FEBRUARY 27: Honeywell underwent surgery today, Topkin tweets.
FEBRUARY 23: Rays top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Tommy John surgery has been recommended for the promising 22-year-old.
The diagnosis represents a worst-case scenario for the Rays in the wake of yesterday’s ominous arm injury for Honeywell. The early diagnosis was a forearm strain, though that’s often a precursor to a UCL tear upon further testing. Topkin noted yesterday that the injury was of “major concern” to the Rays. Honeywell reportedly threw roughly 10 pitches in a batting practice session before loudly shouting after his final pitch and eventually walking off the mound with a trainer.
The likely loss of Honeywell for the season is a brutal hit to the Rays’ depth. Even though Tampa Bay is hardly lacking for rotation alternatives, Honeywell ranks as not just one of the best pitching prospects in baseball but one of the top overall prospects in the game. Each of Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus ranked Honeywell within the top 15 overall prospects on their respective top 100 lists heading into the 2018 season.
Honeywell, the No. 72 overall draft pick in the 2014 draft, enjoyed a terrific season in Triple-A against older competition in 2017, tossing 123 2/3 innings with 11.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 3.64 ERA, a 2.84 FIP and a 2.77 xFIP.
Topkin had previously reported that Honeywell was likely ticketed for Triple-A to open the season, as the Rays are prepared to open the year with a four-man rotation of Chris Archer, Nathan Eovaldi, Jake Faria and Blake Snell. Matt Andriese will begin the season as a multi-inning reliever, but the extra off-days early in the 2018 schedule mean the Rays won’t need a fifth starter for several weeks. Andriese seems likely to eventually step into that role. Honeywell could’ve been called up early this summer to avoid Super Two status or, at the very least, called up at some point in May once the team had secured another year of club control over the highly touted righty.
That, of course, won’t be the case at all now at any point in the 2018 season. The Rays have alternatives to eventually step into the rotation as needed, though none comes with an upside that matches Honeywell. Nonetheless, the Rays have an enviable stock of young pitching in the upper minors and already on the 40-man roster, led by Anthony Banda, Jose De Leon, Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos.