The Rays are expected to promote highly-regarded infield prospect Vidal Bruján before tomorrow’s doubleheader against the Indians, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). While Bruján’s first call will be as the “27th man” allotted for doubleheaders, Topin adds that he’s likely to stick around beyond Wednesday.
Bruján will become the latest arrival to a Rays infield that has already welcomed Taylor Walls and Wander Franco this season. Bruján isn’t quite the caliber of prospect Franco is (no one is, since Franco is the game’s consensus top rookie talent), but he’s an extremely promising player in his own right. Each of Baseball America, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs, and Keith Law of the Athletic slotted him among the game’s top 60 prospects entering the year, with Longenhagen placing him 24th.
All three outlets praise Bruján’s combination of athleticism, straight-line speed and bat control. Both Longenhagen and Law suggest he could eventually mature into an All-Star caliber player, with Longenhagen suggesting he bears some some similarities to Ozzie Albies and Ketel Marte at the same age. Bruján’s not a towering physical presence — he’s listed at 5’10”, 180 — but evaluators write that the switch-hitter’s athleticism enables surprising bat speed and power, particularly from the left-handed batters box.
Bruján’s minor league numbers support those visual evaluations. He’s been a better than average hitter at every stop, slashing .290/.374/.423 with 28 home runs and 166 stolen bases (in 217 attempts) across parts of six seasons. Bruján has spent this year with Triple-A Durham and hit a productive .259/.344/.471 over 216 plate appearances in his first crack at the minors’ highest level.
Just as importantly, Bruján has walked almost as often as he’s struck out throughout his time in the system. Over the course of his career, he’s drawn free passes at a strong 10.6% clip while punching out a minuscule 11.6% of the time. His strikeout percentage has jumped to a career-high 15.7% in Triple-A this year, but that’s still far better than the 23.2% major league average.
At 49-36, the Rays have fallen 4.5 games back of the Red Sox in the American League East, but they hold a four-game advantage over the Mariners in the Wild Card race. Bruján’s high minors performance seemed likely to get him an opportunity to contribute to Tampa Bay’s playoff push at some point regardless, but the immediate impetus for his promotion is an injury to center fielder Manuel Margot. Margot suffered a hamstring injury yesterday that seems likely to lead to an injured list stint, opening up active roster space for the 23-year-old Bruján. He was already added to the 40-man roster last offseason to keep him from selection in the Rule 5 draft.
The deadline has long since passed for Bruján to accrue a full year of major service, as has the expected window for Super Two qualification. Even if he sticks in the majors from here on out, he’ll be controllable through 2027 and won’t reach arbitration eligibility until the 2024-25 offseason.