2017 Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects

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1. Willy Adames, ss
2. Brent Honeywell, rhp
3. Casey Gillaspie, 1b
4. Jake Bauers, of/1b
5. Chih-Wei Hu, rhp
6. Josh Lowe, 3b
7. Jesus Sanchez, of
8. Jacob Faria, rhp
9. Justin Williams, of
10. Garrett Whitley, of

The 2016 season continued the Rays' downward trajectory. They held their own for most of the first half, but Tampa Bay lost 24 of 27 games in a disastrous monthlong midseason slump. The Rays finished in a three-way tie for the second-worst record in baseball at 68-94, their worst mark since 2007.

Tampa Bay's pitching staff has been its biggest strength in recent years because the Rays have had success identifying young pitchers. As major league home run totals spiked, however, the Rays have not adjusted. The team's six starters in 2016 each posted career-worst home run rates.

Chris Archer, who had established himself as the ace of the staff, saw his home run rate jump from 0.8 per nine inning in 2015 to 1.3 in 2016. Archer's performance bounced back somewhat in the second half, but long after the Rays' postseason hopes were in the rearview mirror.

On the bright side, Tampa Bay's core remains intact. It traded Matt Moore to the Giants in July in a deal that netted shortstop Matt Duffy and two prospects, but the Rays still have a deep pitching staff, their clearest path to contention. Archer should improve his home run rate, rookie lefthander Blake Snell shows promise, and the Rays can round out their rotation with veterans Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb.

The offense had bright spots, including a bounce-back year by Evan Longoria, but the Rays still finished 14th in the American League in runs in 2016.

Perhaps most encouraging is the help that's on the way. The Rays have a growing group of potential contributors in the upper minors. Shortstop Willy Adames, first baseman Casey Gillaspie and outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers all project as above-average or better offensive players in the near future, while righthander Brent Honeywell could provide a significant jolt to the front of the rotation in short order.

Righthanders Chih-Wei Hu, Jacob Faria, Jaime Schultz and Ryne Stanek could all conceivably reach major league readiness in 2017. Shortstop Daniel Robertson and third baseman Richie Shaffer could both contribute as well.

The lower levels of the organization also offer plenty of promise. The Rays have gambled on high-ceiling high school prospects with their top pick in each of the past two drafts. Outfielder Garrett Whitley and third baseman Josh Lowe both have all-star upside but have not yet to reach full-season ball.

Internationally, the Rays have added slugging shortstop Adrian Rondon and tooled-up outfielder Jesus Sanchez to a system that now boasts significant upside. Lucius Fox, a shortstop acquired in the Moore deal, also brings an explosive toolset to the table.

The Rays have their work cut out for them because they compete in the rugged AL East. They must shrewdly acquire talent in the amateur markets and successfully navigate the trade market. The foundation appears to be in place for the Rays to succeed.

1. Willy Adames, ss | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 2, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Aldo Perez/Ramon Perez/Miguel Garcia (Tigers).

Batting: 60.
Power: 55.
Speed: 50.
Defense: 55.
Arm: 55.
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Background: The Rays' 2014 trade of David Price signaled a transition from one era to another, as the organization soon saw a change of management and leadership in the baseball operations department. Adames, the lone prospect acquired in the Price trade, has since established himself as the Rays' top prospect, and he's put himself in the discussion among the best position prospects in baseball. Signed as an international free agent by the Tigers for $420,000 in 2012, Adames advanced through the low minors rapidly. The Tigers skipped him past their domestic Rookie-level affiliates and assigned him to low Class A West Michigan for his U.S. debut as an 18-year-old in 2014. After heading to the Rays as the centerpiece of the Price trade, Adames hit the ground running, and he's made steady progress and adjustments as he's climbed the minor league ladder. He reached Double-A Montgomery in 2016 and led the Southern League with 74 walks and ranked third with 31 doubles. He led all SL shortstops with 11 home runs.

Scouting Report: In 2014, Adames showed power to his pull side and the ability to drive the ball to the wall in center field. His power has steadily developed as he's matured physically, and in 2016 he showed the ability to drive the ball out to the opposite field in game situations. Offensively, Adames earns plus grades for his hit tool and raw power, though scouts see his power playing more in the way of hard line drives, with annual home run total projections ranging from 15-25. He has above-average bat speed and the loose wrists to control the barrel, make late adjustments and square up pitches with late movement. He shows both the ability to stay inside the ball and to turn on inside pitches. He works deep counts and isn't afraid of hitting with two strikes. Adames' timing at the plate has improved from year to year, and his strikeout rate declined to 21 percent in 2016, down from 27 percent in 2015. Defensively, he continued to endear himself to scouts in 2016. Adames has plus hands and a well-timed internal clock, and he doesn't rush plays or play nervously in the field. He lacks exceptional range and explosive foot speed, and he's more of an average runner on the basepaths, but his pure arm strength typically plays above-average. He has an ability to get his feet set and make accurate throws consistently, though he can flash plus arm strength when needed. In addition to his well-rounded assortment of tools, Adames has exceptional makeup, both in terms of his work ethic and character. He quickly achieved fluency in English and connects well with American players as well as other Latin Americans. Rays officials laud his leadership ability and enthusiasm for game-day preparation.

The Future: Overall, Adames has the total package that teams look for in top prospects, with impact tools on both sides of the ball and the personality to become a marketable franchise player. In 2017, Adames figures to spend the season at Triple-A Durham. He projects as the Rays' shortstop of the future, with the ability to hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

Montgomery .274 .372 .430 486 89 133 31 6 11 57 74 121 13

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