Top of The Top: Which Rays Top Prospects Could Make The Big Leagues in 2023?
The Rays are a team loaded with young stars in the making.
From the #1 prospect in the system to the #30 prospect, the Rays have a bright future in the works beyond what is currently being sent daily out on the big-league field.
However, this season is shaping up to be a season that should give some young prospects here in the system sometime in the big leagues, and there are three prospects that fans should get excited about because they should be getting their due chance in St. Pete/Tampa Bay.
1) RHP Taj Bradley
While it may not be a surprising choice, it's truly the right decision.
Last season, Taj Bradley was lethal and proved to fans and the organization that he could be a true threat in the Rays' rotation.
Bradley enters 2023 with a lot of momentum after finishing last season with a 2.57 ERA, 141 strikeouts, and an opposing batting average of .213.
He also brought some hardware in the form of awards, winning pitcher of the year in the Southern League and being named the top prospect in the league.
The only thing that may hold Taj Bradley back from possibly being an Opening Day canadite (granite; we will see how Spring plays out) is his Triple-A numbers.
While he dominated in Montgomery, it wasn't fully smooth sailing for the young prospect, and the Rays may find that they want him to put together some more quality performances in Durham before he gets the call. But the question is not if, but when will he get the call in 2023?
2. 2B/3B Curtis Mead
Another prospect on this list who should come as no surprise to fans, Mead had arguably one of the best 2022 seasons of any Rays positional prospect.
Mead, who played with Bradley for the majority of 2022, had a fantastic hitting season, slashing .298/.376/.517 with 50 RBIs and 13 home runs.
Mead also received the honor along with Bradley, being named to the 2022 Futures Game in Los Angeles, a game that has showcased some of the best who play now in the big leagues.
Curtis Mead truly is ready to make a splash in the big leagues. While Bradley may need more playing time in Triple-A due to his rocky numbers, Mead can be someone who can contend for a spot on the Opening Day roster and provide much-needed production to the lineup.
Also, he would be a contender for Yandy Diaz's starting gig at third base, and by having Mead, it would allow for some more diversity among the infield in the case that it would allow Cash to move Diaz over to first from time to time to give Mead his playing time.
Curtis Mead is probably the most likely candidate to make the opening day roster among this group of three, but does the hype and excitement around Bradley change their direction?
3. 1B Kyle Manzardo
While Manzardo is the #4 prospect and has a lot of eyes watching him as he makes his rise through the system, this pick is strictly due to depth and needs.
Although the Rays have their first baseman, listed as Isaac Paredes, as the starter, the question is whether or not Paredes can repeat the season he had last year, where he hit for 20 home runs, a true power threat the Rays were able to acquire cheaply for the lineup.
That is where Manzardo's services could come into play.
Although he has only played up to Double-A, Manzardo has shown that he can be a true hitting threat and someone who may be able to rack up more than just his fair share of home runs.
Manzardo's comes off a season in which he hit .327 between Bowling Green and Montgomery while also hitting 22 home runs, two more than Paredes.
Manzardo was not only an on-base threat, but also a power threat in the lineup, which is a manager's dream combination.
If Manzardo does make it to the big leagues, his placement will depend on where he is needed. If Paredes or Ramirez have poor seasons, they may prove to be expendable, especially if Manzardo comes in to replace them at their respective positions, first base or designated hitter.
Beyond that, similar to the case of Bradley, Manzardo has not played an ounce of Triple-A baseball, which could make the Rays cautious about bringing him up too early, but if Manzardo puts together a solid spring, maybe Manzardo's estimated arrival time to the big leagues will quicken.