Who will close out the first third of our list?

Jose De Leon finally ended our string of consecutive position players to reach the list. It looks like we could be going right back to the bats again, but anything can happen since there wasn’t a clear runner-up behind De Leon in the previous vote.

SS Lucius Fox (S/R, 6’1 175, 20 in 2018)

2017 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte: 476 PA, .266/.350/.341, 30-of-43 SB, 22 XBH, 9.5 BB%, 23.7 K%

After a rough pro debut with the Giants in 2016, Fox rebounded in his Rays organization debut, even earning a spot in the Futures Game. He batted .278 with a .361 on-base percentage with Bowling Green before a promotion to Charlotte, where he struggled as a 19 year old. He doesn’t have much power potential, so he’ll have to refine his approach and make more contact to better use his plus-plus speed, as he did with the Hot Rods. He has the physical tools necessary to stay at shortstop.

SS Wander Franco (S/R, 5’10 170, 17 in 2018)

No 2017 statistics

The Rays have not been afraid to spend big in the international market, landing players like pitchers Jose Castillo and Jose Mujica, infielder Adrian Rondon, and also trading for Lucius Fox, another big-bonus player. Franco was considered to be the top prospect of the 2017-18 signing period. He has the bat speed to offer some power potential, and his plate discipline and ability to make contact are promising. He has the athleticism to play a middle-infield position.

RHP Austin Franklin (6’3 215, 20 in 2018)

2017 statistics with short-season Hudson Valley: 69 13 IP, 2.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10.9 BB%, 25.0 K%

The Rays took a number of pitchers on the second day of the 2016 draft, and Franklin quickly emerged as a keeper. In his first full season, he was fourth in the New York-Penn League in ERA and strikeout rate. He has an above-average fastball and promising breaking ball, and his changeup is improving. However, he has to throw more strikes, which is not an uncommon issue with young pitchers. He’s already pretty big and should have the durability to throw a lot of innings.

C Ronaldo Hernandez (R/R, 6’1 185, 20 in 2018)

2017 statistics with rookie-level Princeton: 246 PA, .332/.382/.507, 5 HR, 28 XBH, 6.5 BB%, 15.9 K%

Hernandez is the latest in a long line of promising young catchers in the Rays’ organization. He was 20th in the Appalachian League in OPS, but only three players in front of him were also under 20 years old. He has impressive power potential, and despite still being such a young player, he’s already showing it in games with all the doubles he hit. He makes good contact with a nice plate approach. He has a good arm and the ability to stay behind the plate.

2B Brandon Lowe (L/R, 6’0 185, 23 in 2018)

2017 statistics with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery: 468 PA, .298/.375/.493, 11 HR, 54 XBH, 10.5 BB%, 19.4 K%

Lowe was a third-round pick in 2015, but his professional debut was delayed until 2016 due to an injury he sustained at Maryland. He was OK in 2016, but he really broke out in 2017. He was fourth among primary second basemen with 400 plate appearances with a .867 OPS, according to the FanGraphs leaderboard. He makes good contact with a solid approach, and he has nice pop for a second baseman with gap-to-gap power. He can hold his own at the position in the field.

CF Joshua Lowe (L/R, 6’4 205, 20 in 2018)

2017 statistics with Class-A Bowling Green: 507 PA, .268/.326/.386, 8 HR, 36 XBH, 22-of-30 SB, 8.3 BB%, 28.4 K%

Like his professional debut, Lowe got off to a slow start in 2017, and while he recovered, he started in such a deep hole his numbers might still seem underwhelming. After the first two months, he batted .292 with a .758 OPS. He has some good power potential, but he’ll have to cut down on his strikeouts and make more consistent contact. Despite his size, his transition to center field was smooth, and his arm is good enough to play right field if he has to.

1B/OF Joe McCarthy (L/L, 6’3 225, 24 in 2018)

2017 statistics with Double-A Montgomery: 553 PA, .284/.409/.434, 7 HR, 46 XBH, 20-of-25 SB, 16.3 BB%, 17.0 K%

In 2016, between Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte, McCarthy batted .285 with a .398 on-base percentage and .430 slugging percentage, very similar to his 2017 statistics with the Biscuits. The Red Storm has the athleticism to play well in the corner outfield positions, although he split his time pretty evenly between the outfield and first base in 2017. He makes good contact with the best plate approach in the organization. If he has any more power, now would be the time to showcase it.

RHP Michael Mercado (6’4 160, 19 in 2018)

2017 statistics with the Gulf Coast League Rays: 21 13 IP, 1.69 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.7 BB%, 16.3 K%

Mercado, the 40th overall pick in last June’s draft, was the second-highest Rays pick to sign after they couldn’t reach an agreement with Oregon State’s Drew Rasmussen, who ended up having Tommy John surgery for a second time. It will take some time for him to get stronger, which will improve his fastball velocity. What he offers now is nonetheless impressive. He throws strikes, and his best pitch is a potential plus curveball.

RHP Jaime Schultz (5’10 200, 27 in 2018)

2017 statistics with Triple-A Durham: 11 23 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.0 BB%, 42.0 K%

Schultz almost certainly would’ve made his big league debut in 2017 had a persistent groin injury not sidelined him for much of the season. It was not the first groin injury of his career. In his limited work with Durham, he pitched out of the bullpen for the first time, and he was electric, striking out more than two batters out of every five he faced. If he throws strikes with his mid-90s fastball and plus breaking ball, he can be a dominant reliever.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com