Being a Rays fan is tough.
Being an optimistic Rays fan is even tougher.
As if this tornado of an offseason hasn’t caused me enough stress, Brent Honeywell had Tommy John surgery yesterday. But one thing the Rays always have is depth. And because of that, here are 5 reasons you need not worry about Honeywell’s absence.
5). Anthony Banda, SP. Yes, the dude we got for Steven Souza. He was the No. 2 prospect for the Diamondbacks last year. He comes with mid-90s fastball from the left side and a plus changeup. He had a taste of major league action last year, and though he pitched to an ugly 5.96 ERA, other metrics, such as a 3.24 FIP (I referenced why FIP is so important in this post) and an 8.8 K/9, suggest a big turnaround. Barring an injury, he probably won’t break camp with the Rays, but look for him the make a few spot starts when the team needs a fresh arm. Expect him to slot into the rotation full time in 2019. Check out this video of him making his major league debut.
4.) Jose De Leon, SP. The former Dodgers top prospect was acquired for Logan Forsythe before the 2017 season. The 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, De Leon battled injuries most of ’17, and didn’t impress in his cup of coffee with the big league club. He sits around 92-93 but can reach back for up to 96, and has a changeup that just falls off the table. If there are any injuries to the starting staff, expect that he is the first call.
3.) Jake Bauers, 1B/OF. The youngest player on this list, but possibly the most mature. Bauers is extremely athletic with lots of power. Even better yet, he can control the strike zone and draw walks, owning a career .362 OBP in the minors. As his power develops, his ability to get on base will only get better. He’s a tricky one though, as he’s seen most of his time at first base. With the acquisition of CJ Cron, he’ll need more reps in the outfield, since that seems more likely to be his path to the show. While he never had a great shot at breaking camp in the majors this year, the blockage at first base sets his timetable back just a little bit more. Expect him to be in AAA most of 2018, but get consistent time in the majors come September when rosters expand. Check out this absolute bomb he hit last year, which includes a pretty sweet bat flip.
2.) Christian Arroyo, INF. It’s tough not to feel for this guy. A local product out of Hernando High School, Arroyo was a former first round draft pick as well as a former teammate of current Ray Matt Duffy. Of all the players on this list, Arroyo might be the only player to break camp with the big league team. His relatively small sample in the Majors last year wasn’t great, which could’ve been due to a nagging wrist injury and an unfortunate .231 BABIP. He did however, mash AAA pitching to a tune of .396/.461/.604 slash last year, proving what he can do when healthy. Obviously, he won’t sustain that level of production at the game’s highest level, but he is an aggressive, hard-contact hitter who, if he can develop a little lift in his swing and elevate the baseball, could be a Daniel Murphy type. If for some reason he does not make the Rays 25 man roster, expect him to be one of the first, if not the first, call to the show.
1.) Willy Adames, SS. Adames, like Arroyo, was acquired for an elite Rays player–David Price. Though he seemed like a throw in, we was actually the best kept secret of this deal. A plus defender whose bat finally came around last year in AAA, Adames is he highest rated prospect, not only on this list, but in the entire system. He’s said he’s willing to take some reps at 2nd base if that gets him to the big leagues faster, which shows maturity and humility, but that would be a waste of his talent. In order for him to get the call, he’ll need to prove he can hit AAA pitching once again this year in order to justify playing him over the incumbent Adeiny Hechavarria. If he gets off to a hot start, expect him to be wearing a Rays uniform as soon as mid May.
Yonny Chirinos, SP. If it weren’t for De Leon and Banda, this would be the guy. But don’t think he’s that far behind. He had an excellent AAA season last year, and although he may not have the ceiling as those two, it would not at all be surprising if he turns out to be the best of the three in his chances this year.
Ryan Schimpf, INF. Acquired from the Padres his offseason, he’s not a young guy nor the traditional top prospect, at 29 years old. He is, however, a three true outcomes guy (think Joey Gallo) who’s taken Clayton Kershaw deep not once, but twice. Expect him to compete for either the starting 2nd or 3rd base spot, or possibly make the club as a power option off the bench.
Super Honorable Mentions: Joe McCarthy, 1B; Ryan Yarbrough, SP; Jamie Schultz, RP.
So, there’s a lot of talent here, as well as a lot of opportunity from them to make an impact, not just in the future, but this year. This is no longer a team of the future, the future is now, and it’s looking pretty bright.