Rays Winter Ball Recap: James Houser, Victor Mateo Shine for Santurce

By Robbie Knopf

James Houser and Victor Mateo are on opposite edges of the spectrum. Houser is a former top prospect desperately trying to hang on while Mateo has never been highly regarded but just had the season of his life to give him a chance. In any event their path converged for Santurce on Wednesday night to result in some of the best pitching the Congrejeros have seen all season.

Arizona Fall League: Salt River Rafters 8, Scottsdale Scorpions 5

Richie Shaffer had a really disappointing 2013 regular season. His Arizona Fall League performance, though, just keeps getting better. Shaffer went 1 for 3 with a double,  a hit-by-pitch, and 2 runs scored for Salt River in this game, upping his line to an insane .277/.478/.362. That .478 OBP is crazy enough, but he has upped it to .605 in his last 10 games, walking 14 times while striking out just 7 times. We are still waiting for the power to surface, but all 4 of his doubles on the season have come in his lsat 1o games, and when you throw a lot of pitches to a player with as much power as Richie Shaffer, it’s only a matter of time before he starts running into some of them. Shaffer’s 17-17 walk ratio in the Arizona Fall League is the polar opposite of his 106-35 K-BB mark for the High-A Stone Crabs this season. The AFL is almost by definition a small sample size and there are always going to be flukes, but when a change is that extreme, that has to be something going on. Luke Maile also went 0 for 2 with a walk for the Rafters in the win.

Roberto Clemente Professional League: Idios de Mayaguez 4, Congrejeros de Santurce 2 (11 innings)

Santurce lost this game in extra innings, but that was by no means the fault of James Houser or Victor Mateo. Houser started and pitched well for the third straight time out, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. He is now 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA and a 14-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 3 starts and 15.1 IP. Houser hasn’t appeared in a big league organization since the 2010 season that saw him make his big league debut with the Marlins. The walks remain a concern, but if he keeps pitching like this, he’s young enough (28) that someone may give him a chance. Houser was followed by Victor Mateo, the 24 year old right-handed who had a huge second half for the Montgomery Biscuits and just re-signed with the Rays as a minor league free agent. Mateo may have been a little too amped in his first start after re-signing, and the result was 3 runs allowed in just a third of an inning as the starting pitcher for the Congrejeros on Monday. But Santurce sent him back to the hill just two days later, and rthe results were exponentially better. Mateo went 2.1 innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 3. That last game could have been the start of struggles, but instead Mateo composed himself and had a great game. Great to see the former Ray and the possibly future Ray doing well, and hopefully it results in a win next time around.