As a Tampa Bay Rays fan, I am counting down the days to opening day of the 2021 season. With so much excitement and anticipation, I can’t help but reflect on some of the Rays’ past prospects who didn’t quite meet expectations. In this article, I will discuss four Rays’ can’t-miss prospects who missed in English. Despite high hopes, these players never quite lived up to their potential on the diamond. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and explore what went wrong for these former top prospects.
The Tampa Bay Rays have always had a knack for developing young talent, and the current crop of prospects is no exception. While many Rays fans are familiar with top prospects like Wander Franco and Brendan McKay, there are several under-the-radar prospects worth keeping an eye on. In this countdown to opening day, we’ll take a look at four Rays prospects who missed out on the initial 2021 roster, but could make a big impact later in the season.
1. Vidal Brujan
Vidal Brujan was one of the most impressive players in the Rays’ alternate training site last year, but ultimately didn’t make the opening day roster. The 23-year-old second baseman is considered one of the fastest players in the minor leagues, with elite base-stealing ability and top-of-the-order potential.
Brujan is undersized at 5’9”, but has surprising pop in his bat and a solid approach at the plate. In 2019, he hit .277 with eight home runs and 46 stolen bases across three minor league levels.
While the Rays currently have a crowded infield with Joey Wendle, Brandon Lowe, and Mike Brosseau all capable of playing second base, Brujan’s speed and on-base skills could make him a valuable addition later in the season. He may need to refine his defensive skills before getting a call-up, but his offensive potential is tantalizing.
2. Taylor Walls
Taylor Walls is another middle infielder who could make an impact for the Rays in 2021. The 24-year-old shortstop was a third-round pick in 2017 out of Florida State University and has quickly progressed through the minors.
Walls is an elite defensive shortstop with great instincts and a strong arm. He also has a solid approach at the plate and posted a .309 on-base percentage in 2019.
While there is currently no clear path to playing time for Walls with Willy Adames and Joey Wendle holding down the middle infield positions, injuries can happen and the Rays have shown a willingness to shuffle their roster as needed. Walls’ defensive ability and contact-hitting skills could make him a valuable bench piece for the Rays in 2021.
3. Brent Honeywell Jr.
Brent Honeywell Jr. has been one of the most touted prospects in the Rays’ system for several years, but he has been derailed by injuries. The right-handed pitcher has had two Tommy John surgeries and missed the entire 2018 and 2019 seasons.
However, when healthy, Honeywell Jr. has the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher. He has a diverse arsenal of pitches, including a devastating screwball, and has shown excellent command and control in the minors.
Honeywell Jr. made his major league debut in 2017, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since. However, he looked impressive in the Rays’ alternate training site last year and could be an impact arm for the club in 2021 if he can stay healthy.
With the Rays losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton in the offseason, the starting rotation is a bit thin. If Honeywell Jr. can stay healthy and perform at a high level, he could be the breakout star the Rays have been waiting for.
4. Josh Fleming
Josh Fleming is a left-handed pitcher who made his major league debut last year, but didn’t make the opening day roster this season. The 24-year-old was a fifth-round pick in 2017 out of Webster University and has flown somewhat under the radar in Rays’ prospect circles.
However, Fleming had an impressive rookie campaign in 2020, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.78 ERA across seven starts and two relief appearances. He isn’t a hard-throwing pitcher, but he has excellent control and mixes his pitches well to keep hitters off balance.
Fleming will likely begin the season in the minor leagues, but with the Rays’ history of using openers and unconventional pitching strategies, he could be called up at any time to fill a variety of roles. His versatility and ability to get outs could make him one of the Rays’ most valuable assets in 2021.
The Tampa Bay Rays are known for their ability to develop young talent, and the current group of prospects is no exception. While top prospects like Wander Franco and Brendan McKay get most of the attention, there are several under-the-radar prospects who could make an impact in 2021.
Vidal Brujan, Taylor Walls, Brent Honeywell Jr., and Josh Fleming all missed out on making the opening day roster, but each has the potential to be a valuable contributor for the Rays this season. Whether it’s Brujan’s speed and on-base ability, Walls’ defensive prowess, Honeywell Jr.’s electric stuff, or Fleming’s versatility, these prospects are worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.