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Tampa Bay Rays: Baseball America’s 2017 Top 10 Prospects

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The best is yet to come says Baseball America who released their Top 10 Tampa Bay Rays prospects for 2017.

Everyone has read, seen and heard how bad the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays team was, but in all fairness, they really were not as bad as their record indicated. Despite the record, the Rays did manage to improve in some areas, but unfortunately, the negatives were overwhelming.

For years, the pitching staff has been the Rays strength but this past season that was not the case. Defense had also been one of the team’s strengths, and that was not evident.

With a solid core already in place, the best is yet to come according to Baseball America as they released their Top 10 prospects of 2017 for the Tampa Bay Rays.

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In parenthesis are the Rays Top 30 rankings according to MLBPipeline as of September.

1. Willy Adames – SS (#1): Tabbed as the Rays shortstop of the future, the lone prospect acquired from Detroit in the David Price trade. Adames has made steady progress and adjustments to move quickly through the Rays minor league system.

With Montgomery (Double-A) in 2016, he led the Southern League in walks (74) and all SL shortstops in home runs (11) and as well ranked third in doubles (31). Baseball America lists him as the best defensive infielder in the organization. Likely to start the season at Triple-A Durham, could make his MLB debut sometime in 2017.

2. Brent Honeywell – RHP (#2): The Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year is currently honing his skills in the Arizona Fall League. Has been named the starter for the AFL All-Star Game, major league ready with a fastball and changeup.

Honeywell is working on adding a screwball to his repertoire of pitches. Went 7-3 with a 2.34 ERA and 117 strikeouts over 115 1/3 innings between Single-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery in 2016. Likely to start the season at Triple-A Durham, though Honeywell will have the opportunity to prove his case for a spot on the 25-man roster.

3. Casey Gillaspie – 1B (#9): Rays Minor League MVP after batting .284/.388/.479 (134-for-472) with 18 home runs and 64 RBI between Montgomery (85 games) and Durham (47 games). Baseball America ranks him as the best power hitter and the best with strike-zone discipline in the organization.

Most likely will begin the season with Triple-A Durham, outside chance to make the 25-man roster as a utility player.

4. Jake Bauers – 1B/OF (# 3): One of the youngest players in the Southern League, hit 274/.370/.420 (135-for-493) for Double-A Montgomery with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs. Bauers ranked among SL leaders in RBI (fourth), doubles (28, fourth), on-base percentage (fifth), total bases (207, fourth), walks (73, second) and runs scored (79, third).

According to baseball analyst John Sickels Bauers has one of the prettiest swings around, smooth as silk, and combines that with very impressive strike zone judgment.

Acquired from the Padres in the Wil Myers trade, Bauers likely to open the season in Triple-A Durham but could very well work his way onto the 25-man roster by mid-season.

5. Chih-Wei- Hu – RHP (#6):  Signed as international free agent by Twins (2012) traded by the Twins with RHP Alexis Tapia to Rays for RHP Kevin Jepsen, July 31, 2015.

Long shot for the rotation, though he has what it takes to break into the rotation. Some speculation by Baseball America is that it may be best to use Hu out of the bullpen. Hu has a wide variety of pitches rather than one dominant one. He will pitch at 91-93 mph (although he has touched 97) and he has an average breaking ball and excellent changeup.

Was a combine 7-9, 2.75 for the Montgomery Biscuits (7-8, 2.59) and Durham Bulls (0-1, 7.71) in 2016. Combined to throw 114 strikeouts with just 38 walks in 147-1/3 innings.

Should start the season in Durham.

6. Josh Lowe – 3B (#4): With Evan Longoria a lock at third base for the foreseeable future, and given the fact that Lowe’s defense at third was his biggest weakness, Lowe has been playing centerfield in the instructional league as reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin also states that Lowe is considered athletic enough to potentially handle an outfield role.

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Lowe was also a very accomplished pitcher, and MLB.com  notes in its scouting report that a return to the mound could be a possibility if Lowe doesn’t develop as a position player.

In 54 games between the Gulf Coast Rays (28 GMS.) and Princeton Rays (26 GMS.), Lowe’s slashed .249/.374/.405/.778 with 5 home runs and 26 RBIs. On the defensive side, he had 18 errors (nine for each team) in 110 chances all at third base.

7. Jesus Sanchez – OF (Not ranked): Just 18-years-old, Sanchez is quickly making a name for himself. Hit .329/.351/.549 (70-for-213) with seven home runs and 39 RBI between the GCL Rays (42 games) and Princeton (14 games) and was leading the Gulf Coast League in hits (53) and total bases (87) and ranked third in RBI (31) at the time of his promotion.

Still a few years away, could head to Princeton Rays (Advance Rookie) or Hudson Valley (Short A).

8. Jacob Faria – RHP (#5):  Is still a work in progress though the Rays have high expectations. Has tons of ability, but not very comfortable striking out some of the better quality hitters. Was promoted mid-season from Single-A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery.

Has the potential to become a No. 4 starter with better fastball command and a sharper curveball, while his plus fastball-changeup combo also gives him upside in either a seventh- or eighth-inning role.

More than likely will open the season in Montgomery, with a promotion to Triple-A with early season success. Could get a cup of coffee with the Rays late in the season.

9. Justin Williams – OF (#16): Williams could be on the fast track through the Rays organization, and one of the main reasons that the Rays sent him to Arizona. Currently Williams is batting .293(10-GMS, 12-for-41), with 4-2B, 3-3B good for fourth on the team. One of the best outfielders in the Rays organization.

Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft, Williams was traded to the Rays along with Andrew Velazquez for Jeremy Hellickson in November 2014.

Will likely open the season with Triple-A Durham, should make his MLB debut sometime in 2017.

10. Garrett Whitley – OF (#8):  Whitley has the ability to become at least a four-tool player with his speed, glove, arm, and power. Struggled in his first pro season in 2015 (Gulf Coast League, NY-Penn SS) but turned it all around in 2016 playing the entire season with Hudson Valley (NY-Penn SS). Hit .266 (68-for256) with 31 RBIs in 30 games, with 21 stolen bases.

Selected in the No. 13 overall (2015 Draft) out of Niskayuna H.S. in Niskayuna, New York. Whitley was ranked the seventh-best prospect by Baseball America going into the draft.

Most likely will begin the season with Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Despite not being included in Baseball America’s Top 10 prospect list, the Tampa Bay Rays have a plethora of Top Prospects that could make their MLB debut some time in 2017.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Kiermaier Rawlings Gold Glove Finalist

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Among those are shortstop Daniel Robertson who sits at the top of the Rays depth chart at shortstop,  catcher Justin O’Conner, pitchers Taylor Guerrieri, Jaime Schultz, Ryne Stanek and catcher Nick Ciuffo.

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