Updated Top 10 Prospects (2017): Tampa Bay Rays: Does Jose De Leon Take The Top Spot?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Dodgers finally landed their second baseman yesterday, when they traded top prospect Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Logan Forsythe.  Does De Leon immediately sit atop the Rays system?  If not, where does he fall?  Let’s take a look:


1) Brent Honeywell – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017

Generally known for an ability to develop young pitching, Honeywell is a name that people need to become accustomed with in short order.  Selected in the second round of the 2014 draft he’s shown an impressive ability to both generate strikeouts and control the strike zone since being selected:

  • Strikeouts – 9.2 K/9
  • Walks – 1.9 BB/9

He’s listed at 6’2” and 180 lbs., so there’s room for him to grow and further add velocity as he continues to mature (he’ll turn 22-years old just before the start of the 2017 season).  Couple that with a screwball, which is rarely seen (and he is highly effective with), changeup and curveball and you get the makings of a top of the rotation star.  While we’d love to see a few more groundballs, it’s splitting hairs. Blake Snell has gotten all of the attention, but Honeywell deserves his share and the dup provide significant hope for the team’s long-term outlook.


2) Jose De Leon – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – Already Arrived

De Leon has gone from a 24th round draft pick to one of the premier pitching prospects in the game.  While his four starts in the Majors weren’t anything special, he showed an elite skill set over 86.1 IP at Triple-A:

  • Strikeouts – 11.57 K/9
  • Walks – 2.08 BB/9

With a minor league 12.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 it’s clear that he owns both of these skill, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t concern.  Now pitching in the AL East there’s a very real possibility that home runs become an issue.  Last season he posted a 0.62 GO/AO an owns a minor league career mark of 0.87.  It’s not an issue that’s going to disappear, and until he proves that he can keep the ball in the ballpark in the Major Leagues, it’s going to be a question hanging over him.


3) Willy Adames – Shortstop
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017

It would be easy to argue that Adames and Honeywell are 1 and 1a, as they both have significant upside.  Adames is still developing, but he has shortstop of the future written all over him for Tampa Bay.  His power isn’t there yet, though he took a step forward in 2016 (31 doubles, 6 triples, 11 home runs), and he’s shown a good command of the strike zone (walk rates of 11.8% and 13.0% over the past two seasons).  The patience and willingness to draw a walk may be helping to lead to his increased strikeout rates (27.0% and 21.3%), so for now it’s something that we’re willing to overlook.

Adames certainly has the potential to develop into a 20/10 type middle of the order hitter, something that obviously can’t be ignored.  If he sticks at shortstop he’ll look that much better, though there are some who are concerned he will ultimately need to be moved off the position.  Time will tell, but there’s an awful lot to like.


4) Casey Gillaspie – First Baseman
Grade – B
ETA – 2017

You could call him a “safe” prospect, but there’s some upside potential.  Splitting time between Double and Triple-A last season Gillaspie hit .284 with 18 HR (as well as 34 doubles and 2 triples) and 64 RBI.  He’s also shown a good command of the strike zone at each stop, which is important for a player with his type of power potential:

  • Double-A (357 PA) – 22.1% strikeout rate, 16.2% walk rate
  • Triple-A (203 PA) – 18.7% strikeout rate, 10.8% walk rate

The fact that he’s a switch hitter who produced solid slashes against both RHP (.313/.387/.515) and LHP (.289/.396/.533) at Triple-A adds to the appeal.


5) Joshua Lowe – Third Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019

The 13th overall selection in 2016, Lowe was highly regarded both as a hitter and pitcher entering the draft.  He showed a great command of the strike zone (37 BB over 173 AB) across two levels of Rookie Ball, though he needs to improve his strikeout rate (59 K).  He’s only 18-years old, though, so that shouldn’t come as a significant surprise and he will need time to develop.  We’ll have a much better idea of his upside value after the 2017 campaign.


6) Jake Bauers – First Baseman/Outfielder
Grade – B-
ETA – 2018

The Rays system takes a bit of a step backwards after the Top 2.  That’s not to say that Bauers is a bad prospect by any stretch, but his value comes from his pure hitting ability as opposed to any other skill.  Sure he has a little bit of power (14 HR represented his career high) and a little bit of speed (10 SB in 16 attempts), but is that enough from a player who may be a first baseman?  A 15.3% strikeout rate vs. 12.6% walk rate at Double-A is highly impressive, but he could profile more like a James Loney type first baseman.  That’s not generally a comparison anyone wants to hear.


The Rest:

7) Lucius Fox – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
It was a disastrous debut season for Fox, but the speed is there and he has the potential to be a dynamic top of the order bat. He played a lot of the year as an 18-year old, so give him time before writing him off.

8) Justin Williams – Outfielder (Grade – C+)

9) Jacob Faria – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)

10) Garrett Whitley – Outfielder (Grade – C+)

11) Chih-Wei Hu – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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