Posted on February 23, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Image via cbssports.com

The Tampa Bay Rays are not off to a good start in 2018. Amidst a series of trades that push them closer to rebuilding rather than competing this year, they have now lost their top prospect Brent Honeywell for the season. Honeywell has been diagnosed with a tear of the torn ulnar collateral ligament. He will seek a second opinion but will likely undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2018 season, delaying his big league debut by at least a year.

Honeywell hurt his elbow while throwing batting practice on Thursday. He said he was most disappointed because he felt as if he was starting to throw the ball as well as he ever had before. Now he says he’s eager to get the surgery over with so he can rehab and get back on the mound.

“I want to get the show on the road,” Honeywell said of the surgery. “I don’t want to be waiting around. I want to get it done. I want to be ready to go as quick as possible.”

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The 22-year old Honeywell is rated as Tampa’s no. 1 prospect and no. 12 in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He throws five pitches, including a screwball that helps to distinguish him from other pitchers. Honeywell posted a 3.64 ERA in 24 starts at triple-A last year, putting him in a position to join Tampa’s rotation at some point in 2018. Obviously, those plans have changed.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said Friday. “You feel for him more than anything — not necessarily for us, even though it is a loss — a guy we all had high hopes for and will continue to have high hopes for. I talked to him briefly yesterday. He’s going to be fine. He’s young. He’ll bounce back. He’ll work really hard to get back quick and follow what the doctors and trainers give him and make the most of it.”

The loss of Honeywell comes on the heels of the Rays trading Jake Odorizzi to the Twins. The Rays still have an impressive amount of depth in their rotation, especially when you consider some of their pitching prospects. However, that depth, as well as the high-end talent on their pitching staff, both take a serious hit with both Odorizzi and Honeywell being out of the picture.

The Rays are expected to go with a four-man rotation in April due to an abundance of off days early in the season. Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, and Nathan Eovaldi are in line to begin the season in Tampa’s rotation. However, Honeywell could have been the fifth started added when they need one. Instead, Matt Andriese or prospects Jose De Leon and Anthony Banda will be the top options for that rotation spot.

The silver lining for Honeywell and the Rays is that Tommy John may have been inevitable for a pitcher like him. With the trades they’ve made this offseason, the Rays aren’t exactly expected to compete for a playoff spot this year. Also, Honeywell is young enough to have the surgery and come back strong. Despite the setback, the Rays are still expecting him to be a big part of their future.

“I’m looking at it he’s checked off a lot of boxes in his development in the last two years,” says Cash. “It could be better now than earlier or even later once he got to the big leagues. He might not see it that way, but for what he’s accomplished the last two years, he should get healthy and pick up where he left off (once he returns).”

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