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Rays top 50 prospects review: Nos. 1-10

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Willy Adames is among the players the Rays believe will be a part of the team’s foundation.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, we’re reviewing our preseason top-50 prospects list. The top group of players features several first-round picks and players the Rays hope to build around for years to come.

Prospects 41-50
Prospects 31-40
Prospects 21-30
Prospects 11-20

No. 10 CF Josh Lowe: .238 BA/.322 OBP/.361 SLG, 6 HR, 34 XBH, 18/24 SB, 25.7 K%, 10.3 BB% in 455 PA for Class A-Advanced Charlotte

Lowe has the best tools among the Lowe trio (Baseball America ($), but as J.J. Cooper said, it’s going to come down to how well he hits. He did cut down on his strikeouts a little, but the 20-year-old still has quite a bit of work to do. Once he starts making more contact, he may begin to tap into his power potential.

It may be disappointing that the 2016 first-round pick hasn’t yet put it all together, but he’s still quite young and has had some strong stretches.

No. 9 LHP Anthony Banda: 3.64 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 26.9 K%, 9.9 BB% in 42 IP for Triple-A Durham — 3.68 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 17.9 K%, 5.4 BB% in 5 IP for Tampa Bay

Banda was part of the package the Rays received when they traded Steven Souza Jr. He had some promising appearances with the big club, but unfortunately, he joined the lengthy list of Rays pitching prospects who had Tommy John surgery in 2018. Prior to his injury, his strikeout rate with Durham was a career high.

The 25-year-old lefty may miss all of 2019.

No. 8 IF Christian Arroyo: .235 BA/.286 OBP/.341 SLG, 14 XBH, 17.6 K%, 4.4 BB% in 182 PA with Triple-A Durham — .264 BA/.339 OBP/.396 SLG, 4 XBH, 27.1 K%, 10.2 BB% in 59 PA for Tampa Bay

It’s hard to evaluate Arroyo, who went on the disabled list three times this season — twice in the minors and once in the majors. This was coming off a season where hand injuries cost him quite a bit of time. His .235 average was a career low in the minors, but his brief stint with the Rays went better than his time with the Giants last season.

He’s now had enough at-bats to graduate from prospect lists. He’ll have to hit more than he has, but his defensive versatility is valuable.

No. 7 OF Justin Williams: Traded to St. Louis

Along with Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez, Williams was traded to the Cardinals for Tommy Pham. Prior to the trade, he actually made his major league debut with the Rays, but in the minors, he was unable to build on his hot finish to the 2017 season.

No. 6 OF Garrett Whitley: Did not play

A week before the season, Whitley had labrum surgery and was unable to play. In August, he posted this clip of him playing catch, so I would assume he’ll be ready to go in 2019.

No. 5 1B Jake Bauers: .279 BA/.357 OBP/.426 SLG, 5 HR, 19 XBH, 10/16 SB, 21.2 K%, 10.4 BB% in 222 PA for Triple-A Durham — .201 BA/.316 OBP/.384 SLG, 11 HR, 35 XBH, 6/12 SB, 26.8 K%, 13.9 BB% in 388 PA for Tampa Bay

With Durham, Bauers was roughly the same player he was in Triple A last season, but he was just biding his time until his major league opportunity arrived. He took advantage of that opportunity immediately, posting a .978 OPS in his first 18 games. However, over the final two months, he batted just .153 with a .107 ISO. He had previously shown some promising power potential that wasn’t always apparent in the minors.

His hot start was encouraging, and the Rays hope he can continue developing and produce a more consistent season in 2019.

No. 4 LHP/1B Brendan McKay: 2.41 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 34.4 K%, 4.7 BB% in 78 13 IP for Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte — .214 BA/.368 OBP/.359 SLG, 6 HR, 15 XBH, 21.5 K%, 18.2 BB% in 242 PA for Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte

Unfortunately, the first full season of the McKay experiment was disrupted twice by oblique injuries. This cost him valuable innings and plate appearances especially. His bat is presently behind his arm, with BA’s scouting report noting his plate approach may be too passive ($). The sky-high walk rate is great, but perhaps he could be more aggressive against pitches to hit.

On the mound, he often dominated. He threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes, and batters had just a .511 OPS against him (including two Gulf Coast League rehab appearances). He was constantly ahead of batters and had no trouble putting them away.

I think the two-way experiment should continue in 2019. If he keeps pitching the way he has though, he’s going to put himself in the conversation for a promotion to the majors.

No. 3 OF Jesus Sanchez: .282 BA/.324 OBP/.433 SLG, 11 HR, 45 XBH, 7/11 SB, 18.9 K%, 5.3 BB% in 488 PA for Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery

Sanchez continued to excel in 2018, particularly while still in the Florida State League. His walk rate ticked down even lower, but he still batted over .300 and showed some power potential. After his promotion to Double A, he struggled for the first time in his career, although he was only one of five hitters in the Southern League 20 years old or younger.

The 2019 season will be a big test for him. Can he tighten up his plate approach against more experienced pitching and tap into his power potential?

No. 2 RHP Brent Honeywell: Did not pitch

Honeywell tore his UCL very early in spring training, and Tommy John surgery delayed his major league debut by a year. If all goes well in his rehab, he could be a nice addition to the Rays for the stretch run.

No. 1 SS Willy Adames: .286 BA/.353 OBP/.412 SLG, 4 HR, 18 XBH, 23.7 K%, 9.7 BB% in 278 PA for Triple-A Durham — .278 BA/.348 OBP/.406 SLG, 10 HR, 17 XBH, 29.4 K%, 9.6 BB% in 323 PA for Tampa Bay

After a cup of coffee in May, Adames was up for good in June. For the first 1 12 months, he struggled adjusting to the majors. For the last two months, he looked like the top prospect in the organization. From Aug. 1 through the end of the season, he batted .329 with a .406 on-base percentage and .480 slugging percentage.

If the 23-year-old has truly settled in to the majors, the Rays have a player who will provide value at the plate and in the field at one of the most demanding positions.

Video from MLB.com, FanGraphs, and Baseball America