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Weekly Prospect Update: Tampa Bay Rays

This week’s prospect update focuses on the Tampa Bay Rays’ top 10 prospects and what they’ve been up to so far this season. The Rays’ farm system is full of players who are not far off from the Majors. In fact, a couple players in the top 10 have already made their debut for the big league club.

Without further ado, here’s a look at how the Rays’ top 10 prospects have been doing after three months of the season.

10. Justin Williams, OF

The Rays acquired Williams in November 2014 as part of the Jeremy Hellickson trade with the Diamondbacks. The 19-year-old prospect was considered a throw-in at the time of the trade. Now 21, Williams has developed into a true top-10 prospect for the Rays. He showed glimpses of his raw power last season, and it has continued into 2017.

2017 stats (Double-A Montgomery): 37 games, .307/.325/.447, 3 HR, 20 RBI. 

Williams has enjoyed a solid season thus far. He’s really turned it on in the month of June, batting .339 with three doubles, a triple and 11 RBI. His hot June has been an encouraging sign after he spent most of May on the disabled list. The biggest concern surrounding Williams is his inability to work walks. He’s reached base on balls just five times and has struck out 33 times at the plate.

Williams has the tools to be a starter in the Major Leagues at a young age. He’s a solid all-around player but needs to adjust his approach at the plate and work more walks.

9. Jacob Faria, RHP

The Rays drafted Faria in the 10th round of the 2011 Draft. He had a great 2015 campaign, which earned him co-Pitcher of the Year honors and a spot on the Rays’ 40-man roster. Faria features a fastball that sits between 92 and 94 mph, with a complementing changeup, a 12-6 curveball, and a slider. He has solid control and command that should continue to improve as he develops. While his 2016 season wasn’t nearly on the same level as the year before, he still earned a promotion to Triple-A Durham. He performed well at Durham to start 2017 and was rewarded with an MLB call-up in May.

2017 stats (Triple-A Durham): 58.2 IP, 6-1, 3.07 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 84 K, 22 BB. (MLB-Tampa Bay): 19.2 IP, 3-0, 1.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 22 K, 4 BB.

After three starts for the Rays, Faria is making a strong case that he belongs at the big league level. He’s allowed just one earned run in each of his first three starts and has pitched through the sixth inning each time. His control has been most impressive, with a 22:4 K:BB ratio over 19.2 innings.

Faria is establishing himself as a must-start pitcher in all formats. He’s 75 percent owned in Fantrax leagues, up from 52 percent last week. His ownership will undoubtedly continue to rise as he gears up to face the Orioles in his next start.

8. Chih-Wei Hu, RHP

The Rays acquired Hu as part of the Kevin Jepsen deal with the Twins in 2015. Hu has two plus pitches in his fastball, which has late life, and a changeup that induces swing and misses from hitters on both sides of the plate. He also has a palmball, curveball, and slider, all of which he mixes in regularly. Unlike most pitchers with such a large arsenal, Hu has shown solid development in each of his pitches. He earned his first Major League call-up in April and has since made four appearances out of the bullpen for the Rays.

2017 stats (Triple-A Durham): 26.2 IP, 1-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 23 K, 3 BB. (MLB- Tampa Bay): 8.0 IP, 0-1, 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 9 K, 4 BB.    

[the_ad id=”384″]After four impressive appearances out of the bullpen, Hu was sent back down to Durham to make room on the Major League roster. Before he was sent down he threw four innings of one-run ball in long relief of Matt Andriese on June 10. If anything, his performance makes him a good bet to be promoted if the Rays need help in the bullpen.

7. Jesus Sanchez, OF

Sanchez impressed across two Rookie levels in his pro debut in 2016. He hit .329 with 25 extra-base hits in 56 games as an 18-year-old. Sanchez excels at every part of the game but is noted for his offensive abilities. He has the look and above-average speed of a top-of-the-order guy, but also has plenty of power potential. Still just 19 years old, Sanchez’s power should become more evident.

2017 stats (Single-A Bowling Green): .288/.341/.485, 9 HR, 42 RBI.

Sanchez has continued to impress at the Single-A level. He’s making solid contact and working his way on base. He’s batting .327 in 13 games in June, with three homers and 10 RBI.

Sanchez deserves a look in dynasty formats, but he’s quite a ways away from the Majors. His plethora of tools is enticing, especially as his power continues to develop.

6. Joshua Lowe, OF/3B

Lowe was taken as the 13th overall pick in the 2016 Draft and was widely considered as the best two-way player in the class. The Rays took him as a hitter and have tested his skills at both third base and in the outfield. Lowe has great raw power from the left side of the plate, as well as an ability to use the whole field. He has above-average speed, as well, and continues to improve on the basepaths.

2017 stats (Single-A Bowling Green): 56 games, .235/.290/.353, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 11 SB.

Lowe had a rough couple of months to start the season but has started to turn it around in June. He’s 15-for-53 with three doubles, two triples, and eight RBI. He’s managed to raise his average to .235 after sitting around the Mendoza line through the first two months.

It’s still up in the air what exactly Lowe’s role will be moving forward. He has great tools at both the plate on the mound, which gives him a fallback option in case one of them does not work out. He’s still just 19 years old, so Lowe has plenty of time to figure it out before he has a shot at the Majors.

5. Casey Gillaspie, 1B Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#90), Top 10 1B Prospects (#3)

The Rays selected Gillaspie in the first round of the 2014 Draft, and it didn’t take long for the switch-hitter to make an impact. He hit 16 homers in his first full season in 2015 and continued that success last year. His power is his best tool, which he displays from both sides of the plate. Although he’s a well-below-average runner, Gillaspie has enough instinct and mobility to play a solid first base and contribute at the Major League level.

2017 stats (Triple-A Durham): 64 games, .206/.278/.325, 6 HR, 30 RBI.

The 2017 season hasn’t gone as planned for Gillaspie. The No. 3 ranked first baseman prospect by had a shot at making the big league club in 2017. However, after three months, Gillaspie has shown very few signs that he’s ready for The Show. The power that we saw in his first two professional seasons hasn’t been there, and he’s posted a career worst slash line across the board.

Gillaspie’s fantasy value comes almost exclusively from his power. When it’s not there, Gillaspie isn’t much more than a platoon piece at the Major League level. He’ll really need to turn it on if he wants a promotion in 2017. Until he does, he’s not of much value in any fantasy format.

4. Jake Bauers, OF/1B Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#64)

Bauers is yet another top 10 prospect that the Rays acquired through trade, coming over from San Diego in the Wil Myers deal. Bauers has quickly risen through the Rays’ system and is currently starting for the Durham Bulls at just 21 years old. The lefty has an advanced approach at the plate which is complemented by raw power that is continuing to develop. In 2017, he proved that he’s capable of playing the outfield as well as first base, which may help bump up his ETA to the Major Leagues.

2017 stats (Triple-A Durham): 63 games, .273/.373/.429, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 9 SB.  

Bauers has had a solid season in his first with the Bulls. He’s showing the impressive plate discipline that helped him earn a spot in the Top 100. He’s putting together his best month of the season so far in June, batting .344 with seven doubles, two homers, and 13 RBI. Bauers has also shown great instinct on the basepaths, swiping nine bags and being caught just once despite having below-average speed.

If the Rays were in need of help at first base, or in the outfield, Bauers looks to be the best bet for a call-up. He’s just 21, so he’ll likely need to see his power develop some more before he can be considered as a Major League starter. That being said, Bauers should be on the radar in dynasty leagues, especially if he continues his hot pace in the month of June.

3. Jose De Leon, RHP Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#27), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#6)

The Rays acquired De Leon from the Dodgers in exchange for Logan Forsythe at the beginning of 2017. He’s been featured in the Top 100 since breaking out in 2014 and continued to rise with two more impressive seasons in 2015 and 2016. His fastball has hit 96, and his changeup has developed into perhaps his best pitch. The 24-year-old made his Major League debut last season and started four games for the Dodgers.

2017 stats (Triple-A Durham): 12 IP, 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 14 K, 6 BB. (MLB- Tampa Bay): 2.2 IP, 1-0, 10.12 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, 2 K, 3 BB.

De Leon hasn’t pitched much in 2017, spending much of the season on the disabled list. He made his Rays debut on May 29 and earned the win out of the bullpen. He’s currently on the DL with a strained lat but is currently on a rehab assignment with High-A Charlotte. He’s pitched well in two starts and could be activated as soon as he’s eligible.

Despite his injury troubles, De Leon has enough upside to be owned in dynasty formats. He hasn’t performed well in the Majors, though the sample size is small, so he’ll need to stay healthy and make a splash at the Major League level before having any value in other formats.

2. Brent Honeywell, RHP Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#24), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#5)

Brent Honeywell’s value has skyrocketed since the Rays selected him with the No. 72 overall pick in 2014. He has since cracked the top 25 prospects in all of baseball and is likely not far off from a Major League debut. The 22-year-old has a large arsenal of pitches that he can all throw for strikes. He’s known for his screwball, which is considered his best pitch.

2017 stats (Double-A Montgomery): 13.0 IP, 1-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 20 K, 4 BB. (Triple-A Durham): 62.1 IP, 6-6, 4.91 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 74 K, 14 BB.

Honeywell’s domination of Double-A carried over into 2017, earning a promotion after just two starts. His first taste of Triple-A hasn’t been great, but he’s showing plenty of bright spots in his development. In 12 starts, he’s sporting and impressive 74:14 K:BB. His control of all his pitches has been what has got him this far, and he’s putting it on display in Triple-A. However, he’s been susceptible to the longball at this level more than he ever has in his career. His best start came on June 14, when tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. He followed it up with his worst start of the season on June 19, lasting just 2.2 innings and giving up six runs.

The fact that his control has remained constant is a very good sign. At just 22, he has plenty of time to work on limiting the longball and could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. It’s unlikely that Honeywell will see the Majors at all this year, but he’s deserving of a spot on dynasty league rosters.

1. Willy Adames, SS Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#16), Top 10 SS Prospects (#5)

The Rays’ top-ranked prospect was, unsurprisingly, acquired in a trade like many of his peers. Adames was acquired from the Tigers in the David Price trade in 2014. Since then, he has only gotten better and finds himself on multiple top prospect lists. Adames has an impressive combination of tools that allows him to make hard contact while working deep into counts. He put up career highs in home runs and doubles last season, so more power could be on the way as well.

2017 stats: (Triple-A Durham): 63 games, .275/.365/.410, 4 HR, 31 RBI.  

The Rays’ top prospect started off slow but has been absolutely on fire in the month of June. He’s slashing .410/.520/.607 with two homers and 10 RBI. He’s cut back on his strikeouts and is working more walks compared to his first two months. Adames is currently enjoying an eight-game hitting streak and has failed to record a hit just twice in June.

Adames’ hot streak won’t affect the likelihood that he makes the Majors this year, but it has certainly eased some concerns. His tools and leadership abilities project him as a future All-Star shortstop. He’s still a year or two away but should be owned in all dynasty leagues.

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