With the Rays playing a day game, all eyes were on the Rays minor league affiliates on Thursday night. While the results weren’t so successful across the board, the Rays affiliates definitely kept fans on the edge of their seats. We’ll give a few scouting reports along the way here as well.
Triple-A International League: Louisville Bats (CIN) 4, Durham Bulls 3 (11 innings)
Chris Archer turned in his best start of the season and Reid Brignac homered, but those weren’t enough for the Bulls to come away with a win (especially with Derek Rose injured- just kidding). A Daniel Dorn RBI triple in the 1st and Bill Rhinehart‘s RBI single in the 2nd game Louisville a 2-0 lead, but Reid Brignac, hitting out of the 6-hole, found a first-pitch fastball up and mid-out from Louisville starter Sean Gallagher, and he turned on it and drilled it into the right field seats to tie the game at 2. Denis Phipps restored the Bats’ lead with a solo homer in the 3rd, but a Leslie Anderson groundout tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Those would be all the runs the starters would allow. Archer went 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking just 2. 55 of his 91 pitches were strikes and he forced a 7 to 3 groundball to flyball ratio. Gallagher would go 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, also striking out 6 while walking 2. The game went into the hands of the bullpens, which turned out to be quite capable. Unfortunately the term “capable” does not apply to Alex Torres, who came in for 7th innings, got 2 outs but walked 2 batters while striking out 1 and departed in favor of Ryan Reid, who would go 2.1 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits but striking out 4 while walking none to get through 9. Between Kanekoa Texeira and Travis Webb, the Bats managed to get to extra innings as well. Webb and Cesar Ramos both pitched scoreless 10th innings, but Ramos allowed a solo homer to Neftali Soto in the 11th, and that would be Louisville’s margin of victory as they won 4-3. Even in 11 innings, the Bulls got just 6 hits. The Bats had 9. Reid Brignac was the only player on the Bulls with multiple hits, going 2 for 5 with his 2-run homer along with an infield single. It’s nice to see Brignac and Archer playing well, although it’s worrying that Torres still hasn’t found himself.
Ryan Reid is an interesting relief prospect in that his fastball ranges from just the high-80’s to low-90’s but it has nice bite and he command and commands it extremely well down in the to force strikeouts while limiting the walks. Reid also throws a low-80’s changeup and a mid-80’s cutter. Reid allows too many hits because of his groundball tendencies, but he definitely has a major league future as at least a low-leverage middle reliever who can give you multiple innings.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 4
Kyeong Kang is playing out of his mind. Kang has homered in his last 3 games, and on Thursday night he was as good as ever. Kang went 3 for 4 with a triple short of the cycle, 3 RBI, and 2 runs. The Biscuits struck for a 6-run 3rd against Smokies starter and Cubs top prospect Trey McNutt, with Brad Coon slamming a 3-run homer, Kyeong Kang lacing a 2-run double, and Michael Sheridan topping it off with an RBI triple. Shane Dyer continued to be his usual non-dominant self but he kept Smokies off balance, going 6 innings, allowing 6 hits and 1 walk but forcing 12 groundouts compared to 6 flyouts. He threw just 87 pitches, 54 strikes. He exited with a 7-0 lead after Kang’s 5th inning solo shot. Good thing the Biscuits had such lead because the hard-throwing Scott Shuman had another implosion, allowing 4 runs in just two-thirds of an inning, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2 to raise his ERA on the season to 14.90. Three of the runs came on one swing of the bat, a Justin Bour 3-run home run. But Frank De Los Santos and Kirby Yates tossed the final 2.1 innings scoreless as the Biscuits held on to win 7-4. Hak-Ju Lee turned in a rare 0 for 5, although he did not strike out a single time. The Biscuits took advantage of their opportunities, going 4 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and that was enough to come away with a win in this one.
Shuman hits the mid to high-90’s with his fastball and throws in a dominant slider, but he has been unable to control either pitch at all, striking out 15 in 9.2 innings, but walking 14. Not only has his poor control manifested itself in terms of walks, but also he has been missing up in the zone, and when hitters can connect on his fastball, they can hit it a long way. He would still be able to live at that range thanks to his outstanding slider. Shuman needs to find some way to improve his control, maybe even taking a couple MPH off his fastball into the say 93-95 MPH range to accomplish that. Shuman is a reliever with late inning upside, but he’s a long way from that after his extreme struggles in the last year-plus at Double-A.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 2 (16 innings)
Pitching was in control on Thursday night out in Bradenton Florida. The two sides batted for 16 innings before the Stone Crabs came away with a win in vintage Rays fashion. Robby Price led off the 16th with a walk against Marauders pitcher Zach Foster, who had tossed 2 shutout innings to that point, and then Mayo Acosta followed with a sac bunt. They Cody Rogers hit a bullet single to right, so hard that Price was held at third base. But Ty Morrison delivered a perfect bunt on a safety squeeze to give the Stone Crabs a 3-2 lead, and that would be the eventual final score. The two starters in this game pitched extremely well. Rays 2011 supplemental rounder Grayson Garvin went 5.1 innings of one-run ball on just 3 hits, striking out 10 while walking just 2. Colton Cain allowed 1 run on 8 hits for Bradenton, striking out 5 while walking 1. The Stone Crabs took a 1-0 lead on a Riccio Torrez solo homer in the top of the 6th, but Bradenton came back with 2 runs against Garvin and George Garvin, with Stefan Welch and Carlos Paulino delivering RBI singles. The score would hold until the 9th inning, when Ty Morrison doubled, stole 3rd, and scored on a passed ball to tie the game. A host of relievers pitched extremely well for both teams to get to the 16th. Jensen allowed just the 1 run in 3 innings, and Nate Garcia followed with an appearance that would have qualified as an excellent spot start as he went 4.2 shutout innings, striking out 4 while walking none. Chris Rearick followed with 3 shutout innings for the win. Sadler went 4 innings for Bradenton, allowing just the big unearned run, and Jason Townshend tossed 3 shutout innings, but Foster finally allowed the run in the 16th. The Stone Crabs left 15 on base in this one while Bradenton left 17, but they somehow got a win in this one.
Look out for an article on Garvin tomorrow at RCG, but right now we’ll talk about centerfielder Ty Morrison, who went 4 for 6 with a double, two stolen bases, a run scored, and the game-winning squeeze bunt. Morrison is a tap hitter with little power (his double was the first of the year), but he’s an excellent bunter with breathtaking speed who plays excellent defense in centerfield. His plate discipline is just defense and he strikes out too much right now, but he has the ability to be a 50-stolen base threat in the major leagues if he puts it all together, although he may never be a player who hits more than .250-.260 in the big leagues. Morrison is an explosive athlete and the Rays would love to have a player with his speed at their disposal.
Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 5, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
The Hot Rods faced a tough matchup against the 6th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, D-Backs prospect Archie Bradley, and although they made Bradley work, they could not come out again. It was a marquee pitching matchup as Bradley faced off against the Hot Rods’ Felipe Rivero, who entered the start with a 0.68 ERA. But Rivero’s ERA would more than double in this one. The Hot Rods took a 1-0 lead in this one on a Alejando Segovia RBI double in the 1st inning, but Rivero finally came apart in the 4th, allowing a Gerson Montilla RBI double and a Tom Belza sac fly, and then the Silver Hawks tallied 3 more in the 5th against Rivero and Stayton Thomas. There were 2 on and 2 outs before a Segovia throwing error on a double-steal attempt allowed one run to score and a Thomas wild pitch brought in second run. After another error on Segovia (catcher’s interference), a third run scored on a Chris Bourgeois RBI single. Rivero went 4.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. Hopefully this is just a little bump in the road for him. Bradley actually allowed 1 run on just 1 hit in 5 innings, but he walked 5 while striking out just 4. The Hot Rods got single runs back in the 6th and 7th innings, with Joel Caminero singling in a run and Tyler Goeddel drilling an RBI double, but the Silver Hawks’ lead proved insurmountable as the Hot Rods lost 5-3. Segovia was right in the middle of this one for the right reasons and the wrong reasons, going 2 for 2 with a double, 2 walks, and an RBI, but he committed a big baserunning blunder in the 6th and made two errors defensively at catcher. Segovia is a backup catcher type with good plate discipline and a little pop in his bat. Defensively, Segovia has a strong but erratic arm, but he does block balls in the dirt relatively well. Goeddel went 2 for 4 with his RBI double in this game as well. The Hot Rods had tons of trouble getting any type of hit off of Bradley but were able to hang tough and draw walks, but they couldn’t get anything going with runners on after the first inning until it was too late.