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When people think top farm systems in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays do not often come up. Or at least, not as much as they should. For a team that has consistently developed players well and drafted well, the Rays have not received as much love as they deserve.

That might be starting to change. With the best two-way college player in history now in the system, a pitcher with a lethal screwball and one of the top shortstops, Tampa is starting to get the recognition it deserves. Its combination of depth and star potential prospects in the system make it an exciting one for dynasty owners to want to comb through for talent.

Today, I am continuing my list of prospect systems in the AL East. I have already covered the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Later, I will delve into the Toronto Blue Jays. To read more about my prospect coverage, click here.

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Tampa Bay Rays Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues

Top Overall Talent: Willy Adames

Top Prospect to Debut in 2018: Willy Adames

Both these could easily have been Brent Honeywell. But at the end of the day, I’m going to take a 22-year-old shortstop over a 22-year-old pitcher. Always less risk in the bat. With Adames, there is plenty of upside in the bat as well. Adames posted his second consecutive season of double-digit home runs and stolen bases to go along with a .270-plus batting average. Dynasty owners should be able to expect more of the same from Adames as he continues his ascent to the majors. He has a potent bat and could be a future 20/20 hitter with a .270-plus average as he bats near the top of future Rays’ lineups and mans shortstop for them. And with a 2018 debut likely on the way, owners will not have to wait long for Adames to start paying off.

Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2018: Jesus Sanchez

Sanchez is one of the prospect names dynasty owners will want to familiarize themselves with moving forward. He just turned 20 years old in October, and already has made a name for himself in the minors as one of the best up-and-coming hitters. He receives plus grades on nearly every tool including his hit, power and speed. There is some debate in the scouting world whether Sanchez packs on the extra muscle and slows down while becoming a more explosive hitter, or if he stays where he is now and becomes a future 20/15 hitter with a .300-plus average. My money is on the former. Regardless of which outcome he reaches, Sanchez is an exciting, young prospect who could find his name in the top 20 of prospect lists by the end of 2018 and could be a dynamic big-league outfielder in the near future.

Biggest Boom or Bust: Joshua Lowe

Lowe reminds me of a young Bradley Zimmer with the only difference being Zimmer was more advanced when he began professional baseball due to his college experience and Lowe came out of high school. Both are athletic, speedy center fielders despite both being larger players with Zimmer being 6-foot-5, 220 pounds compared to Lowe’s 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. The two have an exciting combination of power and speed and could be elite fantasy prospects if it weren’t for one glaring issue: strikeouts. The two have frequently struggled to make consistent contact. Zimmer was able to make enough contact to carry himself to the majors, but Lowe still has a ways to go. Lowe is still so young and could lower his strikeout rate enough to reach the Zimmer ceiling, but failure to do so could leave him struggling when he hits the upper levels of the minors if he can’t make consistent enough contact to put his loud tools to work. The payoff could be huge. The letdown also could be huge.

Biggest Sleeper: Zach Rutherford

Old Dominion is best known for having produced Justin Verlander and Daniel Hudson, but it’s latest player to be drafted — Rutherford — could follow in their footsteps and have a productive major league career. The 21-year-old shortstop does not look like a future star prospect, but he is a solid all-around performer. Rutherford slashed .332/.397/.472 in his junior season with the Monarchs with two home runs and seven stolen bases. He makes plenty of consistent contact, and though he doesn’t hit for a ton of power, he will swipe a couple bags and hit for a decent average that should be valuable to fantasy owners. Rutherford has a ceiling of a future .270-hitter with five home runs, 10-15 steals in the majors while filling a role as a super-utility role for the Rays in the future.

 

Top Prospect Hitters

Best Power Hitter: Jesus Sanchez

Most Likely to Hit over .300: Jesus Sanchez

This was a toss-up between Sanchez and Brendan McKay for me in both these categories, but in the end I went with Sanchez because McKay could still end up just as a pitcher whereas Sanchez is all hitter. It is rare for a 19-year-old — he will be 20 for all of 2018 — to claim both these superlatives at such a young age, but Sanchez is not a normal 19-year-old. He demonstrated at Class-A in 2017 that even though he does not walk a lot, he makes so much hard contact that he will be able to hit for a high average anyway. He generates a lot of power in his swing too, and given his 6-foot-3 frame, there is still more power potential he might have left to tap. If he packs on the extra muscle, he could be a future .300 hitter with 25-plus home runs.

Best Burner on the Bases: Lucius Fox

Fox has made quick work of the minors so far and his speed has been the major factor in that. He is one of the fastest players in the minors, and his speed plays well both in the field and on the bases. Fox couples that with an ability to generate solid contact at the plate, one of the reasons scouts view his ceiling as a leadoff type hitter. The concern now is that he strikes out too much for his own good and doesn’t balance it out with too many walks, but he is still only 20 years old and has plenty of time to iron those issues out. Given time, Fox could be a valuable contributor of steals to plenty of dynasty teams.

 

Top Prospect Pitchers

Strikeout Machine: Brent Honeywell

Best Command: Brent Honeywell

A couple seasons ago, Honeywell was seen as just some pitcher who could throw a screwball and had good enough control to make it as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter. That now looks like his floor. The ceiling is much higher. Honeywell’s stuff has continued to improve all while he has maintained his well above-average control. He now throws in the mid-90s with plenty of life on his fastball and offers three plus secondary offerings — his top pitch remains the screwball — to keep batters guessing. His curveball has not caught up with the rest of his offerings, but owners can live with a pitcher with four plus pitches and one average pitch. Honeywell has struck out batters at extremely high rates in the minors and there’s no reason to believe that will stop in the majors. Though he might not whiff 30 percent of batters, 20-25 percent is well within reason. Honeywell has the chance to be an ace and is one of the best fantasy pitching prospects to own in dynasty baseball right now.

 

Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the Tampa Bay Rays

1. Willy Adames (SS, AAA)
ETA: 2018
Adames is an advanced hitter who will play shortstop longterm. His bat profiles well in the No. 2 spot of a lineup and he could be an annual .300 hitter with 15-20 home runs.

2. Brent Honeywell (SP, AAA)
ETA: 2018
Complete with a diverse array of pitches, Honeywell has developed his stuff so well that he is now viewed less as a No. 3 or 4 starter and more as a potential No. 1 or 2 starter.

3. Jesus Sanchez (OF, A)
ETA: 2019
Just 19 years old for all of last season, Sanchez demonstrated one of the most advanced hit tools in the minors and has all the makings of a future middle-of-the-order hitter.

4. Brendan McKay (1B/SP, A-)
ETA: 2020
McKay has the chance to be a two-way player, a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher or a middle-of-the-order batter. He has a multitude of exciting outcomes for dynasty owners and is one of the most interesting prospects in the minors.

5. Jake Bauers (1B/OF, AAA)
ETA: 2018
The bat of Bauers will not play as well at first base, but he should still hit for a high enough average and knock enough home runs to be worthy of owning in most dynasty leagues.

6. Christian Arroyo (SS/3B, MLB)
ETA: 2018
Arroyo is not an exciting prospect given his lack of speed or power, but owners will gladly take a future super-utility hitter similar in the mold of a bat like fellow Tampa Bay Ray Matt Duffy.

7. Wander Samuel Franco (SS, NA)
ETA: 2022
Franco is still so young at just 16 years old, but scouts see him becoming a special talent as he continues to develop. Patience is the key with the young prospect.

8. Justin Williams (OF, AA)
ETA: 2018
Williams has quietly produced wherever he has played and could provide dynasty owners with decent power and a solid batting average.

9. Jose De Leon (SP, MLB)
ETA: 2018
The clock is ticking on De Leon who still has the stuff to handle a spot in a big-league rotation, but has lacked the durability. He needs to stay healthy to be productive.

10. Lucius Fox (SS, A+)
ETA: 2020
The speedy shortstop has worked his way up the minors fast and could be knocking on the door in 2019. He still needs to make more consistent contact and could be put in center field, which will limit his fantasy value.

 

Conclusion

The Tampa Bay Rays have quietly filled their farm system to the point where it is considered one of the best in baseball. Though a handful of their top prospects like Honeywell, Sanchez, McKay and Franco are all drafted or signed by the team, the Rays have done particularly well acquiring sleeper prospects in trades and developing them into top talents. Guys like Adames, Bauers and Williams have all been developed for a while by the Rays into some of the best prospects in the minors. With a long track record of developing great pitchers and maximizing their top prospects, the Rays are once again one of the best farm systems for dynasty owners to find talent for their teams.

 

More 2018 MLB Prospects Analysis