When a team drafts a player that few people had heard of beforehand, our natural inclination is to believe in the industry consensus. When the Tampa Bay Rays drafted Brent Honeywell with their Competitive Balance Round B pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, people dismissed the selection as an over-draft, a money-saving pick around the higher-upside players the Rays picked around him. Sometimes, though, a team does really know something when they draft a player out of nowhere, and when they do, it often becomes apparent quickly. Brent Honeywell is just beginning his professional career, but he is already starting to convince us that his selection was a coup for the Rays.
In their ranking of the top prospects in the Advanced Rookie Appalachian League, Baseball America ranked Brent Honeywell fifth, ahead of six different prospects who were drafted ahead of his slot in the last three drafts. The praise about him was abundant and wide-ranging as he was noted for his arsenal, his ability to harness it, and even his intangibles. It seemed like every question about him as a pitcher was answered in one summer.
Honeywell burst onto the scene just before the draft as he hit 97 MPH with his fastball, but often such high-rising players can never reach such velocities consistently. Honeywell did not touch 97 MPH again, but he threw 96 MPH with his fastball a handful of times and even got nice sink on it. His screwball was viewed as more of a novelty than a legitimate out-pitch, but the way he used it to mystify Appy League hitters left scouts convinced that it can be a plus pitch moving forward. Add in a changeup that you know the Rays will develop more and even a halfway-decent curveball, and Honeywell has the making of the next top Rays pitching prospect.
There is only so much we can learn about a pitcher from Rookie ball, and Brent Honeywell certainly has plenty of work ahead of him. Like any talented prospect, Honeywell will have to continue to make adjustments at every level if he is going to reach his upside of a topflight major league starter. The only thing we can be confident about right now is that the Rays did know what they were doing when they selected him. However, for an organization that has been chastised often for its lack of success in the draft, getting a player like Honeywell inspires confidence that better results are on the way.