Shining and Dimming: Curt Casali, Ryan Brett Burst Onto Scene At Double-A
By Robbie Knopf
Here at Rays Colored Glasses, we’re excited to announce a new weekly article, Shining and Dimming, which will cover who has been hot and who hasn’t been among the Rays’ prospects in the previous week. Hopefully it can become something that we will send out every Saturday and start a great discussion about Rays prospects. Here is our first installment, covering Curt Casali, Ryan Brett, and several of your favorite Rays prospects.
Casali is making the Tigers regret that this team picture was the last significant thing he even did in their uniform. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Curt Casali, C (Montgomery)– We have talked plenty about Casali in the past week, and rightfully so. Since last Saturday, Casali has a .412/.474/.588 line with 1 homer, 6 RBI, and a 2-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 19 plate appearances since getting promoted to Double-A Montgomery from High-A Charlotte. Overall in 48 plate appearances for the Biscuits, Casali has a .390/.458/.512 line, and he has a .291/.366/.427 line in 232 plate appearances overall. The question is obvious: why hadn’t we heard of this guy before? Casali, acquired from the Tigers for Kyle Lobstein in March, stands out most for his solid bat speed and great plate discipline. His lack of power is still a concern, but not nearly as much because he’s a catcher and because he’s hitting like this. A Tommy John survivor, Casali has just a decent arm, but he’s known for good receiving skills and should be at least an average defender. Casali probably fits better as a backup moving forward, but in Rays system depleted of catchers at the upper levels, Casali is the closest thing they have to a catcher of the near future.
Ryan Brett, 2B (Montgomery)– A few games after Casali was promoted to the Biscuits, Brett joined him and has played just as well. In his first four Double-A games, Brett has a .438/.471/.750 line with 2 doubles, 1 homer, 4 RBI in 17 plate appearances. He hasn’struck out a single time yet, walking once. After putting up a .340/.396/.490 line in 225 plate appearances for Charlotte, Brett has just continued to step on the gas pedal since his promotion to Montgomery. Brett isn’t quite this good, but with Ben Zobrist possessing plenty of positional flexibility, Brett has clearly emerged as the Rays’ second baseman of the future. Brett has overcome a lot this season, rebounding from a drug suspension, a kidney issue, and hernia surgery, and he has come out looking better than ever. With outstanding bat speed and foot speed to go along with good plate discipline, decent power, and constantly improving defense, Brett has what it takes to be an above-average second base and maybe All-Star. Won’t find more of a turnaround than that.
Jake Thompson, RHP (Montgomery)- More Biscuits love, this time from the pitching side with Jake Thompson. Thompson had a huge start on Monday, going 8.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking none and forcing an 11-6 groundout to flyout ratio. He outdueled Dodgers top pitching prospect Zach Lee as he led Montgomery to a 2-1 victory. Thompson was a second round pick by the Rays back in 2010 and now he’s finally starting to show why. In his last 7 games, 6 starts, Thompson is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 42 innings pitched, managing only a decent 19-10 strikeout to walk ratio but showing much improved command as he has allowed just two home runs and forced a 1.35-to-1 groundball to flyball ratio. Thompson, who turned 24 on Thursday, pairs a fastball that touches the mid-90’s with a sharp slider and an improving changeup–he always had the stuff and now he’s finally getting the results. After looking like a bust the last two years, he may very well turn into exactly what the Rays thought he would be, a number three type starter.
Reinaldo Lopez, RHP (Bowling Green)– We finally have our first non-Biscuit in Lopez, who had quite quite a start for the Hot Rods versus Great Lakes on Wednesday. Lopez went 6.1 innings allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits, striking out 9 while walking 1. It’s only the latest highlight and what has been a huge season for Lopez. Lopez has both started and relieved for Bowling Green this season, but since returning to the rotation for the final time on June 23rd, Lopez is 5-1 with a 1.12 ERA, a 39-13 strikeout to walk ratio, and just 2 homers allowed in 8 starts and 48.1 innings pitched. His groundball rate has been an insane 59.3% over that span. Lopez, 22, is a filled-out 6’3″, 221 and has been known as much of a prospect, but this year everything is coming together. He has done a much better job locating his low-90’s fastball in the bottom part of the zone, and his curveball has emerged as a solid weapon against left-handed batters while his changeup continues to develop. Lopez needs to figure out a weapon to retire right-handed batters more consistently–he’s basically been all fastball against them–but he has the command and the stuff to have a future in the major leagues at least in a relief role.
The Rays believe that we are only starting to see what Goeddel is capable of at the plate. (Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)
Tyler Goeddel, 3B (Bowling Green)– When the Rays sent back to Bowling Green at the beginning of 2013, there were two big factors involved: Richie Shaffer‘s presence and his relative struggles with the Hot Rods the previous season. Nevertheless, they had to hope that Goeddel would play extremely well and force their hand before long. However, Goeddel has essentially repeated his 2011 this season, cutting down on some strikeouts and hitting for a touch more power but otherwise playing the exact same way. But maybe now he’s finally starting to distinguish himself. Since August 3rd, Goeddel has a .429/.478/.729 line with 3 doubles, a homer, 3 RBI, and a stolen base in 23 plate appearances, and he has a .350/.381/.500 line in 42 PA’s going back to July 28th. Goeddel has only scratched the surface of his potential. Goeddel, a projectable 6’4″, 186, shows great bat speed and flashes of big-time power, but he stands out most right now for his plus speed which he has used for 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts and 11 triples. Plate discipline and adding muscle to his lean frame to harness his power are his principle concerns at the plate. Defensively, he shows outstanding actions at third base and a great arm, but he has struggled with routine plays and still has a long way to go. Goeddel is just 20 years old and continues to show flashes of just how good he can be. He may take a while, but he will be worth the wait.
Mikie Mahtook, OF (Montgomery)– With yet another red-hot player on their roster, it’s not surprising that the Biscuits recently reeled off a five-game winning streak. Capped by a 4 for 5 game on Thursday, Mahtook has a .381/.381/.619 line with 2 doubles, a homer, 4 RBI, and a stolen base in 21 plate appearances. He is hitting to a .349/.361/.581 line with 4 doubles, 2 homers, 8 RBI, and 3 stolen bases in 44 plate appearances going back to July 29th. It’s easy to tell by comparing the OBPs and batting averages exactly what Mahtook’s flaw is: a lack of patience. Mahtook does a little bit everything, receiving solid grades in bat speed, power, speed, fielding, and arm strength, but his lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition could make more of a fourth outfielder than anything else. This hot streak hasn’t done anything to change that.
Tim Beckham, SS/2B (Durham)– Injuries are an unfortunate part of baseball. But this year, Tim Beckham has made a habit of taking advantage when his teammates have gone down. Hak-Ju Lee‘s injury moved Beckham from his old stomping grounds at second base back to shortsotp and Brandon Guyer‘s injury was a big reason why he ended up batting leadoff. But Beckham hasn’t just gotten lucky but instead played as well as ever to seize his opportunities. Since August 2nd, Beckham has a .407/.484/.481 line with 2 doubles, 6 RBI, and a stolen base in 31 plate appearances, striking out just 5 times while walking thrice. On the year, Beckham has his best ever OPS for a full season, managing a .288/.353/.401 line with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 3 homers, 44 RBI, 14 stolen bases in 19 attempts, and a 91-36 strikeout to walk ratio in 431 plate appearances. Beckham remaining at shortstop is still very much in question, but he still has the potential to be an above-average starter somehwere. Beckham has always had a quick bat and great raw power, but below-average plate discipline was always a reason why it wasn’t coming out. In his last 193 plate appearances, Beckham has a respectable 38-18 strikeout to walk ratio, and you have to hope that he really has broken through and that it will be a stepping stone to him harnessing his power. Beckham still has much to prove, but he’s still just 23 and his stock hasn’t been as high as this in years.
Dylan Floro, RHP (Bowling Green)– When you’re pitching as well as Floro has, you’re bound to slip up sometime. That was what happened to Floro on Monday as he allowed 7 runs, 4 earned, on 10 hits in 6 innings. But even amidst that rough outing, which raised his ERA from 1.56 to 1.81, Floro still showed positive signs, forcing a 6-1 strikeout to walk ratio and 7 groundouts against 3 flyouts. It remains to be seen whether Floro’s stuff and delivery will allow him to start at higher levels–he throws a low-90’s sinker, a good slider, and a decent changeup, all out of a funky arm action–but he should go right back to dominating Low-A.
We know you’re smiling under there, Cameron, about still being productive during your slump. (Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-US PRESSWIRE)
Cameron Seitzer, 1B (Montgomery)– Cameron Seitzer has managed impressive numbers as he skipped from Low-A to Double-A this year, but these last ten days have not treated him well as he has gone just 1 for 22 (.091). But the amazing thing about Seitzer is that his plate discipline allows him to remain productive even when the hits aren’t falling. Seitzer drew 7 walks against 8 strikeouts to lead to a decent .310 OBP. His 84-64 for a young player at Double-A is extremely impressive. By the way, Seitzer also happened to hit just his 3rd homer of the year amidst this rough stretch. Apparently Cameron Seitzer slumps are like no one else’s.
Ariel Soriano, 2B (Hudson Valley)– Soriano has been one of the few bright spots on a struggling Renegades team, but this was not his week. Since August 2nd, he is just 3 for 23 (.130) with a homer, 2 RBI, and 4 strikeouts against just 1 walk. Soriano combines speed with some pop and has the ability to play all over the field, but he’s already 22 and his plate discipline is still a concern. Have to hope that his current slump is a bump in the road because he has to start getting on the fast-track now to be a real prospect.
Brandon Martin, SS (Bowling Green)– Martin’s defense is outstanding for a young shortstop, but will he ever hit enough? In his last 6 games, Martin is just 3 for 26 (.115) with a double, an RBI, and 11 strikeouts against just 1 walk. The Rays aggressively sent Martin from Advanced Rookie to Low-A after he had played well in extended spring training, but it looks like that has totally backfired as his approach at the plate still remains extremely raw. Martin has the raw power to be a good offensive shortstop and he is still only 19, but when he has a .227/.279/.351 line in 215 plate appearances, the whispers creep into your mind that he may be an all glove, no bat shortstop.
Drew Vettleson, RF (Charlotte)– Vettleson has had a strange time the last couple weeks, following five straight 2-hit games with his latest slump. In his lsat 4 games, Vettleson is just 1 for 15 (.067). But here’s the crazy part: he actually hasn’t struck out a single time and has walked three times. Sometimes the hits just don’t fall. Vettleson has rebounded from a rough start to the year with a great second half and it looks like he’ll be just fine. Plate discipline and strikeouts were a concern for Vettleson entering the year, but he has a 33-20 strikeout to walk ratio in his last 205 plate appearances and may just have turned a corner. This year will likely go down as a step back for Vettleson, but sometimes you need to take a step back to move forward.
That will wrap up this week’s addition of Shining and Dimming. Questions or comments on these prospects or anyone elsewhere in the Rays system? Feel free to comment below and hopefully we can have a nice discussion.