With the Princeton Rays beginning their season on Tuesday, the Rays now have seven affiliates who will be playing on a nearly daily basis. They celebrated that on Tuesday with quite a day, outscoring their opponents by 23 runs over the 6 games. It was the start of what should be an interesting look at all the Rays’ minor leaguers over the next couple of months. Let’s delve into the games.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 8, Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 2
This game had the opportunity for disaster as Bulls scheduled starter Chris Archer did not start because he is being called up to the big leagues to replace the injured Jeremy Hellickson on Wednesday. Lefty Alex Torres, the one-time top prospect who had been demoted to the bullpen following seeming unceasing bouts of wildness, replaced Archer and made the start. But Torres made the most of his opportunity. Torres went 5 innings, allowing no runs on just 1 hit, striking out 6 while walking 2 and posting a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio. And to back him up, a couple of ex-big leaguers really stepped up. Stephen Vogt came up a triple short of the cycle, going 4 for 5 with a double, a homer, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. And Reid Brignac had a night to remember of his own, going 2 for 3 with 1 homer, 2 RBI, a walk, a stolen base (his first of the season), and 2 runs scored. Brandon Allen also went 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored. In a rehab stint, Jeff Keppinger went 0 for 4 with a walk, but luckily he felt no pain and is moving towards rejoining the Rays. The Bulls have won 6 of their last 9 games to improve to 32-41 on the season.
Double-A Southern League All-Star Game: Southern Division All-Stars 6, Northern Division All-Stars 2
A trio of Montgomery Biscuits got to participate in the Southern League All-Star Game as members of the Southern Division All-Stars: infielder Omar Luna, who went 1 for 2, outfielder/DH Kyeong Kang, who went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored, and reliever Frank De Los Santos, who tossed a perfect inning in relief. Notable players in this game included a trio of Mariners top prospects, pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker, and shortstop Nick Franklin. Hultzen and Franklin were promoted to Triple-A following the game.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 8, Palm Beach Cardinals 6
The Stone Crabs managed to survive a disaster start from Albert Suarez, who allowed 5 runs, 2 earned, in 3.2 innings, to come away with a win thanks to some impressive offense. Luke Bailey went 1 for 4 but the 1 was a 3-run home run. Derek Dietrich and Robby Price each went 2 for 4, with Dietrich driving in 2 and scoring once and Price scoring twice and driving in 1. Hector Guevara went 3 for 4 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored, and Phil Wunderlich went 2 for 5 with an RBI. The Stone Crabs improve to 28-38 on the season.
Low-A Midwest League All-Star Game: Eastern Division All-Stars 18, Western Division All-Stars 2
This All-Star Game quickly turned into a romp as the Eastern Division All-Stars scored 13 times in the first 2 innings, and luckily the Hot Rods’ representatives were on the right team- and very involved in the offensive outburst. Tyler Goeddel went 2 for 3 with a homer and 2 RBI. Those stats don’t really count, but hopefully the homer can get him going considering he has slumped mightily of late. Jeff Malm went 1 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and 3 runs scored and Matt Rice went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI. Joshua Sale and Ryan Brett also got at-bats for the Eastern Division All-Stars. On the mound, Felipe Rivero tossed a shutout inning and Jacob Partridge went 0.2 scoreless as well. Non-Rays notables in the game included Archie Bradley, Francisco Lindor, Jace Peterson, Austin Hedges, Miguel Sano, and Noah Syndergaard.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 8, Hudson Valley Renegades 3
The Renegades were the only Rays affiliate (or All-Star team with Rays players) to lose on Tuesday, and unfortunately this one wasn’t close. Jesse Hahn made his pro debut with a nice albeit short outing, allowing no runs on 2 hits in 3.2 innings, striking out 2 while walking 1. Hahn was the Rays’ 6th round pick in 2010 but had his debut delayed so long because of arm trouble. The relievers after him were so bad that the Renegades had to bring in Jose Molina, who just happened to be at the game to pitch, and he tossed a perfect 9th, striking out 2. Just kidding, he’s a different Jose Molina who’s a right-handed reliever that will turn 21 on June 26th. There were a couple of positive offensive performers for Hudson Valley, Marty Gantt, who went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and Felix Gonzalez, who went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 runs scored. The Renegades drop to 1-1 on the year.
Advanced Rookie-level Appalachian League Opening Day: Princeton Rays 8, Kingsport Mets 4
It was Opening Day in the Appy League and it began in a nice way for several 2011 and 2012 draftees and other notable players making their 2012 debuts. 2011 supplemental first rounder Blake Snell, a lefty, got the Opening Day start from Princeton and came through with a great effort, allowing just 1 hit and no runs in 5 innings, striking out 7 while walking 3 and posting a 5-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Other than Snell, the player everyone had their eyes on was catcher Oscar Hernandez, coming off a season in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011 where he posted an out-of-this-world .402/.503/.732 line with 21 homers in 69 games. So far, he has lived up to the hype, going 2 for 4 in his first game stateside with 2 runs scored. Another supplemental rounder, outfielder James Harris, went 1 for 3 with a 3 run home run. Other 2011 and 2012 draftees to debut were shortstop Brandon Martin (2011 supplemental first), outfielder Granden Goetzman (2011 2nd), who went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored, first baseman John Alexander (2011 8th), pitcher Jacob Faria (2011 10th), pitcher Zach Butler (2011 34th), outfielder Willie Argo (2012 22nd) and second baseman Reid Redman (2012 23rd).
Rookie-level Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 3, GCL Red Sox 2
The GCL Rays have now played two games, both 3-2 wins. Deja vu. Starter Carlos Cedeno was not so good for the GCL Rays, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, in 3 innings, but he was followed up by lefty Stepan Havlicek who tossed 4 shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 5 while walking 1. Havlicek is a very interesting story, born in the Czech Republic and being the first player the Rays have ever signed out of Europe. Kris Carlson, the Rays’ 35th rounder in 2012, tossed a perfect inning for the save. On offense, first baseman Cesar Peraz went 2 for 4 with an RBI and Johnny Eierman (2011 3rd) and Ben Kline (2012 32nd) each went 1 for 3, with Eierman doubling and walking and Kline stealing a base and scoring a run. The Gulf Coast League is known for his low-scoring games, and the GCL Rays were lucky enough to win their second in a row to begin the season.