Friday, April 19, 2024

Rays send Junior Caminero, No. 2 prospect in MLB, back to minors to begin season

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The Tampa Bay Rays on Monday announced that their top prospect, infielder Junior Caminero, is among those players who have been reassigned to minor-league camp. That means that the 20-year-old Caminero is not in line to make the active roster for Opening Day. 

Coming into this season, CBS Sports ranked Caminero as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball. Here’s part of our write-up: 

Caminero is already the answer to a fun trivia question: what player did the Rays obtain when they traded right-hander Tobias Myers to the Guardians in November 2021? OK, so folks are more likely to ask the inverse of that question. Caminero has an incredibly fast bat. It doesn’t matter that he wraps the barrel; he’s able to generate big-time exit velocities and easy power. (His first big-league home run demonstrated how the ball sails off his bat.) He does have an overaggressive approach at the plate, and he was pounding the ball into the sand more than 50% of the time at Double-A before the Rays skipped him to the majors. (To be clear: he was still on a 40-homer pace despite that grounder rate.) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Jordan Walker are just two players who have faced questions about maximizing their strength by adding lift. They’ve worked out just fine. The difference between Camerino and those lads is that he has the athleticism and arm to stick at the hot corner. It’s unfair to compare any prospect to Austin Riley, but a more polished Caminero could get close.

Last season as a 19-year-old Caminero slashed .324/.384/.591 with 31 home runs in 117 combined games at the High-A and Double-A levels. Such numbers are impressive in any context, but they become something else altogether once you consider how much younger Caminero was than his peer group at those rungs. 

The Rays, as noted above, promoted him in late September for a brief taste of the majors, but now they’ve apparently deemed him to be in need of additional seasoning in the minors. This spring, Caminero came into Monday with a .719 OPS in Grapefruit League play. Instead of giving Caminero immediate run at shortstop — a position of need for the Rays given Wander Franco’s administrative leave — they will seemingly turn to José Caballero, Amed Rosario, Curtis Mead, Isaac Paredes and/or Taylor Walls when healthy in a job-sharing, multi-positional arrangement on the left side of the infield. The expectation, though, is that Caminero will force his way onto the active roster soon enough. 

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