Rays Top 50 Prospects includes a tremendous number of high-quality prospects. We at RCG are bringing you an in-depth look at those we consider to be the Top 50.
While gathering as much information as possible from various sources, we’re going to put it all together for your enjoyment and raise the bar on what you expect from a prospect knowledgable site. Stay tuned, check-in often, and please let us know how we’re doing.
Being such a lengthy process, some encouragement will go a very long way. We hope you’ll enjoy reading this series as much as we enjoy putting it together. If anything, all of us will know that much more about the quality of the Rays system.
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We’ll go through this exercise in an odd way, to make things more interesting. The first one to be looked at will be #40, then #30, then #20, and #10. Then we’ll go through 41, 31, 21, and 11. We’ll go through each ranking until we are all done 11-50, all aside from the Top 10. Then we’ll have a regular countdown for the top 10.
The rankings will be based on all aspects of each prospect, but will focus first on how likely the player is to make an impact in MLB, and ceiling next. Mikie Mahtook and Enny Romero have been graduated to the majors and will not be included in these rankings.
Once completed, the Top 50 will be updated mid-season with an explanation to why they’re moving up or down, and the entire process will be repeated each season.
The next player to be examined in detail is …
#28: Nicholas Anthony Ciuffo, C, 20 years old
- Bats: Left Ht/Wt: 6’1″ 205 lbs
- Drafted: in the 1st round of the 2013 MLB draft, 21st overall
- Signed: for $1,972,200
- 2015 Affiliate: Hudson Valley, LoA
- Anticipated MLB Arrival: 2018+
Ciuffo’s Fielding Stats
Ciuffo’s 2015 Splits
- Follow him on Twitter: @nciuffo14
- Named South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013
- Was committed to University of South Carolina before signing with the Rays
- Won the Gold medal with Team USA at the 2011 World Youth Baseball Championships
- Only walked 1.9% of the time in 2015, his lowest so far since signing
- His strike out rate was also lowest since signing at a great 14.9%
- Hit .295/.300/.367 over the last 44 GP of the 2015 season, providing hope that the bat is coming around and showing a marked improvement
- Noted the speed of the game as a major difference between the GCL and LoA, as well as the ability of pitchers to remain in the zone
- Was ranked 7th best Rays prospect by BA in 2013, 15th in 2014, and didn’t make the top 10 in 2015. BA also ranked him as the 9th best prospect in the Appy league for 2014
- Within his draft profile, he was noted as being similar to A.J. Pierzynski
- Enjoyed his short time in Australia this winter, stating: “This is the most fun I’ve had playing baseball since I won a state championship in high school,” “Fans were right on top of us, they’re loud, they’re going crazy, they’re smack-talking the other team and all that stuff, and it just feels like a real baseball game. It’s awesome. I’ve never had as much fun playing.”
Isn’t afraid of addressing the more divisive issues, showing us in this retweet where he stands on the Pete Rose and HOF issue:
Best Tools & Abilities
- Cannon of an arm
- Raw Power
- Leadership abilities
- Grades: Hit 20/45+, Raw Power 55/55, Speed 40/35, Field 45/50+, Throws 60/60
The Rays made some significant investments in their catching depth when it spent high picks on Nick Ciuffo, Justin O’Conner, and most recently Chris Betts. At this point, it’s hard to say which of the three will come out of their careers having made the biggest impact in the majors, but there’s a lot to like about each one. In Ciuffo’s case, the defensive and leadership abilities stand out most, and if his bat continues to build on the 2nd half he had in 2015, he could surprise many detractors.
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When we look through reports on his tools, the arm comes out with the most positive reviews. His pop times are excellent, his arm is quick to make the throw, and he’s very accurate. Those skills enabled him to throw out 45% of base-steal attempts, just below the 48% he managed in 2014. Combined with good receiving skills and , he provides an above-average defensive ability.
What everyone wants to know at this point is whether or not Ciuffo will hit enough to become a full time catcher in the majors. Seeing his second half of the 2015 season was the first time it showed glimpses of coming around. With the raw power Ciuffo has, making more consistent contact would go a long way to his being viewed as a full-time candidate.
At only 20 years old in LoA, Ciuffo was able to get the experience he needed to progress as much as possible. Assuming he makes the jump to HiA in 2016 and then AA in 2017, he’ll still be ahead of where O’Conner was at the same age. We expect that the Rays will allow Ciuffo all of the time he needs to progress as a result.
Should the contact rate continue to rise as it did in 2015, we expect Ciuffo’s ISO and wOBA to rise substantially. Expectations should be that he’ll manage to improve on his .258/.269/.326 line and may finish the year in AA if it’s enough of an improvement in anticipation of a move there for all of 2017.
The Rays believe in Ciuffo’s skills, and so do we. At a minimum, he should be able to make it to The Show and split time with another catcher. The progress he makes in 2016 may outline how high Ciuffo’s ceiling may be. As his second full-time season, expectations are higher than ever.
While we’ve ranked Ciuffo further back than he’s been since being drafted by the Rays, it’s not a knock on what his ceiling is and he could move up substantially in 2016. A natural leader, his intangibles and defensive abilities give us a higher floor than usual, but it’s his bat that will determine his ceiling. We wish him the best this season.