Rays News

Tampa Bay Rays: Durham Rotation Could be the Best in Triple A

By David Egbert
Sep 28, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Jose De Leon (87) pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Jose De Leon (87) pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A affiliate have what could be considered the top rotation in the minor leagues as they have six of the organizations top prospects on the mound.

We are only a few weeks from spring training and the official start of the major league baseball season. Spring training is loads of fun to follow with battles for roster spots, players seeking to make comebacks and rookies looking to impress the big club. However, some of the best stories are often found on the backfields where the future stars of the team can be found and nothing may compare to the pitching prospects found at the Rays Port Charlotte complex.

Its not one or two arms but six of the Tampa Bay Rays top 15 prospects and they could form a fantastic AAA Durham rotation this season. Let’s take a look at who they are and why they are so good.

Jose De Leon. #2 prospect. De Leon came over in the Logan Forsythe deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers where he was their #1 pitching prospect. He has a mid to upper 90’s fastball and induces a lot swings and misses. He pitched at AAA last year with a couple of starts in the majors. In 330 minor league innings, De Leon has a 3.35 era with 446 strikeouts to 99 walks.

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Brent Honeywell #3 prospect. Honeywell has flown through the minors. He has four quality pitches including a devastating screwball and excellent control. He pitched at A and AA last year and could make the jump to AAA this year. In 279 minor league innings, Honeywell has a remarkable 2.96 era with 286 strikeouts and 58 walks.

Jacob Faria. #6 prospect. Faria has moved a little more slowly through the Rays’ system but he has gotten better at every level. He can throw a 95mph sinking fastball and has a good changeup and curve. He pitched at AA and AAA last year. In 540 minor league innings, he has a 3.66 era and 542 strikeouts to 171 walks.

Chih-Wei Hu. #7 prospect. When Hu came over in the Kevin Jepsen deal, you weren’t quite sure what the Rays were getting. However, it didn’t take long to figure out that he was something special. He has a mid 90’s fastball, an outstanding changeup and a developing curve. He pitched at AA and AAA last year. In 364 minor league innings, Hu has an outstanding 2.74 era and 316 strikeouts to 92 walks.

Jaime Schultz. #12 prospect. Schultz is an absolute strikeout machine with 168 strikeouts in 135 innings last year at AAA He has a fastball that hits 99 mph. His only issue is command and that may eventually send him to the bullpen. For now, he will stay in the rotation to build up his innings. In 370 minor league innings, Schultz has a 3.65 era and 465 strikeouts and 216 walks.

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Taylor Guerrieri #14 prospect. A former #1 draft choice, Guerrieri has had his injuries and problems off the field. He finally broke out last year with 3.76 era in 146 innings at AA. He doesn’t throw as hard as he did before the injuries but he has a good assortment of pitches and good command. In 352 minor league innings, Guerrieri has an excellent 2.50 era with 267 strikeouts to 84 walks.

Not all of these pitchers will be in the Durham’s rotation. De Leon may make the Rays’ rotation. Honeywell will probably start the year at AA. However, the Rays have even more depth at AAA in Austin Pruitt and Chase Whitley. Pruitt is not a big time prospect but last season he had a 3.76 era and amazing 149 strikeouts to 27 walks ratio at Durham. Whitley is a pickup from the Yankees and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He could join the Durham rotation if he does not land a spot in the Rays bullpen.

No matter which of these eight pitchers comprise the Durham rotation, it will be the best in Durham’s history as a Rays’ farm team. It may be the best in all of Triple A this year.

Next: Rays to Have Four Players in World Baseball Classic

It will also be interesting to see how the Rays deal with this plethora of pitching talent. Now if we could just find a few position players.

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