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Tampa Bay Rays Farm Report

by Glenn Kaplan
by Glenn Kaplan

The Tampa Bay Rays have missed the playoffs for the past four seasons and they are most likely to make it five in a row, unless they go on a hot streak. Tampa Bay's record so far in 2018 is 53-52. They are 19 games back of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League. The Rays are 8.5 games back of the Seattle Mariners for the second wild card spot in the American League.

Tampa Bay has done very well drafting lately and it could be in a year or two that they make it back to the postseason. The Tampa Bay Rays haven't been there since 2013 as a wild card team. They won the Wild Card Game against the Cleveland Indians, but Tampa Bay was defeated in four games against the Boston Red Sox. Who are some of the key prospects in the Rays system to get them back to the playoffs in the near future?

The third ranked prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system is left-handed pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Louisville. McKay could soon be the second player in the MLB to be a consistent pitcher and everyday player. The only other guy that does that in the majors right now is Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. In all three seasons at Louisville, he won the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the year Award. Brendan McKay is currently playing for High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs. In 42 games in the minors this season, he has a .214 batting average with four home runs and 32 RBI's. McKay's on-base percentage is .390. He is 22 years old and is projected to reach the majors in 2019. Brendan McKay could be a very good pitcher and hitter at the big league level.

The fourth ranked prospect in the Rays farm system is outfielder Jesus Sanchez. He is very fast and you would think with his speed he could possibly be a future lead off hitter, but Sanchez's ability to hit for contact and get on base might put him in the two or three spot in the lineup. He is 20 years old and is projected to reach the majors in 2019. Jesus Sanchez is currently playing in High-A. His batting average is .306 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI's, along with six stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .335.

The fifth ranked prospect in Tampa Bay's farm system is shortstop Wander Franco. He is just 17 years old and is a highly rated international prospect. Franco is already rated as one of the top 50 MLB prospects, according to MLB.com. He has the potential to be a superstar at the major league level one day. The Rays have Willy Adames as the future shortstop for now, but Adames might be moved to second base in the near future. Wander Franco isn't projected to reach the major leagues until 2022. He is currently playing in rookie ball for the Princeton Rays. His batting average is .359 with six home runs and 30 RBI's, along with three stolen bases. Franco's on-base percentage is .407.

The seventh ranked prospect in their farm system is catcher Ronaldo Hernandez. At 20 years old, he is already showing power in the minor leagues and if Hernandez continues to hit the cover off the ball, he could quickly progress through the minor leagues. Ronaldo Hernandez could also be the future starting catcher of this team and he is also very good defensively. The current catchers on the Tampa Bay Rays roster is Michael Perez and Jesus Sucre. Hernandez isn't projected to reach the majors until 2021 and he has a higher ceiling than both of them. Hernandez is currently playing for Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. His batting average is .297 with 16 home runs and 64 RBI's, along with seven stolen bases. Ronaldo Hernandez's on-base percentage is .345.

The ninth ranked prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system is shortstop Lucius Fox. The Rays are loaded at shortstop in their farm system. Fox could provide depth for Tampa Bay in the near future or they could use him for trade bait, if they need anything. He has the tools to be an everyday player, but Fox doesn't hit for a lot of power. He is currently playing in High-A for the Charlotte Stone Crabs and is projected to reach the majors in 2019. His batting average is .282 with two home runs and 29 RBI's, along with 22 stolen bases. Lucius Fox's on-base percentage is .364.

The 10th ranked prospect in the Rays farm system is second baseman/outfielder Brandon Lowe. He is currently playing in Triple-A for the Durham Bulls. Lowe hits for average, contact, and power. He could be a very good utility player in the MLB. Lowe is projected to reach the majors in 2019. He is only 24 years old. Brandon Lowe's batting average is .299 with 22 home runs and 76 RBI's, along with eight stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .394.

The 21st ranked prospect in Tampa Bay's farm system is left-handed pitcher Resly Linares. He has the potential to be a fourth or fifth starter, but the odds are Linares will most likely end up in the bullpen. He has a very good fastball and good breaking pitches, but Linares's breaking pitches have a lot of upside. He is currently playing for Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. His record is 3-3 with a 4.38 ERA. In 51.1 innings pitched, Resly Linares has given up 46 hits and 31 runs. He has walked 18 batters and has struck out 61. Linares isn't projected to reach the majors until 2020.

The 23rd ranked prospect in their farm system is right-handed pitcher Michael Mercado. He was a second-round pick in 2017 and Mercado was selected 40th overall. Mercado is just 19 years old and he has the potential to be a starting pitcher at the MLB level. Mercado isn't projected to reach the majors until 2021. The Tampa Bay Rays should take there time with him and not rush him. He is currently playing for short season-A Hudson Valley Renegades. Michael Mercado's record is 1-0 with a 4.78 ERA. He has pitched in 32 innings and has given up 32 hits and 21 runs. Mercado has walked five batters and has struck out 24. His fastball reaches the low 90's and it could reach 98-99 mph. He also has two very good complementary pitches.

For more information on these prospects or other prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, visit MLB.com and click on the players tab and top prospects.

This article was originally published on @gk18