Snell centerpiece of Rays' rosy future

Tampa Bay places four in midseason update of Top 100 Prospects

Snell centerpiece of Rays' rosy future

ST. PETERSBURG -- Looking forward is the best tack for Rays fans given the way the 2016 season has unfolded. And what better way to do so than taking a glance at the players who will drive the future for this team.

MLB.com's lists for the Top 100 Prospects in baseball and the Top 30 Prospects for each individual organization were released on Thursday.

The ranking of baseball's top prospects is done by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status are eligible for the list. The rankings follow the Collective Bargaining Agreement guidelines for which players fall under the international pool money rules: Players who were at least 23 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.

Little surprise to find left-hander Blake Snell ranked No. 1 among the Rays' top prospects, and the 14th overall prospect in baseball. Following him in order were: shortstop Willy Adames (28th overall), right-hander Brent Honeywell (51) and first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers (90).

Snell is 2-4 with a 3.05 ERA for Tampa Bay and has strung together four quality starts. He impressed manager Kevin Cash on Sunday by overcoming first-inning trouble, when he allowed two runs and nothing else in 6 2/3 innings.

"It says a lot about a young pitcher who goes out there and doesn't look as crisp or sharp as we know he can be, or where he was his last outing," Cash said, "but still finds a way to give us a really quality start."

Adames plays shortstop and looks like the next big thing in the Rays' organization. He came to Tampa Bay from Detroit in the 2014 David Price trade and plays for Double-A Montgomery, hitting third. Adames is a good athlete, known for having good hands.

"Willy Adames has skills and intangibles," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "At the ripe age of 20, he's at Double-A, way ahead of his age curve. Like I said, skills and intangibles. That's a wonderful combination."

Some have speculated that Adames will eventually shift to third base or second. When asked if Adames still projected as a shortstop, Lukevics replied: "Absolutely."

Other interesting names on Tampa Bay's Top 30 list include No. 7 Chih-Wei Hu, who came to the Rays last season at the Trade Deadline in the deal that sent Kevin Jepsen to the Twins. The right-hander's command and stuff project him as a back-of-the-rotation starter in the Major Leagues. He currently pitches for Montgomery.

"We got him in a trade with Minnesota, and he hasn't disappointed with expectations," Lukevics said. "He's a pitcher. What I mean by that, he has a good repertoire of pitches, good stuff, mixes those pitches up on any count, fluid delivery and likes to compete."

Daniel Robertson, Tampa Bay's No. 10 prospect, opened eyes during Spring Training. He came to the Rays in the January 2015 trade that sent Ben Zobrist to the A's. Robertson is strong and has sure hands and a power bat.

Ryne Stanek (No. 12) could be a late-season callup because of his change from starting to relieving. The right-hander showed quality stuff during his college career at Arkansas, but a combination of a subpar junior season and concerns about a hip injury caused him to fall to the end of the first round. Stanek underwent hip surgery after signing, which kept him from throwing a professional pitch for nearly a year after he was drafted in 2013. He has since moved to the bullpen with Triple-A Durham and done well.

"The bullpen is definitely going to be a good fit," Lukevics said. "He was injured a lot early in his career. Our biggest challenge was trying to keep him healthy. Get him some innings. Now we feel like we've got him in the right role as he's making an adjustment to the bullpen."

Another intriguing prospect based on his power potential is No. 15 Justin Williams, an outfielder who came to the Rays in the November 2014 trade that sent Jeremy Hellickson to the Diamondbacks. Williams is only 20, but he's already at Double-A Montgomery. He is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, and the ball jumps off his bat when he connects.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.