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Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 prospects for 2017

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Willy Adames
Willy Adames
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 Prospects for 2017

The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS

Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

1) Jose De Leon, RHP, Grade A/A-: Age 24, 24th round pick in 2013 by Dodgers from Southern University, traded to Rays on January 23rd for Logan Forsythe; posted 2.61 ERA in 86 innings in Triple-A with 111/20 K/BB and 61 hits; 6.35 ERA in 17 MLB innings with 15/7 K/BB; fastball 90-95, showed pinpoint location with it in Triple-A; mixes in plus change-up; breaking ball looked plus to me in Triple-A but was less impressive in majors; his stock is down a bit with some analysts but I still see him as an elite prospect due to superior command of three quality pitches and excellent performance record; number two or strong number three starter assuming continued good health. ETA 2017.

2) Willy Adames, SS, Grade B+/A-: Age 21, hit .274/.372/.430 with 31 doubles, 11 homers, 13 steals, 74 walks in 486 at-bats in Double-A, 121 strikeouts; production excellent for context (wRC+135); good feel for the strike zone and above-average power potential for a middle infielder; excellent instincts and makeup to go with tool set; lacks superior range but makes the routine plays and has a strong, accurate arm; can play shortstop in the short run, may move to second or third base eventually; bat should play at those positions if he maintains present progress; grows on you the more you see him play. Boost to A- is very possible once all prospect lists are done. ETA 2018.

3) Brent Honeywell, RHP, Grade B+/A-:
Age 21, 2.34 ERA with 117/25 K/BB in 115 innings between High-A and Double-A, 94 hits allowed; draws raves for excellent screwball but is not a one-trick pony; also has fastball up to 95-96, good change-up, good cutter, okay curveball; throws strikes, strong mound presence; main concern is durability after missing a month with a forearm problem; broad arsenal and sharp command give up number two starter potential if he remains healthy. Boost to A- very possible once all lists are done. ETA late 2017.

4) Jake Bauers, OF-1B, Grade B+
: Age 21, hit .274/.370/.420 with 14 homers, 73 walks, 89 strikeouts in 493 at-bats in Double-A, wRC+132; maintaining strong strike zone judgment with power continuing to evolve; superior defensive first baseman now playing outfield to make lineup fit easier; can handle either corner based on early results; still an open question how much home run power he ends up with but OBP should certainly be a strong asset. ETA 2018.

5) Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Grade B/B+:
Age 23, first round pick in 2014 from Wichita State; hit .284/.388/.479 between Double-A and Triple-A, 18 homers, 80 walks, 117 strikeouts in 472 at-bats; wRC+150; not as athletic as Bauer, two years older and strikes out more often but has more present power along with a good eye and high walk rate; limited to first base but switch-hitting power and patience are valuable assets; should be a productive slugger. ETA late 2017.

6) Jacob Faria, RHP, Grade B-/B:
Age 23, posted 3.99 ERA in 151 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 157/68 K/BB, just 110 hits; 10th round pick in 2011 out of high school in California; fits Rays pitcher stereotype to a T; fastball varies between 88 and 95 depending on when you see him; plays up even at lower velocity due to excellent change-up; reports on breaking stuff vary but high strikeout rate is a promising sign; needs to lower walks and needs another half-year of Triple-A; workhorse potential. ETA late 2017.

7) Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Grade B-/B:
Age 23, signed by Twins out of Taiwan in 2013; stolen by Rays in Kevin Jepsen trade in ’15; posted 2.59 ERA in 143 innings in Double-A with 107/36 K/BB; fastball in low-90s but mixes well with broad arsenal including change-up, palmball, slider, curve; throws strikes, excellent pitching instincts; should be ready sometime this year as possible fourth starter but should not be under-estimated. ETA 2017

8) Jaime Schultz, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 25, 14th round pick in 2013; posted 3.58 ERA in 131 innings in Triple-A, 163/68 K/BB, just 113 hits; mid-90s fastball with excellent strikeout rate and low hit rates; power curveball is another strikeout pitch; although used as a starter thus far his 5-10 size results in reliever projection from many observers; you have to love the dominance ratios but the walks need to come down some to maximize his outcomes. ETA 2017.

9) Jesus Sanchez, OF, Grade B-:
Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014 for $400,000; hit .335/.382/.498 in Dominican Summer League in ’15, then .329/.351/.549 in 213 t-bats in rookie ball in ’16; has 23 doubles, 15 triples, 11 homers in 452 career at-bats; lefty bat with developing power; doesn’t draw many walks yet but pure hitting skills draw praise; running speed and throwing arm draw 55 grades; a favorite of those who follow the team closely and I entirely agree, feeling he was one of the top bargains in the ’14 international class. ETA 2020.

10) Daniel Robertson, SS, Grade B-
: Age 22, hit .259/.358/.356 with five homers, 58 walks, 100 strikeouts in 436 at-bats in Triple-A; very reliable at shortstop although range is limited; has looked excellent during trials at second base and third base; production was above-average for International League at wRC+110; I have rated him more highly in the past; I still like him a lot but bat hasn’t developed as much as I’d hoped; I may be over-correcting with the B-. ETA 2017.

11) Joshua Lowe, 3B, Grade B-: Age 18, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hit .249/.374/.405 with five homers, 37 walks, 59 strikeouts in 173 at-bats in rookie ball; two-way player in high school but will hit in Rays system; strong arm obviously but defense at third needs a ton of work, posted horrendous .836 fielding percentage; 55 or 60 speed, 50 or 55 raw power, draws walks but also strikes out a lot and hasn’t refined his swing yet, not unusual given two-way background; high ceiling player who will need time to develop. ETA late 2020 or 2021.


12) Garrett Whitley, OF, Grade B-/C+:
Age 19, first round pick in 2015 from high school in New York; hit .266/.356/.379 with one homers, 21 steals, 30 walks, 75 strikeouts in 256 at-bats in New York-Penn League; 60-65 speed with more raw power than home run total indicates; can draw a walk but whiff rate is high and will have to watch batting average at higher levels; overall he improved dramatically after hitting just .174 in his ’15 debut; defense features solid-average arm and above-average range, can play center; next step is developing power. ETA: 2021.

13) Kevin Padlo, 3B, Grade B-/C+:
Age 20, fifth round pick in ’14 by Rockies, traded to Rays in Corey Dickerson/Jake McGee deal; hit .229/.358/.413 with 16 homers, 14 steals, 79 walks, 134 strikeouts in 414 at-bats; had issues with strikeouts, batting average in ’16 but an impressive player to see in person; selective at the plate with above-average power and deceptive speed; very good defender at third base, may be excellent in time; don’t be deceived by the batting average, there is a lot to like here. ETA 2020.

14) Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Grade B-/C+:
Age 24; posted 12-6, 3.76 record in Double-A with 89/46 K/BB, 1.91 GO/AO in 146 innings, 130 hits; despite a pretty good season his stock has declined thanks to loss of fastball velocity; still throws strikes and generates large number of ground balls with sinker, curve, change-up; there’s some prospect fatigue going on with this one but it is true that his upside is not what it was once thought to be; at this point he looks like a four/five starter or perhaps a reliever. ETA late 2017.

15) Adrian Rondon, SS, Grade C+/B-
: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic for $2,950,000 in 2014; hit .249/.301/.430 in Appalachian League with seven homers, 13 walks, 58 strikeouts in 193 at-bats; big improvement after hitting .166 in rookie ball; best attributes are arm strength, raw power, and defensive instincts; speed and range are only average and may force a move to second or third base eventually but he’s reliable for his age in terms of errors; crushed left-handed pitching (.328/.368/.625) but has to improve against right-handers (.209/.270/.333); high-ceiling player who will need development time. ETA 2021.

16) Ryne Stanek, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 25, first round pick in 2013 from University of Arkansas; posted 3.79 ERA with 91/35 K/BB in 78 innings in Double-A, then converted to relief, posted 5.92 ERA with 22/13 K/BB in 24 innings in Triple-A; fastball up to 95-96 as a starter, up to 100 in the bullpen; also has a plus breaking ball; control remains the big issue and lead to some weak performances in Triple-A though he also dominated in many outings; look for any improvement in K/BB ratio as breakthrough presage. ETA 2017.

17) Justin Williams, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2013 by Diamondbacks; traded to Rays in ’14 Jeremy Hellickson deal; hit .295/.318/.447 between High-A and Double-A with 10 homers, 11 walks, 56 strikeouts in 342 at-bats; very strong from left side, 6-2, 215, but swing doesn’t translate his physical strength into game power as often as desired; also has an extremely aggressive hitting approach with very few walks, however his strikeout rates are reasonable and he’s a career .310 hitter; good arm works well in right field but lack of speed/range keep him out of center field; ETA 2019.

18) Hunter Wood, RHP, Grade C+
: Age 23, 29th round pick in 2013 from Howard Junior College in Texas; posted 2.39 ERA in 113 innings between High-A and Double-A with 105/44 K/BB, just 70 hits allowed; throws strikes with 91-95 MPH fastball, solid curveball and a change-up that needs more work; may ultimately fit best in relief. ETA 2018.

19) Genesis Cabrera, LHP, Grade C+
: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; posted 3.88 ERA with 96/48 K/BB in 116 innings in Low-A; Midwest League observers liked low-90s fastball and plus slider with low-effort delivery; change-up and overall command need some work but lefties with live arms get plenty of chances; ETA 2020.

20) Kevin Gadea, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 22, from Nicaragua; signed by Mariners, drafted in 2016 Rule 5 draft and will have to stick on MLB roster; long shot but may pay off if Midwest League performance was any indicator; 2.15 ERA in 50 innings, 72/11 K/BB, just 41 hits; still projectable at 6-5, 190, fastball in low-90s and may improve further, solid-average curve, throws strikes; deserves some slack on the age curve due to background; ETA 2017 on assumption they can find a bullpen spot for him.

21) Austin Franklin, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 19, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Florida; posted 2.70 ERA with 40/16 K/BB in 43 innings in rookie ball, just 30 hits; fastball up to 93-95, curveball and change-up have potential to be at least average; good size at 6-3, 215; Rays have had good luck helping similar pitchers develop; command needs work but he wasn’t as raw in rookie ball as may have been expected. High upside. ETA 2021.

OTHER GRADE C+: Jake Cronenworth, SS; Lucius Fox, SS; Greg Harris, RHP; Brandon Koch, RHP; Joe McCarthy, OF; Carlos Vargas, SS;  Kean Wong, 2B; Ryan Yarbrough, LHP

GRADE C: Jose Alvarado, LHP; Peter Bayer, RHP; Chris Betts, C; Ryan Boldt, OF; Vidal Brujan, 2B; Brock Burke, LHP; J.D. Busfield, RHP; Eleardo Cabrera, OF; Yonny Chirinos, RHP Nick Ciuffo, C; Johnny Field, OF; Jake Fraley, OF; Easton McGee, RHP; Tom Milone, OF; Benton Moss, RHP; Jose Mujica, RHP: David Olmedo-Barrera, OF; Travis Ott, LHP; Austin Pruitt, RHP; David Rodriguez, C; Michael Santos, RHP; Brett Sullivan, C; Dylan Thompson, RHP; Riley Unroe, 2B

Let’s discuss this system and answer questions in the comments thread.