Rays Promote Nick Franklin, Alex Colome, C.J. Riefenhauser
By Robbie Knopf
It was unfortunate that the Durham Bulls lost the International League championship series, but three of their players have reason for excitement now nonetheless. As reported by Bob Sutton and Marc Topkin, the Tampa Bay Rays have promoted infielder Nick Franklin, right-hander Alex Colome, and lefty C.J. Riefenhauser, and the trio will meet up with the team on Monday in Tampa Bay.
Nick Franklin’s performance after joining the Rays in the David Price trade was worse than anyone could have expected. We knew that Franklin had struggled in his previous major league time, but he had always played well at Triple-A, so we thought that he would quickly become one of the Bulls’ best hitters. Instead, in 113 plate appearances, he hit to just a .210/.288/.290 line. What in the world had happened? As it turned out, the Rays were working with Franklin on adjusting the mechanics of his swing, and by the time the IL postseason came around, he was as good as we have seen him.
In 37 plate appearances, Franklin hit to a .424/.486/.697 line with 3 doubles, 2 homers, and 3 RBI. He struck out 7 times while walking on 4 occasions, and he also stole a pair of bases without being caught. Such a limited sample size, even with the season on the line, can only matter so much. At the very least, however, Nick Franklin heads back to the major leagues confident and ready to show the Rays that he can be a key piece of their future. It will be exhilarating to see what he can do.
Alex Colome is back. After a successful spot-start for the Rays versus the Baltimore Orioles on June 27th, Colome has been stuck at Triple-A Durham until now trying to build up innings. Between Triple-A, the major leagues, and the IL playoffs, Colome is up to 113 innings pitched total, a decent amount and his most since 2011. However, he is still far from where he needs to be if he is ever going to be a full-time major league starter, and the Rays would like to get him a few more innings now. That will start on Monday as Colome is set to pitch against the New York Yankees.
Colome is the same pitcher we have known him to be for a while. He features excellent stuff that overshadows his occasional control issues and gives him a chance to be a good starting pitcher in the big leagues. Especially given that the Rays are unlikely to have a rotation spot available for him next season, though, it will be tempting for the Rays to unleash Colome in a relief role. Topkin reports that the Rays will also use Colome out of their bullpen over the next few weeks. The Rays will watch Colome wondering both whether he is part of their future rotation and whether he should be in their relief corps next season, and Colome faces a tough task attempting to pitch through that pressure.
C.J. Riefenhauser is getting a call-up by the Rays now, but his future is clearly the most questionable of this trio of promoted players. Lefty relievers who don’t throw very hard have limited upside to begin with, and when Riefenhauser’s control deserted him in the middle of the season, that put his future in jeopardy. Luckily for everyone, Riefenhauser was dominant to end the regular season, striking out 14 while walking just 1 in his last 11 innings, but he still has something major to prove. The Rays saw enough in Riefenhauser to give him an opportunity back in April, and they will give him a chance to be part of their bullpen next season. Given how much the Rays’ relief corps has struggled this year, Riefenhauser joins the Rays hoping to emerge as one of the favorites for a 25-man roster spot entering spring training.
This round of call-ups features the Rays’ possible second baseman of the future, a high-upside starting pitching prospect, and a lefty reliever who has promise as well. It will be fun watching all three of them play, and their performance will influence the Rays’ thinking heading into next season.