The 2016 Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects

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And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Blake Snell, LHP                                                             
Born: 12/04/92 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Yordano Ventura, Maikel Cleto,

Justin De Fratus, Thomas Palica, Matt Harvey

Height: 6-4 Weight: 180 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A 99.0 4 9 4.27 4.52 9.64 6.64 23.7% 16.3% 0.73 71.5%
2014 21 A 40.3 3 2 1.79 3.14 9.37 4.24 26.1% 11.8% 0.22 80.3%
2014 21 A+ 75.3 5 6 3.94 3.19 9.20 4.42 23.3% 11.2% 0.12 64.8%
2015 22 A+ 21.0 3 0 0.00 2.17 11.57 4.71 32.9% 13.4% 0.00 100.0%
2015 22 AA 68.7 6 2 1.57 3.26 10.35 3.80 29.5% 10.8% 0.66 91.2%
2015 22 AAA 44.3 6 2 1.83 2.12 11.57 2.64 33.3% 7.6% 0.41 79.6%

Background: The Rays’ front office has carefully groomed the 6-foot-4 left-hander since drafting him in the supplemental first round in 2011. Snell was eased into the Gulf Coast for his debut (26.1 IP), slowly bumped up to the Appalachian League the following season (47.1 IP), expanded the reins a bit when he debuted in full season ball in 2013 (99.0 IP), and finally allowed to crack the 100-inning mark as he split time between Bowling Green and Charlotte two years ago. Well, apparently the franchise’s plan has paid off – in a HUGE way. Snell began the year back in the Florida State, where he dominated for 21.0 innings (27-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio), would eventually get bumped up to Montgomery for another 12 spectacular starts, and capped off 2015’s biggest breakout performance by knocking on the big  league club’s door by posting a 57-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44.1 innings. When the dust settled Snell’s final numbers were among the best – if not the best – in all the minors’: 134 IP, 163 strikeouts, 53 walks, and a tidy 1.53 ERA.

Projection: Prior to his extraordinary run here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“A lot like Chris Archer, Snell has battled control/command issues early in his career. The swing-and-miss ability – he’s whiffed 24.5% of the batters he’s faced in his career – hint at a potential big league career, whether it’s as a #2/#3-type arm a la Archer (his #3 CAL) or in the back of a bullpen remains to be seen.”

It certainly looks like he’s a lot – a lot – closer to capturing his Chris Archer upside after his most recent showing. And CAL even stepped up the ante by linking the southpaw to Yordano Ventura and Mets ace Matt Harvey. The control/command grades out as fringy-average at the moment, but if it approaches his Class AAA levels than he could be one of the top frontline starters in baseball in the coming years. Oh, and just for safe measure, he generates a massive amount of action on the ground as well.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

2. Brent Honeywell, RHP                                            
Born: 03/31/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Drew Hutchison, Luis Severino,

Edgar Osuna, A.J. Cole, Robert Stephenson

Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 19 R 33.7 2 1 1.07 2.20 10.69 1.60 31.3% 4.7% 0.27 77.2%
2015 20 A 65.0 4 4 2.91 2.40 10.52 1.66 29.0% 4.6% 0.42 64.8%
2015 20 A+ 65.3 5 2 3.44 2.72 7.30 2.07 20.2% 5.7% 0.28 67.4%

Background: A second round pick out Walters State Community College two years ago, Honeywell, who was the second highest player selected from the Senators, has jumped up the prospect lists as any player following the 2015 season. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander tore up the Midwest League. Of his 12 starts with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Honeywell punched out a least seven in four starts, walked three batters just once, and allowed more than three runs one time. His overall line in Low Class A: 65 innings, 76 strikeouts, 12 walks, and a 2.40 FIP. He got the bump up to Charlotte near the end of June and after two poor starts he finished out the season on a high note: he coughed up 14 earned runs in 57.0 innings while posting a 48-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His combined line for the year: 130.1 IP, 129 punch outs, and just 27 free passes.

Projection: Above-average or better control, Honeywell, who’s walked just 5% of the batters he’s faced in his career, has as high of a ceiling as any pitcher in the system – including budding ace Blake Snell. Honeywell has missed a ton of bats, shows poise beyond his years, and could be in the big leagues as soon as 2017 – as another front-of-the rotation caliber arm. And Cal remains a huge fan as well, linking him to Luis Severino, Robert Stephenson, Drew Hutchison, and A.J. Cole.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

3. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP                                              
Born: 12/01/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brian Flynn, Andrew Gagnon,

Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Jesse Beal, Chad Rogers

Height: 6-3 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A 67.0 6 2 2.01 3.77 6.85 1.61 19.5% 4.6% 0.67 85.5%
2014 21 R 9.3 0 0 0.00 2.01 9.64 1.93 26.3% 5.3% 0.00 66.7%
2015 22 A+ 42.0 2 2 2.14 2.00 9.43 2.36 25.6% 6.4% 0.00 72.0%
2015 22 AA 36.0 3 1 1.50 3.39 7.00 2.00 18.8% 5.4% 0.50 82.9%

Background: Incredibly hyped despite barely topping 200 innings in his four-year professional career, Guerrieri’s been side-tracked by a midseason 2013 Tommy John surgery and he was popped – for a second time – months later for a drug suspension. Finally healthy – and with the 50-game suspension in his rearview mirror – the former first round pick made it back onto the mound for a little over nine innings in 2014. Last season, with the reins eased a bit, Guerrieri dominated the Florida State League by posting a 44-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.0 innings and he would breeze through eight starts in the Southern League as well; he fanned 28 and walked eight in 36.0 innings.

Projection: Obviously ERA is an archaic, misleading statistic but it’s fun when pitchers post some Bob Gibson-esque numbers. Take Guerrieri’s numbers for example: in 206.1 innings the 6-foot-3 right-hander’s career ERA is a laughably low 1.61. Despite having an above-average fastball, Guerrieri doesn’t miss a whole lot of bats – he’s averaged 7.8 K/9 in his career – but he compensates by sporting some of the best control/command in the minors and generates a metric-ton of action on the ground as well; he’s posted a groundball rate above 60% in each season. He could be a top-of-the-rotation caliber arm and could team with Blake Snell, Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Brent Honeywell, and Jake Odorizzi to form an elite level rotation.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

4. Daniel Robertson, SS                                            
Born: 03/22/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Jorge Polanco, Yamaico Navarro,

J.P. Crawford, Marcus Lemon, Cristhian Adames

Height: 6-1 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 451 21 1 9 0.277 0.353 0.401 0.125 9.1% 17.5% 116
2014 20 A+ 642 37 3 15 0.310 0.402 0.471 0.161 11.2% 14.6% 132
2015 21 AA 347 20 5 4 0.274 0.363 0.415 0.140 9.5% 16.7% 123

Background: Acquired from the A’s for Ben Zobrist right after the calendar flipped to 2015, Robertson’s long been a personal favorite of mine. A 6-foot-1, 205-pound well-built shortstop out of a California high school, Robertson has consistently performed better-than-expected against older competition. He posted a 116 wRC+ as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, followed that up with a 132 wRC+ in High Class A the next season, and proved his worth as a 21-year-old in Southern League last season, hitting .274/.363/.415 with 20 doubles, five triples, four homeruns, and a pair of stolen bases in an injury-shortened 2015 campaign. The young shortstop suffered a broken hamate bone, an injury that typically saps a player’s power after recovery for a bit.

Projection: The injury aside, there’s really nothing Robertson can’t do at this point: he walks at a favorable clip, has the ability to slug 12- to 15-homeruns, makes solid contact, and handles shortstop well enough. The overall package is far greater than the individual parts, but don’t be surprised when Robertson make his debut in mid-2015 and establishes himself as an above-average regular a year later.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

5. Willy Adames, SS                                                          
Born: 09/02/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Wendell Rijo, Jonathan Galvez,

Ryan Dent, Tim Beckham, Junior Lake

Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 267 12 5 1 0.245 0.419 0.370 0.125 21.0% 16.5% 144
2014 18 A 514 19 14 8 0.271 0.353 0.429 0.158 10.5% 24.5% 124
2015 19 A+ 456 24 6 4 0.258 0.342 0.379 0.121 11.8% 27.0% 121

Background: Part of the price the Tigers paid for what would eventual amount to 355 days and 32 starts from David Price. Adames, a 20-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic turned in another remarkably consistent campaign, despite spending the entire year as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League. Adames batted .258/.342/.379 with 24 doubles, six triples, four homeruns, and 10 stolen bases (in 11 attempts). His overall production topped the league average mark by 21%. For his career, Adames is sporting a .261/.363/.399 triple-slash line in 291 games.

Projection: Similar to Jake Bauers in a sense because Adames is also one of the more underrated prospects in the game, especially considering his position (shortstop). To be fair, though, he remains a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball. With a bat in his hands, though, Adames has a solid eye at the plate – he’s walked in more than 13% of his plate appearances – with pop and a decent hit tool.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

6. Jake Bauers, 1B                                                           
Born: 10/06/95 Age: 20 Bats: L Top CALs: Freddie Freeman, Francisco Rivera,

Anthony Rizzo, Jon Singleton, Billy Mckinney

Height: 6-1 Weight: 195 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 188 8 2 1 0.282 0.341 0.374 0.092 7.4% 16.5% 102
2014 18 A 467 18 3 8 0.296 0.376 0.414 0.118 10.9% 17.1% 128
2015 19 A+ 249 14 2 6 0.267 0.357 0.433 0.166 11.6% 13.3% 142
2015 19 AA 285 18 0 5 0.276 0.329 0.405 0.128 7.4% 14.4% 105

Background: Listed among my Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2015, Bauers lived up to my lofty expectations last year. The 19-year-old, lefty-swinging first baseman opened the season by torching the Florida State League as he topped the average production mark by a whopping 42% en route to hitting .267/.357/.433 with 14 two-baggers, a pair of triples, and six homeruns. After 59 games the front office promoted Bauers up to the Southern League, where he continued to perform exceptionally well especially considering his youth; he slugged .276/.329/.405 while posting a solid 105 wRC+. Overall, the former Padres seventh round pick in 2013 batted a combined .272/.342/.418 with 32 doubles, two triples, 11 homeruns, and eight stolen bases.

Projection: Here’s an interesting tidbit: Bauers’ overall production in High Class A, 142 wRC+, has been topped by only two other 19-year-olds since 2006: Byron Buxton (155 wRC+, 2013) and Giancarlo Stanton (178 wRC+, 2009).

One of the more underrated prospects in baseball, CAL links Bauers to an impressive list of players highlighted by Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo. Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“His power really seemed to be developing at the onset of [2014] when he was sporting a .169 ISO, but [it] really trailed off after that. Either way, though, he’s slugged just nine homeruns in his first 159 games. If the power takes a step forward, he has a chance to be a middle-of-the-lineup thumper. If not, maybe like an Eric Hosmer, post hype.”

Well, after noting Bauers’ power in the first part of 2014, he posted an eerily similar mark in the Florida State League last year (.166). It’s also incredibly promising that the power he showed in Class AA, .128 ISO, is also the second highest mark of his young career. He might be the best prospect you’ve never heard of – YET.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

7. Jacob Faria, RHP                                                        
Born: 07/30/93 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Randall Delgado, Johnny Cueto,

Edwin Diaz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Josh Hader

Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 R 62.3 3 3 2.02 2.10 10.25 1.30 28.6% 3.6% 0.29 70.3%
2014 20 A 119.7 7 9 3.46 3.55 8.05 2.41 21.5% 6.4% 0.68 65.0%
2015 21 A+ 74.3 10 1 1.33 2.53 7.63 2.66 22.2% 7.8% 0.12 83.8%
2015 21 AA 75.3 7 3 2.51 2.85 11.47 3.58 31.9% 10.0% 0.60 76.3%

Background: Just another one of baby-faced Tampa arms blowing through the lower levels of the minor leagues. Faria, a late round pick all the way back in 2011, didn’t make his full season debut until two years ago when he made 23 impressive starts with Bowling Green. But the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander sure as hell made up for lost time in 2015 as he breezed through the Florida State League and saw a noticeable uptick in dominance with Montgomery in the Southern League. Faria would finish his breakout 2015 with a combined 1.92 ERA to go along with 159 whiffs and 52 base-on-balls while surrendering just six homeruns.

Among all minor league starters with at least 140+ innings of work in 2015, Faria’s 18.3% strikeout-to-walk percentage ranked third, trailing only Minnesota’s Jose Berrios and Chicago’s Jordan Guerrero – coincidentally all three were 21-year-olds.

Projection: In last year’s book I wrote:

“Only two other qualified 20-year-old hurlers finished with a better strikeout-to-walk percentage in the Midwest League in [2014]. He’s ready to be pushed aggressively. Let’s see if the franchise recognizes it.”

How’s that for spot-on analysis? The only thing I neglected to do was put Faria among the biggest breakout prospects for last season. Faria isn’t overpowering, but optimizes his talent incredibly well by limiting walks, pounding the zone, and keeping the ball in park. He’s not the same caliber arm as Snell or Honeywell, but he’s not far from it. Solid #2/#3-type arm. He’s knocking on the big league club’s door. Remember the name. CAL’s a big fan as well, linking him to Randall Delgado, Johnny Cueto, Edwin Diaz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Josh Hader.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

8. Garrett Whitley, CF                                        
Born: 03/13/97 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Dylan Cozens, Jiandido Tromp,

Derek Hill, Lane Thomas, Thomas Hickman

Height: 6-0 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 18 R 116 4 2 3 0.188 0.310 0.365 0.177 13.8% 21.6% 107
2015 18 A- 48 0 1 0 0.143 0.250 0.190 0.048 10.4% 25.0% 41

Background: The second prep outfielder grabbed last June, 13th overall, Whitley didn’t take to wood bats and better pitching as well as the organization would have liked during his debut. The 6-foot, 200-pound, well-built center fielder batted a paltry .188/.310/.365 in 30 games in the Gulf Coast League and took a noticeable step backward when he got (inexplicably) pushed up to the NYPL (.143/.250/.190).

Projection: Tampa Bay’s never been shy about taking high ceiling prep players, particularly in the first round. Since 1996 the franchise has spent 19 first round selections on high school kids, one on a JuCo prospect, and 11 on collegiate players. As far as Whitley’s production is concerned: despite struggling to consistently square up GCL pitching he did manage to top the league average production by 7% thanks to a strong walk rate and above-average power. Obviously, there’s not enough data to truly evaluate him at this point so it’ll be a wait-and-see approach until following the 2016 season.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

9. Casey Gillaspie, 1B                                                 
Born: 01/25/93 Age: 23 Bats: B Top CALs: Chris Mcguiness, Lucas Duda,

Matt Clark, Ernie Banks Jr, Dennis Guinn

Height: 6-4 Weight: 240 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 308 16 1 7 0.262 0.364 0.411 0.148 13.6% 21.1% 129
2015 22 R 7 0 0 0 0.000 0.143 0.000 0.000 0.0% 28.6% -31
2015 22 A 268 11 0 16 0.278 0.358 0.530 0.252 10.4% 16.0% 155
2015 22 A+ 45 0 1 1 0.146 0.222 0.268 0.122 8.9% 20.0% 51

Background: The club’s first round pick, 20th overall, two years ago out of Wichita State, Gillaspie disappointed a bit, at least for a polished collegiate stick, during his debut in short-season ball when he batted .262/.364/.411 in 71 games. Last season, though, Gillaspie had a coming out party in full-season ball, slugging .278/.358/.530. The switch-hitting first baseman finished second in the Midwest League in homeruns with 16 – despite playing in just 64 games. Gillaspie earned a midseason promotion to the Florida State League but succumbed to a left wrist injury just five games later and missed the next seven or so weeks. He did make it back for eight games, but his overall production with Charlotte is skewed for obvious reasons.

Projection: As I noted in last year’s book, here’s what I wrote prior to Gillaspie’s selection in 2014 draft:

“My favorite collegiate bat – bar none. Above-average power and patience, improving hit tool, the ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and a reasonably strong glove at first. And while he’s not going to be a game changer in the professional ranks, I do think he’s the cream of the draft crop in terms of [collegiate] offensive upside, perhaps peaking around a .280/.360/.490-type hitter.”

The analysis still seems on point. Gillaspie posted a .252 Isolated Power in Low Class A last season, walked in more than 10% of his plate appearances, and topped the average production by more than 55%. The problem, of course, is that he’s now entering his age-23 season with just 13 games above the Midwest League. Meaning: he’s performed how a collegiate high round pick should perform against inferior competition. And we likely won’t get a better feel until he faces off against Class AA.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

10. Kevin Padlo, 3B                                                 
Born: 07/15/96 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Jonathan Galvez, Dilson Herrera,

Travis Blankenhorn, Rafael Devers, Dylan Cozens

Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 198 15 4 8 0.300 0.421 0.594 0.294 15.7% 19.2% 155
2015 18 A- 308 22 2 9 0.294 0.404 0.502 0.208 14.6% 20.1% 159
2015 18 A 99 5 0 2 0.145 0.273 0.277 0.133 14.1% 26.3% 64

Background: After torching the Pioneer League coming out of Murrieta High School two years ago, Colorado aggressively pushed the former fifth round pick up to the South Atlantic League to begin the 2015 season. And Padlo, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound third baseman, looked overmatched for 27 games before regaining his offensive touch following a demotion to the Northwest League. Despite looking overwhelmed in his brief stint with Asheville last season – he batted a lowly .145/.273/.277 with just seven extra-base hits in 99 plate appearances – Padlo looked as dominant as ever with Boise. In 308 trips to the plate he slugged .294/.404/.502 with 22 doubles, a pair of triples, nine homeruns, and 33 stolen bases (in 38 attempts). The Rays acquired Padlo from the Rockies as part of the Chris Dickerson/Jake McGee swap that also sent German Marquez to Coors.

Projection: Above average or better eye at the plate – he walked in over 14% of his plate appearances even during his disastrous showing with Asheville – with 25-homerun potential. Padlo is another one of the club’s underrated prospects developing in the low levels of the minors. Look for him to fare much better in 2016 – and a move to High Class A in the second half isn’t out of the question either.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.