The story on Wednesday in the Rays system was certainly Hyrum Formo, but there was another performance that could be even bigger for the future. While Drew Smyly rolled at the big league level, a young left-hander in the lower minors flashed his potential for the first time in his career.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 8, Durham Bulls 1
Well, the Bulls have already clinched their division, so might as well get the bad losses out of the way now. Alex Colome had a rough outing, allowing 7 runs, 5 earned, on 9 hits in 5.2 innings. Brandon Gomes did toss 1.1 scoreless innings behind him, allowing just a hit while striking out 2. Gomes had pitched well for Durham after a rocky start, but his collapse in the big leagues has to make you wonder how secure his spot is on the Rays’ 40-man roster. In regards to the offense, Cole Figueroa went 2 for 4 and Mikie Mahtook drilled a solo homer for the only Bulls run. For Mahtook, the homer gives him 10 on the season, a career-high with a few games to go. Among counting stats, he has also set career marks in doubles, total bases, and walks, and he has a chance to set personal bests in a few other categories before the season is through.
High-A Florida State League: St. Lucie Mets 4, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3
Blake Snell is not the lefty I was alluding to above, but he also had a great day. He went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. He also forced a 7-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Snell has been hit-or-miss since moving up to Charlotte, with his strikeout to walk ratio only surpassing 2-to-1 in this game, but he was able to finish his season on a positive note. Inconsistency or not, Snell’s promise is evident, and 2014 was a nice step towards harnessing his ability.
Colton Reavis was just named to the Rays’ Arizona Fall League roster, but he had a bad outing in this one and it cost the Stone Crabs the game. Honestly, it was not entirely his fault. He had allowed a single, walk, and two wild pitches (not in that order), but he was one out away from victory when he got a groundball to Patrick Leonard. Unfortunately for everyone, Leonard, playing just his fifth game at third base this season, committed a game-ending throwing error, giving the Mets the win. Leonard has to be annoyed at himself–especially because he also went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts at the plate–but we know that he is a first baseman and this game will be forgotten amid his breakout season.
This game was another rehab start for David DeJesus, and he looked fine, going 1 for 2 with 2 walks. It doesn’t make any sense for him to return before September 1st, but it will be interesting to see how he performs when he does finally come back. Ariel Soriano and Granden Goetzman also had 2 for 4 performances. Goetzman has been lost for most of his Stone Crabs tenure, but a couple straight multi-hit games and a .294 average in his last 10 provide some hope that he is figuring it out.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 6, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 2
I sometimes like to compare Rays games to those of their affiliates, and here I’ll compare Jacob Faria‘s start to Alex Cobb‘s last outing. The difference between this contest and the Rays’ 4-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, though, was much better bullpen work and a 5-run 6th inning. Faria went 4 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. Faria has been excellent for the Hot Rods (although is it unclear whether he can keep up such performance at higher levels), but he has failed to complete 5 innings four times in his last seven starts, his same total from his previous 16 games. It is fair to wonder whether he has worn down as the season has progressed, but it is hard to complain about his numbers nonetheless.
The great bullpen work behind Faria was primarily Stone Speer. Simply put, we had never before seen the 23 year old lefty look like this. He went 4 innings allowing just 1 hit striking out 4 while walking none. Do relief appearances get any better than that? On the offensive side, Alexander Simon went 2 for 4 with a 2-run homer, Armando Araiza went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, and both Elias Torres and Julian Ridings had multi-hit games as well. There is no reason at all to think that he can sustain it, but you have to give Simon some credit for hitting .280 in a full season at Low-A, even if it has come without much power (.374 SLG) or plate discipline (.322 OBP).
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Aberdeen IronBirds (BAL) 3, Hudson Valley Renegades 1
Casey Gillaspie entered Wednesday’s game in quite a bit of a slump. He was just 1 for his last 18 (although he did walk 4 times against only 5 strikeouts), and the Renegades were sorely missing their number three hitter’s production. It wasn’t enough to win this game, but Gillaspie did finally break through, going 2 for 3 with a walk. Gillaspie does not have the flashiest numbers in his pro debut for Hudson Valley, hitting to a .260/.356/.412 line, but you have to like his plate approach (in contrast to Richie Shaffer), and hopefully the power will come next. Coty Blanchard and Wilmer Dominguez also went 2 for 4 for the Renegades, while Jace Contrad stole his 19th base in 24 attempts.
On the mound, Jose Alonzo continued his turnaround from a disastrous first Renegades start where he allowed 8 runs, 7 earned, in 0.2 innings pitched. He went 6 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. After he allowed 3 early runs, he settled in and gave the Renegades a chance. Since that first game, Alonzo has a 2.05 ERA and a 22-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 26.1 innings pitched. Eli Echarry followed with 2 shutout innings working around 2 hits with 3 strikeouts before Kyle McKenzie tossed a perfect 9th. McKenzie posted a 2.08 ERA in 8.2 innings for Princeton, but he has actually improves to 1.13 in 16 innings for the Renegades.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Game 1: Princeton Rays 6, Burlington Royals 2
Game 2: P-Rays 4, B-Royals 3 (7 innings)
How crazy was Hyrum Formo’s complete game on Wednesday? He became the first pitcher in the Rays organization at any level below Double-A to toss a 9-inning complete game. He went 9 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was an incredible 13-3. Formo’s ERA is only 3.93 even after this start, but his peripherals are more worthy of his dominance as he has 46 strikeouts against only 8 walks in 50.1 innings pitched and has a 46.8% groundball rate. The Rays have been taking the 22 year old Formo very slowly, but they may see some promise in the former 27th rounder.
Update (3:30 PM): I have been reminded that the first game was actually the completion of a suspended game. It just so happened that it was Formo’s day to pitch again, and he went the final 5 innings on Wednesday to earn the complete game. That takes away a little of the luster, but still a very strong outing by him overall.
In regards to Formo’s run support, Manny Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI, Patrick Grady went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and Carter Burgess went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Burgess, drafted one year and one round after Formo, has a .307/.370/.411 line in his pro debut with Princeton.
In the second game, the P-Rays somehow managed to pull of a doubleheader sweep. Henry Centeno had a solid start, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings, striking out 4 while walking none. He also forced a 5-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Centeno, 20, was promoted to Princeton for his final start after performing well in 11 starts in the Gulf Coast League, and he proceeded to do a nice job. Ruben Paredes tossed 1.1 perfect innings to finish the game, striking out 2.
Manny Sanchez had himself quite a day, going 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored in Game 2. Sanchez has experienced inconsistent results at Princeton, but he still has plenty of potential and he is finishing strongly. Enmanuel Paulino went 1 for 2 with a double and 2 critical RBIs while Hector Montes went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 runs scored.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 5, GCL Twins 2
Brock Burke still has a 10.80 ERA in 13.1 professional innings pitched. We know that the 2014 third rounder is a high-upside left-hander, but clearly there is a lot of work that needs to be done. For the first time ever, though, we can say for certain that we received a glimpse of his potential. Burke started this game and went 2 no-hit innings allowing just a walk while striking out 4. He struck out more batters than he had in his previous four games combined. This may be Burke’s last appearance of 2014, but if so, he certainly ended his season the right way.
Burke was great, but there were still seven more innings to this game and three more pitchers than the Grays would use. Orlando Romero had an interesting outing, striking out 3 in 2 no-hit innings. He somehow allowed an earned run, though, despite not allowing a walk either (he hit a batter who proceeded to steal 2 bases). In any event, the GCL Rays had a no-hitter through 4 innings. The no-no actually got as far as 6.2 innings before the GCL Twins finally broke it up. Despite the rough finish to his appearance, Cristopher Crisostomo still was decent, allowing a run on 2 hits in 2 innings pitched, striking out 2. He forced a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Then Luis Nunez had a great outing to finish the game, allowing just 1 more hit while striking out 2 in 2 innings pitched. Overall, Grays pitchers went 9 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 11 while walking 2. That’s pretty great.
On the offensive side, Isias Alcantar did most of the heavy lifting, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI, but more relevant to prospect watchers was how David Rodriguez played. Rodriguez went 3 for 4 with a triple, a double, and 3 RBI runs scored. He has been playing extremely well for the last month, hitting to a .324/.351/.493 line in his last 20 games and 77 plate appearances. Ladies and gentleman, the Tampa Bay Rays have another catching prospect.