Over the last few weeks, MLB.com has been releasing its Top 10 prospects at each position entering the 2017 season. The announcements culminated on Saturday when the website released its Top 100 overall prospects for the year, and four Rays minor leaguers found themselves on the list. Infielder Willy Adames (No. 21), pitchers Brent Honeywell (No. 31) and Jose De Leon (No. 33) and infielder/outfielder Jake Bauers (No. 75) all made the list, and all could be tabbed for Durham in 2017.
Adames, just 21, is coming off a strong campaign with Double-A Montgomery in 2016. The shortstop was a Midseason and Postseason Southern League All-Star, Futures Game selection, Baseball America Double-A All-Star and a Rays Organizational All-Star after batting .274 with 11 homers, 57 RBI and posting a .372 on-base percentage. At 6'1", 180 pounds, Adames led the league in runs scored (89) and walks (74) and ranked third in the league in doubles (31), extra-base hits (48) and total bases (209). Acquired by the Rays in the David Price trade of 2014, the No. 6 shortstop prospect in baseball will most likely open the year on the Bulls' roster.
Honeywell, also 21, had a very strong 2016 season that saw him combine to go 7-3 with a 2.34 ERA between Advanced-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery. The right-hander was named the Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year after striking out 117 and walking just 25 in 115 1/3 innings, while surrendering just 94 hits. Known for a devastating screwball, the 2014 draft pick will be competing for a spot in Durham's rotation throughout Spring Training. If he doesn't make the squad in April though, odds are he'll work his way to a midseason promotion.
De Leon joined the Rays organization last week in a one-for-one trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A 24-year-old right-hander, De Leon battled injuries to go 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 16 starts for Oklahoma City in the hitting-happy Pacific Coast League a season ago, striking out 111 batters in 86 1/3 frames. After making four starts for the Dodgers at the end of the season (2-0, 6.35), the newest member of the Rays organization will be battling to be Tampa Bay's fifth starter come Opening Day. Should he miss out on that chance, he'll open the season at the front of Durham's rotation.
Bauers is looking for a promotion to Triple-A after spending the last season and a half with Double-A Montgomery. Last season, as a 20-year-old, the first baseman/outfielder batted .274 with 14 homers and 78 RBI, while leading the league in games played (135) and ranking third in runs scored (79), fourth in doubles (28) and extra-base hits (207) and fifth in on-base percentage (.370). The left-handed hitter is a non-roster invite to Spring Training, so he'll report to Florida in big league camp.