clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Expendables: Rays Prospect Depth

New, 24 comments

Depth at several positions gives the Rays some potential trade pieces

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Through trades and drafts, the Rays have strengthened their farm system in the last few years, and are now in a position where they might look to trade promising players who might not have a clear path to the majors with this franchise.  Of course, depth can evaporate quickly; only in our dreams do all exciting prospects reach the potential of their more optimistic projections. Even with that caveat, here's a look at somewhere we could see expendable prospects.

Pitching

Obviously we know the Rays have A LOT of pitching depth in their minor league system. I do the minor league recaps three times a week, and every day it seems like a top pitching prospect has just pitched or will pitch that day.

This pitching depth can be found at every level in the system. Take a look below at all the pitching prospects at each level so far in 2016.

  • MLB Tampa Bay Rays: Enny Romero
  • Triple-A Durham: Andrew Bellatti, Jaime Schultz, Blake Snell
  • Double-A Montgomery: Jacob Faria, Taylor Guerrieri, Chi-Wei Hu, Ryne Stanek
  • Class-A Advanced Charlotte: Brent Honeywell, Brandon Koch, Hunter Wood
  • Class-A Bowling Green: Jose Mujica, Cameron Varga
What make this depth all the more impressive is that it comes on top of the high quality, cost-controlled pitching at the major league level. Even though Rays fans are pining for Blake Snell's promotion, it may be later rather than sooner as the Rays rotation is looking stellar right now.

Since top Rays pitching prospect Blake Snell has yet to become a full-time major leaguer, the backlog will only cascade down. This could lead to an overload of starting pitchers in the Rays minor league system even though they may have needs in other areas. The Rays could possibly leverage these strong arms by trading some of the excess to fill positions of greatest need.

As much as I hate to say it, Brent Honeywell may end up being a key piece in a deal for a strong major-league talent. Out of the top pitchers in the Rays system, he is the farthest from the majors but also has the most upside. I would absolutely love to see Honeywell in a Rays uniform, but there may not be any room in the Rays rotation and his potential would be wasted in the bullpen. He could easily fetch a top-tier MLB talent, especially with a secondary prospect or two.

However, there is a decent chance Honeywell is worth too much to the Rays to give up in any deal. In that event, righty Jacob Faria could end up packaged in a deal. He has some potential as he looks to improve his command over his plus fastball-change combo. He looks like he could be a decent mid-rotation starter as of now and/or a strong setup man out of the pen. If a team likes Faria's profile enough, I can see the Rays getting an above-average player for him.

On the other hand, if a team values safety, Chih-Wei Hu could also be a decent trade piece. Hu was already a cornerstone in a trade, being part of the Kevin Jepsen deal last year. Hu's value lies in his floor, with three solid pitches (including a fastball that's above-average to plus) and strong command over them all. Hu may not have a high ceiling with a dynamic combo of pitches, but he has enough to be a good back-end starter. Hu could garner a mid-tier player on his own or be part of the package for a stronger player.

Shortstop

While the Rays are known for developing pitchers well, they have also gathered a strong crop of shortstops in their minor league system. Their biggest shortstop talents are in the upper minors, as Daniel Robertson and Willy Adames are in Triple and Double-A, respectively.

Sooner or later, both of these players will be in the majors, and the Rays will have a decision to make. I've detailed this dilemma in the past in a piece dedicated to the Rays shortstop depth.

This means that the Rays will have a decision to make within the next year or two. Which shortstop would they want more? The contact-heavy Robertson or the defensively sound Adames? Better yet, is there room for both?

Daniel Robertson could conceivably become a second baseman. He played about half of his games in the Arizona Fall League at second base and profiles well there. Adames could also move and become a third baseman, as some scouts criticize his speed, calling him "an average runner." But so far Adames still looks like he can handle the position.

While of course the Rays could keep both players in the infield, it is possible that the team deals the one they don't keep at short to another team to fill a gap elsewhere.

Taylor Motter seems to be the odd man out in the upper minors at the shortstop position as his ceiling doesn't look as high as Robertson's or Adames'. However, Motter profiles out as a solid utility player, especially as he can play every infield position (except catcher) and the corner outfield spots. This has its own value, and every team needs a guy like Motter. If the Rays traded Motter, it could be a win-win for both sides as Motter gets a legitimate chance at the majors and the Rays could get something nice in return.

In addition to the group at the top, the Rays have shortstop depth in the lower minors as well. Adrian Rondon is young and raw, but he is very projectable and will only be 18 when the short-season leagues start. Also, Jake Cronenworth has thrown his name into the discussion of Rays prospects, batting .414 through 15 games to start off the season at Class-A Bowling Green. If the Rays have solid options at the major-league level as Rondon and Cronenworth progress, they also could be packaged in trades.

Others

Similar to the backlog in the starting rotation, the Rays outfield also has plenty of talent blocking the progress of minor-leaguers. Mikie "7-WAR" Mahtook is stuck in Triple-A Durham as the outfield in the majors is stacked with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza, Desmond Jennings, Corey Dickerson, and Brandon Guyer.

Stuck in the Triple-A/MLB gap, Mahtook's value seems wasted in Durham. On Episode Five of the Hit Show, I posited that the Rays could get a decent major-leaguer in a one-for-one swap for Mahtook and that he could also be a nice peripheral prospect in a larger deal.

Finally, Richie Shaffer may end up in a logjam, especially if Logan Morrison rights himself or Steve Pearce takes the first base job for himself. Meanwhile, Jake Bauers and Casey Gillaspie are nipping at Shaffer's heels in Double-A with Bauers carrying a .393 wOBA and Gillaspie holding a .372. Meanwhile at third, Evan Longoria remains a key part of the lineup and Kevin Padlo lurks in the lower minor leagues.

As with Mahtook, Shaffer's talents could be wasted in Triple-A. I see his overall value similar to Mahtook's, with a bigger bat but less defensive potential. Shaffer would most likely end up a secondary prospect in a trade as his development has more or less reached its apex, and it isn't at the level of most centerpieces in a blockbuster trade.

As a whole, the Rays system has surprising depth from which they could end up trading. While hate to say goodbye to favored prospects, the team could leverage some of this talent to address deficits in the hopes of making a playoff run.