“Sauer Notes” Tampa Bay Rays Outlook 2016
Tampa finished below .500 in the last two seasons after their best run in team history when they made the playoffs four times over a six year span. The Rays have been in the league for 18 seasons with only one World Series appearance. Their offense ranked at the bottom of the league in runs (644 – 14th) while finishing mid pack in HRs (167 – 8th). Evan Longoria has the only potentially elite bat in the lineup But, he has seen his numbers regress over the past three seasons. As a result, Tampa Bay’s offense will not take any significant leaps forward in 2016. In the offseason, Tampa acquired 1B/OF Logan Morrison, SS Brad Miller, and RP Danny Farquhar from the Mariners for SP Nathan Karns, RP C.J. Riefenhauser, and OF Boog Powell. The only other offensive change was the addition of C Hank Conger, who was acquired in a cash deal with Houston. The Rays love to place their players in platoon situations so be cognizant of this on draft day, as it could displace some value of some hitters in their lineup.
On the pitching side, the Rays ranked 4th in the AL in ERA (3.74) with a league high 60 SVs. In terms of fantasy relevance and identifying production to take in your drafts, you should be looking to the pitching staff for the most significant value in the 2016 season. The starting rotation has four arms that bring a considerable amount of upside starting with ace, Chris Archer. He then is followed by guys like Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, and Matt Moore, all of which can provide you with some solid value given their current ADP. Their closer situation is in flux after Brad Boxberger had surgery on his leg and will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. We will touch on that disruption later on in the article, so let’s get started on the Rays’ outlook for 2016.
- Chris Archer- Archer was electric in 22 (two runs or less allowed) of his 34 starts while leaving some stats on the table. Over his last 16 starts he had three disaster starts where he allowed 25 runs and 43 base runners in 15 innings. Without these three games, Archer had a 2.33 ERA and 1.005 whip, while compiling double-digit Ks in nine games. His arm seemed to run out of gas over the last two months of the year (4.60 ERA). He had almost equal success vs. RH (.218) and LH (.222) batters. His walk rate (2.8) took a nice step forward, which led to a huge spike in his K rate (10.7 – 8.0 in 2014). His growth in Ks was due to more confidence in his slider (batters hit .189 against it with a .272 SLG) leading to him throwing it 39.2 percent of the time. His AFB (95.2) was electric in every game of the year. If he wants to take that next step forward in becoming a true Cy Young candidate, he needs to work on his third pitch, which at the moment is a low-level changeup. Other than a couple of bad starts over the second half of the year, his only other negative was a slight spike in his HR/FB rate (10.4). Archer is a rising talent with three straight years of success in ERA and a 250 K season on his resume. Great step up in his first strike rate (63.8) points to repeated success with his wins and whip gaining more strength. Cy Young arm with some underlying injury risk due to the high volume of sliders. With an ADP of 51 (16th SP), here is a guy who has the ability to finish top five at the position if everything breaks right for him.
- Jake Odorizzi- Just like Archer, Odorizzi took a nice step forward for the Rays. His walk rate (2.4) had nice growth from 2014 (3.2), but his K rate (8.0) didn’t follow. He pitched at an elite level over his first 11 starts (2.61 ERA with 59 Ks in 72.1 innings). He then suffered an oblique injury in his first start in June leading to a five week stint on the DL. When Odorizzi returned to the starting rotation, his arm never recovered. Over his last 14 starts he had a 4.08 ERA with fade in his walk rate of 3.1. He earned almost two-thirds (98) of his Ks (150) vs. lefties, but he did have almost equal success getting RH (.234) and LH (.230) batters out. His AFB (91.3) was a career high. His growth vs. lefties was a result of an improving cutter (.197 BAA). His number two pitch was a split finger fastball, and he also added a low level curveball to his arsenal. He also figured out how to get more ground balls (37.3 – 29.9 in 2014). His progress exudes some promise for 2016. But he doesn’t present as much upside as Archer. He had a poor BB:K ratio ([28:52]) vs. righties suggesting he still has work to do vs. half the field. If Odorizzi can avoid the DL (andthat’s a big “if”), he has the possibility of snaring 15 wins with a 3.50 ERA and 200 Ks in a full season of starts. Sitting at about the 50th SP being taken, he is a player I am willing to take a shot on with a 166 ADP.
- Drew Smyly- He pitched great in his first three games (2.70 ERA with 21 Ks in 16.2 innings). He then suffered a torn labrum after his third start. Fantasy owners feared he was done for the season, but Smyly returned to the mound in the majors in mid August. He pitched well in four of his last nine starts, giving up no runs in 25 innings with 40 Ks. In has five other starts to end the year, he had a 6.48 ERA with 26 Ks in 25 innings. His velocity (AFB – 90.3) looked intact when he returned form the DL so he should be good to go in 2016. Batters struggled with his fastball (.205) and curveball (.210). But, his cutter failed him (.310 with a .714 SLG). Smyly is a fly-ball pitcher (44.3) who saw his worst HR/FB rate (14.3) of his career. He is a crafty lefty who pitches up in the zone with his fastball to create a similar eye level for his plus curveball. With upside tools and underlying injury risk, he is another guy I’m willing to take a shot on with an ADP of 160 (44th SP). All things considered he could produce double digit wins with a sub 3.25 ERA and 175 Ks.
- Matt Moore- His first pitch strike percentage dropped by nine percentage points from 2012 to 2013, plus his fastball lost two mph. If you add in his six week DL stint, you will have all the reasons why he was a pitcher to avoid in 2014. He blew out his arm on April 7th, 2014, which led to TJ surgery two weeks later. Moore returned to the mound on July 2nd, but his arm was worthless over his first eight starts (8.42 ERA with 23 Ks in 35.2 innings). He found his rhythm over the last four starts of the year (1.35 ERA with 23 Ks in 26.2 innings). His walk rate (3.3) was much better than his previous four years, but his K rate (6.6) came in flat. His AFB (92.0) was much shorter than his best year in te league (94.4). He throws a curveball as his number two pitch followed by a fading changeup and show me cutter. Moore has a 3.53 ERA in 347 major league innings with 339 Ks prior to 2015. His minor league resume is electric (2.69 ERA with 702 Ks in 501.3 innings). With a full offseason to regain his strength, Moore has a chance to offer high upside. His command will be the key to his future value and fantasy owners can’t trust it will come in 2016, but with a low price point of his 230 ADP he has a clear shot to exceed value as the 70th SP taken.
- Erasmo Ramirez- (Disclaimer) The Rays have csaid that Erasmo will start the year in the bullpen. But that is only because they will not need a fifth starter for the first month of the season. That being said, once May rolls around Ramirez will be the Rays’ fifth starter, and will not end up losing any production because of this move. Ramirez was blasted for 15 runs and 21 base runners in 5.1 innings over his first two appearances in 2015, which led to him to spend another month in the bullpen. When he took the mound on May 14th as a starter, he had an 8.38 ERA with 16 Ks in 19.1 innings. After a run of 12 starts (2.09 ERA with 54 Ks over 64.2 innings), he lowered his ERA to 3.54. After the All Star break, Ramirez had a 3.86 ERA with 60 Ks in 84 innings. He pitched great vs. lefties (.193) with a short slugging percentage (.312), with risk against RH batters (.283). His walk rate (2.2) approached his minor league success (1.6) while his K rate (6.9) with a tick below his career average. His growth was tied to a much higher first strike rate (65.1) as he gained more confidence. The Rays changed his approach and this led to career high GB rate (47.8) and career low FB rate (31.8). He still has a high HR/FB rate (10.4). With Karns moved out of town, Ramirez has a clear path to the 5th starting job. His AFB (90.9) ranks below average. He throws a change up as his best pitch, followed by a slider and fading curveball. Short resume of success, but his developing command gives him a fighting chance at repeatable success, but he needs to show growth against right-handed batters. Erasmo does not provide you with much value on draft day, and is better left as a streaming option via the waiver wire on a two-start week.
If this situation was not already the organization’s biggest question mark heading into the 2016 season, it did not take long for the bearings to bust on the closer situation. Brad Boxberger who served as the Rays’ closer in 2015, had surgery on his adductor brevis muscle (used to rotate the thigh laterally) and will be out for 6-8 weeks. Rays’ General Manager, Kevin Cash, has elected to not name a closer in Boxberger’s place for the time being, and will likely determine closer game by game depending on the match-ups. The starting rotation might have to shoulder more of the load at this time unless the Rays look outside the organization for help. Figuring out how to allocate innings without overburdening the remaining relievers will be among Cash’s toughest challenges. Do not look here for cheap saves unless they name somebody Boxberger’s actual replacement
Brad Boxberger (CL)- Tampa gave Boxberger plenty of rope in 2015. He finished with 10 losses and six blown saves, while leading the AL in SVs (41). His game looked intact on July 4th when he had a 2.48 ERA with 20 saves. From that point on, Boxberger allowed 17 runs over 30.1 innings (5.34 ERA). He had success against both RH (.238) and LH (.225) batters. His failure was tied to regression in his walk rate (4.6), which pushed down his K rate (10.6). He continues to battle HRs (1.3 per 9). His AFB (92.7) was a tick below 2014 (93.1). He continues to throw a changeup as second pitch, but batters hit .273 against it. He can’t close without getting his walks under control. His resume looked checkered enough for a fantasy owner to write him off for saves in 2016, but the Rays coaching must see something in his arm. With the injury now to keep him sidelined for the first 6-8 weeks, Boxberger should not be on anyone’s radar unless your league has DL spots to hold him on until deemed ready. With no named closer to fill his role for the time being, we can view it as a pretty solid indicator that it will be his job to lose once he recovers from surgery.
Alex Colome (RP)- Colome has pitched well in his 51 games in the majors (11-6 with a 3.56 ERA and 113 Ks in 149.1 innings), but it looks like his future will be in the bullpen with possible closer upside. Over 30 games in relief with Tampa, Alex went 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA and 44 Ks in 40.2 innings. The best part of his stat line in the bullpen was his increased command (seven walks – 1.56 walk rate). Overall in 2015, his arm graded below par vs. lefties (.278 with 23 of his 31 of his walks) and league average value against RH batters (.264). His AFB (94.1) will be a an edge while throwing a cutter (.265 BAA) as his number two pitch followed by a changeup (.260 BAA) and a curveball (.173 BAA). Over nine seasons in the minors, Colome has a 3.55 ERA with 707 Ks in 711.2 innings while starting 141 games in his 145 appearances. His weakness as a starter was due to a 4.0 walk rate. Possible growth in the bullpen, but he doesn’t have an elite out pitch at this point of his career.
Danny Farquhar (RP)- Farquhar went from the best year in his career to his worst season in his career. After the first two months of the 2015 season, Farquhar had a 6.46 ERA and a trip back to Triple-A. He pitched a little better in the minors (3.08 ERA with 41 Ks in 38 innings), which led to him being called back up in mid August. He allowed two runs over his next 14 innings with 15 Ks, before getting bombed in his last five games (six runs and 17 base runners in 6.2 innings). Farquhar had no answer for righties (.306 with a .574 slugging percentage) while pitching well vs. LH batters (.220). His AFB (92.9) has declined in back-to-back years, but he only threw it 29.7 percent of the time. He relies on a plus cutter, curveball, and changeup. If the Rays were going to give somebody an edge in the closer role, Farquhar would be the guy as he does have some closing experience. Since GM Kevin Cash chose not to name any one guy, it indicates that he is not comfortable with Farquhar or any other relief man being their everyday closer while Boxberger is on the shelf.
- Logan Forsythe (2B)- Along with the Ramirez to the bullpen headline, Forsythe was the beneficiary of some other late-breaking Spring Training news, as the Rays announced that he will be their everyday leadoff hitter. Forsythe ended up being a nice buy for Tampa in 2015. He had the best opportunity of his career leading to career highs in hits (152), runs (69), doubles (33), HRs (17), and RBI (68). The Rays gave him 442 at bats between 4th and 5th in the batting order and Forsythe responded with a .276 batting average, 15 HRs, 53 RBI, and eight SBs. His K rate (18.1) showed growth over his last two years and he set a career high in his walk rate (8.9). His swing was impressive against LH pitching (.299 with 10 HRs and 33 RBI in 167 at bats). He had between two and four HRs in each month and between 10 and 15 RBI. His swing path looked pretty balanced producing almost the same amount of ground balls and fly balls over the last two years. His HR/FB rate (9.7) grew by about 50 percent from 2014. He hit .286 in his minor league career with 25 HRs, 147 RBI, and 39 SBs in 1,168 at bats. He was a misplaced in the middle of the order in 2015. But, he was, nevertheless, one of Tampa’s best players. His successes landed him another starting role for 2016. Forsythe looks to have a 15/10 skill set while offering a slight negative in runs and RBI for a middle infielder.
- Logan Morrison (1B)- Morrison had a career low in batting average (.225), but his HR (17) and RBI (54) totals were the highest since 2011 when fantasy owners believed his bat offered upside. His K rate (15.9) was the best of his career with an above the league average walk rate (9.2). This picture points to a neutral or better batting average if repeated. His downside is that Morrison was dead in the water vs. lefties (.190 with no HRs in 142 at bats) with a poor slugging percentage (.246). In his career, his swing had almost similar failure as far as batting average against RH (.246) and LH (.244) pitching. In 2015, he hit .241 against righties with 17 HRs and 45 RBI in 315 at bats. He received a bump in playing in May and June resulting in eight HRs and 21 RBI over 198 at bats with a .263 batting average. Morrison hit his way out of the starting lineup in July (.129 with three HRs and 10 RBI over 70 at bats) with no rebound in August (.204 with one HR and five RBI in 49 at bats). Logan was the most productive in September (.266 with four HRs and 14 RBI) when you consider his low number of at bats (64). His FB rate (39.0) is trending upward while his HR/FB rate (11.6) was his career best since his 2011 season. Morrison has a scattered resume with underlying talent, and he looks to be in a platoon situation at first base with James Loney. His base skill set suggests there is more in the tank, and he offers mid-teens power with a chance at 60+ RBI with 450 at bats.
- Evan Longoria (3B)- Longoria has stayed healthy for three straight seasons, but his power (21 HRs) continues to fall short of his early resume suggesting his bat has less juice than we may have thought. His K rate (19.7) is about league average, with a fading walk rate (7.6 – 10.0 in his career). He actually pounded lefties (.342 with eight HRs and 28 RBI in 155 at bats – .568 SLG). His lack of upside is tied his regression vs. RH pitching (.245 with 13 HRs, 45 RBI, and 102 Ks in 449 at bats). His best three months (May, August, and September) combined for 14 HRs, 50 RBI, and one SB in 338 at bats, which tells me his bat still has a pulse when in rhythm. In the other three months, Longoria was barely worthy of being a starting fantasy infielder (seven HRs, 23 RBI, and two SBs in 266 at bats). His HR/FB rate (10.8) matched his career low, while being 8.7 percentage points below his best season in 2012 (19.5). His swing path looked intact other than some timing issues leading to a bump in infield fly balls. The Rays have low offensive upside as a team hurting his chances in runs and RBI. His floor should be 20/80 with his talent suggesting 35 HRs could be within reach with a better thought process.
- Corey Dickerson (DH)- After his breakthrough season in 2014, Dickerson had a tough season due three stints on the DL. Corey had a solid start to the year in April (.329 with five HRs and 15 RBI in 76 at-bats), but he lost his battle with plantar fasciitis in May leading to about a month on the DL. After five games in June (four hits in 16 at bats), he was back on the DL for another five weeks with the same issue. His bat was on the rise late in July over five games (.421 with two RBI in 19 at bats) when Dickerson suffered broken ribs and another missed five weeks. His swing had value in 22 games in September (.282 with five HRs and 13 RBI in 78 at bats), but he did strike out 25.9 percent of the time. Overall, Corey had regression in his K rate (23.0) for the season-straight season with a step back in his walk rate (4.3). All of his success came vs. RH pitching (.315 with 10 HRs and 25 RBI in 168 at bats). He hit .268 vs. lefties with no HRs and six RBI in 56 at bats. His HR/FB rate (18.5) remained in a plus area with a strong line drive rate (29.8). Dickerson makes the most sense as the clean up hitter based on his RBI rate (19) over the last two seasons. His floor should be .300 BA with 20+ HRs and 80+ RBI with 500 at bats. His only downside would be his value vs. lefties.
- Desmond Jennings (OF)- Jennings has never developed into the player that his minor league resume suggested (.294 with 41 HRs, 200 RBI, and 189 SBs in 1,965 at bats). His K rate (19.9) has been just below league average in his career, with a slight uptick (15.7) in his limited at bats (97) in 2015. His walk rate (9.3) has been slightly above the league average in his career. His RBI rate (12 percent in his career) gives no real upside batting further down in the batting order. He had his most success against LH pitching (.273 with 13 HRs and 45 RBI in 524 at bats – .448 SLG) in his career. He ended the 2014 season with a left knee issue that didn’t require surgery. But it flared up again in late April in 2015. He finally had surgery in early June, which led to two more months on the DL. After playing well for 10 games in August (.353 with one HR, and five RBI in 34 at bats), he was shut down after bruising his left knee in late August. Jennings GB rate (57.3) was a career high while his FB rate (24.4) was a career low. His HR/FB rate (5.0) has been under his career average in each of the last four years. Jennings has never played more than 140 games in a season. Last year was a lost season and a full off-season should give his left knee a chance to get healthy. He has 10 to 15 HR power with a chance at 25 SB upside. His approach at the plate has hints that his batting average could be at least neutral in the near future. His lack of success and lack of health will lead to him being undervalued heading into 2016. The Rays lack of talent in the lineup limits his upside in runs and RBI.
- Brad Miller (SS)- Miller failed to live up to his upside in his last two years in Seattle leading to a one way ticket to Tampa. His K rate (20.3) was improved over 2014 (23.1), but it remains below his minor league resume (16.2). He did have growth in his walk rate (9.5), which may be a hint to a top of an order opportunity if he makes better contact in 2016. Miller hit all 11 of his HRs vs. righties (.266), which screams platoon opportunity. He hit .234 against LH pitching with a short slugging percentage (.252). Over the last two months of the year in 2015, he hit .301 with low production (three HRs, 13 RBI, and three SBs in 136 at bats). His GB rate (48.4) spiked to a career high leading to a low FB rate (31.4). His HR total (11) stayed intact due a career high HR/FB rate (10.3). He is a career .334 hitter in the minors with 27 HRs, 128 RBI, and 30 SBs in 867 at bats. Miller is a player you shouldn’t overpay for, but his minor league resume is strong enough that you should keep an open mind with his upside. He has a 15/15 skill set with 500 at bats, but Tampa likes to platoon players so he could be frustrating to manage in season-long games with weekly moves.
- Steven Souza (OF)- Based on just production, Souza should look attractive to many Fantasy owners in 2016. Over the first three months of 2015, he had 39 runs, 14 HRs, 31 RBI, and 10 RBI in 259 at bats. Over a full season, this success would extrapolate into a solid year (78 runs, 28 HRs, 62 RBI, and 20 SBs). The negative side of the equation is his batting average risk due to a huge K rate (34.1) over the first half of the year leading to a .212 batting average. He was hit by a pitch in early July, which led to a two week DL stint. Ten days later, he was back on the DL with a broken left hand. Over the last three weeks in 2015 Sousa hit .277 with one HR, six RBI, and two SBs in 65 at bats. He failed vs. LH (.212 with 36 Ks in 99 at bats) and RH (.230 with 108 Ks in 274 at bats) pitching. He had a plus HR/FB rate (20.5), but his swing tends to produce more ground balls (45.3) leading to a lower FB rate (34.7). Over 2013 and 2014 in the minors, he hit .328 with 33 HRs, 119 RBI, and 46 SBs in 619 at bats. Souza is a free swinger with a possible 30/30 skill set if you can stomach his risk in batting average. Be aware that his swing and miss approach can lead to long slumps and possible playing time loss.
- Kevin Kiermaier (OF)- Even with the best opportunity of his career, Kiermaier will go down as bust pick in 2015. His RBI rate (12) was in a weak area and his power didn’t develop as expected based on his success in the majors in 2014 over 331 at bats. He had fewer HRs, but his average hit (1.594) was in a solid area thanks his ability to get extra base hits. His K rate (17.8) showed growth while his walk rate (4.5) faded. This combination hurts his ability to move to the top of the batting order. He hit .278 in his minor league career with 15 HRs, 122 RBI, and 86 SBs in 1,448 at bats. HIs bat had the most value in August and September (.302 with six HRs, 22 RBI, and seven SBs in 179 at bats). His glove should keep him in the starting lineup on most days, but he did offer low upside vs. lefties (.246 with two HRs and 11 RBI in 142 at bats). His FB rate (29.3) remains short, while his HR/FB rate (8.4) took a big step back from his 2014 success (13.0). His game has some attraction if he can replicate his success over the last two months of the year over a full season. Possible 15/25 skill set with limited upside in runs and RBI until he improves his approach.
- Hank Conger (C)- Based on his overall career resume in the majors and minors, Conger should be the favorite for the starting role with Tampa. Over seven years in the minors he hit .297 with 62 HRs, 322 RBI, and 17 SBs in 1,878 at bats. Unfortunately, he’s only a .225 hitter in the majors with 28 HRs and 104 RBI in 889 at bats. Last season Conger set career highs in runs (25), HRs (11), and RBI (33). His K rate (27.5) was the worst in his major league career while offering growth in his walk rate (10.0). He is a switch hitter, but he only hit .175 batting righty with four HRs and 11 RBI in 97 at bats. He has to be the best option vs. RH pitching (.279 with seven HRs and 22 RBI in 104 at bats). I expect Conger to get the most at bats at catcher with a chance at 15 HRs with 350 at bats. His RBI rate (16) has been above the league average in the last two years, which is another notch in his corner
James Loney (1B)- His average hit (1.277) is fading to where he rarely gets any extra base hits and his bar has never been that high in power. Last year he only scored 20 percent of the time when he was on base. When you add in a weak RBI rate (11), you have enough reason to avoid this powerless bat. He was one of the toughest batters to strikeout in 2015 (8.8 K rate – 12.0 in his career). HIs walk rate (5.9) is trending backwards. Over 84 at bats vs. lefties, Loney hit .226 with one HR and five RBI. He hit .296 against RH pitching with three HRs and 27 RBI in 277 at bats. His FB rate (33.0) remains low, but it is trending upward, while his HR/FB sits at a deplorable 3.7. He has no real Fantasy value and his game points to only a platoon role. Last year he missed time in April due an oblique issue and late in May he suffered a broken finger leading to five weeks on the DL. Losing value in four categories makes him undraftable.
Curt Casali (C)- Casali is a career .269 hitter in the minors with 30 HRs, 153 RBI, and 3 SBs in 1,071 at bats. He showed the ability to take a walk in the minors (12.5 K rate) with a respectable K rate (16.3). Over short at bats in the majors (173), he’s struck out 28.9 percent of the time with a league average walk rate (8.1). He flashed impressive power (nine HRs) over 83 at bats in July and August. His season ended on August 26th when he blew out his hamstring. Casali will battle Hank Conger for the lead catching role, with both players expected to be in a platoon role. Solid power swing, but he needs to do a better job of controlling the strike zone to see growth in his opportunity.
Brandon Guyer (OF)- Guyer has a respectable minor league resume (.298 with 55 HRs, 277 RBI, and 133 SBs in 2,142 at bats). His window as an upside prospect probably closed when he repeated Double-A in 2010. He has spent part of four seasons at Triple-A. In 2014, Tampa gave him his best chance to have success in the majors. Over 259 at bats, he hit .266 with three HRs, 26 RBI, and six SBs. In 2015 he had a bump in at bats (332) while showing growth in runs (51), HRs (eight), and SBs (10). His K rate (15.8) and walk rate (6.5) both made slight steps forward. He had the most value against lefties (.271 with seven HRs and 20 RBI in 188 at bats). Possible platoon option in 2016.
- Blake Snell (LHP)- Snell was the definition of raw and projectable when the Rays drafted him 52nd overall in 2011. He made strides in each subsequent season before breaking out in 2015, when the left-hander opened the season with 46 consecutive scoreless innings and dominated across three levels to finish with the Minors’ best ERA (1.41) and the fourth-highest strikeout total (163). Snell represented Tampa Bay in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and was perfect in his lone inning of work. Snell sits at 92-94 mph with his fastball but can run it up to 96, and the pitch consistently plays up because of its exceptional late life. His slider is a second plus offering, thrown with sharp tilt that helps him miss plenty of bats, and his command of the pitch improved markedly in 2015. Snell’s changeup is still a work in progress, but it shows plus potential because he throws it with fastball-like arm speed and can dip it out of the zone. Snell trimmed his walk rate considerably last season but still possesses below-average control, and he’ll need to continue getting stronger to be able to handle the rigors of a full season. The Rays have a strong track record of developing young, high-upside pitchers, and it might not be long until Snell’s name is added to that list.
- Brent Honeywell (RHP)- Though Honeywell was a little-known prospect headed into the 2014 Draft, the Rays liked what they saw from the right-hander enough to select him in the second round with the 72nd overall pick. After a dominant pro debut in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, Honeywell thrived last year in his full-season debut, posting a 3.18 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 over 24 starts between Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte. Honeywell’s outstanding screwball represents his best secondary offering and is anything but a novelty, as he’s adept at using his advanced arsenal to set up the pitch. He also mixes in an above-average changeup and serviceable curveball. Honeywell is a fierce competitor who attacks the zone better than most pitchers his age, and his athleticism and smooth mechanics suggest his command should continue to improve. The Rays rarely rush their top young arms to the Major Leagues, but that doesn’t preclude Honeywell from jumping on the fast track in 2016 with some upper-level experience.
- Willy Adames (SS)- Signed by the Tigers out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, Adames made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League and then jumped directly full-season ball in 2014, opening the season as the youngest everyday player in the Class A Midwest League. Scouts took notice of his performance against the more advanced competition, and he became the key return for the Rays in the Trade Deadline deal that sent David Price to Detroit. Adames moved up to the Class A Advanced Charlotte in 2015, where he got off to a strong start before a bone bruise in his elbow limited him during the second half. Adames held his own in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League which was impressive, and even more so because he served as Charlotte’s three-hole hitter for the entire season. Adames has plus bat speed from the right side of the plate as well as a natural feel for hitting, and scouts envision him developing at least average power as he tightens his approach and becomes more selective. Adames is a good athlete who stands out for his excellent hands and plus arm strength at shortstop, though his average speed limits his range at the position. He’s likely to lose another step or two with physical maturation, leading some scouts to forecast an eventual move to either second or third base.
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