Three Rays prospects make the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects List for 2017. While just three prospects is below average for MLB, the Rays demonstrate quality over quantity, as these three are solidly in the top 50 with two are in the top 25.
Baseball Prospectus ranked the Rays farm system at No. 15 in the 2017 Baseball Prospectus Handbook Annual based on the strength of the top two prospects, Willy Adames and Brent Honeywell. The book went to print before the Rays acquired Jose De León from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Logan Forsythe on January 24.
Jake Bauers is the only notable prospect missing from the list. It wasn’t unexpected as he was ranked fourth on the Rays top 10 prior to acquiring Jose De León behind Josh Lowe. The analysts view him as a first baseman who will profile similar to former Rays first baseman James Loney and Casey Kotchman.
21. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Some organizations just have a type. Going back to Ben Zobrist, the Rays have collected well-rounded young infielders without any obvious standout tools, often with gloves just short of a regular shortstop--in recent years they've dealt for Matt Duffy, Brad Miller, Logan Forsythe, and Nick Franklin. Adames comes along with Franklin in the 2014 David Price trade, and he has the potential to be the best of the lot. Like the rest, Adames lacks any particular standout tool, but he's developed into a better bet to stay at shortstop, and his stock has risen every season that he's been in the Tampa Bay system. Plus, if he falls a little short, there are worse thing than being an imitation Ben Zobrist.
This is quite a lot of praise for Adames, but at the same time it badly undervalues what Ben Zobrist meant to this team. Over a four year period from 2009 to 2012 Ben Zobrist led all position players in MLB with 24.5 fWAR.
I’m as high on anybody on Adames’ chances of becoming an impact player, and I really hope he can approach what Zobrist was able to accomplish as a Ray, but the future will be bright if he ends up better than the Matt Duffy, Brad Miller, and Logan Forsythe group.
I may be alone on my island, but I stand by my belief that the Forsythe trade means Adames will be up by July. His combination of position, bat, and makeup make me as excited as I’ve been about a Rays prospect since Matt Moore’s debut in September 2011.
22. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, he throws the screwball--one of the rarest pitches in baseball--as his out pitch. And yes, he learned it from his uncle, controversial pitching guru and 1974 National League Cy Young winner, Dr. Mike Marshall. But there's more to Honeywell than his mastery of a nearly dead pitch. He's got a blazing fastball to go with a developing change and curve. He's also one of the brashest, most confident prospects you'll ever see, which manifests itself everywhere from the mound to Twitter, where he famously went after Bryce Harper and his "Make Baseball Fun Again" campaign last spring.
This write-up has little about his stuff, once again focusing too much on the screwball; it mostly talks about his background and makeup. Honeywell’s screwball is a really great pitch, but he has other really good pitches and will be why he’s successful.
Earlier this off-season I expected to see Honeywell pitching in the majors by mid-season, but with the acquisition of Jose De León I find that really unlikely. It’s not about not being ready or not having faith in his stuff and more that he won’t be on the 40 man until next winter most likely. The Rays have great depth and I expect De León, Jacob Faria, and Chih-Wei Hu to get starts before Honeywell this season.
The most likely scenario in which we will see Honeywell pitching at Tropicana Field in 2017 will be if the Rays are in a playoff push and he’s used out of the bullpen in September as they did with David Price and started to with Matt Moore.
38. Jose De León, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 20-80 scale, the cornerstone of every prospect list, is based on normal distribution. But baseball talent is not normally distributed. Even no. 2 starters are nearly impossible to find in the wilds of the minor leagues. So we are very picky about what arms we put a future 70 on. The downside of that is, come winter, we end up having to find 30 different ways to describe a mid-rotation starter. De León makes our lives a little bit easier because his second-best pitch is actually his changeup! That's different from our usual Top 101 mid-rotation type. The cambio tumbles off the deck and has good separation from his low-90s fastball that he can dial up to 95 at times. The slider is the third pitch instead, and it is potentially average but not a bat misser. De León throws a lot of strikes, but the stuff isn't so good that major league hitters won't do damage if they aren't good strikes.
It’s not hard to see why the Rays and Baseball Prospectus highly value the right handed pitching prospect. He absolutely blew through AA and AAA while pitching in two of the toughest environments to get hitters out in 2016.
The Rays have an affinity for the fastball/changeup combination. Most reports view his changeup as his best pitch and a real weapon. If he’s able to develop the slider into a quality third offering he can offer upside beyond the mid-rotation starter he currently profiles as.