by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
While the Rays are often a team viewed as among the best at developing talent from within, in recent seasons that hasn’t been the case. While there has been a consistent stream of big names leaving, the reinforcements haven’t always been there. However things seem to be about to change. Blake Snell (pictured getting set to receive his aware as the Rays’ Minor League Player of the Year) may have been the biggest breakout performer in 2016 and former top prospect Taylor Guerrieri appeared to finally put things together. The duo should soon join the rotation, but they aren’t alone as potential impact youngsters. Let’s take a look at the team’s Top 10 prospects:
1) Blake Snell – LHP
ETA – 2016
Grade – A
Was there any prospect who raised their stock more than Snell in 2015? While he ultimately fell short of reaching the Majors, he posted a 1.41 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 163 K over 134.0 IP across three levels in the minor leagues. It’s hard not to fall in love with those numbers, especially when you add in his 1.28 GO/AO.
There are two “concerning” numbers, with a 3.56 BB/9 and 91.3% strand rate, though would anyone really expect him to replicate his video game like numbers in the Majors? Pitching in the AL East alone will bring risk, especially with the lineup the Blue Jays can run out there, but the sky is truly the limit. He will ultimately face an innings limit in 2016 (probably around 165-170), but it’s likely that he arrives before long.
2) Taylor Guerrieri – RHP
ETA – 2016
Grade – B+ (borderline A-)
The Rays are always a team that seems to have a plethora of young pitchers, and while Guerrieri is arriving later than expected (thanks to Tommy John surgery) his time is quickly approaching. He tossed 78.0 innings across two levels last season, reaching Double-A, posting a 1.85 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Even better was his 8.31 K/9, 2.19 BB/9 and 2.72 GO/AO (2.99 over his minor league career). In other words, now healthy the once top prospect is showing the skill set that could thrive in any environment. It’s easy to forget about him, but he’s going to come quickly and has the underlying makeup of a pitcher we want to own.
3) Brent Honeywell – RHP
ETA – 2017
Grade – B+
The 2014 draft pick wasn’t quite as impressive as Snell or Guerrieri, but how much does that mean? In 130.1 innings between Single-A (65.0 innings) and High-A (65.1 innings) he posted a 3.18 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning (129). He also showed much better control, with a 1.87 BB/9. For a 20-year old to show that type of walk rate is impressive at any level, and the hard thrower has the potential to rise quickly. He’s likely another year or two away, but look for him to start garnering a lot more attention in 2016.
4) Daniel Robertson – SS
ETA – 2016
Grade – B
There are questions whether or not he can stick at shortstop, and it’s clear that he’s still developing overall. While he hit just 4 HR this season at Double-A, he added 20 doubles and 5 triples while getting just 299 AB (a year after he had 37 doubles, 3 triples and 15 HR at High-A for the A’s). He may never be a 30+ HR slugger, but the potential is certainly there to hit 12-15 in the Majors. When coupled with his strong eye at the plate (16.7% strikeout rate, 9.5% walk rate), it’s more than enough to bring intrigue.
5) Garrett Whitley – OF
ETA – 2019
Grade – B
The 13th overall selection in 2015, Whitley hit .174 in his first taste of professional ball (138 AB), but had 10 extra base hits (4 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs) and stole 8 bases. Those types of numbers alone show you what type of potential he brings with him as he develops.
The Next Five:
6) Casey Gillaspie – 1B
7) Ryan Brett – 2B
8) Willy Adames – SS
9) Justin O’Conner – C
10) Adrian Rondon – SS
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs
Grading System (still in development):
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 Top 10 Prospect Lists: