm strength for the position.
Jose Monzon, SS, Venezuela: While Trinidad’s bat is his calling card, Monzon’s talent is obvious on defense. A 5-foot-11, 140-pound shortstop during the tryout process, he has started to fill out to 6 feet, 160 pounds. He projects as a true shortstop with the tools to develop into a plus defender, fielding his position cleanly for a 17-year-old with good actions, instincts and a strong arm. A lefthanded hitter, Monzon showed good bat-to-ball skills as an amateur, albeit with minimal power, but the added strength has helped him start to drive the ball into the gaps more. He signed for $300,000.
Alfonzo Martinez, OF, Venezuela: Martinez has a strong, physical build (6 feet, 200 pounds) at 17 with a mix of power and speed. Signed for $215,000, Martinez has some rawness to his righthanded swing, but it’s big bat speed and the ball carries well off his bat with solid contact skills despite an unconventional swing. Martinez defends his position well in center field, too, with above-average speed and arm strength.
Moises Moreno, OF, Dominican Republic: Moreno has an intriguing combination of present tools that has a chance to get even better thanks to his considerable physical projection. He’s 6-foot-2, 170 pounds at 17, a wiry, long-limbed player with a lot of space to add good weight. Moreno lacks much strength right now, but he already has a pair of above-average tools with his speed and arm. With the way he’s built, some scouts think he could end up with big power, too, but getting stronger will be key for his development. He signed for $200,000.
Yohangel Moris, SS, Dominican Republic: Moris is an advanced defensive shortstop for 17. A $175,000 signing, Moris is 6 feet, 160 pounds and projects to stick at the position with a quick first step, good actions and a strong arm. A switch-hitter with some swing-and-miss to his game, Moris is wiry strong with more strength projection left, but he already hits the ball with authority and could have average or better power.
Alberth Palma, SS, Venezuela: Palma is an offensive-minded infielder the Rays signed for $150,000. He’s 6 feet, 170 pounds with advanced hitting feel for a 17-year-old. He hit well in games as an amateur in Venezuela, showing good bat control from the right side with gap power. Palma signed as a shortstop, though his best defensive fit long term is probably at second or third base.
Alfredo Rodriguez, C, Venezuela: One year ago, Rodriguez began his transition from third base to catching. So far the early returns have been good, with Rodriguez still honing his receiving technique, but showing the tools for the conversion to stick. Signed for $150,000, Rodriguez (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is athletic, runs well for a catcher and has quick feet with a swift, efficient exchange that helps his above-average arm strength play up. He’s a righthanded hitter whose swing can get big at times but drives the ball well for a 17-year-old with a power-over-hit profile.
Jose Tovar, C, Venezuela: Tovar is a $130,000 signing at 17 and projects to stick at catcher. He’s 5-foot-10, 170 pounds with good catch-and-throw skills, with the hands to receive well and a strong arm for his age. He’s a lefthanded hitter with a chance for 10-15 home runs.
The Rays signed five Venezuelan catchers this year. Yirer Garcia signed for $50,000 and is already making an impression with his baseball IQ, especially on the defensive side. He’s 5-foot-11, 165 pounds with good defensive instincts, receiving skills and an above-average arm. Garcia is an advanced defensive catcher for his age who would have probably commanded more attention if he had a more conventional swing, but he has shown solid contact skills for a 17-year-old catcher from the right side.
The Rays also signed 18-year-old Cuban righthander Jonathan Russell, who hasn’t been on the mound long. He’s a former shortstop who converted to pitching around six months ago, with an intriguing foundation of athleticism, easy arm action, a fastball up to 92 mph with projection for more and feel for a breaking ball.