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Midseason Prospect Update: Rays

The Midseason Top 10 Prospect lists are compiled from conversations with front office officials and scouts from all 30 teams. Players who have exhausted prospect eligibility or were in the Major Leagues as of June 22 are not eligible. Draftees from the 2016 draft and July 2, 2016 signees are also not eligible. SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 100
The 2016 season has not gone as the Rays hoped it would. After going 31-32 through June 15, Tampa Bay has fallen on hard times and plummeted to dead last in the American League East.
C Nick Ciuffo
1B Casey Gillaspie
2B Logan Forsythe
3B Evan Longoria
SS Willy Adames
LF Jake Bauers
CF Kevin Kiermaier
RF Steven Souza
No. 1 Starter Chris Archer
No. 2 Starter Blake Snell
No. 3 Starter Brent Honeywell
No. 4 Starter Chih-Wei Hu
No. 5 Starter Jacob Faria
Closer Ryne Stanek
Injuries are part of the problem. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hasn’t played since May 21. Incumbent closer Brad Boxberger has appeared in just one game due to abdominal and oblique injuries, after being used heavily last season. Logan Forsythe and Alex Colome have both missed time, though they are healthy in July. Steve Pearce has battled a hamstring injury. Aside from injuries, many of the Rays’ key contributors haven’t lived up to expectations, particularly on the pitching front. High home run rates have ballooned the ERAs of Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore. While pitching is usually a strength for Tampa Bay, the Rays are among the worst in baseball in run prevention so far this season. One silver lining has emerged with top prospect Blake Snell’s ascent to the majors. Snell has added some stability to a rotation that desperately needed help. Behind Snell, the Rays have a handful of prospects who could develop into starters, with potential back-of-the-rotation starter Jacob Faria ringing the doorbell in Triple-A and Brent Honeywell and Chih-Wei Hu also taking steps forward. The Rays also have help on the way in the bullpen, with Ryne Stanek making quick progress after transitioning from a starting role. The Rays' system has a solid blend of safe, high-floor players who lack impact potential and uber-risky, high-ceiling players with volatile future projections. As the team’s record approaches the worst in baseball, rumors have begun to swirl about the direction the team will go in at this year’s deadline. There’s plenty of demand for starting pitching, and the Rays could find a partner if they are willing to sell low on some of their starters. Tampa Bay has typically had success with trades for prospects. Four of the organization’s top seven prospects were acquired via trade, with top prospect Willy Adames showing the potential to make the David Price trade look like a victory. If the Rays do decide to sell at the deadline, they could supplement an already solid farm system and build for the future.
MIDSEASON TOP 10 1. Willy Adames, ss Adames, still 20, is enjoying another solid season in 2016, this time at Double-A. Leading up to the season, Adames took fellow Dominican shortstop Adrian Rondon under his wing. Perhaps as a result, Rondon’s overall approach to baseball improved significantly after he spent time learning from Adames. There is still debate about Adames’ ultimate ability to handle shortstop long term, but he has the arm strength for the left side of the infield, so he should fit at third base if he’s forced to move. Adames’ offensive approach is still developing, as he can sometimes expand the strike zone and neutralize hitter-friendly counts. Adames has increased his power production this season; he had matched his previous career-high home run total (eight) by June.
2. Brent Honeywell, rhp Honeywell replaces the graduated Blake Snell as the top pitching prospect in the system. He dominated at high Class A Port Charlotte to start the season, and had not allowed more than two runs in a single start through the first month of the season. Honeywell experienced some arm soreness and was sidelined for six weeks, but there is no structural damage and he resumed his dominance with a strong start on June 25, when his fastball velocity was in the mid-90s.
3. Jake Bauers, of/1b Bauers has taken well to his transition to the outfield and profiles as a productive corner outfielder. His offense should carry him up the ladder. Still just 20, he's shown the athletic ability to handle the move to the outfield. His last step will be handling lefthanded pitching better.
4. Jacob Faria, rhp Faria’s performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Durham in June. His stuff is not explosive or overpowering, but he mixes four pitches well and has a deceptive delivery. Faria is more of a high-floor prospect, but he is relatively safe as a player with experience in the upper-minors and a strong track record of improvement.
5. Chih-Wei Hu, rhp The Rays acquired Hu in a trade for Kevin Jepsen in 2015, and he’s quickly established himself as one of the more prominent prospects in the system, earning a Futures Game nod. Hu throws four pitches for strikes, and he’s been able to limit walks despite fringe-average command. He impressed in San Diego, hitting 97 mph and getting ugly swings with his changeup.
6. Garrett Whitley, of The developmental process for a player of Whitley’s ilk can be slow and steady. A lingering hamstring slowed Whitley out of the gate and sidelined him for much of spring training. The Rays opted to send him to short-season Hudson Valley, where he continues to flash the bat speed and foot speed that made him the Rays’ top pick in 2015.
7. Adrian Rondon, ss Rondon remains far from his lofty ceiling, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance in the Rookie-level Appalachian League this summer. In one game, Rondon smashed three home runs. He has bat speed, raw power and the arm strength for the left side of the infield.
8. Ryne Stanek, rhp After an underwhelming 2015 season, a midseason move to the bullpen this year has allowed Stanek to maximize his upper-90s to 100 mph fastball in short stints. He could elevate through the system quickly, with some evaluators believing he’s near ready to contribute to the Rays’ bullpen.
9. Daniel Robertson, ss/3b Robertson isn’t flashy, but he earns strong reviews for his baseball instincts and intangibles. Scouts see him as an average hitter with the chance to bat .270 with modest power as he matures, though he's struggled in his first shot at Triple-A so far. His arm strength can play on the left side of the infield, and he could develop into an average regular.
10. Jaime Schultz, rhp An undersized righthander with power stuff, Schultz has reigned in his control a bit in 2016. Evaluators are still split on whether his ultimate role will be out of the bullpen or as a starter, but he’s shown encouraging signs at times this season.
RISING Low Class A Bowling Green catchers Brett Sullivan and David Rodriguez have established themselves as prospects. Sullivan converted from shortstop to catcher last offseason, and he shows lefthanded power . . . Righthanders Yonny Chirinos and Greg Harris have shown improved velocity . . . Catcher Nick Ciuffo has improved his contact skills and continues to impress with his overall defensive game . . . Undersized righthander Austin Pruitt continues to perform despite a fringe-average fastball, showing a good curveball, changeup and command.
FALLING Righthander Taylor Guerrieri has become more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher, and neither of his pitches has stood out for evaluators this season. On a positive note, Guerrieri has stayed healthy and made every start . . .Richie Shaffer has not shown the game power that he did in 2015 . . . Ryan Brett and Justin O’Conner have both missed the whole season due to injuries, adding significant risk to their prospect statuses.
HURTING In addition to the previously mentioned injuries to Brett, O’Conner, Wood and Whitley, Ciuffo will be sidelined for some time with a hand injury . . . Righthander Hunter Wood has also progressed well, and earned a mid-season promotion to Double-A before a comebacker broke his thumb and sidelined him.
GRADUATING Top prospect Blake Snell has acclimated to the majors well . . .Utilityman Taylor Motter and outfielder Mikie Mahtook (before landing on the disabled list) have been solid role players. Former Rays prospects Tyler Goeddel and Joey Rickard have contributed to major league teams as Rule 5 draft picks.
COMING ABOARD (Check Draft Database for all picks) The Rays' first five picks of the 2016 draft. (s-supplemental round) 1. Josh Lowe, of, Pope High, Marietta, Ga. The Rays bet on Lowe’s ceiling, as a player who has shown plus raw power and speed, but whose bat was little inconsistent this spring. He also has excellent arm strength and could fall back to pitching if the bat doesn't work out. 2. Ryan Boldt, of, Nebraska. Boldt has some feel for hitting and his fans think he can stick in center field. 2s. Jake Fraley, of, Louisiana State. Gifted with natural instincts in center field, Fraley has a high floor. He was a solid performer at LSU. 3. Austin Franklin, rhp, Paxton (Fla.) High. Franklin has shown a low- to mid-90s fastball, though he remains raw and will need to improve his consistency as a pro. 4. Easton McGee, rhp, Hopkinsville (Ky.) High

Brent Honeywell Eyes Big League Debut

Having missed two years to two surgeries, Honeywell is confident he can get on a mound this year for the first time since 2017.

. McGee has a tall, wiry frame and has shown the ability to run his fastball into the low 90s. The development of his offspeed pitches will dictate his ceiling.

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