Black MiLB Players #17: Xavier Edwards
Background + Path To Professional Baseball
Xavier Edwards is a 22-year-old middle infielder in the Tampa Bay Rays organization from Broward County, Florida. He was drafted out of North Broward Prep High School with the 38th overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres as one of the top high school prospects in his class. Lauded for his elite contact skills and blazing speed in combination with having a sure future up the middle, Edwards possesses quintessential old-school baseball traits.
His professional career started in 2018 when he was 18 years old, where he played 21 games with San Diego’s AZL(Rk) affiliate and 24 games with its Northwest League(A-) affiliate. He put up a .346/.453/.409 slash line in 195 plate appearances, stealing 22 bases while only being caught once, scored 40 runs in 44 games and walked more than he struck out. The next season Edwards played 77 games(344 PAs) with San Diego’s Low-A affiliate and 46(217 PAs) with its High-A affiliate, going .322/.376/.396 during his first full professional season where he was around three years younger than the average player. He stole 34 bases in 45 attempts, walked 44 times, and struck out only 54 times in the 123 games that he played.
Edwards was traded by San Diego Padres to Tampa Bay in a package that included Hunter Renfroe and a PTBNL in exchange for outfielder Tommy Pham and INF Jake Cronenworth. Tampa Bay covets switch-hitting infielders with plus contact skills and speed, as it is an archetype that appears throughout their farm system. He got two hits in each of his two appearances with Tampa Bay during 2020 Spring Training before it was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He participated at the Rays alternate site and was a part of the club’s player pool for the 2020 postseason.
He injured his oblique early during the 2021 MiLB season, playing in only 79 games but still putting up a batting average over .300 and an on-base percentage over 36 percent. The switch hitter also stole 19 bags, getting caught 11 times in the process. He finished the year as one of the top prospects in one of baseball’s elite farm systems and is one of baseball’s premier Black middle infield talents reaching the upper minors from the MLB Drafts of the late 2010s.
Xavier Edwards is a switch-hitting shortstop/second baseman that throws right-handed. He is 5'10'’, weighs 175 pounds, and has an athletic build. He has a filled frame, being built like a running back that is a little bit taller than average and leaner in the torso.
Both of Edwards’ swings are simple and clean, and aesthetically similar. He starts in a slightly squatted, balanced stance in the batter’s box, crowding the inner half of the plate, with his hands hovering slightly above his shoulder. He swings with a modest leg kick before stepping through with excellent separation between his hips and hands as he rotates into a very simple contact-oriented swing where he keeps his hands close to his chest Edwards can make contact with fastballs in all quadrants of the strike zone, recognizes spin well in addition to having an advanced understanding of the strike zone and how pitchers want to attack him.
He has an aggressive all-fields approach that mostly produces groundballs with bottom-of-the-scale MLB exit velocities, but the slash and dash approach has been sustainable thus far based on his speed and the BABIPs he has posted so far in his professional career. He can manipulate the bat very well, based on his plate coverage and low strikeout rate, choking up on the bat slightly sometimes as well. All in all, he has one of the best hit tools amongst middle infield prospects in baseball. Edwards has an average exit velocity of 84 mph, a maximum exit velocity of 100 mph, and accrues hard hits at a 35% rate.
Edwards is one of the few prospects in baseball that get an eighty grade on his speed at any given time, and he knows how to use his wheels to get home and score runs. In addition to being a skilled baserunner with a 4–1 stolen base to caught stolen ratio, he possesses the rare trait of having above-average on-base skills to go along with it. He has only posted an on-base percentage below 37% at one level, which was with San Diego’s High-A affiliate. Edwards has solid actions at shortstop and second base to go with above-average range due to his speed, the only caveat being a below-average to average throwing arm where many projects that he will wind up playing second base or being a super-utility player long term.
Xavier Edwards is a part of a hungry group of young Black infielders with intriguing skillsets reaching the majors and upper minors that includes Jazz Chisholm Jr., Ke’Bryan Hayes, Royce Lewis, and CJ Abrams. It will be interesting to see how his 2022 MiLB season goes, especially with the Tampa Bay Rays in the midst of a multi-season 40 man roster crunch due to the ridiculous amount of talent they’re able to identify, acquire, and develop and having a plethora of talented young infielders ahead of Edwards in the pecking order. He is talented enough to find a place on someone’s MLB team in a full-time role, and his tools can persuade the brain trust of another team with an opening to approach Tampa and attempt to deal for him.