Charlotte had the best record in the Florida State League in 2019, and many of those players could be assigned to Montgomery in 2021.
Montgomery remains the Rays’ Double-A affiliate, and the Biscuits are next up in our roster projections.
Catcher: Ford Proctor
This was a tough one. When Proctor last played in affiliated baseball, he was a Class-A infielder. The Rays are giving him a shot at catcher, and he could stick. In 2020, he played in an independent league, at the alternate site, and in Australia, so he wasn’t hurting for at-bats like so many players. However, this could still be a big jump for a player inexperienced at the position.
First base: Kaleo Johnson
Johnson — a 32nd-round pick in 2018 — finished the 2019 season in Class A-Advanced and then played in Australia that offseason. The Rays need someone to fill this spot in Double A.
Second base: Tyler Frank
Frank was drafted two rounds earlier than Proctor in 2018 and had a similar profile as a productive, versatile college infielder. He was a level ahead of Proctor in 2019, but injuries limited him to 16 games. Those are his only 16 games in full-season ball. That may not be enough for a Double-A assignment, but given that he was a second-round pick from college and that he’s now 24, the Rays may want to see how he handles the challenge.
Third base: Jim Haley
In 37 Double-A games in 2019, Haley batted .286 with a .317 on-base percentage and .541 slugging percentage. With 16 home runs in Class A-Advanced and Double A, he more than doubled his career total. That — along with his winter-ball experience this offseason — could get him a role in Triple A, but maybe the Rays would like to see him playing every day.
Shortstop: Xavier Edwards
Edwards still hasn’t played an official game in the organization yet. In 2019, he finished with 46 games in Class A-Advanced, and he was good, batting .301 with a .349 on-base percentage. That’s not a ton of experience, but he also played at the alternate site in 2020 and should be ready to advance a level. Because he doesn’t have game experience with the Rays, it’s not clear if they view him as a shortstop or second baseman, and this will be a chance to find out.
Left field: Niko Hulsizer
Including a rehab appearance in the Gulf Coast League, Hulsizer only has 13 games in the organization due to a hamstring injury at the time he was acquired from the Dodgers. He made up some of those at-bats in the Australian League that winter. With only 34 games of Class A-Advanced ball, he doesn’t have ideal experience for this assignment, but at 24 years old, he should get a shot.
Center field: Garrett Whitley
I’m not sure how much Whitley will actually play center field. Despite his athleticism, he’s never played the position regularly, whether it’s before or after the injury that cost him the 2018 season. In 2019 at Class A-Advanced, he was the player he was early in his career — he batted .226/.339/.412, showing power and athleticism while striking out a lot. That’s what he did in a brief independent-league appearance in 2020.
Gomez could complete a trio of slugging outfielders for Montgomery. Gomez’s 16 home runs for Class A-Advanced Charlotte in 2019 set a franchise record, and he also hit 26 doubles and two triples. He batted just .220 with a .297 on-base percentage, and he wasn’t selected in consecutive Rule 5 drafts. That means he’ll continue moving up in the organization and try to recapture his 2018 form.
Starters: Shane Baz, Drew Strotman, Tommy Romero, Michael Plassmeyer, and Tobias Myers
Although Baz hadn’t pitched above Class A in 2019, the Rays had him finish his season in the Arizona Fall League, which typically features upper-level hitters. The results weren’t great in 11 innings, but his stuff impressed. With his time at the alternate site in 2020, the Rays may view him as ready for Double A.
Like Baz, Strotman’s experience above the lower levels is limited. After a strong start to his pro career, he was sidelined by Tommy John surgery in 2018. He has 16 innings of Class A-Advanced experience to his credit and was a teammate of Baz in the AFL. Unlike Baz, he was not at the alternate site. However, as a 24 year old now on the 40-man roster, the Rays may want to see him take on Double A.
Statistically, Romero was one of the best pitchers in the minors in 2019. His 2.15 ERA was inflated significantly due a rough Double-A debut at the end of the season. Prior to that start, his ERA was under 2.00, and he won Florida State League Pitcher of the Year. This winter, he pitched 16 2⁄3 innings in Puerto Rico and in the Caribbean Series.
In 2019, there were six pitchers in the minors with an ERA under 2.00 in 100-plus innings. Joe Ryan was one of them, and Plassmeyer even had him beat. He pitched at three levels in 2019, including a cameo in Triple A. He hasn’t pitched an inning since the end of the Triple-A season.
Myers was acquired in the Tim Beckham trade in 2017. He impressed early with a great strikeout:walk ratio, but since then, he’s struck out fewer batters and walked more. He was still decent in Class A-Advanced in 2019, but he only threw 78 innings due to a stint on the injured list. He’s still just 22.