Rays Low Budget Requires Development of Prospects

Baseball would like people to believe there is parity in the major leagues. The Rays are evidence this is not the case. The Rays can’t spend like the Dodgers or Yankees and must rely on the development of prospects to be competitive. This means for every four years they are battling for the playoffs there are another four years in which they crash to the basement. The current Rays are in the process of crashing to the basement as the trade of Evan Longoria is evidence.

The Rays have been known for developing top pitching prospects. Once those pitching prospects are two years away from free agency they are put on the trade market. Their best pitching prospect is Brent Honeywell, who is following in the footsteps of Blake Snell. This should be his year to pitch for the Rays since this is his fourth year in the minor leagues. The pitch that gets the most publicity is the screwball, but Brent does not throw the pitch that often. He relies on a mid-90s fastball, a plus change and a cutter to retire hitters. After 24 starts in AAA his 11.06 whiffs per nine innings indicates his readiness for the major leagues.

Jose Deleon was a top Dodger prospect traded to the Rays for Logan Forsythe. With AAA and major league experience under his belt for the 2016 season many expected him to be in the rotation by mid-season last year. Arm problems delayed the start of his season until May and he could never find a groove with his pitches. The Puerto Rican righthander has a nice assortment to choose from, with a mid-90s fastball, excellent change and an effective slider. He did get three starts in AAA, striking out 10.5 hitters per nine innings, but lefthanded hitters seemed to have their way with him (.417). This should be the year he sees significant time in the Rays rotation if he can address his ineffectiveness against left handed hitters.

Myworld really likes Ryan Yarbrough after we saw him pitch in Durham. His stuff is not overpowering but he stands 6′5″ with a fastball that touches the mid-90s. He also throws strikes, gets his share of swings and misses and retires lefthanded bats (.217) which could make him useful out of the bullpen if the starting rotation gets crowded. It is hard to think three rookies would fill the Rays rotation in 2018 so expect the Mariners fourth round 2014 pick to start the season in AAA.

Ryne Stanek has an electric arm that shoots fastballs across the plate in triple digits. He pitches out of the bullpen because of his lack of quality secondary pitches and struggles with command. He’ll turn 27 in July so the time for him to make the major league bullpen is now. Last year he got 21 appearances, struck out a lot of hitters (13.05) but also gave up a lot of hits (.317) with six of them carrying over the fence. When you walk over five hitters per nine innings you can not afford to give up hits or your ERA sky rockets to 5.85.

The Rays seem to have a strong collection of position players. They hope a couple of them will join them in Tampa for the 2018 season. Christian Arroyo was a number one pick of the Giants in 2013. The Rays traded Evan Longoria to acquire him. His range is not strong enough to play short and his power is not frequent enough to play third. Injuries limited him to 25 games last year but he did hit .396 in AAA. In four seasons he has yet to hit double digits in homeruns.

Willy Adames could be their starting shortstop in 2018. He was acquired from the Tigers in the David Price trade. His average seems to float around .270 with the potential to hit 10 to 15 homeruns per year. His defense will be solid with a strong arm. The Rays believe he will develop more power as he matures. Myworld expects him to be the Rays starter at short to begin the 2018 season.

Brendan McKay is an interesting potential two way player. As a first baseman he has decent power that should consistently hit in the .300 neighborhood. As a pitcher he has an excellent curveball to go with a low 90s fastball. Many feel he could become a better pitcher if he focused in that area. The Rays only had him hit last year but next year he will be in the full season league and the Rays could squeeze him in the rotation in between first base or DH assignments to see what they have.

Jake Bauers is another slugging left hand hitting first baseman. He was acquired from the Padres in the Will Myers trade. Currently his power is restricted to the gaps, with just 13 homeruns resulting in a .412 slugging percentage. His lack of speed would make him a liability on defense if moved to the outfield. Jake is another rookie who could see playing time by mid-season.

Jesus Sanchez is a toolsy outfielder who in two seasons of rookie ball hit .332. Last year was his debut in full season and he continued to live in the .300 neighborhood (.305). He has power, speed, the ability to hit for average and a strong arm, all the requisites of a five tool player. The centerfield job should be his in a couple years.

Lucius Fox was signed by the Giants out of the Bahamas and included in the Evan Longoria trade. His $6 million bonus was the highest for a player not from Cuba. His glove is smooth with the ability to play a premium shortstop, his legs are fast with 30 plus potential stolen base speed, but his bat is still a question mark. He will not hit for power and if he does not take a lot of walks he will fit best in the number 8 spot in the order, number 9 in the American League.

Adrian Rondon was a player the Rays spent a big bonus on ($2.95 million). He was a shortstop when he signed but last year spent all his time at third base. The bat was supposed to be special with lots of power, but it has been slow to develop. As he gets promoted he is still one of the younger players in the league. Last year he only hit .221 with a .330 slugging, numbers unacceptable for a corner infielder. The Rays have to hope the power develops.

Garrett Whitely was a first round pick in 2015. The Rays have been less successful in the draft now that they are picking lower in the draft. Garrett has the speed to play center and flashed a little bit of power with 13 homeruns last year, his career high. If his glove can fit in center that power will play. A little less swing and miss in his bat could see his average climb above the .250 mark.

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