Relief prospects are always going to be tough to evaluate. Given that so many of the best relievers in baseball were starting pitchers for years in the minor leagues, what do we make of pitchers that were converted to relief earlier on? Every case is different, but one thing that we can say is that if you have enough talented prospects, you will end up with at least a few impact pitchers. If Thursday’s games were any indication, the Rays have something interesting relievers rising up the ranks with Brad Boxberger leading the way.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Charlotte Knights 4
For the second straight start, Matt Andriese‘s fastball command was off and his results were inconsistent. In 5 innings, he allowed 3 runs on 5 hits and a pair of walks. He had an especially rough 5th, allowing 2 doubles and a home run. But the other side of the coin: he struck out 8 batters in his 5 innings, looking very good with his secondary pitches. Andriese’s sinker is always going to be his money pitch, but it is nice to see him adjusting with his sinker not quite there and racking up the K’s. And as it turned out, Andriese was starting a trend.
After Andriese, Steve Geltz struck out “only” 1 in the 6th inning. But in the 7th, Adam Liberatore struck out 2 more (albeit while allowing a run), before Brad Boxberger stole the show. After Andriese, one of the players acquired in the Alex Torres trade, starting the game in style, it was fellow acquisition Boxberger that finished it even more impressively. Boxberger went the final 2 innings allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk, recording 5 of his 6 outs via the strikeout. Boxberger has been unhittable to begin the year, going 5.2 innings allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 11. When the Rays need a reliever, they will not hesitate to give Boxberger a chance.
On the offensive side, it was a diversified attack that led Durham to victory in this one. Just one Bull had multiple hits in this game–Ray Olmedo, who went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and an RBI. The other RBIs came from Cole Figueroa, Eddy Rodriguez, and Robby Price, and Rodriguez had an especially good game, going 1 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored along with catching the overpowering pitching. The pitchers were the stars in this game, but especially considering they allowed 4 runs, it would not have mattered if the offense did not come through, and the bats were able to do the job.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Mobile BayBears (ARI) 4
The Biscuits roared back with a 7-run 7th in this one to stun Mobile 7-4. The offensive stars were manifold as Ryan Brett went 3 for 5 with a run scored, Alejandro Segovia went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and a run scored, and Cameron Seitzer, Luke Maile, Jake Hager, and Joey Rickard all had 2 hits as well. After starting the year off 0 for 8, Brett has a hit in each of his last 4 contests, while his double play partner Hager has been on point right from the start, collecting hits in 5 of 6 games on his way to a .350 average (7 for 20). Both Brett and Hager are facing big seasons, with Brett hoping to prove his 2013 breakthrough was real while Hager hopes to rebound from a rough season, and they are getting off to a nice start as they hope to do so.
On the pitching side, Dylan Floro struggled for the second straight outing to begin his Double-A tenure, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits in 4.1 innings pitched and striking out just 1 while walking 1. He did have a 10-0 groundout to flyout ratio, but his secondary pitches will have to be better for him to succeed against advanced hitters. The Rays aggressively promoted Floro to Double-A after just 4 starts at High-A, and Floro has adjustments to make as he hopes to stay at the level. Behind Floro, though, it was the relievers who were excellent to keep the Biscuits in the game. Jacob Thompson, Matt Ramsey, and Santiago Garrido combined for 4.2 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 6. Garrido was perfect with 3 strikeouts to end the game, but the player to watch is Ramsey, whose big-time fastball and curveball could make him the Rays’ next big relief prospect. Strong all-around game for the Biscuits, with Floro being the one lingering concern.
High-A Florida State League: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 4, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
The Stone Crabs’ outfield defense was special in this one, but not much else went right. Marty Gantt had two outfield assists and Andrew Toles had a third, and two of the plays came at home. But the two went a combined 0 for 8 at the plate, and that tells the story well in this game. Roberto Gomez started for Charlotte and allowed 4 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings. Parker Markel did finish the game in encouraging fashion after a horrific start to begin the year, working around 3 hits to toss 2 shutout innings. At the plate, Patrick Leonard had an RBI single in the first for the only Stone Crabs run, and that was basically it. Thomas Coyle did have a strong game, going 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Pitching and defense is a great combination, but you do need the pitching half of that and some offense is certainly nice as well.
Low-A Midwest League: Burlington Bees (LAA) 5, Bowling Green Hot Rods 4
The Hot Rods didn’t really deserve to win this game as a huge error led to 3 runs in the 3rd, and sure enough, their bullpen blew it. Jordan Harrison had a very good start, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out just 1 while walking 1 but forcing an 8-3 strikeout to walk ratio. Harrison has picked up right where he left off in his 60.1 innings in Bowling Green last year, and we should see him in Charlotte before long. Behind him Brad Schreiber struck out 3 in 2 innings although he did allow a solo home run. Then it was Andrew Hanse who let the game get away with 2 runs in the 8th.
On the position player side, Kean Wong went 3 for 4 to consider his red-hot start to the year. One of the youngest players in the Midwest League as he doesn’t turn 19 until next week, Wong has hits in his last 5 games and has hit an insane .381 (8 for 21) to begin the year. Wong’s defense and ability to hit for power are still major questions, but boy can he hit! Armando Araiza also had a very good game, going 1 for 4 with the only RBI at the plate (the other runs were from errors) and throwing out 2 of 3 runners that attempted to steal against him. The catcher Araiza is splitting his time with, Oscar Hernandez, gets the headlines, but Araiza has interesting potential in his own right. Johnny Field also went 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored for the Hot Rods, who drop to 2-5 on the year with the loss.