Sometimes in these minor league recaps, we get on a run of having the same dozen players getting the headlines over and over again in a rotation. Who can blame us? We’re talking about the Rays’ top prospects or players that have done nothing but perform well this season! In any event, though, it’s nice to get a new face in the mix, and Austin Pruitt gives us the chance to do that after how well he pitched to lead the Charlotte Stone Crabs to victory.
Triple-A International League Game 1: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 7, Durham Bulls 1
Game 2: Knights 4, Bulls 3 (7 innings)
The Bulls were trailing 4-1 when the first game was suspended on Thursday, yet they had to finish it for all nine innings even though things didn’t get better. Mike Montgomery had a tough, albeit rain shortened start, allowing 3 runs in 2 innings, before C.J. Riefenhauser helped Durham eat some innings with 3 shutout frames. Riefenhauser continues to struggle with control as he walked 2 while striking out 2 in his appearance, but the Bulls will take the results. Brandon Gomes, though, officially iced the game by allowing 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work. On the offensive side, Ray Olmedo went 2 for 3 with a hit-by-pitch and a run scored while Vince Belnome went 1 for 2 with 2 walks.
Game 2 with Nick Franklin‘s organizational debut, but it was uneventful as he went 0 for 3. Enny Romero had mixed results in his start, laboring to throw 96 pitches in 4.2 innings as he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 8 while walking 3. Adam Liberatore followed with 1.1 scoreless frames before Steve Geltz allowed the game-ending run in the seventh inning. In terms of the offense, Justin Christian went 2 for 5 with 2 doubles and an RBI, Jeremy Moore went 2 for 3 with a walk, Mike Fontenot went 1 for 2 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored, and Belnome capped his nice day with a 1-for-3 performance with a walk and an RBI. Belnome has been red-hot for Durham, hitting to a .353/.476/.588 line in his last 10 games as he hopes to get another chance for the Rays.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 6, Montgomery Biscuits 2
Dylan Floro was totally off in this game, going 5 innings allowing 6 runs, 4 earned, on 8 hits, walking 5 against just 2 strikeouts and managing just a 4-4 groundout to flyout ratio. It seems like Floro still walks nobody and forces groundballs in his poor starts, but this was obviously an exception. Floro’s start lost the Biscuits the game, but there were still a quartet of players who impressed. Following Floro was Andrew Bellatti, who went 2 innings allowing just a hit, striking out 3 while walking none. Bellatti has never been a major prospect as he’s worked almost exclusively in relief the last three years, but he is interesting as a 22 year old at Double-A who is 2.4 younger than the league average yet is still putting up strong numbers. Bellatti has a 2.95 ERA and a 67-21 strikeout to walk ratio in 61 innings pitched. Santiago Garrido followed by allowing 2 hits in the eighth inning, but stranding them both with the help of two strikeouts. A minor league signing out of the Kansas City Royals organization, Garrido has a 3.28 ERA in 46.2 innings for Montgomery.
The other players to talk about were Richie Shaffer and Jake Hager. Shaffer had his second straight strong game since moving down in the Biscuits’ order, going 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, not striking out a single time. Shaffer has plenty of work ahead of him, but these consecutive multi-hit games are a good sign. Jake Hager, meanwhile, went 2 for 5 with an RBI. Hager isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball, hitting to a .281/.331/.397 line this season, but it is a big improvement over his numbers at High-A last year and he is 3.5 years below the league average as he doesn’t even turn 22 until next March.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 0
This was a huge game for Charlotte, and it started–and nearly ended–with Austin Pruitt. He went 8 scoreless innings allowing just 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. Pruitt, the Rays’ 9th round from 2013 is already 24 years old, but he has put together a strong season for the Stone Crabs, going 9-4 with a 3.72 ERA and a 78-26 strikeout to walk ratio in 188.2 innings pitched. He is 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA in his last 9 starts. Next season at Double-A, we’ll learn whether he can be a big league factor. Colton Reavis finished the game by working around a hit in the ninth with 2 strikeouts. The strikeouts give Reavis just 3 in 8 innings since joining Charlotte after he struck out over a batter per inning at Bowling Green, but he has still allowed just 1 run and hopefully the strikeouts will continue to come.
There were plenty of highlights at the plate for the Stone Crabs, with Josh Sale going 2 for 3 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, Marty Gantt went 3 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored, Justin O’Conner and Juniel Querecuto each going 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored, and Tommy Coyle drilled a 2-run triple. Gantt is hitting out of his mind right now, recording multi-hit performances in his last 5 games to give him a solid .267/.366/.404 line on the season. O’Conner, meanwhile, just continues mashing for the Stone Crabs, hitting to a .356/.414/.622 line in his last 99 plate appearances.
Low-A Midwest League: Lake County Captains (CLE) 8, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
Little went right for Bowling Green in this game as D.J. Slaton allowed 4 runs in just 2.1 innings in his starts and Andrew Hanse allowed 3 more in just 3.1 innings behind him. At least just 1 of Hanse’s runs were earned and he struck out 6 while walking none. Julian Ridings and James Harris did have strong games in the loss, with Ridings going 2 for 4 with a double and the only run scored while Harris went 1 for 2 with a double and 2 walks. Ridings is hitting .316 for the Hot Rods after 7 multi-hit games in his last 10 while Harris is finally showing the potential that made him a supplemental first rounder in 2011 as he has a .324/.383/.473 line in his last 81 plate appearances. Gotta to live these extended hot streaks by both him and O’Conner.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 2, Jamestown Jammers (PIT) 1
This game has to make you a little nostalgic after the Renegades went all 2008-2012 Rays and stole six bases to take them to victory in this game. One run came when Jace Conrad stole home (!!) while Wilmer Dominguez drove in Bralin Jackson in the seventh after Jackson stole his way into scoring position. Jackson went 2 for 3 with a walk and 2 steals, Coty Blanchard also stole 2 bases, and Dominguez went 2 for 4 with his big RBI. We also can’t forget Casey Gillaspie, who continued his solid play since his second week as a pro by going 1 for 3 with a walk.
On the pitching side, Jose Alonzo rebounded from a horrific Short Season-A debut with a strong performance, going 5 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. Justin McCalvin followed by allowing just 1 hit in 2 innings, striking out 3 while walking none before Gerardo Reyes finished the game with 2 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts. It is nice to see the Rays getting a little aggressive with Alonzo as he is 21 years old already after four years at Rookie ball, and he rewarded their confidence in this game.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Burlington Royals 3, Princeton Rays 1
The fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters in the Princeton order were awesome in this game. Nic Wilson went 2 for 4 with his 9th homer of the season, Manny Sanchez went 2 for 4, and David Garcia went 3 for 4. Unfortunately, nearly everybody else did basically nothing as the P-Rays managed just 1 run in the game. Riley Unroe did go 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base. On the mound, meanwhile, Freddy Alvarez had a solid start, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 5.2 innings pitched. He struck out 1 while walking 2 but managed an impressive 12-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Tomas Michelson finished off the game by working around a hit with 2 strikeouts in the ninth. Michelson is a 22 year old at Rookie ball, but his numbers are impressive nonetheless. In 16.1 innings pitched, he has a 2.20 ERA, a 17-2 strikeout to walk ratio, and a 66..7% groundball rate. The strikeouts may not stick at higher levels, but it is good to see Michelson living up to his history of forcing groundballs.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 5, GCL Orioles 4
This was a pretty crazy game as the GCL Rays scored 5 times in the first three innings, the GCL Orioles scored 4 times in the fourth, and no one even scored again. Henry Centeno went 5 innings for the Grays allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, on 4 hits, striking out 3 and walking 3 as well. Michael Velasquez and Edwin Fierro combined to keep the GCL Orioles off the board for the last 4 innings. In terms of the run support, Bill Pujols went 2 for 3 with a triple, 2 RBI, and a run scored, Tim Beckham went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored, Jose Rojas went 2 for 5 with an RBI, and Chris DeMorais went 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored. The Rays’ Pujols is clearly faster than the Angels’ Albert Pujols, but he clearly has a little bit of work to do to live up to Pujols’ career. He is hot in his last 10 games, though, hitting to a .286/.382/.464 line. Finally, we’ll talk about Beckham, about whom we can say two things. 1) He is tearing up the GCL, and it’s a good thing he is, because he already cracked the major leagues. 2) Hopefully his return to Triple-A is not far away.