As we move into the offseason, here’s a position by position look at the top Tampa Bay Rays’ performers from the 2017 minor league season. We didn’t include any of the prospects who played at the Major League level this year. The number represents where each player ranks on our Prospects1500 Tampa Bay Rays’ Top 50, which will be revised again in January:
Brett Sullivan, C (#24)
Age: 23 (DOB 02/22/1994)
Drafted in 2015 out of University of the Pacific, Sullivan was a Florida State League All-Star this season and earned a promotion to AA Montgomery. He had 8 HR, 74 RBI, 18 SB and a .294 batting average in combined stats in 2017. His ability to throw out runners is his best defensive trait.
Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP (#4)
Age: 21 (DOB 12/18/95)
The first-round draft pick in 2017 out of college at Louisville — the fourth pick overall — made this list as a first basemen but he also could be a pitcher. Unusual for a two-way college player, McKay actually had scouts baffled as to which role he could best fill. The Rays are letting him do both, for now. In 36 games in the New York-Penn League he hit 4 HR with 22 RBI and a .232 average. In 20 innings he struck out 21 and gave up four earned runs. Small sample sizes but this is an intriguing player to watch.
Brandon Lowe, 2B (#20)
Age: 23 (DOB 07/06/1994)
Drafted in 2015 out of the University of Maryland, Lowe shot up prospect lists this season. He was a Florida State League All-Star after hitting .311 with 9 HR, 46 RBI and 67 SB at High-A Charlotte. Promoted to AA Montgomery, he had two homers, 12 runs batted in, a stolen base and .253 average in 24 games.
Willy Adames, SS (#2)
Age: 22 (DOB 09/02/1995)
A consensus top prospect for the Rays, Adames is a possible regular with the big club in 2018. He was acquired in the David Price trade with the Detroit Tigers in 2014, played at age 20 and had an .802 OPS at AA Montgomery in 2016. He had 10 HR, 62 RBI, 11 SB, a .273 batting average and a .360 OBP at Durham after improving as the summer wore on.
Josh Lowe, 3B (#8)
Age: 19 (DOB 02/02/1998)
The Rays’ first-round draft pick out of high school in Marietta, Ga., in 2016, Lowe hit well in full-season ball this summer. He notched 8 HR, 55 RBI and a .268 batting average with 24 SB at Low-A Bowling Green. He has the tools to be a big-league regular.
Jesus Sanchez, OF (#5)
Age: 19 (DOB 10/07/1997)
The Dominican Republic native exploded onto the scene as an 18-year-old in 2016, batting .323 in the Gulf Coast League and .347 in the Appalachian League. He continued to perform well in 2017, with 15 HR, 82 RBI and a .305 batting average at Low-A Bowling Green.
Justin Williams, OF (#11)
Age: 22 (DOB 08/20/1995)
The second-round pick out of high school in the player draft in 2013 has the hit tool and developing power and turned heads in the Australian Baseball League and Arizona Fall League in 2016. His stock fell a bit in 2017 after he got off to a slow start and missed all of May with a knee bruise. But he figured it out in the second half, and ended with 14 homers, 72 RBI, six stolen bases and a .301 batting average and .364 OBP in 96 games at AA Montgomery.
Ryan Boldt, OF (#21)
Age: 22 (DOB 11/22/1994)
A second-round draft pick out of the University of Nebraska in 2016, Boldt played well in his first full season in the minors. He had a .358 OBP, 23 stolen bases and five homers and 62 RBI at High-A Charlotte.
Brent Honeywell, RHP (#1)
Age: 22 (DOB 03/31/1995)
The son of a former minor league player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Honeywell has excelled at every level since being drafted out of community college in 2014. He starred in the Arizona Fall League in 2016 and was the Most Valuable Player at the 2017 Futures Game in Miami. He was dominant at times in 2017 at AA Montgomery and AAA Durham, striking out 172 in 136.2 innings and compiling a 13-9 record with 3.49 ERA. He was suspended for a few games for undisclosed reasons, though he made it plain in interviews that he thought he was overdue for The Show. That’s true, he was. Expect to see him in the big-league rotation in 2018.
Ryan Yarbrough, LHP (#29)
Age: 25 (DOB 12/31/1991)
Obtained from Seattle in the Drew Smyly trade, lefty Yarbrough was a solid performer at both AA Jackson in 2016 and AAA Durham in 2017. He had a 13-6 record with a 3.43 ERA, 159 strikeouts in 157.1 innings and a 1.16 WHIP in 2017. Could be a back of the rotation starter in 2018.
Jaime Schultz, RHP (#16)
Age: 26 (DOB 06/20/1991)
Schultz is a future bullpen piece, possibly a closer, given his strikeout totals — 163 in 130.2 innings at AAA Durham in 2016 and 32 in 19.2 innings at three levels in 2017. But he is relatively small, 5-10, about 200 pounds, and he was plagued by injuries in 2017. But he turned heads when on the mound and looks like he’s back on track to contribute in 2018 to the major league team.
Article featured image of Jesus Sanchez – courtesy MWLTraveler.com & Steve Roberts/Bowling Green Hot Rods
Michael Parnell is a retired newspaper editor who covers the Colorado Rockies for Prospects1500. He is a longtime fantasy baseball fan who now focuses on his dynasty teams in Diamond Duos and Dynasty Sports Empire leagues. He recently relocated from Fernandina Beach, Fla., to Albuquerque, N.M. Follow him on Twitter @parnellmichael.