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Honeywell and Gillaspie are best on the farm.

The future remains bright for the Tampa Bay Rays despite a disappointing couple seasons in 2015-2016. RHP Brent Honeywell and 1B Casey Gillaspie are quite possibly the two biggest reasons why. A week ago, MLBPipeline named the two “Prospects of the Year” in the Rays farm system. Gillaspie (#9 Rays prospect), 23 years old and a switch-hitter, finished his 2016 campaign slugging 18 HRs and 64 RBI and hitting .284 between AA Montgomery and AAA Durham including a .307 clip while with Durham. Honeywell (#2 Rays prospect), 21, pitched to a 7-3 record with a very impressive 2.34 ERA in 20 starts between A Charlotte and Montgomery.

With the success he had at the AAA level, it’s safe to say Gillaspie isn’t far off from making his MLB debut, possibly as early as 2017. With the Rays set on former shortstop Brad Miller as their first baseman of the foreseeable future, it may take an injury earlier in the year to see Gillaspie up any earlier than September.

For Honeywell, he hasn’t gotten to Durham, yet, but could very well see AAA pitching in 2017 and compete for a starting spot in the 2018 rotation if he continues the success he’s had at lower levels.

So what prospects could surprise this spring and crack the 2017 Opening Day roster? How far off are some of the prized names such as Willy Adames, Daniel Robertson, and Jacob Faria?

I’m glad you asked.

On the brink:

3B/1B/OF Richie Shaffer (#20) – He’s had stints at the MLB level already and finally at the end of 2016 showed he just might be ready. He finished with .250/.315/.438 line with a .752 OPS in 20 games with the Rays.
Projection: Opening Day

RHP Jacob Faria (#5) – In 13 games for Durham this year, Faria held hitters to a .190 avg while posting a 4-4 record and a modest 3.72 ERA. His biggest area of concern are the walks, where he allowed 32 free passes in 67.2 innings at AAA. Depending on how the Winter Meetings and arbitration hearings play out, there is a shot Faria could crack the Opening Day roster.
Projection: mid-2017

INF Daniel Robertson (#10) – The Rays brought in Matt Duffy in the Matt Moore trade this season – pretty much solidifying the shortstop position for years to come. However, Duffy needs to show he can stay healthy which, if he can’t, means opportunity knocks for Robertson to come in and shine. He could also be useful off the bench to spell Logan Forsythe at second.
Projection: mid-2017

RHP Jaime Schultz (#11) – The 25-year old might be ready to crack the Opening Day roster if he can put together a solid spring. However, I don’t see him being a rotation arm. His size and constant control problems may prevent him from being more than a setup or mid-relief arm out of a bullpen that needs some consistency.
Projection: Opening Day

1B Casey Gillaspie (#9) – The future at first base could make his MLB debut in September and quite possibly sooner barring injury or if Brad Miller struggles at his new position at first. His .307 avg at Durham in ’16 along with his .909 OPS can’t and won’t be ignored.
Projection: late-2017

Ready for call ups:

SS Willy Adames (#1) – That’s right, I said it. Rays fans will finally get to see what some are calling the prized piece to the David Price trade from 2014. Adames could very well start the year at Durham where, after a full season, could find his way to the MLB come September.

RHP Brent Honeywell (#2) – He’s proven that he’s not far off from cracking the Rays rotation. But he hasn’t faced AAA pitching, yet. Figure the team wants to see him succeed at that level before pulling the trigger and not rushing him. Could see him in September.

RHP Chih-Wei Hu (#6) – His one start with Durham this season was rough. However his success at Montgomery can’t be ignored. If he can put a full season together at the AAA level and continue to show improvement – could see him called up in September.

RHP Taylor Guerrieri (#13) – The former first-round draft pick straight out of high school in 2011 could finally get a taste of “The Show” in 2017. He’s been setback by suspension and an elbow injury but a very impressive season at AA this year may mean he just needs some seasoning at Durham to prepare for a call up in 2017.

C Justin O’Conner (#28) – Might just be the best defensive catcher in the organization at any level. O’Conner was sidelined by a nagging back injury in ’16 that saw him play in just eight games for AA Montgomery. He won’t be flashy with the bat, but if he’s healthy and gets a full season on the field in ’17 you could very well see the future at catcher called up in September.

No rush:

OF/1B Jake Bauers (#3) – He’s been playing a lot more corner outfield and with Gillaspie on the brink and if Brad Miller can keep producing, he won’t see any time at first base. He should start the year at Durham to finally face higher-caliber arms so we’ll see how he fares before we say he’s MLB-ready.
Projection: September 2018

RHP Ryne Stanek (#12) – As a starter, he struggled mightily with command and control. In 2016 he transitioned to the bullpen where all signs pointed to him getting that under better control. He very well could be a bullpen asset soon – if not valuable trade bait?
Projection: September 2018

The depth continues to get better with the likes of SS Lucius Fox, OF Garrett Whitley, and 3B Joshua Lowe maybe a few years out. Nick Ciuffo could find his way back into the catching depth if he can develop more as a defensive asset and outfielder Justin Williams looks to be a name to watch, as well, as he was a big part of the Jeremy Hellickson trade in 2014 from the Diamondbacks.

Shortstop Adrian Rondon could be a name that pops up in a couple years, as well, if the Robertson/Duffy experiment doesn’t work out or if something frees up at second base.

Chances are with the amount of depth in the organization at positions like pitching and middle infield, some of these names could find themselves as key parts to trades that bring in key players ready to play and help the major league team win now. However, we’re only a few months away from the 2017 Grapefruit League kicking off and a lot of these players could make a case to boost their stock and speed up their road to “The Show” in the spring.

Keep your eyes and ears open, Rays fans. We’ll have all your 2016 off-season Rays news as it breaks leading up to the 2017 season!

Information in this article is courtesy of raysbaseball.com

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