Rays Prospects

Bowling Green Hot Rods Season Review

By Fletcher Keel

Fresh off a first-half division title from 2013, the Bowling Green Hot Rods looked to capitalize on that and make the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Under a new manager, Michael Johns (who previously lead Short Season-A Hudson Valley to a New York-Penn League Championship), the Hot Rods had their struggles, setting a team record for consecutive losses and starting the season 2-13. Bowling Green played a much better second half , though, and they were just a game away from becoming the fourth and final playoff team in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division.

Best Performers

Early in the year, a pair of players were making their case for who would be the most valuable asset to the Hot Rods in Johnny Field and Granden Goetzman. Field would end up winning the Rays’ minor league Player of the Year Award by hitting .300/.376/.488 between Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte. Goetzman didn’t experience much success with Charlotte like Field did, but he was solid for Bowling Green, hitting .315/.349/.515.

As the season wore on though, it was more and more apparent the most important piece to Johns’ club was Kean Wong, all of 19 years old. He lead the team in batting average (once Goetzman got promoted) with a .306 mark, hit for 30 extra bases and drove in 31 runs. Wong was also a rock in the field, committing just seven errors in 97 games and finishing with a .985 fielding percentage. Wong was named both a starter in the MWL All Star Game, as well as a post-season All-Star and. He was named the best batting prospect and top defensive second baseman in the Midwest League by Baseball America.

Biggest Disappointments

Aside from the record-setting losing streak, the biggest disappointment came from the offense production of platoon catcher Jesus Araiza. Following a season in which he hit near .277 in Princeton and Bowling Green, Araiza was lucky to crack the Mendoza, finishing the year hitting .214. He did do a bit better in on-base percentage (.292) and slugging (.316), to make up for the low average. Araiza has already shown advanced defensive ability, and his bat has its moments, but as this season shows he needs significant improvement moving forward.

Replacing Maile & O’Connor

The tallest task the Hot Rods had to face this year was replacing Luke Maile and Justin O’Conner behind the plate, and aside from the aforementioned offensive struggles from Araiza, they did a decent job. Both Araiza and Oscar Hernandez showed strong defensive skills throughout the year, and both appeared in over 65 games each at catcher. Hernandez was also solid at the plate, hitting .249/.301/.401.

Looking to 2015

With the Rays and Hot Rods extending their player development contract to 2016, Rays fans will continue to see the best and brightest prospects roll through Bowling Green. It wasn’t an ideal season – the team hit .260 when it was all said and done, while the pitching staff combined for an ERA of 3.71 – but even with all of that, the Hot Rods were still a game or two away from making the playoffs. Bowling Green has been producing some of the most talented prospects in the Rays organization (including big-league guys like Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Moore). They will once again look to feature some of the best players in the organization in 2015.