A Minor Review of 2016: Tampa Bay Rays

Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as a early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

The Graduate: Blake Snell (LHP): Control has been Snell’s nemesis throughout his career — save for 2015 — and it came back to haunt him during his MLB debut in 2016. His 3.54 ERA was impressive — and speaks to his raw potential — when you consider his walk rate of more than five batters per nine innings. He’ll also need to better leverage his 6-4 frame to generate more ground balls after being an extreme-fly-ball pitcher in the AL East. Still, Snell succeeds by missing a lot of bats and his struck out almost 10 batters per nine innings in his freshman season. With improved command of his low-to-mis-90s fastball and slider, the young hurler could eventually develop four average or better offerings (He also has a curveball and changeup).

The Riser: Brent Honeywell (RHP): Riding the success of his unconventional pitch — the screwball, Honeycutt has rocketed up the Rays’ prospect list, and also has become one of the top arms in the minors. That could very well allow the Rays to save money (yet again) by trading some of the more expensive arms on the big league squad. Honeycutt, 21, has a solid fastball and good changeup to go with the screwball. His above-average control and improving command helps his stuff play up even more. He split the 2016 season between high-A and double-A ball and should be ready for triple-A by the second half of ’17 with perhaps a big league debut later in the year.

The Tumbler: Daniel Robertson (SS): The A’s selected Robertson 34th overall in 2012 and later traded him to the Rays in a Ben Zobrist deal. The young shortstop looked good in the low minors but he was a little overmatched as a 22-year-old at the triple-A level in ’16. His power dried up and he hit just .259 but Robertson still managed to get on base at a .358 clip thanks to a patient approach. He’s not the fastest guy so his range could diminish rather quickly at shortstop, which might eventually lead to a move to second base (His power doesn’t project well for third base, although he probably has the arm to play there). Robertson will return to triple-A in 2017 and look to rekindle his offensive magic in an effort to avoid topping out as a utility player.

The ’16 Draft Pick: Joshua Lowe (3B): Some teams liked Lowe better as a pitcher but the Rays took him 13th overall with plans to develop him as a power-hitting, left-handed-hitting third baseman. He had a promising debut and played at two short-season levels where he displayed raw power and a patient approach (37 walks in 54 games). He had some contact issues, though, and struck out 59 times. Lowe will turn 19 in February and could open 2017 in low-A ball but the Rays are typically cautious with their player development plans so he could spend another year in extended spring training and short-season ball.

The Lottery Ticket: Lucius Fox (SS): A key piece in last year’s trade of Matt Moore, Fox is an outstanding athlete with near-record speed. He stole 25 bases in 75 games during his debut at low-A ball in 2016 but needs to alter his approach to tone down his aggressive swing and make more consistent contact. Fox struck out 76 times 75 games and simply needs to get on base to be a weapon. His power is well below average (only 12 of his 59 hits went for extra bases) so he’ll never be a real home run threat. He should have no issues sticking at shortstop.

For reference sake, here is the 2015 Review.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Just a heads up: Lowe was deployed in CF mostly as the season wore on. And from all accounts, he looks to have the speed, range, and arm to stick there.