It’s always exciting when one player in the system erupts for two home runs. When two different players pull off the feat, that’s another story altogether. Hunter Lockwood and Nic Wilson have as much power as anyone in the Rays system, and on Wednesday, they showed how they can use it in games.
High-A Florida State League: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 8, Charlotte Stone Crabs 4
For once, there were no Triple-A or Double-A games, so the games from High-A to Advanced Rookie will have to do. This wasn’t a great start, but don’t worry–things get better.
Jordan Harrison had a rough start for Charlotte, going 3.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 4. Marcus Jensen followed by allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, in 2.1 innings pitched before Parker Markel finally provided some stability with a pair of shutout innings. On the offensive side, Yunel Escobar went 0 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored in what is expected to be his last tuneup before he returns today. Jonathan Quinonez and Lucas Bailey both went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored, with Bailey lacing a double. Bailey has bookended his stay in Charlotte went big games in his first contest and lost one, but with just 1 hit in the 6 games in between, that certainly will not cut it.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 4, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 3
The Rays lost on a go-ahead home run in the 9th on Wednesday, but that sort of drama goes both ways. With the Hot Rods down 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Johnny Field drilled a walk-off 2-run home run to give the Hot Rods a 4-3 win. For Field, it capped off a day that saw him go 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored. He now has a .288/.365/.451 line on the season, but he has never been better than in his last six games. Field has a 6-game hitting streak featuring four 3-hit games on his way to a .583/.615/.958 line in the stretch. Not too shabby. Ty Young also went 3 for 3 with an RBI for Bowling Green while Kean Wong went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored. We are still waiting for Wong’s power to arrive, but all he knows how to do is hit–he has a .327 batting average this season after hitting .328 in the GCL last year.
On the pitching side, Bruedlin Suero had a tough start, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, in 4 innings, but the Bowling Green bullpen was dominant to set up Field’s heroics. Willie Gabay went 3 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking none and getting his other 5 outs on the ground. Gabay has a 2.04 ERA and a 14-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 17.2 innings pitched for the Hot Rods, and with Gabay already 23, the Rays may send him to Charlotte in short order to see what they have in him. Brad Schreiber finished the game with 2 perfect relief innings with 4 groundouts to earn the win in the game.
Short Season-A New-York Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 11, Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE) 3
There is an exceedingly big difference between Short Season-A and the major leagues. Nevertheless, it has to count for something that Hunter Lockwood has 8 home runs in 24 home runs for the Renegades when only Evan Longoria has more home runs than that all season for the Rays. Lockwood reached that number with his best day yet against the Scrappers, going 5 for 5 with 2 homers, 6 RBI, and 3 runs scored. On the season, he now has a .330/.373/.649 line. His plate discipline needs work, but his power has been incredible.
Joining Lockwood with big days at the plate were Jace Conrad, who went 4 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored, and Casey Gillaspie, who was 3 for 5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. We are still waiting for Gillaspie to deliver some Lockwood-esque pattern, but it is hard to complain about his .333/.429/.472 line in his last 10 games. On the mound, meanwhile, Oscar Armenta had a strong start for Hudson Valley, going 6 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. One rough start has Armenta’s ERA at 3.75 after 5 starts, but the Rays have to hope that his 17-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 24 innings pitched is more indicative than anything of how the rest of his season will go.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Burlington Royals 0
At least one incarnation of the Rays beat the Royals last night. Brent Honeywell made his second professional start and it was even better than the first as he allowed just 1 hit while striking 3 in 3 innings of work. 5 innings at Rookie Ball is not much of a sample size, but so far, so good for Honeywell. Damion Carroll and Roel Ramirez combined to toss shutout ball for the last 6 innings, lowering their ERA’s to 0.84 and 0.47 respectively. Carroll in particular has been excellent, registering 14 strikeouts against 5 walks in 10.2 innings pitched. The 2012 sixth rounder is being brought along very slowly, but his upside is shining through as brightly as ever.
The run support came all from Nic Wilson. The 6’6″, 240 first baseman went 2 for 3 with 2 homers and 3 RBIs, doubling his homer total on the season in the process. For Wilson, the question will be whether he can sustain that type of power. Riley Unroe, meanwhile, went 3 for 3 with 2 walks. Unroe now has a .295/.364/.500 line on the season, and with his mature approach at the plate making his tools play up, he could be establishing himself as one of the Rays’ top prospects.