No one questions Wil Myers‘ potential- the only question is where he’ll be able to actualize it in the major leagues. The biggest concern is with Myers’ plate discipline after he struck out 140 times last season while walking only 61 times. But on Thursday, the Rays saw exactly the type of game they hope to see much more often from Myers: not one where he slams a long home run (although they love to see that too), but one where he shows great patience and doesn’t strike out.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 9, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 0
The score in this one is very misleading as the Bulls led 2-0 in what was a tight pitchers’ duel through 7 innings. It was the pitching that dominated the most for the Bulls, and that began with starter Alex Colome. Colome had an outstanding outing for the second time out in a row to begin the season, going 6 innings shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. And it wasn’t just the results that were so notable for Colome- according to Adam Sobsey, his fastball touches 95-96 MPH, breaking the Tides’ bats as he overpowered them. Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi are the two best-known pitchers in the Bulls rotation, but don’t sleep on Colome. His stuff is as good is there is in the system, and when he’s locked in he can be every bit as overbearing as he was on Thursday. It was a 9-0 game at the finish, but it was 2-0 when Josh Lueke came in and Lueke undeniably slammed the door, going 1.1 innings striking out each batter he faced. Lueke saw Brandon Gomes get an opportunity for the Rays and he’s next in line just waiting for injury or poor performance to give him a chance.
Now to the hitters. Mike Fontenot went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, and an RBI, Chris Gimenez went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and 3 runs scored, Vince Belnome and Rich Thompson also had multi-hit games, and Leslie Anderson followed up his 2-homer day on Wednesday with a 2-run double. But impressing the most had to be Wil Myers, who went 0 for 2 but drew 3 walks without striking out a single time. Obviously it would be better if Myers could throw some hits in their too, but great to see Myers showing off his batting eyes and hopefully this is only the start as Myers breaking through with his plate discipline could be key as the Rays decide when to call him up. Between Colome and Myers, great to see a pair of top prospects really standing out, but it wasn’t just them as so many others got involved to make this a satisfying team win. This Bulls team is scary good between quite a few top prospects and a few MLB veterans stuck at Triple-A, and if the top prospects remain down long enough, the Bulls will be the International League favorites.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 4
It had to be frustrating for Kyeong Kang to watch his professional baseball career stole and then reverse. He played pretty well at Double-A Montgomery, but he was nevertheless returned to the level and he struggled, prompting the Rays to send him back to Charlotte to begin 2013. Now Kang hopes to restore his confidence and find his way back to Montgomery before long. He went just 3 for 13 in his first four games, but on Thursday he finally got the breakout game he was waiting for, going 2 for 2 with a double, 2 walks, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored, proving himself critical in the Stone Crabs’ 7-4 win over the Marauders.
Felipe Rivero got the start for Charlotte, making his second start after a rough season debut that saw him leave after just 1.2 innings, allowing 4 runs. Rivero still has plenty more work to do, but he took a big step forward against Bradenton, going 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 while walking none and managing a 6-2 groundout to flyout ratio. That groundout to flyout ratio is misleading because Rivero missed too often up in the zone and got punished for it, including a Carlos Mesa home run. But for the most part, he was able to keep his fastball down and use his curveball and changeup effectively, and while still raw, he resumed being the pitcher who ranks among the Rays’ top prospects. Other than Kang and Rivero, the other Stone Crabs to impress were Hector Guevara, who went 2 for 4 with a double and 3 RBI, Alejandro Segovia, who slammed a 3-run home run, and Drew Vettleson, who went 2 for 4. The entire Charlotte team has been enigmatic so far on the young season, going 4-3, but a couple of the main culprits of that, Kang and Rivero, finally turned a corner and hopefully this team is ready to go on a run.