One year’s breakout prospect can be the next year’s bust. However, with the way Andrew Toles is rebounding from his tough start, that will not be him.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 3, Durham Bulls 1
Enny Romero is the highest-upside pitcher on the entire Durham staff, but also the least developed. In this game, he showed the promise that makes him so impressive and also the inconsistency that drives everyone insane. Romero went 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He allowed a 3-run homer in the first inning before tossing 5 shutout frames. But here’s the issue: his groundout to flyout ratio was just 3-7, and he has just a 0.89-to-1 groundout to airout ratio on the season. He does have a 27-12 strikeout to walk ratio that is the best we have seen from him in years, but he is not going to be big league ready until he can pound the bottom of the zone more consistently. Fellow lefties Adam Liberatore and C.J. Riefenhauser were perfect in the final 2 innings to finish the game.
At the plate, Wilson Betemit drilled a 2-out homer in the 9th for the Bulls’ only run, but we can also talk about Kevin Kiermaier. Leading off and playing centerfield, Kiermaier went 1 for 3 with a walk and also stole his 7th base of the season. Entering 2014, Kiermaier had just a 70.8% stolen base success rate in his career, failing to swipe more than 21 bases the previous two years despite blazing speed. He is 7 for 8 so far in 2014 as he has changed that entirely. Combine that with his great start at the plate (.304/.355/.493 line), and the Rays have an interesting prospect.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 4
If a college player exceeds expectations player at Short Season-A or lower, that’s dime-a-dozen. If he does so at Low-A, that’s nice but probably irrelevant. If it happens at High-A, you want to be optimistic but realize that the odds are against him being anything more than you thought he was. At Double-A, though, now you start wondering whether you have something. We may be reaching that point with Taylor Motter. In this game, Motter went 3 for 4 with a triple, a double, a walk 3 RBI, and a run scored to lead the Biscuits offense. He has a .329/.366/.534 line in 82 plate appearances so far this year. For whatever reason, his plate discipline has been worse than before (11-5 K-BB ratio), but he is hitting for more power than ever. Is it fluke? Well, it’s early in the season, so maybe. At the very least, though, the Rays may end up with a decent utility guy out of Motter.
Aside from him, Alejandro Segovia went 3 for 5 with a double in his first good game in way too long, Jake Hager went 2 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, and Luke Bailey had an impressive season debut, going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Dylan Floro started for Montgomery and had another up-and-down outing, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 7 innings. He did strike out 3 while walking none and force a 12-3 groundout to flyout ratio, but despite Floro’s great command and control all season, he hasn’t overpowered anyone and has been hit hard. Hopefully he can find a way to change that. Jacob Thompson went the final 2 innings in perfect fashion for the save.
High-A Florida State League: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 12, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
If you have been reading our minor league recaps here at Rays Colored Glasses, you may have been wondering where Andrew Toles has been. Well, he appeared for the first time the other day and seems bound to appear plenty more starting now. Toles went 2 for 4 with a stolen base and a run scored in this game, marking his third straight multi-hit games. The start of the season was terrible for Toles, but the diamond in the rough has been that he has an 11-7 strikeout to walk ratio after just a 105-22 mark last year. The other two offensive players who did anything for Charlotte have been Tyler Goeddel and Patrick Leonard, who continued their dynamic starts. Goeddel went 2 for 4 while Leonard went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk.
There are bad starts, then there is Leonel Santiago. The 24 year old right-hander missed all of 2012 after shoulder surgery and the Kansas City Royals led him go, but the Rays saw enough to sign him. How your season begins does not often mean much, but it is impossible to ignore Santiago’s stats. In this contest, Santiago went 2 innings allowing 8 runs, 7 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 1 while walking 2. In four starts, he has just a 13.20 ERA, allowing 32 hits in just 15 innings. How many starts are the Rays going to give him if this keeps up? Nick Sawyer then struggled behind him, allowing 3 runs in 3 innings, before Eli Echarry made his season debut in nice fashion, allowing 1 run in 3 innings while striking out 4.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 9, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 3
After starting 2-13, the Hot Rods’ record stands at 6-14 after this game. Major progress has been made, and that continued in this game. Christopher Kirsch started and went 5 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio, though, was a great 10-2. Kirsch’s lack of development with his secondary pitches is starting to catch up with him at Low-A, but his sinker is impressive and hopefully everything else will fall into place. Stone Speer then went next 3 innings in shutout fashion, allowing 3 hits but striking out 7 while walking none. After managing just an 11.74 ERA in his first 4 appearances, Speer has 6 shutout frames between his last two times out.
When I was talking to people in the Hudson Valley Renegades press box, they told at one point that Ty Young was going to be an interesting prospect. Lately, he has finally started to show why. Young went 2 for 4 with a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and 2 runs scored in this game, and now he has a 4-game hitting streak. Hopefully he can keep this up. Alexander Simon also continued his hot streak, going 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, and Johnny Field, Granden Goetzman, and Pat Blair had multi-hit games.