Charlotte Stone Crabs Season Review
By Dan Herrejon
The 2014 season for the Tampa Bay Rays High-A affiliate, the Charlotte Stone Crabs, ended with an overall record of 63 – 70. This left the Stone Crabs 16 games behind the front running Fort Myers Miracle, a Minnesota Twins affiliate, in the Florida State League South division.
Despite ending the season under .500, there is some encouraging news from the Charlotte team. A couple of weeks ago when the Rays announced their Minor League Awards, outfielder Johnny Field, infielder Tommy Coyle, catcher Justin O’Connor and pitcher Blake Snell nabbed three of the four organizational awards presented to minor leaguers and those four spent the majority of their season with Charlotte.
Field is a center fielder who was drafted by the Rays in the fifth round in 2013 and was named the Player of the Year. Field hit .320 in 40 games with the Stone Crabs while playing outstanding defense in center field, committing no errors in almost 100 chances. Field is developing into a well-rounded player who we may see in Tropicana Field in the next two to four years, a great turn of events after it was thought he may just be another college utility man.
Coyle was awarded the Base Runner award, and his 30 steals in 34 chances easily led the team this year. He certainly possesses the speed that we failed to see from the big league club this year. While he hit only .249, Coyle did have an on base percentage of .331. In 2013 while playing for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Coyle did hit .278 and had an OBP of .399. The Rays are hoping his hitting can return to its 2013 form, and if so he could find his way onto a big league roster thanks to his solid speed.
The left-handed Snell was named the Pitcher of the Year for turning in an 8 – 8 record splitting time with Bowling Green and Charlotte. Snell had an ERA of 3.19 and recorded 119 strikeouts in 115 innings. His pitching arsenal includes a fastball with some giddyup along with a solid slider and changeup. As he continues to progress through the organization there will be inevitable comparisons to Matt Moore, though to get there he needs to hone in some control issues.
O’Connor was awarded the Catcher of the Year award. In an organization that has had primarily defensive specialists behind the plate, O’Connor is a breath of fresh air. While his defensive prowess is continuing (he threw out 55% of the attempted base stealers this season), what opened many eyes was O’Connor’s offensive stats. He hit .282 for the year and blasted 10 home runs while slugging for a .466 percentage. O’Connor has always possessed solid raw power, and he is finally tapping into it thanks to an improved hit tool and plate approach.
On the down side, outfielder Josh Sale was suspended for 50 games during the season for a second positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League rules. The former first round draft pick had received a 50 game suspension in 2012 for testing positive for meth use. Sale was hoping to bounce back after being suspended for all of last season, but now with his second suspension in as many years this could be the final chapter in Sale’s career, at least with the Rays organization.
There were other Stone Crabs that did not win organizational awards but deserve recognition for the season they turned in. Shortstop Leonardo Reginatto and first baseman Patrick Leonard were among the leaders in offensive categories. In addition to Snell, pitchers Austin Pruitt, Ryan Garton and Marcus Jensen showed steady and effective pitching performances.
Manager Jared Sandberg should be excited about next year’s prospects, as he is receiving a solid bunch of players from Low-A Bowling Green. This season might not have gone great for the team as a whole, but there are still plenty of players from the 2014 Stone Crabs team that could make a bit league impact sooner than you’d think.
Check out our Durham Bulls season review and our Montgomery Biscuits season review as well.