Minor League Review: Jeff Ames

By David Hill

Back in 2010, Rafael Soriano was the closer for the Rays, making an All-Star team, leading the league in saves, and ended up being named the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year. After his superb season, he ended up signing a 3 year, $35Million contact with the New York Yankees, since the Yankees felt a need to spend the GDP of Tuvalu on a setup pitcher. However, by the Yankees splurging on a reliever, the Rays ended up a 2011 first round compensatory pick, number 42 overall.

With the selection, the Rays drafted Jeff Ames, a right handed pitcher that had previously been drafted twice, by the Colorado Rockies in the 30th round of the 2010 draft, and by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 46th round of the 2009 draft. Ames has a fastball in the mid 90’s with great movement, but needs a lot of work on his offspeed pitches.

After signing, Ames was assigned to the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League. Alternating between the bullpen and the rotation, he appeared in 11 games, with 5 starts. On the plus side, Ames had a 4-2 record and 1 save. On the down side, he had an ERA of 7.12, and allowed 40 hits, with 4 home runs, in 30.1 innings of work.

Yet, there were positive signs last year. Ames struck out 39 batters while only giving up 7 walks. His defensive independent pitching was 3.04, suggesting that Ames’ struggles were simply a matter of circumstances. Lending further credence to this was his batting average on balls in play, which was an amazingly high .434. Meanwhile, the league average was at .320.

Ames was promoted to the Hudson Valley Renegades to start the 2012 season. Thus far, through his only appearance, he pitched 5 innings, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits and 1 walk. He also struck out 5 batters in the victory.

Right now, the Rays seem torn between making him a reliever or a starter, even though Ames had been a closer in college.  The key to this will be how well he picks up on developing a viable offspeed or breaking pitch. Ames’ ability to generate strikeouts does indicate the level of talent that he does possess. As it stands, Ames’ future is likely in the bullpen, where he may be a nice piece down the road.