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Brent Honeywell is the next big thing

The Rays pitching prospect could make a huge impact in 2018. Here’s what to expect.

Jul 9, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; USA pitcher Brent Honeywell (21) throws a pitch in the first inning during the 2017 MLB Futures Game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Brent Honeywell gave us a small glimpse of what’s to come with a MVP performance in the All-Star Futures Game.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Brent Honeywell. The #11 prospect on MLB.com and easily a top 3 pitching prospect in all of baseball. Honeywell is a 22-year-old RHP who was selected in the 2nd round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He has 3 full seasons in the minors where he has been climbing up prospect boards among all major prospect ranking sites. He could join the show as soon as next season and here’s why he should be on fantasy owners’ radars everywhere.

The Stuff

The Screwball

So, what can this Honeywell fella throw? The shorter answer is what CAN’T he throw. Honeywell has a diverse arsenal of pitches. He has displayed a fastball, cutter, curve, changeup, circle change, and knuckle-curve. Oh, and a freaking SCREWBALL! Fun fact: Honeywell learned this pitch from his father’s cousin, 1974 Cy Young winner Mike Marshall. Anyways, back to the inventory of pitches at Honeywell’s disposal. I’m no math major but he has 7 different pitches up his sleeve. Good luck opposing hitters! His fastball is in the mid-90s and he has a plus changeup and above-average control.
Here’s how his top pitches are graded by MLB Pipeline:

Fastball Screwball Curveball Cutter Changeup Control
60 65 45 55 55 60

Right off the bat you can tell the screwball is no gimmick pitch. This is a legit weapon Honeywell uses better than anyone in baseball today. I say this without hesitation because I don’t think anyone else in baseball still uses a screwball. Having to worry about a forgotten pitch in addition to other quality stuff is going to drive hitters nuts. I can’t wait to see it!

P.S. Baseball America gave his Changeup a 60 grade and his Curve a 50 grade.

The Minor League Numbers

Honeywell has a 2.88 ERA 1.08 WHIP and a 9.9 K/9 over 4 seasons in the minors. This is backed up by a lowly 2.0 BB/9. Looking closer at his 2017 and you’ll see a 3.49 ERA over 26 starts (24 at AAA). You’ll also see a 2.77 xFIP and 172 Ks over 136.2 IP. In short, Honeywell has dominated the minors. His innings are a bit on the low side, last year being his highest IP total, but this is bound to increase if he cracks the majors.

2017 also included an appearance in the All-Star Futures Game. Honeywell was the starter for the USA team. He threw 2 scoreless innings while striking out 4. Honeywell became the first pitcher to win MVP honors at this event.

What to Expect in 2018

If he was playing for any other organization, Honeywell might be heading into his 2nd big league season. The Rays take their time with prospects, especially pitchers. I think 2018 is finally the year for Honeywell though.

Looking at the projected Opening Day rotation, the Rays have Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Matt Andriese. The 5th spot in the rotation could be Nathan Eovaldi or Jose De Leon. What we do know is Alex Cobb and his 179.1 IP in 2017 are likely out of the picture. I have a feeling the majority of that work will go to Honeywell. If you factor in the possibility of an Archer or Odorizzi trade, you just get more innings to give to a potential Brent Honeywell call up.

The floor I see for Honeywell is similar to Luis Castillo of the Reds last year. Castillo made 15 big league starts and put up a 3.12 ERA and 9.9 K/9. The ERA might be more 3.50 but still a hell of a debut. The likely outlook for Honeywell is a mid-June call up which would result in 20 starts. If he can put up Archer like numbers, which I believe he can, he finishes the year with around 120 IP and 140 K. I’d give him a mid 3s ERA as well. The upside for Honeywell is 150 IP with 175 K over 25 or so starts. Consider him a favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year with those numbers.

I don’t doubt Honeywell’s numbers once he gets the call. The only question that remains is when will the Rays pick up the phone?