The Rays’ seemingly boundless array of middle infield depth includes not only No. 1 prospect in baseball Wander Franco but Vidal Brujan, Xavier Edwards and Greg Jones all ranked among the organization’s top 15 prospects.
Now 24-year-old shortstop Taylor Walls is starting to get some love.
The 2017 third-rounder from Florida State has climbed steadily since being drafted. He finished 2019 at Double-A Montgomery and for the season hit .270/.343/.452 with 10 home runs and 28 stolen bases in 96 games.
The switch-hitter has a patient approach at the plate, a willingness to go to all fields and occasional power. He is a smart baserunner with decent speed. And his glovework can be textbook, with classic technique and mechanics to go with a strong arm.
The Rays’ have named Walls the system’s defensive player of the year the last two seasons, and big league manager Kevin Cash, also a Florida State product, made clear in spring training 2020 he liked what he had heard and seen.
After joining the 40-man roster in the offseason, Walls will have chance this spring to show what he can do.
“Taylor continues to impress with his overall play on both sides of the ball,’’ Rays vice president Carlos Rodriguez said. “. . . Our staff knows him as a tremendous competitor who works tirelessly to improve and succeed. All of that factored into the decision to add him to the roster in November.”
Walls could gets in line for a starting job at shortstop, evolve into a Joey Wendle type who can start at several positions, or ends up being a trade chip.
“Taylor has several tools that can make an impact on a big league roster,’’ Rodriguez said. “Being a skilled defender at a premium position and a switch-hitter with versatility around the infield should afford him plenty of opportunity for playing time.
“His drive to improve has shown us that his ceiling as a player can only go up. Given his skills and intangibles, he has the potential to be a meaningful contributor on our club in many ways.”
— Signing a minor-league contract with a spring camp invite was a homecoming for right-handed pitcher Joey Krehbiel, who grew up and still lives in the Tampa Bay area, and was a Seminole High teammate of Rays outfielder Brett Phillips. “I was like, man, if I could just sign here, that would be it for me,’’ Krehbiel said.
— In inviting pitching prospect Shane Baz to big-league camp, the Rays conceivably could have all three players acquired from Pittsburgh in the July 2018 Chris Archer trade on the same field, as he joins established big-leaguers Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. Plus, they have Archer back, signing him to a one-year, $6.5 million deal.