Sep 22, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Enny Romero (45) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Review: Montgomery Biscuits

In 2013, the Montgomery Biscuits posted a 71-69 win loss record. However, their season run differential of -64 shows that they probably should not have done quite as well. The Biscuits as a whole were a decent offensive team, posting numbers close to the 2013 Southern League average all across the board. However, the Biscuits struggled on the pitching side, posting a team ERA of 4.58, higher than the league average of 3.93. The Biscuits placed fourth in their division, 8.5 games behind the first place Mobile Bay Bears, missing out on the playoffs. Despite the disappointing season, though, the Biscuits did have many solid players that could impact the Rays’ roster within the next season or two.

Top Performers

On the offensive side, Kyeong Kang and Kevin Kiermaier led the way. After beginning the season in High-A despite spending all of 2012 in Montgomery, Kang was quickly promoted to Double-A after 17 games in Port Charlotte. Kang managed a .251/.355/.471 line with 15 home runs, showing a solid amount of power while still getting on base at a good percentage . At age 25, Kang has been a bit under the radar his entire career. However, Kang has shown potential to hit for decent power and still get on base, and could garner a major league roster spot as a fourth outfielder in the future. This was Kang’s third year at Double-A, but this year he was finally able to prove he could handle the level. He will not have this kind of time to prove himself at Triple-A before the Rays move on. Kang has also struggled hitting lefties throughout his career, which is why he projects as more of a fourth outfielder than an everyday outfielder. Kiermaier, meanwhile, managed a .307/.370/.434 line while also continuing his reputation as a plus defender in center field. After playing 97 games in Montgomery, Kiermaier finished off the minor league regular season in Triple-A before joining the Rays for their tiebraker game against the Rangers. The Rays love players like Kiermaier, who can play stout defense and still provide value with the bat. With a solid gap-to-gap line drive approach and very good speed on the basepaths, Kiermaier’s bat continues to progress as he goes through the minors. Kiermaier could make an impact for the Rays as a fourth outfielder as early as next season, but will likely get a full year in Triple-A to further his development. But despite being under the radar, Kiermaier could become an everyday center fielder, or at the very least provide value as a late-inning defensive replacement, similar to Sam Fuld.

Top prospect Enny Romero led the way for the Montgomery pitching staff. Romero started 27 games in Montgomery, pitching to a 2.76 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 140.1 innings. Then on September 22nd, Romero made his major league debut. While he will likely not start in the major leagues next year, Romero will get an outside shot to win a rotation spot. A full year at Triple-A is on the horizon for 2014, and how he develops will be key. Romero shows an electric mid-90′s fastball and shows flashes with his changeup and breaking ball as well, but he has to learn to command his fastball and keep refining his secondary pitches. If he can do that, he will provide a solid weapon for the Rays in the near future and has a chance to be a topflight arm. Victor Mateo was also solid for the Biscuits, pitching to a 3.93 ERA in 153.1 innings. While not much of a prospect, Mateo provides solid organizational depth at pitcher. Matt Buschmann also was solid with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts before being promoted to Triple-A. On the relief side, lefty C.J. Riefenhauser was phenomenal in 34 games with the Biscuits, pitching to a 0.51 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 53 innings before being promoted to Triple-A. Riefenhauser will get a shot out of spring training to make the Rays’ bullpen in 2014 and should surface in the majors at some point during the season.

Biggest Disappointments

The Biscuits had their fair share of disappointments from top prospects in 2013. After having a subpar season in 2012, Rays’ fans hoped that 2011 first round pick Mikie Mahtook could turn things around in 2013. But instead, Mahtook continued his subpar hitting, managing a .254/.322/.386 line. While this line is not terrible, it does not represent a fast riser that had the potential to be an every day outfielder in the big leagues. Given the potential to be a five-tool player, Mahtook has not been able to get the five tools to play in games. Mahtook’s power not shown up like the Rays were hoping. The Rays wee also hoping that Mahtook’s speed would show up more, as Mahtook has a good, but not great, 48 steals in 263 career games. Mahtook still has time to turn things around, but it is looking more and more like his future lies as a fourth outfielder or fringe-starter than an above-average everyday outfielder. Todd Glaesmann also represents another disappointing season by a Rays top prospect. After managing an .829 OPS between Low-A and High-A in 2012, the 2009 third rounder backed this up with just a .667 OPS in 2013. Glaesmann continued to struggle with poor pitch recognition and poor patience. Similar to Mahtook, Glaesmann still has time to turn things around, playing 2013 at just 22 years old. With excellent bat speed and power, Glaesmann still has the ability to be a starting right fielder in the major leagues. However, he needs to continue to refine his plate approach and make sure his 2014 season will need to come closer to resembling his breakout 2012 season rather than 2013. Jake Thompson, a 2010 second round pick, also disappointed in his second year in Double-A. After showing promise with a 2.90 ERA in High-A in 2011, Thompson back this up with a poor 5.56 ERA in Double-A in 2012. While Thompson did improve to a 4.18 ERA in 2013, he still must do better if he hopes to reach the major leagues one day. Thompson may see a move to the bullpen in 2014, where his hard fastball-slider combination could slide in well.

Prospects to Watch

Enny Romero is definitely the main prospect to keep an eye on in 2014. Romero will begin next year in Triple-A, but will soon get his first extended chance in the big leagues. Using a fastball-curveball-changeup combination, Romero’s fastball is easily his best pitch, sitting in the 93-96 range occasionally touching 98. It features excellent life primarily towards right-handed hitters, making it extremely hard to square up also hindering Romero’s ability to locate it. Romero’s curveball is said to be graded a 65-70 on the scouting scale when Romero can place it where he wants, however he often struggles throwing it for strikes, which is the main reason for his high number of walks. The Rays have worked hard on developing Romero’s changeup, which will likely end up league average, but similar to the curveball, Romero needs to be more consistent in throwing the changeup for a strike. Romero has developed quite nicely, and if he can harness his secondary pitches and throw more strikes with his fastball, he will be a force to reckon with in the major leagues.

Catcher Curt Casali and second baseman Ryan Brett, both who finished off the last month of 2013 with the Biscuits, are also prospects to keep an eye on. Casali, acquired from the Detroit Tigers before the season for Kyle Lobstein, posted a .383/.483/.600 line in 35 games for the Biscuits. Casali will likely start 2014 in Double-A once again, but he provides more than just organization depth. Casali has always been considered more of a defense first catcher. With an above average arm and good footwork, Casali has always projected as a defense first backup catcher. However, Casali showed more ability with the bat in 2013, making some believe he could end up being a fringe starter. Catcher has generally been an area of weakness for the Rays organization, so they will take anything that they can get. Brett has been consistently ranked as a top-20 prospect in the Rays organization. He lost some critical development time in the form of a 50 game suspension, however when he returned to High-A he posted very good numbers. After getting promoted to Double-A Brett managed a .689 OPS in 25 games. Brett has a solid all around game, with good hands and a solid arm on defense to pair with a decent bat. Brett has deceptive power for a player of his stature (5’9”, 180 lbs), and if he can continue to improve on his contact rate and plate discipline, he will make a good all around everyday second baseman. Also look for Mahtook and Glaesmann to have rebound seasons in 2014, with both still having potential to reach the major leagues. C.J. Rifenhauser will get a shot in the major leagues soon after a very good 2013 season.

The Biscuits had their fair share of disappointments in 2013, but overall there are many players to be excited about in the future. Enny Romero is the biggest one, having the potential to be an above-average major league starter in the near future. Curt Casali and Ryan Brett also provide solid potential. While Todd Glaesmann and Mikie Mahtook both had poor seasons, they both have time to turn things around. Looking forward to 2014, the Biscuits will receive many top prospects from the Charlotte Stone Crabs. 2014 will be an interesting season for the Biscuits, as Rays fans will likely be able to see how the likes of Richie Shaffer, Jake Hager, and Jesse Hahn will perform against upper level competition. The Biscuits should be an exciting team to watch in 2014.

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