Baseball Prospectus has released their Top-10 Rays Prospects for 2017, with a couple key differences from Baseball America, who came out with their version on October 31st: dropping 1B Casey Gillaspie nearly out of the top ten, and removing three young outfielders entirely.
1. SS Willy Adames
Baseball Prospectus is still not big on guys that can’t play up the middle, and that includes the Rays top prospect Adames. They mention Adames as breaking out with more power this past season but worry he can’t stay at shortstop.
Adames slash line 274/.372/.430, 11 HR, 13 SB last season at Double A showcases his contact rate and ability to get on base over 132 games has only improved since last year’s ranking.
Key Quote: You can see him as a 15-home-run bat now, and that’s still nothing to sneeze at if Adames can stick at shortstop, and that’s looking like a real possibility now.
Call it begrudging respect.
2. RHP Brent Honeywell
The below quote seemed very interesting on Honeywell. He’s the number two prospect for the Rays courtesy of BP’s rankings. A lot has been made of his screwball but they have an interesting take on his top asset below.
Key Quote: His screwball tends to get top billing, but his most valuable asset might be his confidence on (and off) the mound. Honeywell isn’t afraid of anyone, and he has the arsenal to back it up.
3. 3B Joshua Lowe
Lowe was also part of the 2016 MLB Draft and drafted 13th overall. He has some swing in a miss in his swing but has shown great ability to get on base early on in the GCL.
Key Quote: Lowe is a tall drink of water with a projectable frame. He already has an aesthetically pleasing lefty power stroke with high-end bat speed, and more game power should come as he fills out.
4. 1B/OF Jake Bauers
Bauers was acquired via the Wil Myers deal and is an interesting profile with potential power and bat speed still in development, but an all around consistent approach at the plate. Since he plays first base and sometimes the corner outfield, the power may be a concern, as he’s currently similar to a Casey Kotchman profile.
Key Quote: He has an advanced approach and enough present-day power to keep pitchers from challenging him too recklessly. He’s still only 20 and could add more strength to the natural loft in his swing and end up with average pop. Even if that doesn’t come, he profiles as an above-average hitter who gets on base.
5. RHP Jacob Faria
Faria a 10th round draft pick in 2011 has his sights on the big leagues in 2017. His 2.17 DRA was much better than his 4.21 ERA so the numbers may have been misleading at Durham.
Key Quote: Faria is pretty polished, already spent time in Triple-A, and has enough fastball and enough feel for the two secondaries to be major-league ready in short order.
6. RHP Chih-Wei Hu
Hu has five pitches mentioned below but the palm ball is the most intriguing as it looks like it’s already a plus pitch that can miss bats.
Key Quote: Hu offers a five-pitch mix including a palm ball (although he throws it sparingly) and is comfortable mixing his full repertoire and working backwards. It’s a command-and-control, pitchability profile, but Hu makes it work.
7. RHP Austin Franklin
Other things that standout include Austin Franklin being ranked at #7 on the list. Franklin recently drafted in the third round of the 2016 Amateur Draft put together a nice season at the GCL rookie league. In 43 and 1⁄3 innings he put up a very respectable 3.34 DRA and 2.5 K/BB Ratio as a 19 year old.
Key Quote: Major league ETA: 2022
He’s an intriguing arm to keep an eye with a mid-nighties fastball and a power curve, but he’s also right out of high school. The importance will be his development through the lower minors and his ability to maximize his innings, as he’s sure to be on pitch counts in the years to come.
8. SS Daniel Robertson
Robertson acquired by the Rays in the Zobrist deal is a very good on-base guy as he’s a career .368 in the minors, despite having a difficult time with a broken hamate bone last season in Triple-A. You can safely assume he will get a call up around the All-Star break, and at least be a bench bat or part time player for the Rays.
Key Quote: He’ll hit line drives and get on base for you, .270 with some doubles perhaps. He can play three different infield positions. This isn’t an exciting profile, but Robertson is likely a major-league contributor for the Rays in 2017.
9. 1B Casey Gillaspie
Casey Gillaspie is another name that is ranked lower than at Baseball America as they have him ahead of Jake Bauers. In BP’s profile they see him only as a bat only profile. While he did perform admirably at Double A and Triple A they still think Bauers will translate better against major league pitching.
Key Quote: Like Bauers, he’s hit in the upper minors. Unlike Bauers he doesn’t even offer the bare minimum of wrong-end-of-the-defensive-spectrum positional flexibility, so if he stops hitting...that’s gonna be a problem.
10. 3B Kevin Padlo
Padlo concludes the top 10 list as a corner infielder with power at a young age of 19. He had 14 steals to go along with 16 home runs this year at Low A Bowling Green.
Key Quote: Padlo’s swing has some length and he struggles to change gears against offspeed. The overall profile is still very raw and the development time will be long.
More from Baseball Prospectus
The full write up contains a lot more information than highlighted above, including a brief assessment of where things went wrong for the Rays farm system (hint: 2011), and a look at the oddity of the Rays talent around the age 25.
Key Quote: Aside from Old Man Evan Longoria (entering his age-31 season) and sophomore left-handed starter Blake Snell (entering his age-24 season), this team is entirely composed of players that are playing the upcoming year at an age between 26 and 30.
The players who made the cut for Baseball America were outfielders Jesus Sanchez, Justin Williams, and Garrett Whitley. All three are far from the majors and project to outfield corner spots at this time, making them undesirable from Baseball Prospectus’s vantage point.
Although, to be fair, BP’s concerns around Whitley seem to stem from reports that he is unlikely to develop a major league hit tool, an aggressive assumption for a player one season removed from high school.