As fans who can only watch so many games and see so many players, statistics are our best way of evaluating players. Sometimes, though, they can be quite misleading, especially in small sample sizes. Mike Montgomery got destroyed in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. But he also showed some of his best stuff we have seen from him in years, and that will mean a whole lot more in the long term.
Arizona Fall League: AFL West 9, AFL East 2
Just one Rays prospect in the AFL All-Star Game, and the results were not too good. Mike Montgomery lasted an inning allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 1 and walking 1. Montgomery allowed four straight baserunners to begin the inning: an Eddie Rosario single, a Stefen Romero home run, a Tyler Naquin walk, and a Byron Buxton single. But Montgomery ended his outing very well, striking out Garin Cecchini before inducing a double play off the bat of Yorman Rodriguez. The confidence from Montgomery’s momentum to end the game, though, was vastly overshadowed by his stuff. Montgomery threw harder then we have seen him for much of his outing, hitting 95 MPH once and 94 MPH twice, and none of the pitches were overthrown as two ended up at the bottom of the zone and the third not far below. Montgomery also threw some good fastballs at lower velocities, both of the four-seam and two-seam velocity, and he also threw a solid curveball and a couple good changeups. Montgomery’s command was a little off for a time, but his arsenal looked very good and that is a major positive. Hopefully that can be what Montgomery takes out of this game as the second half of the Arizona Fall League season begins.
Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 4, Estrellas de Oriente 2
A couple of Rays Triple-A relievers in this game, but the results were vastly different. Juan Sandoval struck out Rafael Fernandez to help the Aguilas escape a jam in the 7th, but he allowed a single to begin the 8th that came around to score. The run was the second Sandoval has allowed in 6.1 innings pitched (2.84 ERA), and the strikeout gives him 4 K’s without a walk. Adam Liberatore, meanwhile, was able to break a string of several bad appearances with his best outing of the DWL season, rebounding from a Danry Sanchez single to lead off the 7th inning to toss a shutout inning for Oriente, striking out 1. The irony is that both Sandoval and Liberatore allowed a leadoff single, but because his team was trailing, Liberatore had a chance to rebound.
Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 10, Algodoneros de Guasave 4
This signing ex-Rays thing is working out well for the Mayos. Think they’ll give anyone else a call? In this game, Jon Weber went 3 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored while Wes Bankston went 1 for 4 with a 2-run single, a walk, and a run scored. Both players are really starting to turn it on, with Weber being 5 for his last 14 (.357) and Bankston registering a hit in 7 of his last 10 games. The Mayos are just 6-11 on the year, but they are now 3-1 in their last 4 games as Weber has really revitalized the team joining Bankston in the heart of Navojoa’s lineup.
Naranjeros de Hermosillo 5, Yaquis de Obregón 2
As the season has gone on, Armando Araiza has continuously found his way to more playing time despite being among the youngest players in the Mexican Pacific League. After another solid game, there’s reason to think that more starts are ahead. Araiza went 1 for 2 in this game, and ironically, he stole a base while none of the Naranjeros attempted a steal against him. For Hermosillo, Jason Urquidez was dominant to end the game, throwing 1.1 innings allowing just a single to register his 7th save. He struck out 1 and also forced a pair of groundouts. The former Rays draft pick is going to have several suitors this offseason after he has continued a dominant Independent Ball season into the MPL. In 11.1 innings, Urquidez has allowed not a single run on 5 hits, striking out 11 while walking just 2.
Tomateros de Culiacán 4, Venados de Mazatlán 2
Henry Mateo had a great game, but the Venados’ leadoff man was the only pitcher that did anything at the plate, and that isn’t exactly a winning formula. Mateo went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored, registering his third straight multi-hit game and his 5th in his last 6 games. Mateo is an outstanding 13 for his last 29 (.448) as heis average is suddenly .293 on the season and rising. Humberto Cota went 1 for 3 with a walk in the Tomateros win.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Congrejeros de Santurce 1, Criollos de Caguas 0
It was a pair of former Rays minor leaguers who did the heavy lifting for Santurce as they just got by the Criollos. Former Rays second round pick James Houser had an excellent start, going 5 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 5 while walking 2. After getting released by the Rays after the 2009 season, Houser made a big league appearance for the Marlins in 2010 but was in Independent Ball just two years later. But after a great year for the Long Island Ducks in 2013, going 8-3 with a 3.30 ERA, a 9.5 K/9, a 2.8 BB/9, and a 0.7 HR/9 in 14 starts, 17 relief appearances, and 90 innings pitched, a strong winter performance could help Houser catch on with a big league organization. Houser’s only run suppport in the game came from John Rodriguez, who drilled an RBI single in the 6th that held up until the end. Rodriguez appeared in the big leagues with the Cardinals in 2005 and 2006 and actually played very well, managing a .298/.378/.434 line in 388 plate appearances, but a combinatiion of bad luck and a lack of power and defensive proficiency as a corner outfielder prevented him from getting back. It’s really a pity because he has now managed an OPS of .800 orbetter the last 10 years (even counting the major leagues) including a mark of .850 of better in six of those years. Now he’s 35 and the chances are small of him getting back.
Venezuelan Winter League: Caribes de Anzoágegui 5, Leones del Caracas 4
The two hottest former Rays minor leaguers squared off, and it was Leslie Anderson and the Caribes who came out on top. Anderson drilled a 2-run homer to highlight a 1 for 3 with a walk and 2 runs scored. Anderson’s line on the year is up to an insane .393/.456/.656 in 68 plate appearances. Anderson’s homer gave the Caribes the lead from the get-go, and while the Leones scored 4 runs in the final 4 innings, 3 runs by Anzoátegui in the 8th sealed the deal. Daniel Mayora couldn’t match Anderson, going just 1 for 5, but Danny Dorn did have a great game, going 2 for 3 with a triple, 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored.
Bravos de Margaria 7, Tiburones de La Guaira 5
Tough game for La Guaira as their late comeback bid fell short. Cesar Suarez did his part, though, going 2 for 4 with a run scored. He has registered a .351 average in his last 10 games, and suddenly he’s hitting .301 on the year. Great to see yet another former Rays minor leaguer playing well.
Tigres de Aragua 5, Navegantes del Magallanes 3
This game was fun as a trio of ex-Rays got in and two of them had great games. Hector Gimenez provided the winning margin for Aragua, going 3 for 5 with a 3-run homer and a double, and Ray Olmedo went 1 for 4 with a run scored for the Tigres as well. Erold Andrus, meanwhile, went 2 for 4 with a run scored for Magallanes. Andrus’ average somehow stands at .325 on the year despite a slump that had him riding the Navegantes’ bench for a while.