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Several Rays featured in Baseball America league top-20 rankings

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Brent Honeywell, Willy Adames, and Brendan McKay were among the top prospects in their leagues in 2017

MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game
Brent Honeywell was the top pitching prospect in the International League
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In recent weeks, Baseball America began prospect-ranking season when it rolled out its league top-20 prospect rankings.

I say this every time I write about them, but I think these are probably more instructive than the team top-30 lists that get more attention. A player could be ranked No. 1 in his organization, but the No. 1 prospect in the lowest-ranked organization might only be No. 4 in even the No. 20 organization.

With the league lists, though, fans get a chance to see how that No. 1 prospect in their organization stacks up against other top players from that league. Of course, some leagues have more talent than others, but I do believe direct comparisons across organizations are useful.

Here’s a rundown of which Rays rank where in their leagues:

International League

4. RHP Brent Honeywell

5. SS Willy Adames

Adames entered the season ranked ahead of Honeywell as the team’s top prospect, and at least this ranking shows the two have flipped. But based on the overwhelmingly positive report on Adames, it’s certainly not because of anything he did wrong. His defense is plus, according to the evaluators Carlos Collazo spoke with ($). With average power and his approach at the plate, the Rays have a difference maker up the middle.

BA’s report on Honeywell notes what we’ve already known for a while — his screwball is far from his primary weapon. He’s the top pitching prospect in the league, and he’s ranked comfortably ahead of some pretty big names, including Tyler Glasnow (Pittsburgh) and Lucas Giolito (White Sox).

14. RHP Jacob Faria

Faria himself is ranked directly behind the highly touted Giolito. He’s not eligible for prospect lists after his impressive 14-start debut in 2017, but if he was still, this kind of ranking would put him in top-100 territory. He’s ahead of several current and former Yankees prospect such as Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler (now Oakland).

19. 1B/OF Jake Bauers

Per Collazo, evaluators rated Bauers’ outfield play as “below-average to abysmal”, which may be why the Rays tend to move him back to first base whenever significant roster changes are made. Offensively, it doesn’t sound like 2017 Bauers is any different than he has been before. He has a nice swing, he gets on base, and he could develop above-average power.

Eligible for list but not included: RHP Yonny Chirinos, 1B Casey Gillaspie (White Sox), RHP Chih-Wei Hu, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Hunter Wood, LHP Ryan Yarbrough

Southern League

16. OF Justin Williams

Williams’ breakout was documented here late in the season, and that earned him recognition as Montgomery’s top prospect. He was one of the top hitters in the league and still one of the youngest — only seven hitters with 100-plus plate appearances were younger. He hits too many balls on the ground, and that could dictate how much power he hits for, according to Matt Eddy’s sources ($).

Eligible for list but not included: LHP Genesis Cabrera, C Nick Ciuffo, OF Joe McCarthy, RHP Jose Mujica

Florida State League

18. OF Ryan Boldt

Boldt checks in behind Franklyn Kilome (Philadelphia) and before Alex Jackson (Atlanta), two guys who already have quite a bit of prospect notoriety. It’s well-deserved recognition for the outfielder who had a nice rebound in 2017 after a rough pro debut. The Rays’ 2016 second-round pick is solid in all areas of the game but not great in any, according to the evaluators John Manuel spoke with ($).

20. 2B Brandon Lowe

Aside from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Toronto), who’s ranked as the top prospect in both the FSL and Midwest League, Lowe might’ve been the best hitter in the league in 2017. Manuel notes why his ISO jumped from .096 in his pro debut to this season’s .195 — a small change in his setup combined with his command of the strike zone.

Eligible for list but not included: LHP Genesis Cabrera, LHP Travis Ott, 3B Kevin Padlo, C Brett Sullivan

Midwest League

7. OF Jesus Sanchez

On a pretty deep Bowling Green squad, Sanchez was the Hot Rods’ top prospect, based on the evaluations curated by Vince Lara-Cinisomo ($). With “average to above-average” power, an “average to above” hit tool, “average if not better” defense and a plus arm, it’s easy to see why.

18. OF Garrett Whitley

Of the three outfielders on the Hot Rods’ roster the Rays probably would’ve liked to see in center field, the one that got the lion’s share of the innings out there isn’t on the list. Even though Whitley’s time in center was limited, his defense there is still considered to be above average. With improved pitch recognition, his raw tools were more noticeable in games.

Eligible for list but not included: LHP Brock Burke, SS Lucius Fox, OF Joshua Lowe, 3B Adrian Rondon

New York-Penn League

1. 1B/LHP Brendan McKay

Will he hit, pitch, or both? Certainly, a couple months of pro ball didn’t get us any closer to a conclusion. While many top draft picks didn’t meet the eligibility requirements for inclusion, McKay was still the best, according to J.J. Cooper ($). What sounds encouraging is that “McKay's fastball was as firm as it was at his best at Louisville.” In some outings late in the college season, his stuff reportedly fluctuated.

5. 2B Vidal Brujan

Brujan’s season at the plate and in the field is made more impressive when he’s sandwiched on this list by two first-round picks, including ranking ahead of a top-10 pick in Adam Haseley (Philadelphia). With his approach, speed and athleticism, he’s a prototypical up-the-middle, top-of-the-lineup player. I would estimate this placement makes him a top-150 prospect in the league.

11. RHP Tobias Myers

Myers is the fifth-ranked pitcher on this list. Cooper’s report isn’t overwhelming — a 93-96 mph fastball, downer curveball, and promising changeup, all from an undersized righty — but his statistics certainly were. The 19 year old struck out 73 and walked just 10.

Eligible for list but not included: RHP Austin Franklin, LHP Resly Linares, SS Taylor Walls, RHP Mikey York

Appalachian League

4. C Ronaldo Hernandez

Hernandez didn’t enter the season with much fanfare, but he made a name for himself on both sides of the ball, according to Justin Perline ($). The Rays certainly aren’t short on catchers with impressive defensive tools, and his plus-plus arm helped him dominate the running game. The three players ranked ahead of him combined for signing bonuses over $10 million. The Rays got him for $225,000.

20. RHP Joel Peguero

Peguero’s 8.12 ERA does jump off the page, but in the wrong way. On the other hand, his stuff — a reported 96-98 mph fastball — looks quite good.

Eligible for list but not included: 1B Devin Davis

Gulf Coast League

17. RHP Michael Mercado

Mercado, the 48th-overall pick, pitched well in his debut, notes Ben Badler ($). As he says, it does stand out that a 6’4 high-school pitcher was able to throw strikes as well as Mercado did. Only five pitchers ranked ahead of him, and they were all either rated higher than him before the draft or given significant bonuses as international signings.

Eligible for list but not included: RHP Wanderson Linares, IF Carlos Vargas