I wonder if the Rays are mad at the Yankees for stealing their style? The kings of drafting/signing and stashing are back, with a whole new crop of youngsters, and there’s some underrated names to come. While their top specs may not have the name value the Yankees, or say the Braves have, many of them are destined to make an impact on fantasy in the coming years. One of my favorite shortstop prospects calls the Rays home in Willy Adames, who is at most a year away. As well as one of the more slept on corner infield prospects in Casey Gillaspie, who could have an impact this year. In fact the Rays have a lot of high floor, low ceiling types waiting in the wings in Durham ready to become wavier wire fodder, and hot schmotato’s. Not only do we have some Top 100 types, and some floorboreds, we also have some talented far off youngsters, ’round here we call them Lolita’s, for you to crush on. Without further ado, it’s the Top Tampa Bay Rays Prospects. That’s right, it’s TAMPA! Stevie J.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Willy Adames, SS | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
One of the more underrated shortstop prospects in the game, Adames finds himself often lost in the shuffle behind bigger names like Crawford, Rosario, and Swanson, but he’s every bit as exciting for fantasy. Blessed with a quick bat, plus raw power, and plate approach, Adames might be the best hitter of the top shortstop prospects of the moment. While his power may manifest itself more in the hard line drive variety, he looks like he could be a perennial 20 homer guy from the shortstop position. He’s shown the ability to make hard contact to all fields, leading Southern League shortstops in homers, and doubles. His plus plate approach is evident in one glance at the statline, as he led the Southern League in walks. Should spend a majority of his season with AAA Durham, learning the ways of the women, and never to make love with his socks on. Oh yeah, and getting ready to take Tampa by storm.
Brent Honeywell, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A+
Yes, we all know about the screwball, so let’s just get that out of the way now, but who’s the real Brent Honeywell? How about a high pitchability starter with a five pitch arsenal, all of which he can throw for strikes. He can touch 96-97 with his fastball, and he pairs that with his infamous screwball, a solid change, an average curve, and a developing cutter. His mechanics are smooth and he never struggles to find the zone. He induces a great deal of weak contact, and misses enough bats to be dangerous. He’s still probably a year away from a true impact, but he’ll compete with Blake Snell for the Rays ace distinction soon enough.
Jose de Leon, RHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
Late round finds have been a calling card of the Dodgers over the last decade, and no one pick may come to signify this more than De Leon. Too bad for Dodgers fans he was sold for Logan Forsythe spots. The funny consequence of this trade is he might be just as far off from the majors with the non-competing Rays, that he was with the always competitive Dodgers. A 24th round pick out of Southern in 2013, De Leon has worked hard to transform his body and arsenal, to the point that he’s arguably one of the most polished pitching prospects in the game. With the shine off Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow, and Alex Reyes sent to Dr. Freeze’s waiting room, he’s easily one of the top 5 right-handed pitching prospects in the minors. His low to mid 90’s fastball generates swings and misses in bunches, having led the minors in K/9 in 2015 with a 12.8 K/9. After overcoming an early season injury, De Leon dominated the hitting friendly PCL to the tune of a 2.61 ERA, .94 WHIP, .194 BAA, and 111 strikeouts to 20 walks in 86.1 innings. Outside his plus fastball his arsenal is comprised of a plus change, and an average low 80’s slider that’s most effective off the plate, and to his glove-side. Doesn’t look like there’s a place in the rotation for him at the present, barring a trade, but should work his way into the preferred five come mid-July. The hope is he’s up earlier, but that’s tough to conclude.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
An on base machine with a power stroke, Gillaspie is a switch hitter with baseball bloodlines. He doesn’t possess the quickest bat, but he makes up for that with excellent pitch recognition skills, and strike zone awareness. He’s rarely struggled at any level, and looks like he’s prepared to make an impact with Tampa at some point this season. He should pair up with Adames long term to form a nice middle of the order partnership for the Rays. Another unheralded dynasty league player you should target.
Jake Bauers, 1B | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
A well rounded player, Bauer makes loads of line drive contact, and plays an excellent first base. Unfortunately he’s boring as hell for fantasy, until he’s shows the ability to clear the fences regularly. He’ll play a little more in deep leagues that use average and on base as categories, but doesn’t have the middle of the order upside I see in Gillaspie.
Chih-Wei Hu, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
Try and read that name and not have it said in your head by Jackie Chan…. I’ll wait, you can not do it. Don’t care if I’m playing into bad Boston stereotypes, and come off as racial insensitive. Another fastball/changeup guy, though unlike Faria he possesses plus velocity on the fastball. Ever the ones to chase the guys throwing the odd secondaries, Hu throws a palmball, and also mixes in a curve, and what I call a cutter, but some all a slider.
Justin Williams, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A+
A powerful bat first outfield prospect that puts on shows in batting practice. He parlayed an excellent winter assignment to the Australian Baseball League in 2015, into a very solid season across Hi-A and AA, slashing .295/.318/.447 with 10 homers. He’s still very much a grip it and rip it type at the plate but he’s made improvements as a hitter in games. If he can really unleash his raw power he becomes a far more interesting prospect for dynasty.
Jacob Faria, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
A true floorbored pitching who gets by on deception and working off a good fastball/changeup mix that keeps hitters off balance. He doesn’t have the jaw-dropping velocity on his fastball that we’ve come to expect these days, working mostly in the low 90’s, but he throws it with good down hill plane from his 6’6 frame. Poetic! Where Faria loses me is his breaking stuff, neither his slider or curve are even average pitches, and that might hurt him in the tough AL East should he make some starts with Tampa this year.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Josh Lowe, 3B | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: Rk
The Rays 2016 first round pick at 13th overall is a natural lefthanded power hitter with a rocket arm. He showed some unexpected plate approach in rookie ball, but he’s still raw at the plate. Which is to be expected from any 18 year old.
Adrian Rondon, SS | Age: 18 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A-
A powerful youngster, who’s slowly begun to show returns on big promise. He’s a power/hit tool combo, but a long way off. If you’re league is deep enough for a draft and stash, he’s a prime candidate.
Jesus Sanchez, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: Rk
A toolsy teenager with plus raw power from a compact lefthanded stroke, Sanchez is another off the radar dynasty league asset on the verge of a breakout. He has impressive strike zone awareness for a player his age. Sanchez is a plus runner but a below average base stealer, so I’m unsure if his speed will ever manifest itself in high steal totals.
Lucius Fox, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A-
A speedy up the middle talent that may move off of short for center one day, but for now he’s a middle infield prospect. One of the top July 2nd signings of the 2015 period, who the Rays shrewdly acquired in the Matt Moore deal. He has loud tools lead by his speed, that could make him a future top of the order dynamo. Using the word Dynamo makes things sound fast, and foreign, of which Lucius is both. Though he’s not really foreign as he pulled an Alex Reyes and moved to the Bahamas to bask in beautiful women, and bonus pool money. He’s still super raw at the plate, but is dynamic when he does get on base. Boom! Didn’t mention Batman once. Doh! I just did.
Garrett Whitley, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A-
Another talented teenager with loud tools, the Rays scooped Whitley in the first round of the 2015 draft at 13th overall. His greatest asset, and the one that gets Prospectors like Halp and myself dreaming is his elite bat speed, that’s been described as plus-plus from scouts. Whitley pairs that with a raw but elite set of tools for fantasy. He’s a plus runner on the bases, stealing 20 bases this summer in short season ball. His plus raw power is evident when watching his cage work, but it’s yet to translate to games. If Whitley can get over his pitch recognition, and contact issues, and puts together the whole package we could be looking at a future fantasy star.
Carlos Vargas, SS | Age: 17 | ETA: 2021 | 2016 Level: DSL
Acquired in the Mallex Smith/Drew Smyly trade, Vargas might be one that Mariners fans come back to if Smyly’s time in Seattle doesn’t work out. At the moment Vargas is a power-hitting middle infielder with elite bat speed, and power to all fields. Needs to work on pitch recognition skills, as he struggles with good off-speed, and breaking balls, not out of the norm for a 17 year old though. Is considered very coachable, and a student of the game. Might move off of short for third base where his arm and offensive profile fit well.
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