“You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.”
Warning: small sample sizes ahead!
It has been a rough couple of months for the top of the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. One of baseball’s best prospects, Brent Honeywell, had season-ending Tommy John surgery. As did Jose De Leon, the prize return from the Dodgers for Logan Forsythe in 2016.
The Rays are in the midst of a full-blown rebuild, having dealt the face of franchise in Evan Longoria over the off-season. Steven Souza Jr. is also gone, leaving two of the team’s biggest pieces off the 2018 roster. After Longoria and Souza, third in usage was first baseman Logan Morrison, who departed without a whimper in free agency.
Corey Dickerson was cut to save dollars and so was Dan Jennings, even after the team dealt their 2014 first rounder Casey Gillaspie for the reliever last season.
So it goes, given the forlorn, competition starved environment of Tampa Bay.
On the plus side, the Rays’ farm system is not without interest. The start of of the 2018 Minor League Baseball season has mercifully seen two of Tampa’s elite prospects get off to hot starts.
Due to Honeywell’s injury, shortstop Willy Adams entered this season as John’s top Tampa Bay prospect. Ranked 33rd overall, the main get of the David Price trade in 2014, this is the year for Adames.
His stock peaked last year, sometimes talked about as one of the best middle infielders in all of the minors, and while it has satiated a bit, is still sky-high.
The Dominican is still just 22, acquired at the spry age of 20. Because of the blockbuster trade, it feels like we have been waiting on him forever. Before he makes his debut later this season, he is scorching through the first two games at Triple-A Durham.
He is 3-for-7 with a single, double and triple in his first two games, already scoring three runs. His call-up will be of major interest around the league.
Moving to the number 84 slot on John’s 2018 list, we find first baseman —and sometimes corner outfielder— Jake Bauers. Another acquisition via trade, months after the Adames transaction, Bauers had the unfair, tall task of being traded for Wil Myers.
He has answered the call so far and become one of the best prospects in the organization. The 2013 seventh-rounder by the Padres is also 22 and already has a full year at Triple-A behind him.
He is not a prototypical power hitting first baseman and will have launch angle millennials scrambling for a replacement, but makes up for a lack of power with multiple tools.
An excellent runner, Bauers stole 20 bases last year for the Bulls while hitting .263 as a 21-year old in Triple-A. His .368 OBP was a plus as well, even if he slugged just .412.
In his first two games this year, his second at the level, he is also out of the gates very hot. He is 4-for-9 with three doubles already and a pair of runs scored.
Rays fans are looking for signs of promise —and health— anywhere in the organization. In Adames and Bauers, they have that, and hopefully two figures of their depth chart for many years to come.