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Rays To Promote Junior Caminero

The Rays are calling up top infield prospect Junior Caminero, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN. They’ll need to select him onto the 40-man roster, which is at capacity.

Caminero, who turned 20 years old in July, becomes the youngest player in the majors. He makes the jump directly from Double-A Montgomery, where he has spent the bulk of the 2023 campaign. Caminero began the year in High-A and was bumped to Montgomery at the end of May.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Caminero signed with Cleveland during the 2019-20 international signing period. He was playing in the Dominican Summer League when the Rays acquired him in a trade that has the potential to go down as one of the more lopsided in recent history. At the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in advance of the 2021 Rule 5 draft, Cleveland sent Caminero to Tampa Bay for right-hander Tobias Myers.

Myers posted a 6.00 ERA in 14 Triple-A starts and was lost on waivers without getting to the majors. Caminero has broken through as one of the sport’s most talented young players. He reached full-season ball last season before this year’s true emergence as a top-tier prospect.

Caminero raked at a .356/.409/.685 clip in 36 High-A contests. He has barely slowed down since moving to Double-A, shredding older competition en route to a .309/.373/.548 line. The right-handed hitter has popped 31 home runs, 18 doubles and six triples over 510 cumulative trips to the dish. He has kept his strikeout rate to a lower than average 19.6%, including a meager 17.1% mark in Double-A.

Alongside the massive numbers, Caminero has impressed scouts with his physical tools. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel named him the sport’s #5 prospect last month; he also checks in fifth on the updated ranking at Baseball America. Those reports credit him with plus or better power potential, with McDaniel noting that he has a chance to be a 40-homer hitter at peak. ESPN suggests his plate approach can be a little aggressive — he’s walking at an average 8.2% clip in the minors — but there’s general agreement that Caminero could be an impact offensive player.

It’s nevertheless a bold move for the Rays to call upon him in the midst of a pennant race. He’ll obviously face a massive escalation in the quality of pitcher he’ll face down the stretch. Tampa Bay has already secured a playoff spot but has little margin for error if they’re to track down the Orioles for the AL East title and top seed in the American League. They’re a game and a half back of Baltimore after they beat the Angels and the O’s dropped their matchup with Cleveland.

Caminero has mostly split his time between third base and shortstop in the minors. Scouting reports suggest he’s likely to settle in at third base as he fills out physically. Isaac Paredes and Curtis Mead are splitting the hot corner, while defensive specialist Taylor Walls is at shortstop. Walls has a dismal .170/.267/.226 batting line in the second half, so the Rays could give some reps there to Caminero if they’re in search of an offensive boost. Luke Raley is also day-to-day with a left arm issue that recently required an MRI, freeing up some designated hitter at-bats (either for Caminero directly or for Paredes if the Rays wanted to plug Caminero in at third base).

The Rays will be able to carry Caminero on the playoff roster if they decide he’s ready for October action. While he wasn’t on the 40-man roster at the start of September, he was in the organization. Teams can (and often do) petition the league for a player who wasn’t on the 40-man at the beginning of the month to get onto a postseason roster as an injury substitute.

Caminero will be paid at the MLB minimum rate and collect a couple weeks of service time. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2029 season and won’t qualify for arbitration until the 2026-27 offseason at the earliest. Future assignments back to the minor leagues could push that timeline further. Caminero will remain a rookie headed into 2024, leaving open the possibility of netting the club an extra draft choice via the Prospect Promotion Incentive if they carry him for a full service year.

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