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Track Record: Franco models his game after that of his Bani neighbor Jose Ramirez. Scouts who watch Franco play see many similarities. Like Ramirez, Franco is also a switch-hitter with a similar approach. But unlike Ramirez, who has emerged as a star, Franco was the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 international signing class who signed for $2.8 million. The Rays aggressively pushed him, and he responded by being the best hitter in the Appalachian League as a 17-year-old. Some scouts believed he could have jumped straight to high Class A with few issues. His dominance at the plate reminded many of what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did in the Appy League in 2016, but Franco was actually more productive than Guerrero at the same age. Scouting Report: Franco is already one of the best hitters in the minors, even if he's half a decade younger than many other top prospects. He can hit just about any fastball with a short swing from either side of the plate and excellent bat speed. He stays balanced and keeps his head nearly still while generating outstanding bat speed. Unlike many prodigies blessed with amazing wrists and special hand-eye coordination, Franco already recognizes spin and refuses to chase sliders and changeups. Franco has the ability to hit just about anything and everything, but he pairs that with advanced plate discipline. He will get over-aggressive with fastballs out of the zone, but he drives them. In the upper levels of the minors, he will have to learn to tone down his eagerness to swing at fastballs, but that's one of the few blemishes he has as a hitter. Franco projects as a future .300 or better hitter with the ability to hit 25-30 home runs. Scouts differ more on how much power Franco will develop, but most are confident projecting plus or even 70-grade power. Defensively, he has body control but lacks elite twitch. His instincts, above-average arm and hands give him a shot to be an average or even above-average shortstop, and he could be a plus defender at second base or third base. The Future: The Rays are an organization that typically moves prospects slowly, but Franco will likely force a speed-up. He will likely begin the season at low Class A Bowling Green, but he likely won't end the season there. Multiple scouts from other organizations said they feel comfortable projecting he will be a perennial all-star as an elite hitter who can play up the middle defensively.
Track Record: Honeywell felt his elbow ligament pop while throwing batting practice early in spring training. An MRI confirmed what Honeywell already knew, and he had Tommy John surgery that will lead to a late start to his 2019 season. Scouting Report: Prior to his surgery, Honeywell was ready to get outs in the big leagues. He has a five-pitch mix, with all his pitches showing average or better potential. He had little trouble mixing in two breaking balls, a changeup and a screwball while blowing hitters away with a 93-95 mph fastball that touched 99 mph. Honeywell's plus fastball sets up a plus changeup he uses to both baffle hitters and induce them to chase out of the strike zone. But he's just as comfortable getting ahead with an average curveball that sets up an above-average, mid-80s slider with the power and late break to be a swing-and-miss offering. He could stand to use his 70-grade screwball more often. Honeywell has improved the consistency of his release point to the point where he has above-average control. The Future: If his stuff returns to form, Honeywell has all the pieces to be a No. 2 starter. He will likely be ready to join the Rays by June or July.
Track Record: The 2017 Baseball America College Player of the Year was a three-time first-team All-America selection while starring both at the plate and on the mound. McKay had few hiccups as a pitcher in 2018 aside from a month-long absence with a strained oblique. Scouting Report: McKay is a better prospect as a pitcher than a hitter, and he has all the traits of a future No. 3 starter. He has plus control, a varied array of pitches and the aptitude to manipulate all of them. The cutter he learned during his junior year at Louisville has become a plus pitch. He varies its shape to where it looks like a bat-missing slider at times. His plus fastball has also picked up a little velocity. He sat 92-94 mph and touched higher, but it's his ability to spot his heater, especially to his glove side, that makes him effective. He locates his average curveball and changeup. As a hitter, McKay has excellent pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness, but he tilts into passivity. He tends to take early-count strikes. He has plus raw power but hit just six home runs in 56 games while batting .214/.368/.359. The Future: McKay is ready for Double-A as a pitcher. That will test him as a hitter, but the Rays see no reason to force him to focus on solely pitching just yet.
Track Record: The last time the Rays had a homegrown catcher serve as their starter was Toby Hall in 2007. The Rays passed on drafting Buster Posey the following year and haven't produced a regular at the position since. Hernandez could change that. An infielder as an amateur whom the Rays converted to catching, Hernandez ranked second in the Midwest League with 21 home runs and second in the minors among catchers (behind the Padres Austin Allen). Scouting Report: Hernandez has some of the best power potential in the Rays system with legitimate 20-plus homer potential. His swing varies from short with no-load to longer and leveraged depending on the situation. Hernandez will have to stay on top of his conditioning because his body is already mature, and he's taller and heavier than his listed weight. He is doing yoga to try to help maintain his flexibility. Hernandez has shown steady improvement with his English-language skills, and he carries himself as a confident leader. A below-average receiver, he needs to improve his blocking ability and soften his hands as he receives and frames. He has a 70 arm that can shut down running games. The Future: If Hernandez continues to put in the work defensively, he has potential to be the rare everyday catcher who is an offensive asset. Much like the rest of his Bowling Green teammates, he's ready for high Class A Charlotte, where he should be among the league's best prospects.
Track Record: Liberatore started the gold medal game for USA Baseball's 18U World Cup champs and was seen as a possible top-five pick heading into the spring of 2018. After impressing early in the season he slid down draft boards when his fastball backed up late in his senior year and his control wasn't as sharp. Still, no one expected to see him fall to the 16th pick, where the Rays pounced. Scouts who saw him as a pro wondered why he fell so far, as he immediately went back to dominating hitters. In August, he posted a 0.79 ERA with only 13 hits and eight walks in 22.2 innings while he struck out 27. Scouting Report: Liberatore lacks the near top-of-the-scale fastball of many prep first-round pitchers, but he has an above-average fastball with excellent extension, the ability to spin a breaking ball, competitiveness, a long, projectable frame and a clean delivery. Liberatore sits 92-93 mph and touches 95, but it's his plus curveball and changeup that can overwhelm hitters. His changeup is quite advanced for a high school draftee because it has excellent deception, and he has the conviction to throw it in a variety of counts. There are scouts who believe he will add a little more velocity as he matures and fills out, but his current stuff is good enough to succeed even without a jump. The Future: Liberatore has the look of a mid-rotation starter, and if he adds strength and velocity, he could end up being a potential front-of-the-rotation stalwart. The Rays move prep pitchers slowly, so an assignment to short-season Hudson Valley would be a sign of confidence in him.
Track Record: The Rays went into the penalty box with a massive 2014 international signing class. Despite whiffing on their biggest signing, Adrian Rondon, the class has proven to be an outstanding influx of talent with Ronaldo Hernandez, Diego Castillo and Resly Linares. But the most productive of those signees has been Sanchez, who has hit better than .300 at every stop until a late-season struggle at Double-A Montgomery. Scouting Report: Sanchez has elite bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination, which gives him a path to being an above-average hitter with 25-plus home run power. He can drive balls in or out of the zone, which is an asset and weakness, because he swings and connects with pitches he should take. Sanchez's barrel control keeps him from striking out too much. Unlike many young lefthanded hitters, he has little trouble hitting lefthanders. He consistently posts some of the best exit velocities in the Rays' system. Sanchez has an odd gait, but he consistently turns in plus run times and is an impressive athlete. Defensively, he should be at least average in right field with an average arm. The Future: Sanchez will return to Montgomery in 2019. He profiles as an athletic everyday right fielder one whose swing and body type offers reminders of the late Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras.
Track Record: Brujan signed for just $15,000 as one of the lower-profile signings in a loaded Rays' 2014 international class. Ever since he's been one of the best players for every team he's played on. He served as Bowling Green's spark plug before performing even better with high Class A Charlotte. Scouting Report: Brujan is a 70 runner who finished second in the minors with 55 stolen bases. He's also an average defensive second baseman who has the first-step burst and an above-average arm that leads some scouts to wonder if he could handle shortstop in a pinch. Others believe he could be a plus defender in center field. His internal clock needs to improve. While Brujan has only gap power and doesn't project to hit more than 5-10 home runs per season, his line-drive swing gives him a chance to hit .300 with high on-base percentages because he works counts and doesn't chase. His righthanded swing looks nearly identical to his lefthanded stroke, but the consistency of his at-bats and power in his swing are better from the left side. The Future: The Rays are stacked with promising second basemen, but Brujan's combination of athleticism and on-base skills is hard to ignore. He will play in the big leagues because of his athleticism, but he has a chance to be much more than just a role player. The Rays love positional versatility among their players. While Brujan has focused on second base so far, he has the athleticism and speed to become a much more versatile defender in upcoming years.
Track Record: Lowe (whose name rhymes with "now") has fulfilled area scout Lou Wieben's conviction that he was one of the best hitters in the 2015 draft. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in 2013 and broke his right fibula in 2015, but he has hit ever since getting healthy. Lowe was the Florida State League MVP in 2017 and was even better in his encore, reaching the big leagues in August. Scouting Report: Lowe is a bat-first second baseman, but he has worked to become an average defender while becoming playable in left and right field, where his above-average speed helps. His fringe-average arm limits him at second, but he has improved his ability to turn the double play and can make the throw from short right field on shifts. Offensively, Lowe gets to plus raw power thanks to a swing with leverage. That leads scouts to believe he'll hit for above-average power with an average hit tool. His hands work well, allowing him to handle quality fastballs, and he puts together competitive at-bats against same-side pitchers. The Future: The Rays have emphasized developing second basemen who can hit. Lowe should earn at-bats with the Rays in the outfield and at second base.
Track Record: Once viewed as an organizational player, Lowe transformed himself into a prospect in 2018 after getting into better shape and improving his flexibility in the offseason. He played at three different colleges (Mercer, St. John's River (Fla.) JC and Mississippi State) before joining the Rays as a 13th-round pick in 2016, the same year in which Tampa Bay drafted his brother Josh in the first round. He became the rare Rays prospect to play at three levels in the same season. Scouting Report: Lowe's improved conditioning wasn't his only tweak. He simplified and shortened a long swing that had always left him vulnerable to fastballs in. Pitchers soon learned that fastballs that used to tie him up turned into home runs. Lowe had always had good pitch recognition, and he had long been able to hit breaking balls and changeups. Getting more pull-oriented and looser at the plate paid off when he squared up more balls. Lowe has plus power to go with an average hit tool. He has to hit as a first baseman who doesn't run well and is a below-average defender. The Future: Lowe has one season on his rÃ©sumÃ© in which he has produced, but scouts say that his newfound power and improved swing are no flukes. His plus power is alluring and now that Jake Bauers is traded, his path to a major league role is clearer.
Track Record: The Rays found a bargain in Gomez, who quickly emerged as the best player in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2015. He led the low Class A Midwest League with 60 extra-base hits and 34 doubles. Scouting Report: Many evaluators compare Gomez with Marcell Ozuna because they have similar builds and a similar swing path. Gomez has plus power thanks to plenty of strength in his hands and wrists. He has the over-aggressiveness that is often a problem for young hitters. He doesn't recognize breaking balls out of the hand yet and chases pitches in the dirt too often. But Gomez has the hand-eye coordination to develop into an average hitter. He is an above-average runner, but he likely will slow to average as his body matures. Defensively, Gomez should develop into an average corner outfielder with an average arm. He has a good first step and can run, but he looks lost at times. The Future: Gomez could be an above-average regular if he improves his pitch recognition. He will head to high Class A Charlotte in 2019.
Track Record: Baz was viewed as one of the best arms in the 2017 draft class, but he never got to pitch in full-season ball with his original team as Pittsburgh sent him to the Rays as the player to be named in last July's Chris Archer trade. Scouting Report: Baz is many innings and many years away from his ceiling. He struggles to sync up his lower half with his arm, and his arm often ends up trying to make up for inconsistencies in how he drives off the mound, which leads to timing issues in his delivery. He also gets too rotational at times and ends up spinning off the mound. He currently has near bottom-of-the-scale control. But Baz has one of the fastest arms in the minors. He can touch 99 mph with his fastball (it sits 92-95 mph) and unleashes high-80s sliders. Both could end up being plus-plus pitches eventually, but he struggles to land his slider and potentially above-average curve right now. His fastball has some natural cut and he mixes in a changeup as well. Nothing is consistent yet, but Baz's arm works well and his delivery is promising. The Future: Baz could end up being a fire-breathing Noah Syndergaard-esque ace, but he needs to improve his control by three or four grades to reach that potential. A more likely landing spot is as a closer.
Track Record: A potential top 10 pick, McClanahan ended up sliding almost out of the first round when he failed to allay scouts' concerns about his ability to remain a starter. Tommy John surgery that sidelined him in 2016 and fastball command and control that wavered significantly from game to game left many teams convinced he'll end up as a power reliever. McClanahan finished second in Division I with 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings and struck out 54 percent of all batters he faced in his pro debut. Scouting Report: While McClanahan's delivery is effortful, he can reach 100 mph although he generally sits 93-95. It's rare velocity and has life in the strike zone. McClanahan does struggle to stay in sync. He'll need to rectify that to improve his below-average control. The Rays would like to work on figuring out how to add a little more separation with his 88-90 mph changeup, but he showed confidence in it at South Florida. McClanahan's slider gives him a shot to have three above-average or better pitches down the road. He does a good job of making it look like a fastball, but it's too inconsistent. The Future: McClanahan will work on developing his stamina and consistency as a starter at low Class A Bowling Green. He most likely will end up as a potentially dominating closer or setup man.
Track Record: Solak has long been a productive hitter. The Yankees shipped him to the Rays just before spring training in 2018 in the deal that saw Brandon Drury head to New York. Scouting Report: Solak has always hit and he'll continue to hit. He's a plus hitter with a short, simple swing that has always worked for him. He consistently puts together competitive at-bats that are annoying for a pitcher and he draws enough walks to post lofty on-base percentages. And he has developed average power to punish pitchers' mistakes even though his swing isn't geared for power. What the Rays haven't figured out yet is where Solak can play. He's a below-average defender at second base. He's reliable when he gets to a ball (he made just two errors all season) but he has below-average feet and range and struggles to turn double plays. The Rays tried him in the outfield (which he also played at Louisville). His plus speed is an asset, but he's fringy there as well. Solak's average arm is adequate wherever he plays. The Future: Observers believe Solak is a more consistent hitter than teammate Brandon Lowe, but Lowe has more power, is a better defender at second and has already reached Tampa Bay, so Solak's path to everyday at-bats with the Rays is murky. He's ready for Triple-A.
Track Record: Coming out of the summer showcase season in 2017, Schnell was seen as a promising outfielder who was likely to make it to Louisville. Schnell gained close to 20 pounds for his senior season and changed that narrative. He hit .535 with 15 home runs as he proved to teams he was a first-round pick. Schnell didn't show that power in the Gulf Coast League, but he did control the strike zone. Scouting Report: Schnell has a loose, handsy swing that allows him to drive the ball to all fields. For as much power as he showed during his high school season, he's more likely to end up as a plus hitter with average power rather than a future mid-order masher, although his above-average bat speed does give him a chance to exceed that power projection. A hit-over-power profile should work because he's a solid athlete. Schnell is currently an above-average runner. If he can retain that speed, he could stay in center field, but most likely he'll end up as an above-average defender in a corner with an above-average arm. The Future: Schnell has enough polish to handle a jump to low Class A Bowling Green. If he improves half as much in 2019 as he did in 2018, he should be one of the better hitters in the Midwest League.
Track Record: Dodson's father Bo was a first baseman/outfielder who was a third-round pick (63rd overall) of the Brewers in 1989. Tanner went eight picks later in his draft, but was a supplemental second round pick because there are more teams picking now. Scouting Report: Dodson is following in Brendan McKay's footsteps as a two-way player for the Rays and like McKay, Dodson is seen as a better prospect on the mound than in the outfield. Dodson dominated New York-Penn League hitters with a 95-98 mph fastball with power and sink and a hard 88-90 mph slider. The slider is a little more erratic than the fastball, but both are pitches that can miss bats and both have potential to be plus-plus pitches. Righthanders hit .104/.200/.104 against him. His stuff sometimes does tail off in his second and third innings of work. Dodson is above-average defensively in center fielder and an above-average runner with a plus arm. He has little power, but he puts the bat on the ball from both sides of the plate. The Future: If he were only an outfielder, Dodson wouldn't be seen as a significant prospect, but his defense and base-running provide extra value on top of his potential to be a late-inning reliever.
Track Record: The 13th pick in the 2016 draft, Lowe saw his older brother Nate emerge as a significant prospect with a breakout 2018 season that included a trip to the Futures Game. Josh's season wasn't as enjoyable. He showed up stronger, but it didn't pay off in on-field results. Scouting Report: If Lowe can be an average hitter, his other tools will ensure he's an impact big leaguer. He's a plus runner and a plus defender in center field with an above-average arm. Lowe also has long shown plus raw power. But there's reason to worry about Lowe's ability to hit. The Rays worked to get Lowe to hit the ball in the air more often and he did, but it didn't pay off in extra-base hits. Lowe's season statistically was worse than 2017, but there are reasons for hope. He struck out less and walked more and he's shown steady improvement in picking out hittable pitches. But he's failing to square up hittable pitches in the zone. Some scouts believe he got too uphill in his swing, and his swing can get long. The Future: Lowe is one of the most physically gifted players in the team's system. He still could be an impact everyday regular if it all comes together, but he has considerable work to do at the plate.
Track Record: Much as Diego Castillo did in 2017, Gibaut readied himself for a big league role by serving as Durham's closer. It's a role he also held at Tulane and he's been quite good at it, in part because he's always been effective against both lefthanders and righthanders. Scouting Report: Gibaut's foundation as a pitcher has always been a big fastball. He sits 95-99 mph, although the fastball earns some 60 grades rather than the 70 its velocity would indicate because it can be a little straight. Gibault then mixes in a hard 89-91 mph slider with short but sharp tilt. It doesn't earn better grades because Gibaut hasn't proven he can consistently throw it for strikes, so hitters can learn to lay off of it. He has a fringy changeup. Gibault's control has always been fringe-average at best. The Future: Gibaut was added to the 40-man roster in November and is ready to help the big league bullpen. He doesn't have closer-type stuff, but he should be a valuable, durable seventh-inning option.
Track Record: Acquired by the Rays in a deal that sent Jeremy Hellickson to the D-backs. Velazquez's prospect status had waned since as scouts didn't believe his bat or glove were strong enough to be an everyday shortstop. But he began playing outfield in 2018, and his versatility got him to the majors. Scouting Report: Velazquez has gone full circle as a player. He was an outfielder for most of his high school career before moving to shortstop. Now moving to center field has kick-started his career because he quickly established himself as an exceptional defender there. While Velazquez is an average defender at shortstop, he's at least a plus defender in center and there are scouts who say he's plus-plus. He's also a plus runner who uses that speed well on the basepaths. And he's a contact hitter from both sides of the plate. He projects to have below-average power with a contact-oriented approach. The Future: Velazquez's value is in his versatility. He doesn't hit enough to be a regular at any one spot, but his ability to play an excellent center field, second, shortstop or third base makes him a useful utilityman. He'll compete for a big league spot in spring training.
Track Record: Poche blew out his elbow as a sophomore at Arkansas, decided to transfer while he rehabbed and then became Dallas Baptist's ace as a redshirt junior. His lack of velocity (he sat 85-89 mph) meant he lasted until the 14th round despite a solid record of college success. After a dominating 2017 season, Poche was announced on May 1, 2018 as a player to be named in the three-team deal that sent Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona and Brandon Drury to New York. Scouting Report: Poche still fails to light up radar guns, but that hasn't prevented him from being the most dominating reliever in the minors the past two seasons. Poche's 0.82 ERA last year was easily the best in full season baseball for anyone with 50 or more innings and he struck out more than half of the batters he faced in June. Poche's dominance comes from a stealth fastball that generally sits 90-92 mph but generates swings and misses like it's 102 mph. Poche's delivery is short in the back and he gets excellent extension. The pitch plays much better than its velocity or even its spin rate would indicate. Some scouts grade Poche's heater as an above-average pitch because it plays up. Others slap a plus grade on it because of how hitters struggle with it. He did wear down a little as the season wore on and he has no above-average second pitch--his curveball is average but he can manipulate its shape. Poche has average control. The Future: What you see isn't what you get with Poche, but it's about time to see if his invisi-ball will play as well in the majors.
Track Record: When the Brewers drafted Banda in 2012, he was a projectable lefty with a fringe-average fastball. He's transformed himself into a power pitcher. He was sent to the Rays in Feb. 2018 in the three-team deal that sent Steven Souza Jr. to the D-backs. He made three starts with the Rays in May before going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Scouting Report: Banda is a fast worker with a high-tempo delivery that sometimes can lead to him getting a little out of sync. He attacks hitters with a 93-96 mph four-seam plus fastball with enough giddyup and life to generate swings and misses up in the zone. He relies heavily on the fastball, but his high-80s changeup has potential to be an average pitch as well thanks to solid deception and occasional late sink. Banda will mix in a fringy slurvy 81-84 mph slider primarily against lefthanded hitters. At times in the minors it's shown some bite, but he's rarely shown the confidence in it in the majors. He also has toyed with a slower get-over curveball. Banda is generally around the zone with fringe-average control. The Future: Banda's surgery will likely sideline him until 2020, but if he can make a full recovery, he has the kind of quality fastball that's a perfect foundation of a mid-rotation starter or a setup man. He'll be working on rehabbing his injury throughout 2019.
Track Record: After an excellent sophomore season that earned All-America honors, Walls slumped as a junior. After he was drafted by the Rays, Walls finished his Florida State career with a flourish, setting a school record by reaching base safely in 14 consecutive plate appearances. Scouting Report: What impresses scouts about Walls is he's a well-rounded athlete with no real plus tool, but a lot of 50s on his scouting report. He's a reliable defender who steadily makes the routine play, although he lacks plus range. He's an average defender at short who should be fine at second base, even though he has only played shortstop as a pro. He can flash an above-average arm. Walls is an above-average hitter with below-average power. He is an above-average runner who stole 31 bases in 2018. The Future: Walls profiles as a second-division shortstop or more likely as the kind of versatile, multi-position semi-regular the Rays love to develop. He heads to high Class A Charlotte knowing Wander Franco will soon be nipping at his heels.
Track Record: Fox signed with the Giants for $6 million out of the Bahamas, but looked overmatched in 2016 in Augusta. The Rays believed he was better than he showed in his pro debut and acquired him in the Matt Moore trade. The Rays have slowed his development pace and he responded with a promising season. He finished fifth in Florida State League with a .371 on-base percentage. Scouting Report: Fox is one of the best athletes the Rays have with quick-twitch athleticism to go with plus-plus speed. He's got work to do on improving his reliability defensively, and he sometimes sits back on balls he should attack, but he has the tools to be an above-average defender at shortstop with an above-average arm. Fox has developed his strike-zone awareness and has a contact-oriented approach. He's better from the right side, but has started to pull the ball more regularly as a lefthanded hitter. Fox projects as an average hitter with well-below-average power, which means his glove is going to have to be excellent. The Future: Fox's lack of power will likely limit him to being a useful big league backup as a switch-hitting shortstop with contact skills and a solid glove at shortstop and second base. But he could also prove to be a second-division regular who bats at the bottom of the lineup.
Track Record: When the Owls needed a fill-in catcher in 2016, Frank volunteered even though he hadn't played the position since he was a little kid. He also handled a move to third base and left field with USA Baseball's College National Team with no issues. But his main position has been shortstop. Scouting Report: Frank gets the most out of a well-rounded set of average tools. At the plate, Frank doesn't try to do too much, as his patience and strike zone awareness pay off in a contact-oriented approach. He led the New York-Penn League in on-base percentage in his debut. His knack for putting barrel on ball earns future above-average hit grades from scouts. Frank has fringe-average power potential. Defensively, he's reliable but a little limited at shortstop by his average range and average arm. He profiles better at second or third. He's a fringe-average runner. The Future: Frank fits the team's profile of drafting productive college middle infielders who can hit. The Rays have already worked on having him play everywhere around the infield, which will become more important in 2019 as he jumps to full season ball. He'll have to compete for time at shortstop with either Taylor Walls or Wander Franco.
Track Record: McCarthy was an extremely productive hitter at Virginia, but he fell in the 2015 draft because of a back injury that ruined his junior season. As a pro, he's shown the same on-base ability and feel for hitting, but he's also continued to battle back problems. He missed nearly three months with a back injury and then saw his Arizona Fall League season end early because of a broken hand. Scouting Report: McCarthy is an average hitter, but he posts excellent on-base percentages because of his ability to control the strike zone and draw walks. McCarthy's bat speed is only average, but he works counts well. There's more concern about his power potential. McCarthy has never hit 10 home runs in a pro season, but the hope is with big league baseball he can find 12-15 home runs if he gets 500 big league at-bats. His back injuries have cost him some speed--he's now a below-average runner--and have limited his defense. He takes excellent routes, but he's range-limited by his footspeed. He's also played first base. The Future: The Rays added McCarthy to their 40-man roster in November. His long history of back injuries is a significant concern, but he's been a productive hitter capable of posting .350-plus on-base percentages with sporadic power. He's ready for a callup whenever the Rays need a useful corner bat.
Track Record: The Rays loved Franklin's projectability and ceiling when they picked him in the 2016 draft. They put him on their typical development path as he spent his first full season in short-season ball. He was putting together a solid season in the Midwest League when he instead became another statistic in a rough year for Rays pitchers. Franklin blew out his elbow in mid-July. Scouting Report: Before Franklin went down, he was showing all the makings of a solid back-of-the-rotation starter with an excellent pitcher's frame and three solid-average pitches. His 92-94 mph fastball, 11-to-5 curveball and changeup all generally sit around average, although he'd flash a plus curveball a few times in most outings and at his best his changeup will flash above-average too. His smooth delivery should allow him to eventually improve his below-average control into average control going forward. The Future: Franklin's Tommy John surgery will likely sideline him for all of 2019. When he gets back on the mound in games that count in 2020, he could jump directly to high Class A.
Track Record: Mercado, who was known as Michael Mercado when drafted but has since asked to be called David, was one of Stanford's top signees in its 2017 recruiting class. The Rays, however, picked him 40th overall and paid him which made for an easier decision to go pro. Scouting Report: Mercado has yet to grow into his 6-foot-4 frame and his arm can be a little late catching up to his lower half. But he has solid present stuff with a 91-94 mph fastball that shows solid sink. Mercado doesn't have much life when he leaves the fastball up. Mercado's curveball gets slurvy and slow at times, but he'll tighten it up into a sharper 77-78 mph pitch that dives across the strike zone with 2-to-8 movement. His low-80s changeup shows promise to be an above-average pitch although he lacks consistency. His hard cutter plays well off the fastball and could develop into an above-average pitch. The Future: Mercado is nowhere close to being a finished product, but the Rays slow-and-steady development plan for pitchers will avoid throwing him too far over his head. The hope is that he can gain weight and strength that will pay off in firmer stuff. He already shows average control.
Track Record: St. Mary's moved Strotman to the starting rotation and saw him blow up as a prospect thanks to an excellent 14-strikeout start against Santa Clara right before the draft. The Rays have continued to develop him as a starter, a transition that was going well until Strotman had to leave a mid-May start with an elbow injury. He became yet another Rays pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery. Scouting Report: Before he went down with his elbow injury, Strotman was mixing together four solid-average pitches. His 93-95 mph fastball and hard slider are the two pitches that have the best chance to be above-average, but Strotman's success has come from mixing up his pitch selection. He also throws a potentially average changeup and curve. The former reliever now projects to have average control. The Future: The timing of Strotman's surgery would put his recovery timetable right on track to have him ready to go as the 2019 minor league season ends. That makes it likely that instead he'll get two full offseasons of recovery time before he returns to the mound in 2020.
Track Record: It's fair to wonder if De Leon will ever return to the form he showed in 2015 and 2016 when he was one of the best starting pitching prospects in baseball. The Rays have never really seen that version of De Leon since he was acquired in 2017 for Logan Forsythe. He missed time with a flexor strain and a lat strain in 2017 and missed all of 2018 because of Tommy John surgery in March. Scouting Report: The Rays have to hope that De Leon's absolute lack of stuff in 2017 was a precursor of the elbow injury that wiped out his 2018 season. With the Dodgers, De Leon had a 90-94 mph above-average fastball with late life, a plus changeup and an average slider. With the Rays, he was sometimes trying to survive without even one average pitch as his fastball backed up to 86-89 mph. The Future: The Rays decided to keep De Leon on the 40-man roster, which is an indication that they believe there's still a chance he can be a big league starter. De Leon's timetable should have him back on the mound pitching in games by midseason.
Track Record: A supplemental first-round pick of the Marlins out of high school, Krook didn't sign after the Marlins lowered their offer because they worried about the results of his physical He did end up blowing out his elbow at Oregon and struggled with his control when he returned. Those control troubles have carried over to pro ball, but the Rays took a chance on his potential and acquired him in the Evan Longoria trade. They almost immediately moved him to the bullpen. Scouting Report: It's highly possible that Krook will never put it all together, but scouts and coaches rave about his fastball movement because his sinker has movement that draws comparisons to Zach Britton. Now Britton threw his sinker at 95-96 at his best, while Krook's fastball sits anywhere from 90-96, so the comparisons aren't perfect, but it's a bat misser. Krook's slider has also shown plus potential, but it's his sinker that is the key to future success. At its best, his changeup is an above-average pitch too. Krook's delivery is very long in the back and he spikes too many pitches in the dirt. If Krook can throw strikes consistently, he has closer-caliber stuff. He misses enough bats that if he could develop just fringe-average control he could be effective, but right now his control is closer to the bottom of the scale. The Future: Krook has long tantalized with potential. He's still only 24 and he's ready for Triple-A, so there's still time for him to improve his control enough to be a useful setup man.
Track Record: Signed for $275,000, Linares made an outstanding initial impression by dominating the Dominican Summer League in 2015 in his pro debut, going 0-3, 1.11 with 59 strikeouts and only 44 baserunners allowed in 48.2 innings. After a hiccup in 2016, he’s been effective in each of the past two seasons as well. He’s demonstrated an ability to pitch as he’s getting outs through location and deception more than stuff at this point. Scouting Report: The hope is that Linares will fill out his 6-foot-2 frame and added weight and strength will give him an above-average fastball. It hasn’t happened yet and right now, Linares lacks an above-average pitch, much less a plus offering. But he can get outs right now with a 90-92 mph average fastball and a fringe-average slurvy breaking ball that slides back and forth from slider to curveball. He does manipulate the break on it and it’s maddening for lefties. His changeup is a below-average pitch, but he does continue to use it and try to develop it. Linares’ effectiveness right now revolves around moving his fastball around the zone with advanced command and control for his age. But if he adds 3-4 mph more, which is possible if he adds weight, everything will play up. Linares delivery is clean and he has a fast arm. The Future: Linares knows how to pitch, but he’s still all about projection. If he gets stronger, he could be a solid No. 4 starter, but he has a ways to go to get there. He’s ready for high Class A Charlotte.