Bowling Green Hot Rods fans are likely to see some screwballs at the ballpark this year.
I’m not talking about the players on the roster, though it’s possible some of them qualify, too. I’m referring to the screwball pitch thrown by Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brent Honeywell, who is assigned to the Hot Rods for the start of the season. (Read this MiLB.com story about Honeywell for more about his heirloom pitch and a short history of the screwball.)
At No. 8, Honeywell is one of four Hot Rods players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Rays prospects. The others are first baseman Casey Gillaspie (No. 11), outfielder Justin Williams (No. 14), and catcher Nick Ciuffo (No. 15).
Baseball America is high on Honeywell: “Possessing a lean, athletic body with plenty of projection and tremendous intensity, Honeywell pounds the strike zone with remarkable command of five pitches and a good feel for how to attack hitters.”
BA says the screwball is Honeywell’s best pitch, which the righty didn’t throw often, but when he did, it “looked unhittable in the Appy League.” He posted a 1.07 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 34 IP last season.
A 2014 first-round draft pick, Gillaspie is a switch-hitter who batted .262 with 7 HR and 42 RBI in 71 games in the short-season New York-Penn League last year. Baseball America says he is “more polished from the left side, but shows above-average hitting instincts with the ability to make adjustments.”
Ciuffo also was a first-round pick, the first high school catcher taken in the 2013 draft. He is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the Rays system. He batted .224 with 4 HR and 20 RBI in 52 games in the rookie-level Appalachian League last year.
Williams returns to the Midwest League after seeing limited action with the South Bend Silver Hawks the past two seasons. (The 19-year-old outfielder was sent to the Rays in the Jeremy Hellickson trade last November.) In 2014 he led the rookie-level Pioneer League with a .386 batting average in 46 games, had a 28-game hitting streak for the Missoula Osprey, and batted .284 with 2 HR and 23 RBI in 28 games with the Silver Hawks.
RHP Hunter Wood also returns to Bowling Green after spending a month in the Hot Rods rotation last season (1-0, 4.07 ERA, 21 Ks in 24.1 IP). He was a New York-Penn League All-Star for the Hudson Valley Renegades, for whom he went 3-4 with a 3.09 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 64 IP.