2016 Tampa Bay Rays

Hitters

  • C – Brett Sullivan – 22 yo
    • 3.42/.804 – PAG/APPA  (LoA Bowling Green)  
    • 2016 stats:  .283/.314/.438;  .752 OPS;  34 doubles, 13 home runs  .983 Fld%; 38% CS

The 6’1″ – 195 lb. lefty had as good a season as any catcher I’ve covered since the inception of this website. Sullivan’s 47 extra-base hits tied him for second overall in the organization with AAA’s Dayron Varona and only one behind leader   – and top SS prospect –  Willy Adames (AA Montgomery).  The 2015 – 7th rounder out of the University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA) made the “UTR Hitters of the Day” list an astounding 14 times in 2016 after being named a 2015 Organizational All-Star as a third baseman in his debut season; and   Sullivan’s accolades don’t stop there. He led entire organization with 34 doubles and ranked within the Midwest League top 10 in hits (133), doubles, home runs, RBi’s (81) and total bases (206)  Oh, and if Sullivan’s bat wasn’t enough, his 17 stolen bases ranked 3rd for most stolen bases by a catcher behind Brewers Max McDowell (21), Arizona’s Luke Lowery (21) and the Dodgers Austin Barnes (18); who’s a former UTR Breakout selection back in 2012 while with the Miami Marlins. 

  • 1B – Nathaniel Lowe – 20 yo
    • 3.09/.750 – PAG/APPA  (Short Season Hudson Valley)  
    • 2016 stats:  .300/.382/.437;  .820 OPS;  18 doubles, 4 home runs;  .994 Fld%

The Rays drafted the 6’4 – 225 lb. lefty in the 13th round in this year’s draft knowing they were getting a methodically sound, polished, power hitter. And the Mississippi State draftee lived up to every bit of those descriptions. Lowe not only led the Renegades in hits (74), doubles (18), home runs (4), RBi’s (40), walks (30) and every peripheral stat listed above, he also ranked within the top 5 New York-Penn League league leaders in four offensive categories. Some scouts say Lowe is a true professional both offensively and defensively with superior makeup. He could be a fast mover if he continues to project and stays healthy. One of my favorite overall UTR prospects in the American League East.

  • 2B – Robbie Tenerowicz – 21 yo
    • 3.09/.792 – PAG/APPA  (Rookie Princeton)  
    • 2016 stats:  .291/.353/.463;  .816 OPS;  17 doubles, 6 home runs;  .996 Fld%

The middle infield position for the Tampa Bay Rays can be described in two words: high floor. Heading into the 2016 season, nearly 20% of the Baseball America top 30 included a middle infielder. However, being that we’re UTR, the underbelly is our focus and trust me, there were plenty of MI’s that made a splash this season. Tenerwicz can be described as a ball of intensity and brings sheer attitude to the diamond every day. The 2016 – 27th rounder out of the University of Cal, Berkeley, was quoted, “I like playing like the pitcher just stole my dog.” Well, he played like it this season. In his debut he led Rookie Princeton in doubles, RBi’s (38) and ranked second in total bases with 94.  The 6’1″ – 185 lb. righty could bring his skills and large intangibles to either SS Hudson Valley or (quite possibly) LoA Bowling Green in 2017. 

  • 3B – Kevin Padlo – 19 yo
    • 3.49/.788 – PAG/APPA  (LoA Bowling Green)  
    • 2016 stats:  .229/.358/.413;  .771 OPS;  22 doubles, 16 home runs, 66 RBi’s, 79 walks. 

Despite there being several semi-worthy OAS third base candidates, top prospect Kevin Padlo simply couldn’t be denied. UTRMinors has had a crush on him since his 2014 debut. A 12-time “UTR Hitters of the Day” choice in 2016, the 2014 – 5th rounder our of Murrieta Valley HS (CA) was also a 2014 and 2015 Organizational All-Star as a member of the  Colorado Rockies organization. The  6’2″ – 205 lb. righty simply needs to polish a game that already possesses all the tools that will allow him to become a major league regular at the hot corner.

  • SS – Jake Cronenworth – 22 yo
    • 3.30/.757 combined – PAG/APPA  (LoA Bowling – 3.91/.834;  HiA Charlotte – 1.89/.524)  
    • 2016 stats combined:  .282/.389/.386;  .775 OPS;  18 doubles, .987 Fld%; 55% CS

Aside from Cronenworth’s severe production dip after a promotion to HiA Charlotte in mid-July, (19-111/.171), the 6’1″ – 185 lb. lefty has been the picture of consistency since his 2015 debut. Consistency upon a promotion tells you a kid is “getting it” despite facing stiffer competition. Cronenworth posted a 51-game PAG/APPA of 3.29/.717 for SS Hudson Valley in 2015, which is only a slight deviation from his combined numbers this season.  The 2015 – 7th rounder out of Michigan was one of the Midwest League leaders in on-base percentage (.429), OPS (.865) and improved his overall K:BB rate from last year. I expect the Rays will assign Cronenworth to HiA Charlotte for 2017. 

  • LF – David Olmedo-Barrera – 22 yo
    • 3.55/.851 – PAG/APPA  (LoA Bowling Green)  
    • 2016 stats:  .311/.362/.480;  .842 OPS;  17 doubles, 6 home runs.

I’m anxious to see what’s in store for Olmeda-Barrera for 2017. He came to the Rays as a 3B/DH, but was immediately shifted to the outfield. In his pro debut for Rookie League Princeton, he posted a 2.98/.701 PAG/APPA.  The Rays had the 2015 – 12th rounder out of Cal State Fullerton leapfrog Short Season Hudson Valley with an assignment to LoA Bowling Green this season. He logged only 67 games, but ranked within the Midwest League top 10 in slugging percentage and OPS. There’s just something about him. He hits for average. He has power. He steals bases. And you can’t ask for too much of him defensively due to the recent, full-time position change. Yet, I’d like to see the 6’1″ – 210 lb. lefty do a little more, polish his game a little before he’s anointed a full-blown prospect. He might stick in LoA in 2017 or could see another aggressive push to HiA Charlotte of the Florida State League. 

  • CF – Jesus Sanchez – 18 yo
    • 3.57/.885 combined – PAG/APPA  (GCL – 3.57/.867;  Rookie Princeton – 3.57/.943)  
    • 2016 combined stats:  .329/.351/.549;  .900 OPS;   8 triples, 7 home runs;  CF Fld% –  1.000 

Running the Rays centerfield numbers was real fun. Now, my disclaimer here is that top 10 prospect Garrett Whitley is the consensus centerfielder of the future in Tampa Bay. The 2015 – 1st rounder out of Niskayuna HS (NY) – my wife’s former hometown-  brings superb athleticism, great makeup and a full bag of tools to the field every day. But, as far as the OAS list, my pointer shifts in the direction of Dominican-born Jesus Sanchez. The 6’1″ – 185 lb. lefty’s stats reveals something I’ve never seen before in all the years I’ve charted PAG. If you look above at his 2016 results, Sanchez’s PAG was identical across two levels. His 2016 PAG declined slightly from his debut in 2015 (3.74), but Sanchez’ display is the reason why breaking down PAG into APPA was a necessary measure, as Sanchez’ increased (.851/.885) this season. I don’t expect Sanchez to slow down. He could begin 2017 for Short Season Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League. 

  • RF – Eleardo Cabrera – 20 yo
    • 3.60/.800 – PAG/APPA  (Rookie Princeton)  
    • 2016 stats:  .311/.375/.466;  .842 OPS;  12 doubles, 7 home runs;  .987 Fld%; 55% CS

The Rays signed the 5’11” – 195 lb. lefty out of Venezuela in August of 2013. He debuted in the now defunct Venezuelan Summer League in 2014 and struggled batting .234 and a 2.19 PAG in 31 games. He repeated the VSL in 2015 and blew the doors off his debut posting a 3.53/.849 PAG/APPA. He batted .295 and clubbed more doubles (13) than he had extra-base hits the year before, hit four round-trippers and posted a perfect 39:39 BB:K. rate. Cabrera carried this momentum to 2016 for Rookie Princeton of the Appalachian League, where he ranked first in hits (74) and sat within the Appy League’s top 5 in runs scored (44) and total bases (111). With some progression, however, there is regression. Even though Cabrera’s batting average improved, his BB:K rate fell off a cliff (17:73). I believe the Rays will take the methodical route and promote him to SS Hudson Valley. 

 

Pitchers

Tampa Bay pitching probably has the best collection of UTR’s in the AL East., as a nice balance has been mentioned over the last two seasons. As we review the starters that I’ve listed, only two pitchers were drafted above the fifth round (Brent Honeywell and Blake Snell). The 21- year-old RHP Honeywell was a UTR-OAS the last two seasons and just barely missed making it for a third year in a row. He had an outstanding season splitting time between HiA and Double-A in 2016 and has never seen his TPS over .090 in 279.1 innings. This indicates that Honeywell is living up to the 2nd round pick  billing and was the obvious pick for the Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Last year I tagged Blake Snell with “ASAP Roster Add” and hopeful that readers took heed. Snell was placed into the Rays rotation for a spot start on April 23rd. The 23-year-old lefty threw a two-hitter over 5 innings, struck out six and issued only one walk. He was sent back to AAA-Durham, then called back to the majors in mid-June. He remained in the Rays rotation for good, but did display some inconsistency with his command (5.2 BB/9). Expect better things from Snell in 2017. Another two-timer was  Jacob Faria (“Legit UTR/Solid Stash”) who was also the 2014 “One To Watch”. The 10th round pick in 2011 started at AA Montgomery and finished strong at AAA Durham. There’s a lot to like about Faria, who should see a mid-season call-up with the Rays. The most true UTR that I liked from 2015 was Jamie Schultz. The right-hander had another strong season where he copied his K/9 rate of 11.2 [again] in 2016. A few other names just off the scope are Henry CentenoHunter Wood, and Adrian Navas. Navas has been on my radar the last two seasons and was my 2016 “One To Watch” pick. The 20-year-old held his own with Short-Season Hudson Valley this season and should continue to be tracked.
 
As the upper levels are solid for the Rays, the International side was a rather disappointment. 2015 ‘Watch’ Resly Linares spent the season with Appy League Princeton and put up OK numbers in his U.S. debut. Angel Yepez had his full season with LoA Bowling Green cut short after two starts with a apparent injury. A quick study of my Rays spreadsheet doesn’t show much improvement in Latin America. 
 
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS
 
1. RHP Jose Mujica– 14.5 /.114
  • 20 years old (LoA Bowling Green)
  • International Free Agent – 2012
  • Mujica was ranked #30  on the Rays prospect list to start the 2016 season. The big- bodied right-hander should see his stock rise with his outstanding finish in August going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. He struck out 23 in 26 innings without issuing a single walk. Reports indicate, with the Rays pitching depth, Mujica could be expendable, as he is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
2. RHP  Benton Moss – 16/ .103
  • 22 years old  (HiA Charlotte)
  • 6th round – 2015
  • Moss was just off my scope at the end of the 2015 season. I thought he might stay that way because the Rays aggressively assigned him to HiA Charlotte after 14 appearances (10 starts) in his pro debut at Short-Season Hudson Valley. Various sources state that he’s being groomed for a move to the bullpen.
3. RHP  Greg Harris – 16/.090 “Take a Flyer”

  • 21 years old  (HiA Charlotte / AAA Durham)
  • 17th round (LA Dodgers) – 2013
  • Harris is one of a few UTR pitchers that pre-dates UTRMinors.com. The right-hander was garnering mentions since his debut in 2013, back when Marc and I were providing content to another site. Things took off for Harris after he was sent to Tampa Bay where the mentions piled-up into a #2 Factor Score ranking as a 2015 UTR-OAS. At only 21-years-old this past season, Harris looked strong and sipped a cup of coffee with AAA-Durham in September.
4. LHP Michael Velasquez – 16/.100
  • 20 years old (LoA Bowling Green)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • Velasquez proved to be hittable in 2016 (133 hits in 113 innings), but TPS loved him enough to place him in the top five. Even though he threw most of his pitches in the hot zone, his periphials were strong: a 4.04 K/BB ratio with 113 K’s and 28 BB’s.
5. RHP Genesis Cabrera – 13/.108
  • 19 years old – (LoA Bowling Green)
  • International Free Agent – 2013
  • So many pitchers could have occupied the last spot. I already mentioned Navas, Centeno, and Hunter Wood above, but figured to bury another name within this blurb. Of all the middle-of-the-pack arms sitting within my spreadsheet, Travis Ott (25th round-2013) really shined the best, and is the front-runner for the 2017 “One to Watch’ list. Cabrera posted pedestrian numbers this season in his first full season.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score /TPS
 
1. RHP Fernando Baez – 11/.049
  • 24 years old – (LoA Bowling Green)
  • International Free Agent – 2009 (St. Louis)
  • The Rays picked up Baez from the Rule 5 draft in December 2015. Prior to the 2014 season, I predicted Baez to breakout as a relief pitcher, but he was thrown into a starters role with Short-Season State College. I wrote that Baez had upside, but I just didn’t know where that would lead him. The Rays shifted him back to the bullpen and they should be very happy with the results.
2. RHP Ian Gibaut – 6/.077
  • 22 years old – (LoA Bowling Green / HiA Charlotte)
  • 11th round – 2015
  • Gibaut backs up his successful 2015 debut with another strong season. He was my Rays #1 TPS ranked relief pitcher last season
3. RHP Diego Castillo – 5/.087
  • 22 years old – (LoA Bowling Green / HiA Charlotte)
  • International Free Agent – 2014
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