Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AL EastAmerican LeagueAnalysisMLBTampa Bay Rays

Rays Top Prospects: 21-30

This is part three of a three part series. For prospects 1-10, click here. For prospects 11-20, click here.

21. Daiveyon Whittle (RHP)

Daiveyon (DAY-vee-on) Whittle isn’t yet recognized by major prospect graders because of his short time in pro ball despite his undeniably phenomenal results. Whittle has a fastball, slider, and splitter in his arsenal. In Short Season A ball, he posted a 0.95 ERA, 2.41 FIP, and 2.92 xFIP while being above average in just about every category. His 21.7 K% may be a little underwhelming, but that’s only before seeing his 60.6% ground ball rate. By keeping the ball on the ground, he also limits his fly balls and consequently didn’t allow a single home run last season. Whittle has good control too, walking only 5.6% of batters. I suggest learning to pronounce Daiveyon Whittle now, because he will be talked about a lot once he reaches the upper minors.

22. Seth Johnson (RHP)

With a fastball that reaches 98 mph, it might be hard to remember that Johnson has only been a pitcher since his sophomore year of college (drafted in 2019). The Rays will have to be patient in his development as he improves his mechanics and his consistency. Despite his inexperience, the first rounder has impressive stuff that can be harnessed by the Rays’ player development staff. His electric fastball is complemented by an above average slider with a developing curve and changeup. Johnson posted an 11 K/9 in his sophomore year, his first experience on the mound. His natural pitching ability is undeniable, but, unsurprisingly, his delivery still needs work. His control is improving but still isn’t great yet. From college to the minors, his BB/9 lowered from 4.1 to 1.9. Seth Johnson is a name to watch in the next few seasons—did the Rays hit on their first round risk?

23. Riley O’Brien (RHP)

O’Brien has the stuff required to be an effective reliever right now. He has a fastball that reaches 97 with an above average curveball. To be better as a starter, which he’s being used as, a more expanded arsenal would certainly help. 

In the minors up to double-A, O’Brien has always had an ERA and FIP below 4.00, but his ERA is in the low 2.00s most of the time. What can be improved on is his walk rate, which is near 10%, which is less forgivable for a pitcher whose strikeout rate is merely average. O’Brien has a quality two pitch mix, but he should look to add to that repertoire as he progresses in his development.

24. Drew Strotman (RHP)

By drafting Strotman, the Rays are gambling on good stuff. His WHIP is consistently over 1.20 since his college days with ERAs that don’t particularly stand out either. What does stand out is that he has an undeniably gifted arm. If the Rays can iron out his offspeed pitches to work with the mid-to-upper 90s fastball, Strotman will be a success. However, the struggles are compounded due to a Tommy John surgery. On the bright side, he has good control of his pitches, no matter how inconsistent they may be. In Short Season A ball in 2017, the ground ball pitcher had a much improved 0.75 WHIP, leading to a 1.79 ERA. Upon return, Strotman figures to continue to find consistency in each of his pitches.

25. Lucius Fox (2B/SS/CF)

Fox hasn’t reached the level of success as players like Wander Franco, Vidal Brujan, etc. to this point in his career, which is why the Rays approached the middle infielder over the offseason to have him practice in center field. His elite speed would play out there, and his arm wouldn’t be a problem. Fox has great discipline and bat-to-ball skills, but the severe lack of power greatly affects his results. His career high wRC+ is 115, which is decent. However, his wOBA has never exceeded .344 and his OPS is consistently below .700. Both stats depend on power, which is somewhat concerning how much it could affect his play. However, he tends to walk over 10% of the time and was able to steal 39 bases in 119 games last year.

26. Michael Plassmeyer (LHP)

In the Mike Zunino trade, the Mariners and Rays swapped a pair of prospects: Jake Fraley, who spent some time in the Mariners OF last year, and Plassmeyer, who still has some time to go before reaching MLB. He spent the majority of 2019 in High-A with great results. A 2.12 ERA backed by a 2.98 FIP and 3.21 xFIP should warrant a promotion to double-A to start 2020.

Plassmeyer’s results are achieved through a combination of elite pitchability, control, and stuff — a low 90s fastball, an above average slider, and a decent changeup. Since joining the Rays’ organization, his BABIP has hovered in the .270s. Nearly all pitchers have a BABIP in the .300s, so that’s excellent for Plassmeyer. He induces ground balls nearly half the time, and he only walked 4% of batters in High-A last year. Also impressive is that his WHIP has never been higher than 1.03. It’s usually great to allow only one baserunner per inning, but for that to be his worst really is amazing. With another great season in the minors, Plassmeyer could emerge as a serious candidate for the Rays rotation as early as the summer of 2021.

27. Curtis Mead (INF)

Mead was acquired on the day of this offseason’s 40-man roster deadline for LHP Christopher Sanchez, who would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if left exposed. Mead is an 18-year-old Australian, and he hit .285/.351/.462 in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) on top of slashing .309/.373/.485 in rookie ball for the Phillies last year. He only struck out 13.1% of the time in the Phillies organization. A versatile infielder is exactly what the Rays like, and they get it in Mead. He has mostly played second base; a former Ray comparison is Nick Solak, who was traded last July for Peter Fairbanks. Maybe this time, the Rays will have space on the roster when the versatile right-handed slugger comes knocking on their door.

28. Josh Fleming (LHP)

Fleming is often compared to Ryan Yarbrough among those familiar with the Rays organization. This is on the basis of pitchability — excellent command while mixing pitches well — as opposed to pitching off a power fastball. The difference, however, is that Fleming sits around the low 90s while Yarbrough lives on his 85 mph cutter. However, both do have the same arsenal: sinker, cutter, curveball, changeup.

A groundball pitcher, Fleming earned an admirable 3.31 ERA in Double-A last year with his FIP (3.29) and xFIP (3.12) not far off. He consistently gets batters to hit the ball on the ground at least 45% of the time, and it must not be hard contact, either, as his opponent BABIP hasn’t exceeded .300 in the last two years. Walks and strikeouts are both low; generally, less than 5% of hitters are given a free base, but strikeouts are only around 18%. Kevin Cash mentioned this spring that Fleming’s name came up several times when the major league team needed to reach into its pitching depth, so expect him to pitch in a Rays uniform in the near future.

29. Ruben Cardenas (OF)

Acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Indians for Christian Arroyo and Hunter Wood, Cardenas is an above average hitter so far in his young career. He suffered a sizeable dropoff in results after the trade. With the Indians in Single-A, he hit .284/.343/.475 with a 133 wRC+. At the same level — in the same league, ij fact — with the Rays, he hit only .234/.323/..378 with a 102 wRC+. The one positive from after the trade is that Cardenas improved his BB% and K% by about 3% for each. Maybe by chance, maybe by design, he appeared to be improving his perception of the strike zone. A 22-year-old with defense that doesn’t stand out, Cardenas’s clearest path to the big leagues is with his bat.

30. Caleb Sampen

After posting a 5.04 ERA for the Dodgers in his first year out of the draft, the Rays were able to acquire him for reliever Jaime Schultz. In his first full season, and his first with the Rays, the crafty right-hander blossomed. In 121 innings in Single-A in 2019, Sampen had a ground ball rate of nearly 50% with a measly .257 BABIP, resulting in a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.

Sampen has four good pitches: sinker, cutter, curveball, and changeup, the seemingly signature arsenal of a Rays pitcher who doesn’t rely on velocity. Despite having a low 90s sinker and high 80s cutter, Sampen can get up to 95 on the sinker. Of the four pitches, the changeup is the least refined, which isn’t concerning at all, considering that’s the case for most minor leaguers.

Nicholas Lobraico

High school student, former baseball player. Pitching enthusiast. Rays man in a Yankees land. Follow me on Twitter @LobraicoNick