Johnny Field: Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Player Of The Year?
By Drew Jenkins
We have heard plenty about all of the top prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Guys like Taylor Guerrieri, Ryne Stanek, Hak-Ju Lee, and many, many more have all been talked about as guys that will be parts of the Rays’ long-term plans However arguably the best player in the minor league system this whole year is someone who rarely gets talked about: outfielder Johnny Field.
Field, 22, was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 MLB draft from the University of Arizona. His first go-around at professional baseball in 2013 was nothing spectacular, as he hit .252/.299/.370. But this year, Field has taken his game to the next level. He started out the year hitting .290/.367/.461 with a 137 wRC+ in 82 games at Low-A Bowling Green. While those numbers were great, however, you couldn’t get too excited about them. After all, Field came from a storied college program and was above the average age in the league.
Field was then promoted to High-A Charlotte, where he has quickly put his doubters to rest. His bat actually took a step forward upon his promotion, as he hit .320/.396/.547 and put up a 169 wRC+ in 40 games. With that great performance, he raised his overall line on the year to an outstanding .300/.376/.488. Currently he leads the entire organization in doubles (36) and OPS (.864), is 2nd in slugging (.488) and triples (8), and is 5th is stolen bases (23). Best of all is that he has done all of that while playing decent defense in center. Field has easily been one of, if not THE, best hitter in the entire Rays organization this season. That is an outstanding feat for someone who was seen as a fringe-prospect entering the season.
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Going forward, Field’s biggest challenge is going to be continuing to hit as he moves up the ladder. He still has to prove that his great stats were not at least partly a product of playing against similar competition levels that he saw in college, though he has started to do that after performing so well in High-A. His power this year might be too good to be true, but in the future he could still hit for a tick above-average power while providing great contact abilities.
Defensively he still has to show that he can stick in center field, especially after he played second base for nearly all of his college career. Since his speed is only average in center, outstanding instincts and hustle will have to continue to carry him moving forward. Something in Field’s corner, though, is his versatility. With him having experience in the infield, you have to wonder if the Rays could try to turn him into a super-utility player in the future.
All-in-all, you can see Johnny Field’s career following a similar path as New York Yankees prospect Rob Refsnyder. Also a 5th round pick out of the University of Arizona, Refsnyder is finally being regarded as a legitimate prospect after he has continued to hit as he has moved through the upper minors. He now seems poised to make a big league impact next season, and he could rank on the back-end of top 100 prospect lists this offseason. If Field can do just that, the Rays would certainly be pleased. He still has to prove that his great year wasn’t a product of simply playing in the lower minors, but so far Johnny Field has only impressed and has piqued everyone’s attention as he enters his third pro season.