The Undercards: David Rodriguez Drives in 4 in GCL Rays Win
By Robbie Knopf
On a day where Jake McGee suffered through a rare disappointing outing, bullpen disasters were rampant in the Rays system. All seven games featured at least one run allowed by a reliever, including three blown saves and another game lost in a walk-off. Luckily, the catchers were there to pick up some of the slack, with David Rodriguez and Nick Ciuffo both having impressive games.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 6, Durham Bulls 5
The Bulls led 5-3 after 8 innings before Josh Lueke reminded us of his big league time by allowing a horrific 3-run ninth. His failure spoiled a nice effort by Alex Colome, who went 6.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, posting a 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio and a 9-4 groundout to flyout ratio. We have certainly seen Colome pitch better than that, but it is nice to see him rebound from allowing 7 runs on August 4th by tossing a pair of quality starts. Adam Liberatore was also excellent behind him, tossing 1.1 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts. While C.J. Riefenhauser has struggled, Liberatore has delivered an excellent season, going 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA and a 78-15 strikeout to walk ratio in 57.2 innings pitched. Could Liberatore find his way onto the Rays’ 40-man roster by the end of the year?
On the offensive side, meanwhile, Wil Myers went 1 for 3 with a double and 2 walks in his rehab game, Jeremy Moore drilled his 8th homer with Durham and 14th overall on the season, Tim Beckham went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored, and Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI. Beckham is 9 for 21 (.429) since returning to the Bulls, and it will be interesting to see where his numbers are at when the season ends.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 2, Mississippi Braves 1
It wasn’t pretty, but the Biscuits found a way to squeak out a win in this game. Victor Mateo started and allowed 7 hits and 5 walks in 7 innings while striking out just 1, but with the help of two outfield assists from Jeff Malm, he managed to keep the Braves off the board. He finally got some run support in the seventh inning on a solo homer from Richie Shaffer and then, after Parker Markel worked around a walk in a scoreless eighth, Malm got into the act in the top of the ninth, drilling another solo shot. That insurance run loomed large when Matt Lollis allowed a pair of hits and an unearned run to begin the ninth before recording a pair of outs and giving way to Braulio Lara for the save.
Malm and Shaffer have represented an interesting contrast at the plate this season. Malm’s average (.269) has been solid, and his on-base percentage (.327) is decent enough, but the homer was just his fifth of the season as his power has disappeared at the Double-A level. For Shaffer, on the other hand, he has 14 homers, but he hasn’t hit for average (.206) at all, nor has he compensated with a lot of walks (.291 OBP). Justin O’Conner also went 2 for 3 with a double in the game, reaching another time on a hit-by-pitch.
Low-A Midwest League: Dayton Dragons (CIN) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 5
The first thing we can say is that the Hot Rods never should have taken a 5-4 lead to the ninth inning. Just 2 of their 5 runs were actually driven in, with 3 more coming thanks to 3 Dayton errors. That being said, they did have the lead before Brian Miller came in and had his first disaster outing as a pro. Bruedlin Suero started and was nothing special for Bowling Green, going 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits. He did strike out 5 while walking 1, but he also allowed 3 home runs. But he departed with the game tied 4-4, and the Hot Rods scored another run to take the lead as Brad Schreiber tossed 3 perfect innings with 4 strikeouts. In the ninth, however, Miller allowed 2 run on 4 hits while recording just 2 outs, leading to the loss. We keep talking about how Miller could be a quick-to-the-majors reliever, but it’s not going to be easy. He’s not going to zoom through the minors because his stuff is so electric–it is really deception from three different arm slots that has led to his success. Now, we can see that hitters even at Low-A were able to figure him out. Can Miller make the improvements necessary to stay on that fast-track to the Rays bullpen?
Elias Torres and Willy Adames provided the little actual offense that Bowling Green managed in this game, with Torres going 4 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored while Adames went 2 for 4 with an RBI. It seems like we haven’t mentioned Adames too much in these minor league recaps, but he’s been fine since joining the system, hitting to a .261/.397/.370 line, striking out 15 times but walking 10 times as well.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 6, Lowell Spinners (BOS) 1
As has been the case several times this year, the Renegades were the one team in the system with nothing to complain about on Saturday. They got a strong spot-start from Eli Echarry, who went 5 innings allowing just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 6. His groundout to flyout ratio was also a nice 5-2. I liked Echarry more than I thought I would when I saw him in person as he throws a sinker touching 91 MPH and a slider that has its moments. Darren Fischer did allow a run behind him, but Justin McCalvin got things back in order to finish the game, going 3 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 3. McCalvin, the Rays’ 19th rounder from this year’s draft, has gotten his pro career off to a nice start, managing a 2.28 ERA and a 21-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 23.2 innings pitched between Princeton and Hudson Valley.
In regards to the run support, Casey Gillaspie led the way, going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. He extended his hitting streak to five as he continues to get his pro career off to a nice start. Grant Kay‘s average is down to .355, but he had a nice game in this gone, going 2 for 4 with an RBI. Jace Conrad also went 2 for 4 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored while Braxton Lee went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored. The extra-base hit is a good sign for Conrad, who has looked solid at the plate but has just a .354 slugging percentage and a .077 ISO on the season.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Bluefield Blue Jays 5, Princeton Rays 3
While first rounder Casey Gillaspie has been playing well for Hudson Valley, the Rays’ third pick, Brent Honeywell has been dominating at Princeton. This was his best outing yet as he went 5 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 7. Overall, he has a 1.26 ERA and a a 36-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 28.2 innings pitched. We can’t always tell how indicative Rookie ball numbers are of anything, but Honeywell seems to be in line to skip past Hudson Valley to start in Bowling Green next year. Unfortunately for him in this game, his Mario Fernandez and Tomas Michelson collapsed behind him to hand the P-Rays the loss.
One funny thing about this current Princeton squad is the presence of the Rays’ first, second, and third round picks from 2013 (although Ryne Stanek is, of course, at Charlotte), and the trio all had nice games. Nick Ciuffo drilled a two-run shot, Riley Unroe went 3 for 5 with a run scored, and Thomas Milone went 2 for 3 with a walk. Cristian Toribio and Carter Burgess also contributed 2-for-4 performances in the loss.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: Game 1: GCL Rays 6, GCL Orioles 4 (7 innings)
Game 2: GCL Orioles 4, Grays 3 (7 innings)
In the first game, the biggest news was David DeJesus taking a baby step towards returning to the big leagues, going 0 for 1 with a walk and a run scored before being pinch-hit for in the fourth inning. In terms of the actual contest, Jose Alvarado had a sketchy start, allowing 3 runs in 3.2 innings, but Spencer Moran and Michael Velasquez allowed just 1 run in the final 3.1 innings and the GCL Rays offense came to play. 18 year old catcher David Rodriguez had a huge game, going 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI. His defense has looked very good all season and he has also hit for average and gotten on-base, but a little more power would certainly be nice. Even if it doesn’t come this season, though, Rodriguez has established himself as yet another catching prospect to watch in the system.
Zac Law also delivered a nice performance, going 1 for 2 with a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored. Law has been one of the hottest hitters in the system of late as he has moved up to the Grays’ leadoff spot, reeling off a seven-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .440 with a .517 OBP. The Rays did a nice job signing the Texas prep product down in the 23rd round, and he’s giving them reason to be even more excited now.
In Game 2, Blake Bivens, Brock Burke, and Christopher Crisostomo delivered a trio of uninspiring pitching performances and the Grays’ offense couldn’t hit enough to compensate. Bivens allowing 1 run on 2 hits in 2 innings, striking out 2 but walking 2 as well. He does have a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings to begin his pro career, but his 15-9 strikeout to walk ratio could certainly serve to be improved. Burke, as expected, is even more raw, and he allowed 2 runs in 2 innings of work in this game, walking 3 while striking out 1. He has a 9.00 ERA and an 8-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 11 innings pitched. Finally, Crisostomo pitched well for his first 2 innings, but he allowed a walk-off hit in the seventh. Overall, he went 2.2 innings allowing 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 2 while walking 1.
Matt Ford had an excellent game for the GCL Rays in the loss, going 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and a run scored, and Oscar Sanay also went 2 for 4 with a run scored. But lone runs in three different innings did not prove to be enough. Maybe it was too much to ask the Grays’ offense to pick up their pitching staff twice in one day.