Rays Honeywell and Sánchez Named Prospects of the Year

Brent Honeywell (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Brent Honeywell (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Two of the Rays top prospects pitcher Brent Honeywell and outfielder Jesus Sanchez have been honored by MLB Pipeline as the Rays 2017 Prospects of the Year.

There had been speculation that Brent Honeywell would get a call up early on in the season specifically with Blake Snell and Austin Pruitt’s struggles, injuries to Matt Andriese, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb. However, the Ray’s felt he needed more seasoning after his promotion from Montgomery to Durham.

As time progressed, Honeywell’s performances were on the rise but the Rays slowly fell out of contention for the post-season while Durham was headed to the post-season nullifying a September call up.

Their decision paid dividends, as Honeywell would pitch not only pitch for the Bulls in the Governors’ Cup Championships, but as well in the Triple-A National Championships against the Memphis Redbirds albeit out of the bullpen, where he would throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball and get the win giving the Bulls their second Triple-A National Championship.

While Jesus Sanchez is a couple years away from making his MLB debut, the Rays awarded him for his outstanding season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Class-A) as their Minor League Player of the Year.

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For their outstanding minor league season, MLB Pipeline has honored Honeywell, the Rays No. 1 Top 30 Prospect along with Jesus Sanchez the Rays No. 4 prospect as their Prospects of the Year.

For Honeywell, the 2016 Rays Minor Pitcher of the Year earned his second consecutive honor as Prospect of the Year by MLB Pipeline. Honeywell began the 2017 season pitching for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits where he was 1-1 (two starts) with a 2.08 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only four walks in 13 innings pitched before his promotion to Durham (Triple-A) two weeks later.

Despite having an 8-7 record with a 4.54 ERA, his 99 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 79.1 innings before the All-Star break with the Bulls, paved the way for his being named the starter for the MLB Futures Game.

Honeywell would throw two innings of shutout ball that included one hit, four strikeouts, and one walk one. However, more importantly he would show off his arsenal of pitches that included his slider, changeup, fastball and his newest pitch the forgotten screwball.

During the early going with Durham, specifically from April 19-May 28, Honeywell struggled pitching to a 3-5 record and a 4.93 ERA in 42 innings. During this span, he continued to strikeout batters (48 total, 68% overall, 18% looking) while keeping his walks in check (7) but he was unable to keep batters off the bases and crossing the plate. Opposing batters hit .293 against Honeywell as he allowed 28 runs, 23 earned on 52 hits.

“You saw when he went from Double-A to Triple-A he struggled,” Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. “And you learn from your struggles and you also learn from your good performances. You don’t know how to handle failure unless you’ve had failure. And I think he’s learned that in Durham this year.

Learning from your struggles and from good performances is exactly what Honeywell did as evident by his pitching performances in his next eight starts that saw him go 6-2, lower his ERA to 3.61 in 42.1 innings pitched while he did give up 17 runs on 44 hits. He maintained his strikeouts (44) for a 65% rate, of which 18% were looking.

Although his final eight starts of the season were rocky at times, Honeywell would go 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched. He would post four no-decisions; allow 10 runs (all earned) on 35 hits with 48 strikeouts (68% overall, 16% looking) and seven walks, holding opposing batters to a .243 average.

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On the season, Honeywell would combine to go 13.-9 with a 3.49 ERA in 26 starts for Montgomery and Durham. He would strikeout 172 in 136.2 innings with 35 walks, allow 58 runs (53 earned) on a 134 hits.

“He’s on the cusp of making our Major League team,” Lukevics said. “He has it all. He’s the most competitive pitcher in the organization and he has the stuff to go with it.”

Signed as an international free agent in 2015 for $400,000, Jesus Sanchez has had success at every minor level since joining the organization. In three minor league seasons, his slash line stands at .318/.358/.499 with 26 home runs, 52 doubles, 19 triples and 166 RBIs in 294 games.

“Great year, great kid, good worker,” Lukevics said. “He really has the ability to hit a baseball and impact a baseball.”

As the Rays No. 4 prospect, Sanchez had a breakout season with the Hot Rods as he posted the best numbers of his short minor career. He would hit 15 home runs, belt out 29 doubles with four triples while driving in 82 in 117 games with a slash line of .305/.348/.478.

He would go hit less no more than three consecutive games throughout the season, have a 12 game hitting streak (July 1-14) in which he hit .367/.380/.510 with one home run, 10 RBIs and score 10 runs. One week later, Sanchez would begin an 11 game hitting streak batting .409/.458/.659 with two home runs, 10 RBIs, 12 runs scored and five doubles.

Additionally, Sanchez earned honors as he not only was selected to the Midwest League All-Star team, but also selected as a post-season All-Star. Sanchez led all Ray’s minor leaguers in home runs and RBIs and while Willy Adames and others get the majority of ink, he is quickly making a name for himself.

Lukevics allowed that Sanchez is on the fast track as far as advancement, adding: “He hasn’t stumbled yet. But he has very good makeup. So if he does, he’ll be able to handle.”

Depending on how the Rays workout their off-season moves, the opportunity for Honeywell to make the 2018 Opening Day roster is not a far stretch, though the assumption is that he will begin the season at Durham.

Next: Rays Place Seven in MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects

Sanchez on the other hand is at least two to three years away from making his MLB debut, however, if he continues to move up the minor league ladder with the same success as his past three seasons – the debut will be sooner than later.