The Tampa Bay Rays are doing a great job when it comes to developing young players. Apparently, every year the team changes prospects that are not highly rated (at least in the public sphere) into some of the biggest household names in the organization.
This year was no different as we saw minor leagues like Taj Bradley, Curtis Mead and Jonathan Aranda of players appearing just on the fringes of Rays prospect lists go to the top 100 MLB prospect candidates.
Since our own DRaysBay Community Outlook List is now up to 20 players, I decided to highlight three prospects who are not currently ranked within that series, but who do have the breakout potential to climb the list by the end of 2022. These three players are not arranged inside. the current MLB Pipeline Rays top 20 or.
Up to the list!
RHP Jayden Murray
Murray was a late rounder from Dixie State University for the Rays in the 2019 draft. He has done nothing but act since joining the Rays organization, but has yet to receive much love from public prospects. In 2021, Murray threw a pristine 2.16 ERA over 96 total overs in high-A and AA.
His biggest strength was his ability to combat the attack zone, and his excellent step rate of 4.7% in 2021 is proof of that. He was also able to knock out batsmen at a 26.4% clip indicating that he is not just a hit thrower with overwhelming stuff.
The speed ball, conversion and sliding bar are his primary offerings and there is a lot to like from each of them. Most reports state that his speed ball was sitting in the low to mid 90s and was even up to 97 mph. His fast ball comes in from a relatively low release point and gets a ton of arm-side running, which is visible in this track:
Murray’s best secondary pitch is its slider bar, which sits in the low 80s and has large sweeping motions that allow the pitch to generate flavors at a high level. FanGraphs lead prospect Eric Longenhagen praised Murray for his ability to spin a breakaway ball. in his last headline of him. The change is also a usable pitch for the right hand and reflects its fast ball well in that it has similar plus arm-side movement.
The combination of Murray’s diverse pitch mix, excellent command and excellent performance is rare to see in small league throwers. For these reasons, I believe he is a much more interesting prospect than he gets credit for and has a chance to be a fullback in the big leagues.
It is possible that Murray’s development path may look similar to what we saw at Rays outlook Tommy Romero over the past year. Romero jumped from a prospect that was not high at the beginning of 2021 to a place on the Rays 40-man list after his strong performance in the upper levels of the minors. Murray will have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps in 2022.
In addition, the Rays will have to make a decision on Murray at the end of this year as he will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December 2022. That means Tampa Bay will either have to add him to the 40-man list. or run the risk of losing him by the draft to another team. A trade is another potential option for the Rays, and is something they have been dealing with recently Joe Ryan and Tobias Myers, two small league pitchers who were in Murray’s position last year.
LHP Antonio Jimenez
Jimenez, listed at just 5’11 ”and 145 pounds, is a small left with an electric arm. He threw well in rookie ball (2.90 ERA, 3.38 FIP) during his first full season at the Rays organization in 2019. His 2021 season was just as impressive as he was after a 2.62 ERA and a 3.49 FIP over 48 overs in the Florida complex threw league and low-A. Its 33% take-out rate coupled with a walking rate of 7.2% is also nothing to mock.
Despite its small frame, Jimenez slyly has good speed (91-95 mph range) with its heater and also flashes a slider with plus sweep motion as its primary protrusion. He also mixes in a change that is for the time being behind his other two pitches, but is still useful. On top of his mix of three fields, Jimenez’s excellent athleticism and advanced sense of throwing is probably the most out when he looks at the 20-year-old. If you want to see it all in action, here’s a highlight role from its 2021 season:
In those tracks you can see just how much that instant ball jumps on butchers and how its slider moves away from the barrels. It’s an intriguing package for the young left and its 2021 results prove it. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen described Jimenez as having “beginner’s command already in place” after Jimenez turned a 10 strike-out, zero-run performance during a 5-innings start in August.
Because of his deep repertoire and above-average command, Jimenez has a lot of unique skills for a pitcher of his age. These tools give him the ability to flip setups multiple times, which helps his overall chances of making it to the program as a beginner. Although he is still far from the big leagues, I believe he has a way of playing in some sort of multi-turn role in MLB if he continues this performance.
Jimenez is similar to Jayden Murray in that they are both eligible for the Rule 5 draft at the end of the year, with the difference that Jimenez has not yet completed a year in full-season ball.
Given that timeline, we can see that Tampa Bay is just as or even more aggressive and that Jimenez is starting 2022 in high-A despite his young age. I am excited to see what lies ahead for him and his development as he moves on the ladder in this farm system.
SP Sandy Gaston
If you follow Rays’ international signings closely, Sandy Gaston is probably not a name you’re seeing for the first time.
The Rays signed Gaston to a high of $ 2.61 million in 2018, which was the 6th highest bonus given to any international outlook that year. In the last 10 years, Wander Franco ($ 3.83 million), Carlos Colmenarez ($ 3.0 million) and Adrian Rondon ($ 2.95 million) are the only Rays amateur international contracts to receive a higher bonus than Sandy.
Gaston’s arsenal is one of the hardest in minor baseball. He features a fast ball that regularly touches triple digits, a low-90s change with sharp downward movement, and a firm slider that also sits in the low-90s. His elite stuff has enabled him to hit 33.2% of the hits he has encountered over his 14 outings in 2021. %).
Those step rates are certainly worrying, but Gaston seems to be making steady progress through his time in the organization.
The Rays cleaned up his mechanics and significantly shortened his arm action since becoming an amateur. You can see this difference if you compare his unpolished mechanics of 2018 (when he was just 16 years old) to one of his best starts in 2021 which had 100 mph speed balls and 93 mph speeds:
Gaston started regular matches as soon as he was promoted to low-A in August and was able to throw four innings or more in each start on the level. I believe the Rays will continue to use him as a beginner moving forward as she is upside down in that role massive if he can hit more consistently.
The Rays have a recent history of targeting throwers with big goods and shaky orders with hopes of improving on the latter. Tyler Glasnow, Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz are all recent examples of beginners with big things who have seen their command improve with time in the Rays organization. Gaston has just turned 20 and obviously has a long way to go before he gets any closer to that level, but he represents the exact type of arm that flourished in this system.
In 2022, Sandy will try to build on his first full season and projects to start the season as a beginner in the low levels of the minors with the potential to cement himself in the upper tier of Rays prospects.
Another positive point for Gaston is that he has some time to improve on his strike-throwing issues, as he will not be eligible for Rule-5 until 2023. If he is able to land his step-up pace in the 10-12% range (which is still below average but much more manageable) next year, he will immediately become a very notable arm in this Rays system.