The Undercards: Grayson Garvin Moves Towards Breakout
By Robbie Knopf
It’s one thing when a pitcher has a great outing. It’s another thing entirely when a player has a game that makes you wonder whether everything in his career was about to change. Grayson Garvin had such a performance on Tuesday night, and the same was true of Nick Sawyer way down in the Gulf Coast League.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 4, Durham Bulls 2
Against Charlotte, Merrill Kelly made his first start in over a month for the Durham Bulls, and the reason why should send a chill down every Rays fan’s spine. Alex Colome was the scheduled starter, but the Rays moved him back to Wednesday in case David Price can’t make his start for the Rays. To be clear, nothing is imminent–this isn’t a situation like the Boston Red Sox and Jon Lester. However, it’s a clear reminder that a trade is very much possible, and the Rays needed a contingency plan to account for that.
Kelly’s start was not too impressive as he went 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits. He did strike out 5 while walking only 1, but 2 home runs allowed proved to be his downfall. At least in regards to strikeouts and walks, Doug Mathis had the exact opposite type of appearance, both striking out 3 and walking 3, but tossing 3 shutout innings. On the offensive side, batters two through six in the Bulls order went a combined 0 for 17, but there was some thunder at the bottom of the order. Ray Olmedo went 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored while Hak-Ju Lee went 2 for 4 with a double. The baby steps continue for Lee, and the Rays have to hope that eventually he will find himself again.
Double-A Southern League: Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 1, Montgomery Biscuits 0
Justin Nicolino firmly out-pitched Grayson Garvin in their matchup. Nicolino went the complete shutout allowing just 7 hits, striking out 4 and getting 16 more outs on the ground. For Nicolino, however, it was just great start, and another great start without enough strikeouts at that. For Garvin, meanwhile, he did something he had not done since May 19, 2012. Garvin went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 6-2. Garvin was efficient, using just 80 pitches, as he completed 6 innings for the first time since the aforementioned date. Garvin has been threw a lot, from Tommy John Surgery in the midst of his first pro season to a back injury that set him back further this year. However, now he is getting healthy and overcoming the obstacles in his way, and he is establishing himself as a legitimate prospect in the process. Jim Patterson, Parker Markel, and Cory Burns each threw a scoreless inning behind Garvin while both Kes Carter and Willie Argo registered multiple hits.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, Tampa Yankees 4
I hate to say it, but there may not have been anything for the Stone Crabs in this game that was more interesting than the three pitchers the Yankees sent out to the mound. The starter was Caleb Smith, who was followed by Chris Smith, and then Alex Smith (not to be confused with the quarterback). Yes, Tampa used three Smiths in the same game, but it didn’t work out particularly well.
Reinaldo Lopez did better than Caleb Smith despite control issues, going 5 innings allowing 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 5. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 6-1. Kevin Brandt then had a sketchy sixth inning, allowing 3 runs (1 earned), but Marcus Jensen was dynamite the rest of the way, going 3.1 innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 4. That trio of pitchers was supported by strong games from Marty Gantt, Tyler Goeddel, and Maxx Tissenbaum. Gantt went 2 for 3 with a triple, 2 RBI, and a run scored, Goeddel went 2 for 4 with another triple and a run scored, and Tissenbaum went 2 for 3 with a run scored. Goeddel is starting to heat up at the plate again, recording multiple hits in two of his last three games and hitting to a .300/.349/.450 line in his last 10 contests.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 7
As crazy as it may seem, the Hot Rods allowed their 7 runs in this game in just two different innings, and only 3 runs were earned after a trio of errors. Luckily, their offense was stout and the pitching held it together just enough as they find a way to win. Isaac Gil got the start for Bowling Green and allowed 3 unearned runs on 5 hits in 3.2 innings, striking out 5 while walking none. Then, after Ben Griset and Andrew Hanse combined to allow 4 runs in the seventh inning, Brad Schreiber stranded two runners in the ninth as the Hot Rods hung on.
On the offensive side, there were several Hot Rods who stepped up to make this victory possible. Oscar Hernandez went 3 for 5 with a homer, 3 RBI, and a run scored, raising his line to .261/.309/.420 on the season. His plate discipline needs more work and he could do a better job tapping into his power, but Hernandez is starting to hit enough to be a legitimate prospect given his defense. Darryl George, meanwhile, went 4 for 5 with a triple, 3 RBI, and a run scored, extending his hitting streak to 6 games. He is hitting .435 with a trio of extra-base hits during that stretch. Also recording multi-hit games were Alexander Simon, Pat Blair, Julian Ridings, and Kean Wong. The latter two’s performances were most memorable as Ridings raised his average to .341 since his demotion from Charlotte to the Hot Rods while Wong helped break a 6 for 36 (.167) slump by delivering exactly the type of game we’re used to seeing from him.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 5, Vermont Lake Monsters (OAK) 3
This one got a little sketchy in the ninth inning as the Lake Monsters scored a pair of runs, but the Renegades held on and never let go of control in this game. Oscar Armenta got the start and pitched well, going 6.0 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3. So far this season, Armenta is 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 8 starts, striking out 27 while walking 9 in 38 innings pitched. Kyle McKenzie followed him by working around a pair of walks in 2 hitless innings. With McKenzie in the game, the Renegades offense also came alive.
The hero of the game was Coty Blanchard, who drew a game-tying bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning before drilling a bases-clearing, 3-run double in the seventh. Otherwise, this game was about two of Hudson Valley’s most unstoppable hitters continuing what they have been doing. Grant Kay finished the contest 3 for 3 with a double and a run scored, giving him three straight multi-hit games and a .472/.541/.830 line through 14 pro games. Casey Gillaspie, meanwhile, went 1 for 2 with 2 walks to extend his hitting streak to 9. He has a .296/.379/.484 line on the season, which looks even better when we remember that he started his pro career just 2 for his first 25. He has a .338/.431/.546 line since then.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Bristol Pirates 2
This game, and, by extension, the last eight games, have been the Cristian Toribio show for the Princeton Rays. Toribio went 4 for 4 with 2 doubles, a homer, and all three runs scored for Princeton on Tuesday night, extending his hitting streak to eight and his line on the season to .293/.356/.424. Toribio, 19, broke out as a prospect after signing with the Rays out of the Dominican Republic, and while he has a lot more work to do to get there, he has the talent to be another notable shortstop prospect in the organization. A more highly regarded international talent, Angel Moreno, also went 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI in this game. He turns just 18 tomorrow.
On the pitching side, Greg Maisto pitched well again for the P-Rays, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was also a strong 9-2. Maisto, a left-handed out of junior college, was a wild card after the Rays selected him in the 16th round of this year’s draft, and he is showing why in his pro debut. So far, he has a 4.30 ERA, but a 20-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 26.1 innings pitched in a Princeton uniform. Bret Dahlson followed him with 3 shutout relief innings, allowing just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 3. Dahlson, an undrafted free agent, showed enough in the Gulf Coast League that he was promoted to the P-Rays after just five appearances, and he has now allowed just an unearned run in 8.1 innings in Princeton.
Rookie Gulf Coast League Game 1: GCL Rays 7, GCL Twins 6 (7 innings)
Game 2: GCL Twins 4, Grays 2 (7 innings)
In the first game, the GCL Rays overcame a rough start from Jose Alvarado with a rare spurt of offense. Leading the charge were Christian Knott, who went 3 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, Cade Gotta, who went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI, and Matt Reida, who went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. For what it’s worth, Knott ended the doubleheader with a .280/.393/.453 line to start his pro career. He is old for the level at 22, but it is nice to see him hitting nonetheless. Tim Beckham also had a notable game for the Grays, playing a full game in the field for the first time (at second base).
On the pitching side, Spencer Moran followed Alvarado’s 4 runs in 2.2 innings with a strong outing, going 2.1 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 3-1. Moran will be a project, but it is nice to see him with a 2.08 ERA and a 4-0 strikeout to walk ratio in his first 4.1 pro innings. Following Moran, Nick Sawyer went a perfect inning, striking out 2. If you’ve been following Rays prospects, you know that Sawyer began this season in Charlotte before being demoted all the way down to the GCL. The reason: so he could work with Rays minor league pitching coordinator Marty DeMerritt, of fame for turning Alex Torres around, and he is starting to get results. In his last two appearances, Sawyer has gone 3.1 innings allowing just a hit and no walks while striking out 8. It remains to be seen how far Sawyer is away from returning to full-season ball, but his turnaround working with DeMerritt is certainly encouraging.
In Game 2, Brock Burke had a rough start, allowing 4 runs in 2 innings pitched, and that was enough to win the GCL Twins this game. Blake Bivens did follow with a nice outing, going 3 hitless innings working around 2 walks while striking out 3. Bivens had a similar disaster start to Burke, allowing 4 runs in 2 innings as well, but he has allowed just 1 run in 8 innings besides that. The RBIs for the Grays came from Josh Rapacz and Isias Alcantar, and Bill Pujols finished with a hit in both games after going 1 for 2 with a walk in the second contest.