The Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system is good and deep with a handful of top prospects, another dozen serviceable big-leaguers and a host of prospects that could contribute. As usual, this is a pitching-heavy system with more dubious prospects among position players.
There were 60 players who legitimately could have made this list, meaning the last 10 on it are certainly debatable. There are lots of middle reliever prospects with big arms, for example, who might turn into fantasy-relevant closers. But which of them to include? Likewise, there were more than a few players with special skills, such as speed, that might augur fantasy potential. Plus a variety of players with position versatility, which could prove valuable in the big leagues. But which ones?
There are probably more starting pitching prospects here than should be, but only because the Rays have been so good at developing them over the years. There are probably fewer catching prospects for the same reason, that is, the Rays have failed at that mostly.
We’ll try to highlight a Prospect 51 each month who might have been included, or should have been, as the season goes along.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
1. Willy Adames, SS
Age: 21 (DOB 09/02/1995)
The Rays’ consensus top prospect, Adames was acquired in the David Price trade with the Detroit Tigers in 2014. He played last season at age 20 and had an .802 OPS at AA Montgomery in 2016. He is ticketed for AAA Durham this summer and may see the big leagues in September. A future All-Star.
2. Brent Honeywell, SP
Age: 21 (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. He is likely headed to AAA Durham this summer and Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline has suggested that, given opportunity, he could even be the AL rookie of the year in 2017. “He struck out five top 100 prospects out of the six batters he faced (in the AFL Fall Stars game). . . . He looked terrific,” Callis said
3. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF
Age: 21 (DOB 10/06/1995)
Bauers, a spring training invitee, can hit but will he have enough power (14 homers at AA Montgomery in 2016 at age 20)? Has a chance to be an everyday regular and, if the power comes, a star.
4. Casey Gillaspie, 1B
Age: 23 (DOB 01/25/93)
The first-round draft pick in 2014 out of Wichita State University was invited to spring training after slugging 18 homers at two stops in 2016. He looks like an everyday first basemen and could be one soon.
5. Justin Williams, OF
Age 21: (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. “He’s going to be a special talent. He’s eager to learn. He’s a hard worker,” said AAA Durham Manager Jared Sandberg, who managed Williams in the fall league. He will likely manage him again this summer.
6. Jacob Faria, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 07/30/1993)
Drafted in the 10th round out of high school in 2011, Faria had a 2.51 ERA and 1.09 WHIP at AA Montgomery in 2015. His control suffered at Montgomery and Durham in 2016, but he still struck out 64 in 67 innings in AAA and 93 in 83 innings at AA last summer.
7. Chih-Wei Hu, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 11/04/1993)
The strapping pitcher from Taiwan dominated AA in 2016 and is ticketed for AAA Durham in 2017. He could make his way to the bigs later in the summer. Has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.
8. Jaime Schultz, SP
Age: 25 (DOB 06/20/1991)
Schultz has been developed as a starter since being drafted out of High Point (N.C.) College in 2013, but his near future may be in the Rays’ bullpen given his strikeout totals — 163 in 130.2 innings at AAA Durham in 2016. The 25-year-old is relatively small, 5-10, about 200 pounds, and his inconsistent release point remains a concern.
9. Ryne Stanek, RP
Age: 25 (DOB 01/26/1991)
A first-round pick out of Arkansas in 2013, Stanek has struggled a bit as a starter. But his stuff plays, and he could win a bullpen spot with the Rays this spring. His best chance to shine is as a future major-league closer.
10. Josh Lowe, 3B
Age: 18 (DOB 02/02/1998)
The Rays’ first-round draft pick out of high school in Marietta, Ga., in 2016, Lowe will get a chance to show off his batting skills in full-season ball this summer. He has the tools to be a big-league regular.
11. Jesus Sanchez, OF
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’s got a ways to go, but his tools impress. The Rays are excited about him, and you should be too.
12. Taylor Guerrieri, SP
Age: 24 (DOB 12/01/1992)
A first-round draft pick in 2011, and considered the Rays’ top prospect after the 2013 season, Guerrieri has stalled since. Still, he has a career 2.50 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in the minor leagues after rebounding at AA Montgomery in 2016 and likely will pitch at AAA Durham this year.
13. Kevin Padlo, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 07/15/1996)
Potentially big power, but with lots of strikeouts, Padlo (acquired from the Colorado Rockies in the Jake McGee trade) has captured attention this winter in the Australian Baseball League. The Brisbane Bandits outfielder has plus bat speed and is still just 20 years old.
14. Daniel Robertson, SS
Age: 22 (DOB 03/22/1994)
The 2012 first-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics, Robertson has disappointed since the Rays acquired him in the Ben Zobrist trade. But he has the tools to secure a shortstop or second-base job in the majors. He is headed back for a second season at AAA, which may determine his future with the Rays.
15. Garrett Whitley, OF
Age: 19 (DOB 03/13/1997)
The first-round draft pick in 2015 is being brought along slowly after a hamstring injury cost him an opportunity at full-season ball in 2016. He has plus bat speed but draft picks who go two seasons in short-season leagues generally don’t excel. Another first-round draft bust for the Rays, or will he grow into a solid everyday player? Time will tell.
16. Lucius Fox, SS
Age: 19 (DOB 07/02/1997)
The native of the Bahamas was obtained from the San Francisco Giants in the Matt Moore trade. He stole 25 bases in 75 games in the South Atlantic League in 2016. He is highly athletic and doesn’t turn 20 till July. The sky’s the limit.
17. Adrian Rondon, SS
Age: 18 (DOB 07/07/1998)
The native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, home of so many big-league shortstops, hasn’t really hit yet in 95 minor league games, save for one three-homer, nine-RBI game at Princeton, but he has the tools. Not yet 19, he has exciting potential.
18. Hunter Wood, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 08/12/1993)
After moving methodically since being drafted in the 29th round in 2013, Wood turned heads in 2016 with 49 strikeouts in 49.1 innings and a 1.14 WHIP at AA Montgomery. Has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter.
19. Nick Ciuffo, C
Age: 21 (DOB 03/07/1995)
The South Carolina high school player of the year was a first-round draft pick in 2013. He has a cannon arm and great baseball sense, but a hand injury and a weak bat have kept him from advancing quickly. He was invited to spring training in 2017, which could give his career a boost.
20. Brett Sullivan, C
Age: 22 (DOB 02/22/1994)
Drafted in 2015 out of Pacific, Sullivan has showed good power in his first two years in the system. He needs more seasoning behind the plate, but he threw out 38 percent of baserunners in 2016 at A level Bowling Green.
21. Austin Franklin, SP
Age: 19 (DOB 10/02/1997)
Showed well in his first year in the Gulf Coast League. The third-rounder has a mid-90s fastball and could blossom under the tutelage of the Rays, as have so many other pitchers before him.
22. Kevin Gadea, P
Age: 22 (DOB 12/26/1994)
Gadea is looking to make the jump from A ball to the majors since the Rays picked him in the Rule 5 draft. The Nicaraguan, 6-5 and 188 pounds, signed originally with the Seattle Mariners and has shown quality stuff. But can the Rays keep him in the bullpen all year in 2017 as required under Rule 5?
23. Travis Ott, SP
Age: 21 (DOB 06/29/1995)
Acquired in the Steven Souza deal with the Washington Nationals in 2014, Ott has showed pretty well in short-season ball for the Rays, with a 0.83 WHIP in 59.1 innings at Hudson Valley in 2016. The 6-4 lefty has a chance to be dominant on the mound.
24. Austin Pruitt, SP
Age: 27 (DOB 08/31/1989)
The former University of Houston hurler started 28 games for AAA Durham in 2016 with decent results. He could be a back-end starter in the majors.
25. Ryan Boldt, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 11/22/1994)
A second-round draft pick out of the University of Nebraska in 2016, Boldt has yet to show what he can do.
26. Nathan Lukes, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 07/12/1994)
Obtained from the Cleveland Indians in the Brandon Guyer trade in 2016, Lukes hit well in A ball and shows promise going forward.
27. Joe McCarthy, 1B/OF
Age: 22 (DOB 02/23/1994)
The former University of Virginia batsman has showed flashes of power and speed during his first two years in the minors. He had a good season in 2016 in A ball and is worth keeping an eye on.
28. Jake Cronenwerth, SS
Age: 22 (DOB 01/21/1994)
Drafted out of Michigan, he batted .322 with an .865 OPS in 81 games at A-level Bowling Green in 2016.
29. Kean Wong, 2B/3B
Age: 21 (DOB 04/17/1995)
The brother of St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong had a solid 2016 at AA Montgomery. He can hit a bit, and steal bases, but he likely will be no more than a utility player if he makes it to the show.
30. Michael Russell, IF/OF
Age: 23 (DOB 01/30/1993)
The product of North Carolina has showed hitting skills in his first two seasons at Hudson Valley and Bowling Green, stole 29 bases in 2016 and has played every infield and two outfield positions.
31. Jake Fraley, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 05/25/1995)
The LSU outfielder, perhaps the fastest runner in the system, stole 33 bags in his first season in the minors in 2016. He projects as a fourth outfielder.
32. Joe Serrapica, RP
Age: 22 (DOB 05/25/1994)
Drafted out of Fordham in 2016, he didn’t allow a run at short-season Hudson Valley. A reliever who doesn’t give up runs will eventually find a role with the big club.
33. Johnny Field, OF
Age: 24 (DOB 02/20/1992)
Field had a solid season at AA Montgomery and AAA Durham in 2016 and projects as a possible fourth outfielder. Invited to spring training 2017 by the Rays.
34. Genesis Cabrera, SP
Age: 20 (DOB 10/10/1996)
The Dominican has three years in the Rays’ system and this one may determine how valuable he could be. But his live left arm could land him in the back end of an MLB rotation one day.
35. Dayron Varona, OF
Age: 28 (DOB 02/24/1988)
The 28-year-old Cuban hit .232 with 14 homers in 117 games at AAA Durham in 2016. Invited to spring training 2017 by the Rays.
36. Ryan Brett, 2B
Age: 25 (DOB 10/09/1991)
A .289 hitter in 457 games in the Rays’ system, Brett still could be a utility infielder in MLB. Invited to spring training 2017.
37. Dalton Kelly, 1B/OF
Age: 22 (DOB 08/04/1994)
Obtained from the Seattle Mariners in a trade, Kelly can hit a bit, has some power and steals bases. A chance to be a fourth outfielder. Invited to 2017 spring training by the Rays.
38. Diego Castillo, RP
Age: 22 (DOB 01/18/1994)
The Dominican native has a big fastball, strikes out more than one per inning and could slot into the back end of the bullpen for the Rays in due course. He’ll face better hitters pitching for AA Montgomery in 2017.
39. Jake Hager, 2B
Age: 23 (DOB 03/04/1993)
A first-round pick in 2011, Hager has hit .262 in 503 minor league games and could be a utility infielder in MLB. The Rays invited him to spring training in 2017.
40. Jeff Ames, RP
Age: 25 (DOB 01/31/1991)
After a solid season in the bullpen for AA Montgomery in 2016, Ames earned an invite to spring training with the Rays.
41. Patrick Leonard, IF/OF
Age: 24 (DOB 10/20/92)
Leonard has shown some power and speed in five minor league seasons, and has played first and third and outfield, which earned him an invite to spring training in 2017 with the Rays.
42. Peter Bayer, RP
Age: 22 (DOB 03/06/1994)
A ninth-round draft pick out of Cal State Pomona in 2016, Bayer struck out 45 in 32.2 innings in rookie ball. Bullpen ahead.
43. Robbie Tenerowicz, 2B
Age: 21 (DOB 01/06/1995)
A 27th-round pick out of the University of California in 2016, Tenerowicz surprised everyone with a solid season with the bat and in the field at rookie-level Princeton in 2016.
44. Chris Betts, C
Age: 19 (DOB 03/10/1997)
Betts is off to a slow start in his minor league career thanks to Tommy John surgery in 2015 after he was picked in the second round of the draft. He needs at-bats and time behind the plate to show what he can do, and be.
45. Jose Alvarado, SP
Age: 21 (DOB 05/21/1995)
The Venezuelan struck out 85 in 70 innings at two stops in A level ball in 2016. Has a big arm and potential big-league and fantasy impact.
46. Dylan Thompson, P
Age: 20 (DOB 09/16/1996)
The Rays like his arm, and his strikeout rate, which is why they obtained him from the Seattle Mariners.
47. Andrew Velasquez, SS
Age: 22 (DOB 07/14/1994)
Acquired in trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Velasquez has hit .279 in 368 minor league games and could be a utility infielder in MLB.
48. Andrew Kittredge, RP
Age: 26 (DOB 03/17/1990)
The former Seattle Mariner might make a modest contribution to the Rays’s bullpen in the event of injury. He was invited to spring training in 2017 by the Rays.
49. Eleardo Cabrera, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 11/8/95)
The Venezuelan excelled at rookie ball in 2016. His best asset, for now, is an exceptional outfield arm.
50. Justin O’Connor, C
Age: 24 (DOB 03/31/1992)
A first-round draft pick out of high school in 2010, O’Connor was highly touted. But he lost his spot on the 40-man roster as a back injury threatens his career. How well will he recover from back surgery?
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.