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Tampa Bay Rays: Future Rays honing their game in the minors

By David Egbert
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Homegrown talent for the Tampa Bay Rays is just a few years away from making a significant impact at the major league level.

In my last piece, I wrote about how the Tampa Bay Rays might benefit from looking at their farm system to create a real homegrown team. That’s a nice idea for a number of reasons but you need talent to make it happen.

The core group of Triple-A players may offer some nice pieces to the puzzle but only Blake Snell looks like a real big league talent. However, if you look one rung down on the ladder to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, the stars really start to shine.

It starts with pitching and Montgomery is loaded with talented starters. Brent Honeywell, the number one prospect in the organization now that Snell has been promoted.

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He has four big league quality pitches, including an awesome screwball and good control. He looks to be a number one or two starter in a big league rotation.

Next is Taylor Guerrieri. A former number one draft pick (2011, 24 overall) of the Tampa Bay Rays, Guerrieri has been held back by Tommy John surgery and a substance abuse suspension.

He’s finally putting it all together and with a sinking low 90’s fastball and two quality breaking balls he projects to be a number three big league starter. He is the number five prospect in the Rays system.

The number three pitcher in the Biscuits’ rotation is Chih-Wei Hu. Hu came to the Tampa Bay Rays from Minnesota in the Kevin Jepsen deal.

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He has impressed since day one and is the Rays’ number 12 prospect. He has four quality pitches including a fastball that sits at 94 but can reach 97.

He doesn’t have a typical pitcher’s build but he still should be a serviceable Erasmo Ramirez type starter/reliever.

While the Rays biggest need is not pitching, these three starters along with Jaime Schultz, Jacob Faria and Ryne Stanek at Durham should keep the Rays well stocked with controllable arms for several years.

The real excitement comes from the upside of three very talented position players starting with Willy Adames. Adames came to the Rays from Detroit in the David Price deal and is currently the number two prospect in the organization.

He has not disappointed as he moved through Bowling Green and Charlotte in two years and was the Biscuits starting shortstop on opening day of this season.

Only 20 years of age, he shows good pitch recognition, surprising power and improving defense. Adames is in line to be the next Rays shortstop and should be a good one.

Next is Jake Bauers. Bauers came over from San Diego in the Wil Meyers deal and is currently the number five Rays’ prospect.

A natural first baseman, he has played corner outfield for the Biscuits so he and Casey Gillaspie can both be in the lineup. A left-handed hitter, Bauers’ real contribution will be on the offense and, with a short stroke and good pitch recognition, he should hit for average and power. He’s only 20-years-old but he could be the teams’ starting left fielder in 2018.

Bauers hitting partner is switch-hitting first baseman Casey Gillaspie. A college player out of Arkansas and the Tampa Bay Rays former number one draft choice (2014 draft, 20 overall) , is the number seven prospect in the system and it’s all about his offense.

He has power from both sides of the plate and should be a middle of the order hitter who will hit for power and average. With his college background and that he’s played in the Arizona Fall league he is the most advanced of the trio.

All six players are having All-Star years. Adames and Hu went to The Futures Game along with Ryne Stanek. The next step will be Durham in 2017 and maybe a cup of coffee with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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If these players eventually make a Tampa Bay Rays roster they can significantly change the dynamic of the team and it would be a dream come true.

Aside from a consistently talented starting pitching staff, the Tampa Bay Rays’ lineup of position players would finally include young players who have been developed, at the major or minor league level by the Rays rather than plugging holes with the Steve Pearce’s and Logan Morrison’s of baseball.

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It would also be a team, that for the most part, would be together through 2020 and beyond and that’s exciting.

Editors Note: After the publication of this article, the Tampa Bay Rays promoted Casey Gillaspie from Double-A Montgomery to Triple-A Durham.

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