Seven players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Tampa Bay Rays prospects are on the Bowling Green Hot Rods’ Opening Day roster, including two-way player Brendan McKay.
McKay, the fourth-overall draft pick last year, is a left-handed pitcher and first baseman, and is considered a legitimate prospect at both positions. I recently wrote at length about him here, so I won’t write much about him in this post other than to say he should be one of the most exciting players to watch in the Midwest League this season, even if just because it’s rare to see a minor-leaguer attempting the two-way feat. Baseball America has him ranked as the third-best prospect in the Rays farm system.
RHP Austin Franklin (No. 10) has a projected ceiling of mid-rotation starter and is considered “one of the Rays’ more underrated young pitchers with a high ceiling,” according to Baseball America. BA says his best pitch is a curveball with a pronounced drop, and he has a changeup with the potential to be above-average, to go with his low-90s fastball. He pitched in the short-season New York-Penn League last season, going 4-2 with a 2.21 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 31 walks in 69.1 innings/13 starts.
Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez (No. 12) is a 20-year-old former infielder from Colombia. He was considered one of the Appalachian League’s best prospects last season, when he batted .332 (best in the Rays system) with five home runs, 22 doubles (second-most in the Appy League) and 40 RBI in 54 games with the Princeton Rays. His slugging percentage, fifth-best in the league, was an impressive .507. Baseball America says he is aggressive with above-average power potential, has plus-plus arm strength, and does a solid job of blocking balls in the dirt.
RHP Tobias Myers (No. 15), a 19-year-old who was drafted in the sixth round in 2016, was obtained from the Baltimore Orioles in a deadline trade last year. Although he changed teams, he spent the entire season in the New York-Penn League, where he went 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA, 73 strikeouts and 10 walks in 56 innings/12 starts.
RHP Drew Strotman (No. 19), a fourth-round draft pick last year, looked good in his pro debut. He posted a 1.78 ERA with 42 strikeouts and nine walks in 50.2 innings (11 games/seven starts) in the New York-Penn League. He is projected as a setup man in the majors, but is still being used as a starter. In fact, he is slated to start the season opener for the Hot Rods.
Switch-hitting second baseman Vidal Brujan (No. 20), a 20-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, “is developing into the quintessential leadoff man,” says Baseball America, noting he led the New York-Penn League last year in hits, runs and total bases, and was fifth in steals. He batted .285 with three home runs, five triples, 15 doubles, 20 RBI, 34 walks and 16 stolen bases in 67 games. BA ranked him as the fifth-best prospect in the NYPL last year.
LHP Resly Linares (No. 24), a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, showed last year why the Rays like him, posting a 2.35 ERA with 60 strikeouts, 23 walks, a 0.96 WHIP and opponents’ average of .171 in 61.1 innings in the New York-Penn League. He looks to build upon that success in the Midwest League this year.
You can see the complete Hot Rods roster here.
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