The Tampa Bay Rays began the 2014 draft by selecting college 1B Casey Gillaspie at 20th overall and high school RHP Cameron Varga at 60th overall. Now with their final pick of day 1, the Rays have selected Brent Honeywell, a JUCO RHP from Walters State Community College in Tennessee at 72nd overall.
This pick is a reach, as Honeywell was only ranked 195th in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects, and he failed to make MLB.com’s list of top 200 draft prospects. That being said, Honeywell is not without upside. As a freshman at Walters State this year, he put up a 10-3 record, a 2.81 ERA, and 102 strikeouts in 83.1 innings. His fastball currently sits at 89-93, but he can dial it up to 95 MPH on occasion. At 6’3”, 180 pounds he has plenty of projection in his frame and could eventually sit in the 92-95 MPH range. Also, he has a short stride and follow through in his delivery, meaning he could add even more velocity through mechanical adjustments. His best secondary pitch is an unconventional screwball that has above-average potential, though he rarely has thrown it and it is inconsistent. He throws a changeup that grades as average, as well as a breaking ball that is below-average and needs significant refinement. From a stuff standpoint he is currently underwhelming, but there is plenty of potential for his stuff to become slightly above-average down the line. His father, also Brent, played in the minor leagues, and thus he has inherited plenty of baseball smarts. He has a good feel for pitching, and overall is a good strike thrower, which leads to him getting the most out of his stuff. A ceiling of a number 3 starter that eats plenty of innings seems a fair evaluation, but the Rays may see something more by taking him this high in the draft.
Signability could be an issue with Honeywell. With this pick being a reach, the Rays could be expecting to receive a bit of a discount. However, Honewell can simply return to Walters State for his sophomore season to continue his development, so there is no huge incentive for him to take a well below slot deal. This will be an interesting development in the weeks to come.
It looks like the Rays might have found a diamond in the rough in Honeywell. He has a nice four pitch mix that with development could turn out quite nicely. He also has outstanding instincts and ability to command his pitches, which will allow his stuff to play up in the future. Also, playing at a small school means scouts did not have as many opportunities to get a look at him, so maybe the Rays see something that other people haven’t. This could turn out to be the most interesting pick of the draft, so we will just have to wait and see how Honeywell pans out to truly judge it.
Check back tomorrow for Rays Colored Glasses’ coverage of Day 2 of the draft.