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Baseball America Top-10 Rays prospects for 2017

Willy Adames leads list for a system on the rise.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Baseball America has released their top ten Rays prospects for 2017, with a few high risers you may not have expected to see on the list.

Out of respect for the paywall, we will only be providing a key quote on each of the top ten players.

1. Willy Adames, ss

Easily a top-50 prospect in the game and a leader on the field. While most of Baseball America’s accolades revolve around his ever-improving hit tool, the key quote here is on his oft-criticized defense:

Defensively, he continued to endear himself to scouts in 2016. Adames has plus hands and a well-timed internal clock, and he doesn’t rush plays or play nervously in the field. He lacks exceptional range and explosive foot speed... but his pure arm strength typically plays above-average.

BA calls him the Rays shortstop of the future.

2. Brent Honeywell, rhp

To be expected, the best pitcher in the Rays system ranks highly, despite missed time for injury:

He has an athletic lower half and repeats his mechanics well despite a head whack and a somewhat long arm action. Honeywell missed six weeks in the middle of the summer with forearm soreness, but his fastball reached 97 mph in his first start back.

3. Casey Gillaspie, 1b

The renaissance kid of 2016, all that pedigree payed off last season when the switch hitting first baseman started showing what the Rays saw in him at the draft. He has some hindrances, but the key quote here shows his success in spite of that:

He has plus-plus strike-zone awareness and recognizes pitches that he’s able to drive. In spite of his average bat speed, Gillaspie has shown the ability to turn on upper-90s fastballs.

BA reports the Rays think he’s the future at first base.

4. Jake Bauers, of/1b

Bauers is the better defender at first base, but also the better athlete, which has sent him into the outfield. Early reports from his first attempts at the new position in instructional baseball last off-season varied (Baseball America saw potential, Baseball Prospectus did not), but the key quote here is that it’s coming together.

Bauers is an excellent defensive first baseman, but he played right field while he and Casey Gillaspie were teammates in 2016. His sound baseball instincts and solid-average speed play well in the outfield corners.

BA reports it’s up to Bauers to hit his way out of the minors if he wants a promotion.

5. Chih-Wei Hu, rhp

In all likelihood, Hu has what it takes to break into a major league rotation, even if that projection is for 2018. Reading this report, there’s clear speculation that his best use may be in relief, but there are few pitchers for which that isn’t true:

In short spurts, Hu can show plus-plus fastball velocity and a changeup that humiliates both righthanded and lefthanded batters.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Chih-Wei Hu #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays and the World Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

6. Josh Lowe, 3b

For the youngest of prospects, positions are more of a suggestion than a requirement, and that proved true for 2016 top draft pick Josh Lowe this year.

His defense at third base was one of his biggest weaknesses as an amateur, so the Rays tried him in center field in instructional league.

BA spoke highly of this arm and running, which agrees with the Rays trying Lowe in center field. He’s much more raw than the other prospects on this list.

7. Jesus Sanchez, of

Among the three high ceiling 18-year olds at Low-A Princeton this season, including Adrian Rondon (who’s dropped out of the top ten) and Josh Lowe, the sky is the limit for Sanchez. A plus outfielder listed at 6’2”, the kid has already grown beyond that and will only get stronger. The key quote though shows he’s more than strength at the plate:

The Rays are impressed with Sanchez’s strike-zone awareness and his ability to execute an approach.

His makeup as an overall player made him a man among boys in Princeton last season, and he might be under-valued at No. 7 overall.

8. Jacob Faria, rhp

Faria is the next in a long line of Rays pitchers with tons of project-ability despite what may not look like front line stuff. He carved up A+ and AA hitters in 2015, yet didn’t find the same level of success in 2016 (3.20 FIP at Double-A Montgomery). The Rays promoted him anyway mid-season, and once he gets comfortable striking out some better quality hitters, we could see him in the show:

Faria’s advanced pitchability and deep arsenal are nearly major league ready.

9. Justin Williams, of

Get excited for Justin Williams, if you aren’t already. One of the best outfield defenders in the system, his biggest limitation is approach at the plate, although it may not show in his .290 AVG at Double-A this season:

He’s shown an aggressive, if not raw, approach and doesn’t always wait for pitches that he can drive, but he makes as much hard contact as any Rays prospect.

Return to Double-A with in-game power, and he’ll turn heads.

10. Garrett Whitley, of

The 2015 first round draft choice snuck onto BA’s list where others might have let him fall off in favor of recently acquired SS Lucious Fox or plus-defensive catcher Nick Ciuffo. His hitting overall continues to be a work-in-progress, but he has the tools to get there:

Whitley tinkered with his mechanics at points in 2016, beginning the season with a wide-open stance as he focused on recognizing pitches and tracking the ball deeper into the hitting zone.

More from Baseball America

You can read a full list of the system’s best tools here, along with a projected 2020 lineup.