The Tampa Bay Rays have been an organization that has had success thanks in part to a strong farm system. Any team that wishes to have sustained success, especially one with payroll issues like Tampa, must build from within and have plenty of depth. Earlier this year John Sickels placed them 9th in farm system rankings, placing them in the "strong" category. Let's take a look on how their top 10 prospects have performed to start 2016.
1) Blake Snell, LHP - Durham Bulls
Snell has started 2016 2-3 with a 3.29 ERA. In 41 innings, he has a 12.29 K/9 and 4.17 BB/9. Snell was briefly called up on April 23rd to pitch in Yankee Stadium and he went five innings, allowed two hits, but took the no decision. There is no doubt the 23 year old will be back up with Tampa at some point this season after some further seasoning at Triple-A. Snell is currently slated to start on Thursday morning at Toledo.
2) Brent Honeywell, RHP - Charlotte Stone Crabs
Honeywell provides the Rays with another arm for the future and a right-hander to join the lefty Snell. Unfortunately Honeywell was placed on the 7-day DL with right arm tenderness on May 20th, but early reports were it does not appear to be serious. So far in 2016, Honeywell is 4-0 with a 1.30 ERA. In 41.2 innings, he has walked only 6 batters. He is an exciting young arm who has struck out at least five batters in each of his seven starts.
3) Willy Adames, SS - Montgomery Biscuits
The shortstop of the future for the Rays is only 20 years old. Adames, acquired from Detroit in the trade deadline deal of David Price, has a plus arm and shown strides of improvement at the plate this season at Double-A. As of May 24th, he has brought his strikeout percentage down from 27% to 21% and increased his walk percentage from 11.8 to 15.9%. He is slashing .274/.392/.507 with six homers through his first 176 plate appearances. Adames is probably looking at a full season in Montgomery as he continues to develop.
4) Garrett Whitley, OF- Hudson Valley Renegades
The 2015 first round draft selection has not begun his season yet, but is less than a month away from opening day for Hudson Valley against the Aberdeen IronBirds. He will certainly be a player to keep an eye on in the NYPL this summer after a slow start between the GCL and NYPL in 2015, slashing a combined .174/.293/.312.
5) Jake Bauers, 1B/OF - Montgomery Biscuits
Bauers has started to play the outfield for the first time this season, in the hopes of adding some versatility to his game. He has logged 241.2 innings in the outfield, with a majority of the time in right field, compared to only 71 innings at first, his natural position. At the plate, Bauers has struggled over his last ten games, only hitting .171. Overall, his strikeouts are up, as he is already almost halfway to his total in 2015. (He struck out 74 times in 2015 and has struck out 34 times so far this season.) While his strikeouts may be up, he has increased his walk percentage so far from last year from 10.3 to 14%.
6) Taylor Guerrieri, RHP - Montgomery Biscuits
Guerrieri has struggled to start 2016, but he may not be far off from improving. He may have a high ERA at 4.24, but opponents are only hitting .232 against him. Since batters are not hitting exceptionally well against him, his problem is in his walks. His walks are up, nearly doubled from 5.9 to 10.1%, and his strikeouts are down from 22.2 to 14.6%. It has only been nine starts, so the season is young for the right-hander.
7) Daniel Robertson, SS - Durham Bulls
Along with short, Robertson has played second and third this season in Durham. He has some experience playing more than one position, but as he moves up the system, similar to Bauers, the more versatile the better. He is off to a .267/.351/.336 start, which is below his career minor league averages. One area of improvement Robertson needs his to walk more, as he has just two walks in his last ten games.
8) Casey Gillaspie, 1B - Montgomery Biscuits
Gillaspie has the potential to be the top offensive prospect in the Rays top ten. When he was drafted 20th overall in the 2014 draft, Gillaspie was viewed as the first basemen of the future for Tampa. Over the course of the past three seasons he has made strides to be just that. I was fortunate enough to watch him in 2014 when I interned with the Hudson Valley Renegades and saw great potential in him - he has a plus glove and at that time his bat was still developing. Since 2014, Gillaspie has improved, currently hitting .311/.440/.576, and more importantly getting on base more. In over 100 less plate appearances, Gillaspie has matched last season's walk total. Gillaspie's power continues to be his strength, while it is a small sample size, this year he has a .265 ISO (Isolated Power).
9) Jacob Faria, RHP - Montgomery Biscuits
Faria's win-loss record and ERA may not show it, 1-4 and 4.41, but he is having a solid season for Montgomery. Opponents are only hitting .188 against him, which would be a career best, as well as a 10.06 K/9 and 4.94 BB/9. The Rays hope he can continue to develop into a back to middle of the rotation starter or at the minimum be a reliable arm at the back end of the bullpen.
10) Mikie Mahtook, OF - Tampa Bay Rays
Mahtook was just called up to the Rays on Monday, May 23rd, and should get the majority of the playing time in center with the wrist injury to Kevin Kiermaier. He saw some time at the Major League level as well last year, experiencing some success. John Sickels provided an excellent rookie report over the weekend. Tampa should get a long and consistent look at Mahtook against major league pitching over the next two months in Kiermaier's absence.