Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
U.S Team starting pitcher Brent Honeywell (21) after the top of the second inning of the All-Star Futures Game between The U.S. Team and the World Team at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. on Sunday, July 9, 2017.
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times U.S Team starting pitcher Brent Honeywell (21) after the top of the second inning of the All-Star Futures Game between The U.S. Team and the World Team at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. on Sunday, July 9, 2017.
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ST. PETERSBURG ó That the Rays went right up to Mondayís 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing.

"Thereís always some decisions that you canít say you feel 100 percent about, but I think thatís the nature of the beast here," senior vice president Chaim Bloom said. "What that means is that we are in a good place with our system, that our system is deeper. And it makes the decisions a lot tougher.

"You donít want today to be a day where itís real easy and you donít sweat some of these out because that means you just donít have the depth in your system that we feel we need to compete."

Though adding two sweet-swinging position player prospects in first baseman Jake Bauers and outfielder Justin Williams, the depth was showcased on the pitching side as they promoted five pitchers ó top prospect Brent Honeywell, impressive 21-year-old Jose Mujica and Triple-A standouts Diego Castillo, Yonny Chirinos and lefty Ryan Yarbrough.

In protecting those five arms, the Rays left several exposed to be taken in the December draft, for what is now a $100,000 fee, and with the stipulation they be kept in the majors.

Most intriguing seems to be Burch Smith, a 27-year-old right-hander who battled back after missing two-plus seasons with arm issues to make an impressive minor-league and Arizona Fall League showing. Others could be lefties Travis Ott and Kyle Bird.

"A lot of that came down to the depth in pitching that we do have and some of the arms, some of the guys that we added today and some of the guys already on the roster that we feel very good about, and having to draw the line somewhere and make some difficult decisions," Bloom said.

Bauers and Honeywell, who both had solid seasons at Durham, are considered closest to the majors and likely to compete in spring training for 2018 jobs. The additions put the roster at 39, leaving the Rays some flexibility.

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