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Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 2015 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

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Nathan Karns
Nathan Karns
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Tampa Bay Rays.

This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.

These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published February 28, 2015

1) Willy Adames, SS, Grade B+/B: Hitting .261/.343/.389 with 22 doubles, 48 walks, 105 strikeouts in 357 at-bats in High-A, playing well on defense, very credible season for a 19-year-old in the pitching-oriented Florida State League.
2) Steven Souza, OF, Grade B+/B:
Hitting .214/.303/.403 with 15 homers, 10 steals, 35 walks, 122 strikeouts in 308 at-bats in the major leagues. Overall tools, particularly power, remain impressive but contact issues a significant hindrance.
3) Daniel Robertson, SS, Grade B+/B:
Hitting .263/.342/.416 with three homers, 20 walks, 44 strikeouts in 209 at-bats in Double-A. Reports on his glove are very good and I still think the bat can be solid.
4) Brent Honeywell, RHP, Grade B:
3.58 ERA with 113/20 K/BB in 106 innings between Low-A and High-A, 96 hits, age 20. Reports in the Midwest League were glowing, particularly about his pitchability and mound presence. He’s had a few rougher moments in the FSL but still looks very promising.
5) Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Grade B:
2.29 ERA with 54/16 K/BB in 55 innings between High-A and Double-A, 2.67 GO/AO. Gradually building up workload as Tommy John recedes in the review mirror; he’s been very effective on a per-inning basis.

6) Justin O’Conner, C, Grade B-/B:
Hitting .222/.248/.370 with eight homers, 11 walks, 102 strikeouts in 338 at-bats in Double-A. Has caught 45% of runners but remains vulnerable to passed balls and errors, has power potential but horrible plate discipline holds him back.
7) Alex Colome. RHP, Grade B-/B:
83 major league innings as both a starter and reliever, 4.35 ERA with 59/27 K/BB, 90 hits. Has shown better command in relief role, can hit 96, I think he can improve from here.
8) Ryan Brett, 2B, Grade B-:
Hitting .231/.280/.333 with 12 walks, 48 strikeouts in 234 at-bats in Triple-A, unable to duplicate Double-A success at this point. Doesn’t have the defensive chops to leap forward without more hitting.
9) Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Grade B-:
Hitting .272/.355/.524 with 17 homers, 30 walks, 46 strikeouts in 246 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. On disabled list since early July with wrist injury. Unfortunate as he was having a very good season, love the power/low-K combination.
10) Andrew Velazquez, INF, Grade B-:
Hitting .283/.340/.348 with 16 walks, 55 strikeouts in 187 at-bats in High-A, lost time to injury. Strikeout rate is too high for a guy with no home run power, being groomed as utility infielder with multiple positions.

11) Justin Williams, OF, Grade B-:
Hitting .284/.308/.413 with seven homers, 13 walks, 76 strikeouts in 387 at-bats in Low-A, just 19 years old. I’d like a better BB/K/PA but reports continue to emphasize long-term offensive potential, raw power.
12) Blake Snell, LHP, Grade B-
: Exceptional breakthrough season: 1.24 ERA in 109 innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, with 135/45 K/BB and only 65 hits allowed. Ground ball pitcher with a high strikeout rate, a fine combination. Stock way up, at least a B+.
13) Jake Bauers, 1B, Grade B-:
Hitting .274/.355/.425 with nine homers, 45 walks, 55 strikeouts in 372 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. More homers would be nice, however he’s only 19 years old and holding his own against advanced competition with impressive feel for hitting, strike zone.
14) Adrian Rondon, SS, Grade C+:
Bonus baby signed for $2,950,000, supposedly the best player available in the Dominican Republic in 2014. Weak performance thus far, .183/.274/.267 with 14 walks, 46 strikeouts in 120 at-bats in rookie ball. Just 17.
15) Mikie Mahtook, OF, Grade C+:
26th man, going back and forth between Triple-A and majors to fill holes in the outfield. Hitting .239/.293/.361 with nine steals, 16 walks, 81 strikeouts in 305 at-bats at Durham (much weaker than last year at the same level), .189/.268/.459 with three homers in 37 big league at-bats. Hard to get into a groove with that usage pattern but has been hot lately for the Bulls, .342 in last 10 games.

16) Enny Romero, LHP, Grade C+: 4.70 ERA with 43/14 K/BB in 44 innings in Triple-A, 7.84 ERA with 10/7 K/BB in 10 big league innings. He’s a live-armed lefty who will be bouncing around for the next decade since no one will want to give up on a guy who can hit 98. He should put something positive together eventually.
17) Ryne Stanek, RHP, Grade C+: Very effective in High-A (1.78, 38/15 in 51, 33 hits), not as good in Double-A (4.37, 35/24 in 47, 42 hits). Not looking like an ace, but if he can cut down the walks he will have value.
18) German Marquez, RHP, Grade C+:
3.62 ERA in 112 innings in High-A, 84/27 K/BB, 119 hits. Good command, but blah dominance-ratios warn of some potential adjustment issues when he reaches Double-A.
19) Johnny Field, OF, Grade C+
: Hitting .255/.325/.446 with 13 homers, 15 steals, 28 walks, 97 strikeouts in 372 at-bats in Double-A. Nice power/speed combo, but we’ll have to see if contact/plate discipline become issues in Triple-A or majors.
20) Jose Dominguez, RHP, Grade C+:
6.97 ERA with 20/16 K/BB in 21 innings, 31 hits in Triple-A. Very disappointing; in contrast he’s thrown five shutout innings in the majors, two hits, 5/2 K/BB. Still see him as a bullpen asset.

The best rookie for the Rays this year has been right-hander Nate Karns: 125 innings, 3.52 ERA, 121/44 K/BB, 110 hits. He was rated as a Grade C+ pre-season and could have slotted anywhere in the 15-20 range. He’s an older rookie at age 27 but I don’t see any particular reason why he won’t continue to pitch well. Another Grade C+, Matt Andriese, has also been effective in the majors (3.11 ERA, 32/10 K/BB in 46 innings) and could take a larger role. Another pre-season C+, Jacob Faria, has been strong as well (1.97 ERA, 118/43 in 119 innings in High-A/Double-A).

Other good things: Honeywell and Guerrieri have been quite effective. 2012 first-rounder Richie Shaffer has found his power stroke (.263/.361/.539, 23 homers) in the high minors and hit two homers in his first four big league games. His stock has gone way up.

If you’re looking for a long-distance prospect, consider outfielder Jesus Sanchez, hitting .330/.381/.478 in the Dominican Summer League. Yeah, that’s the DSL and you have to take that with some grains of salt, but reports on his tools are as solid as his numbers and he’s just 17,

For more on the Rays system, check out this article by Daniel Russell at DRaysBay going over Tampa’s Top 30 prospects at mid-season.