It’s been a rough go at the beginning of the season for the Rays single-A affiliate from the Midwest League, the Bowling Green Hot Rods. After taking the first two games of the season against South Bend Silver Hawks, the Hot Rods have dropped seven straight contests, most recently coming Saturday evening in an 11-8 free for all against Peoria Chiefs. While the beginning of the season has been rough, there have been a couple of guys who have stood out above the rest, and aside from the 2-7 start, are playing incredibly hot baseball. On the flip side, just like you’d expect in a 2-7 club, there are some guys who, quite frankly, aren’t.
Granden Goetzman OF: Goetzman is one of four Hot Rods to play in eight of the nine games to start the year (no one has played in all nine). He has had a rough game here and there, but overall, has been red hot. Hitting .375/.429/.719, Goetzman has been arguably the second biggest contributor offensively (but more on that in a minute). He has knocked one home run and also driven in four runs, and his 1.147 OPS is second on the team. Thanks to injuries and poor performance, Goetzman has been disappointing in his pro career after being a highly regarded 2nd round pick in 2011. But he has proved himself valuable in this rough opening couple of weeks, and could finally be taping into his potential.
Johnny Field OF: Remember that whole thing about Goetzman being the second biggest offensive contributor to the Hot Rods? Yeah, that’s because of this guy, Johnny Field, a 2013 fourth round pick out of the University of Arizona. Field, hitting .345/.472/.727, leads the team with three home runs, matching the rest of the team combined. He also leads the team with seven RBIs. Field has brought with him in 2014 a power that was distinctively absent from 2013’s squad, and is quickly making himself a player to watch in the system. He is also playing a solid outfield (along with Goetzman) to cap it all off, making 11 put outs and an assist without an error. He is impressing in his first full-season in the Rays’ system, and could establish himself as a legitimate prospect if he keeps it up.
The Hot Rods Defense: Field isn’t the only player who is anchoring down their position on defense. As a matter of fact, of all the position players, only Juniel Querecuto, Ty Young, Darryl George and Jesus Araiza have made errors. The rest of the team has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. For a Rays organization that emphasizes defense, it is encouraging to see them reaping the rewards early on.
The Hot Rods Offense: As good as the defense might be for Michael Johns’ squad, the offense as a whole has played poorly. The Hot Rods are dead last in the 16 team Midwest League in batting average (.206) and OBP (.265), second to last in OPS (.576), and third to last in slugging percentage (.311). Bowling Green is also one of only three teams to not have 300 plate appearances (299), and have scored the third fewest runs in the league with 34. One more unhappy statistic, Bowling Green is fourth in the league in strikeouts, having struck out 84 times. Players such as Yoel Araujo (.209 OPS), Alexander Simon (.117 OPS), Ty Young (.146 OPS), and James Harris (.365 OPS) are all stone cold at the plate. Eight of the Hot Rods’ position players currently have under a .600 OPS. The Hot Rods have struggled with hitting in all situations, and need to follow the examples of Field and Goetzman.
Stone Speer LHP: It has not been a good start to the season for Mr. Speer. After managing a 3.48 ERA in 13 appearances at Bowling Green last year, Speer finds himself back with the Hot Rods, and he isn’t exactly putting up call-up numbers thus far. After just 5.2 innings pitched to begin the year, Speer has an ERA of 11.12, and has given up seven runs, tied for the team lead despite being a reliever. Speer is striking guys out, but he’s also putting them on base with a BB/K ratio of 8/9. It’ll be curious to see how he plays out over the coming weeks, but he is going to need to put up better numbers in order to stay relevant in the organization.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods begin their second home stand, as the Kane County Cougars (Cubs) come to Bowling Green Ballpark. They do currently have some players that are hot, but the entire offense is cold, and they have to turn that around.