There several prospect ranking systems and they all go about their business a little differently. That’s great, because we benefit from a few different perspectives.
Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Rays Prospect List, which was recently released, typically cares more about upside than probability of being a major league contributor.
Baseball Prospectus sees five Rays prospects with impact potential. The fifth may surprise you.
1. Brent Honeywell, RHP
Honeywell is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He has a mid to upper 90s fastball. Changeup is his best pitch. Known for the screwball. Average curve projection. It’s a deep arsenal.
I like a little arrogance in my top of the rotation starters. It can be a “fungus on the shower shoes” thing in the minors, but Honeywell knows exactly how good he is, and goes after guys with that mentality.
Honeywell very well may rub opposing fans the wrong way. He’s supremely confident in his abilities. He will need to back it up and handle the criticism. This is reminiscent of Chris Archer’s run in with David Ortiz because he kissed his bicep after striking him out. I don’t think Honeywell is as likely to back down. He has an old school mentality.
OFP (Overall Future Potential) 70—No. 2 starter
Likely 60—No. 3 starter
A lot will be expected out of a guy that is expected to be a number three starter or better.
2. Willy Adames, SS
He has plus raw power that he is still finding in games, and I expect to start seeing it in early 2018. He made strides in 2017 with his plate discipline and ability to make all-fields hard contact. Add in plus make-up and you’re looking at a long-term cornerstone piece who is about ready at 22 and contributes in many facets of the game.
The bat has a chance to make a big impact while being able to stay in the middle of the infield. He struggled to start the year for the first time in his career. He admitted he was pressing too much feeling that he was so close to the majors.
Adames has worked to become an average to just above defensive shortstop. Many believe one day he’ll have to move off short. He has the arm for third base, but that’s likely years away.
OFP 60—Occasional all-star at SS
Likely 60—Occasional all-star at SS
It’s unlikely he’ll be a major star in the league like Carlos Correa, but he’ll be a very good piece for the Rays to build around. It wouldn’t be wise to bet against Adames getting more out of his skills due to his premium makeup.
3. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B/DH
McKay is a highly polished college lefty with enough stuff to justify the fourth-overall pick even if he wasn’t also a potential regular with the bat. His fastball, curve, and change are all potential plus pitches.
McKay put up one of the most impressive college careers on both sides of the ball. As a pitcher he would have been a top five pick. As a batter he still would have been in the top half of the first round. He has the talent to be a productive MLB player on either side of the ball.
OFP 60—No. 3 starter
Likely 55—No. 3/4 starter
OFP 50—Average 1B/DH
Likely 45—Cool pinch-hitter/occasional platoon guy
McKay could likely be a league average starter in the big leagues as soon as late 2018 if that were the route the Rays chose to focus on. The top three teams in the draft viewed him as a starter and was considered for each spot.
The Rays and Braves (fifth pick) liked McKay’s bat. The bar for being a productive major league first base or designated hitter is so high. He looked gassed at the plate when he made his debut on offense for Hudson Valley. He struck out 20 of his first 60 plate appearances, but looked more in rhythm towards the end of the season.
4. Jesus Sanchez, OF
The swing is sweet and fluid, and he displays above-average bat control and an advanced approach. He’s tall, thin-waisted, and there looks to be plenty of room for additional growth.
Sanchez possesses a beautiful swing. He doesn’t walk a lot presently, but there isn’t a lot of swing and miss to his game. Currently he has the athleticism to play center field, but long term looks to be moved to right field. He already does show pull power, but as as he enters his age 20 year old he should add strength which should help some doubles turn into homers.
OFP 60—First-division corner outfielder
Likely 50—Second-division starter
Sanchez likely has the highest potential for offensive value of any player currently in the Rays system. He’s further away from being a major league contributor than the three players ahead of him, but the bat is special. A steal for $400k in the international free agent market.
5. Ronaldo Hernandez, C
Hernandez is a high-upside offense-first catcher who showed well in the Appy League as a 19-year-old. He has plus raw power, and I watched him get to it on a pull-side bomb and a few gappers.
Hernandez is a quality prospect. This is the most aggressive report I’ve seen. He was a 3B that the Rays moved to catcher after signing him. He’s relatively new to the position, but has been his sole focus as a professional. He is athletic behind the plate and has an above average arm.
Hernandez missed most of the 2016 season after a foul ball to the groin forced him to have surgery.
Hernandez is miles away from the majors and if his defense isn’t good enough behind the plate he’ll be forced to move to first base. At first base his offensive potential is much less intriguing.
OFP 60—Offense-first catcher
Likely 50—Average regular catcher
Projecting a 19 year old as a MLB average catcher. The bat has a lot of promise. The defense will be the question. He’s in his third year catching and missed most of one. One year from now this will either look brilliant or foolish.
6. Jake Bauers, OF/1B
A 55 hit tool with 50 game power (or 60 hit tool with 45 game power) is a major leaguer at any position, but only a fringe-average one at 1B.
Bauers can hit. The power is always the question mark. He just turned 22. The last two years he hit 27 combined homers in just under 1,200 PA. As he gains a bit of strength I fully expect that to be 20-25 homer power at the majors. Not great power out of your first baseman, but it’s not James Loney either.
OFP 50—Average regular at first
Likely 45—second-division regular at first
This is fair. An average MLB first baseman is such a high bar that I don’t think you can expect him to be significantly better than that. I think there’s more upside than average, but without a major power uptick you’re looking at a guy that probably peaks at 3 fWAR.
7. Joshua Lowe, OF
Lowe possesses a high baseball IQ and plenty of room for physical growth. The natural athleticism was put on display this summer as he made a smooth transition from third base to center field. His arm is accurate and his throws shows good carry, grading out plus in center and capable of handling right.
Lowe looked really great in his first year in the outfield. He is fast and looks like a natural out there.
The question is his hit tool. Lowe has the bat speed, but there is loads of hit and miss. If you could guarantee him a 50 hit tool he might be in the top three. The defense will give him every opportunity to be a MLB player.
OFP 50—Regular center fielder
Likely 40—Reserve outfielder
Lowe’s hit tool is likely to be the key to where he ends up. Even if his offense is never elite, it’s not hard to dream about him being a defense-first center fielder.
8. Lucius Fox, SS
The 20-year-old Bahamian looks the part of a future shortstop, utilizing his speed, athleticism, and soft hands to turn in strong defensive work at the six. He matches his speed in the field with speed on the base paths as he is a plus runner, clocking as high (low?) as 3.97 on a bunt.
Fox is young and athletic. His elite skill is the speed which would grade out as better than 70 with that home to first time from the left side. His defense has improved.
Unfortunately, however, Fox has absolutely no power and that is unlikely to change. With his speed one can see him hitting some liners in the outfield and getting ISO through doubles and triples.
OFP 50—Glove-first shortstop who creates enough value with his legs
Likely 40—Backup infielder/pinch runner
Being able to play shortstop competently gives him a very high likelihood to become a major league player, even if it’s only as a utility infielder with wheels.
9. Austin Franklin, RHP
The fastball is still a good sinker in the low-90s. Some starts he will show a bit more, other starts less. He leans on a potential plus curveball as his primary secondary. Franklin’s delivery is pretty simple and he’s already got the frame to start.
At 6’3” and 215 pounds Franklin has a stereotypical starter build. Mostly living off an above average sinker and plus potential curveball. He still has work to do with his changeup, but it’s the one thing I trust that this organization can teach if it’s in there.
OFP 50–No.4 starter or setup
Likely 40–No. 5 starter or middle reliever.
There is more potential than a number four in there. As he’s yet to throw in full season we’ll have time to wait on the 2016 draftee.
10. Resly Linares, LHP
His best pitch is an above-average curveball that displays some nice bite and two-plane depth. He can throw it for strikes in any count. Despite the present lack of above-average velocity, his fastball generates swing and misses due to its late movement. The left-hander also flashes feel for a changeup with some late action.
Linares has some projection left. He just turned 20 years old a few days ago and is 6’2” but only weighs 170 pounds. Adding a couple ticks of velocity could be the difference between a middle rotation starter and number five.
OFP 50—No. 4 starter
Likely 40—No. 5 starter or middle reliever
2018 should be his first year in a full season affiliate. A number four starter would be a solid outcome, but there’s the possibility of more in there.
Next 11 (in alphabetical order):
Vidal Brujan, 2B
Brock Burke, LHP
Genesis Cabrera, LHP
Carl Chester, OF
Nick Ciuffo, C
Jose De Leon, RHP
Brandon Lowe, IF
Tobias Myers, RHP
Kevin Padlo, 3B
Garrett Whitley, OF
Justin Williams, OF
Most of these names are expected to be in the top 20 if not the top 30. The lone exception is Carl Chester. Chester was drafted in the 12th round out of the University of Miami this year. He is a speedy center fielder with plus defense. He has limited power, but it is easy to see him being a fourth outfielder in the majors.
The Rays have a lot of talented prospects. Of course, as we know, prospects will break your heart. Fortunately the Rays system is deep enough to allow fans to feel optimistic for the future.