Baseball America has reported that three Rays prospects currently at Low-A Bowling Green, top second base prospect Ryan Brett, right-hander Charlie Cononie, and lefty Justin Woodall, have all been suspended for the remainder of the season after testing positive for methamphetamine and an amphetamine. This news is shocking and leaves Rays fans speechless.
Brett, 20, was enjoying a good season for the Hot Rods in 2012, posting a .285/.348/.393 line with 20 doubles, 6 homers, 35 RBI, 48 of 56 stolen bases, and 73 strikeouts versus 37 walks in 100 games and 456 plate appearances. Brett entered the season as one of the Rays’ top 15 or 20 prospects thanks to his speed, pure hitting ability, and potential defensively at second base. Cononie, 23, went 2-4 for the Hot Rods with a 4.20 ERA, a 10.4 K/9, a 6.8 BB/9, and a 0.2 HR/9 in 34 relief appearances and 60 innings pitched while Woodall, 24, went 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA, an 8.0 K/9, a 5.5 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 in 30 appearances, including a start on Wednesday, and 58.2 IP.
This is pure stupidity. Cononie and Woodall weren’t top prospects to begin with and their professional baseball careers may very well be over. Brett was a player known for his character, and now that has to be pulled into question. Why would they do it? Probably stress. Cononie and Woodall are barely hanging on to their pro careers, and Brett has experienced some struggles this season. But all they have done is betray the trust of the Rays. Organizational players are asked by the teams that draft and sign them just to be quiet, go out there and give their best whenever they play, and if they’re lucky, they’ll get a chance for at least a game or two in the major leagues. That’s over for Cononie and Woodall. For Brett, the Rays really like his abilities and even if he struggled mightily this season, the Rays would have stuck with him. This mistake makes the Rays question everything they have seen in him.
This year, five Rays have been suspended for drugs: Tim Beckham, Deshun Dixon, and these three guys. Especially Beckham and Brett are players who have the ability to be starting-caliber players in the major leagues if not more. All they’re doing is throwing their careers away. Every thing Beckham does is placed under the microscope now. One more mistake and the Rays may be out of patience. The same will now be true of Brett. He made a mistake- nobody’s perfect- but this is a big one. Again, this is a player known for his intangibles, his hustle. And no one is going to use those terms to describe him again. But they will mention this suspension. Brett is going to have to do everything he can to regain the Rays trust. He’s going to need to spend this rest of his minor league career overcoming this mistake.
The Hot Rods have moved on, calling up right-hander Sean Bierman from Short Season-A Hudson Valley and infielder Benjamin Kline from the Rookie GCL Rays. Both played well for their previous teams (Bierman had a 36-5 K-BB ratio) and get an opportunity the rest of the season to prove themselves as being worthy of full-season ball. The Hot Rods will move on to the Midwest League postseason in a few weeks, and good luck to him without their leadoff hitter in Brett and two contributing relievers in Cononie and Woodall.