Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Cesar Suarez Outshines Taylor Motter
By Robbie Knopf
With not too many Tampa Bay Rays prospects in action this fall, it gives us a little more variety when we also cover the former Rays minor leagues in the Winter Leagues. Inevitably, sometimes the ex-Rays match up with the current ones, and the results do not always go in favor of the new guys. On Saturday, Cesar Suarez, Alex Cabrera, and the Tiburones outplayed Taylor Motter and the Bravos in a game that features seven current and former Rays.
Arizona Fall League: Mesa Solar Sox 6, Peoria Javelinas 3
Just one Rays prospect in this game, but he did do well. Kes Carter went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored, continuing his strong start to the AFL season. He is currently 4 for 10 with a double, 2 RBI, and a 3-3 strikeout to walk ratio. He did make an error in centerfield, though, and it came on a throw. Carter possesses decent enough range to handle center, but he gets into trouble every once in a while trying to be too aggressive attempting to throw baserunners out. In more positive news, Carter did get a hit against a lefty in this game, albeit on a bunt single.
Mexican Pacific League: Caneros de los Mochis 9, Yaquis de Obregón 2
Justin Christian had a nice season for the Durham Bulls in 2014, hitting to a .271/.344/.434 line, and he is off to a nice start with the Caneros as well. As the team’s leadoff hitter and centerfielder, he went 1 for 3 with 3 walks and an RBI. Also appearing in this game was a Cuban defector that the Rays apparently scouted, Ernesto Molinet. Known primarily as a first baseman, Molinet played right field and went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored in this game. Molinet, 30, will hope to play well in the MPL and prove that he deserves an opportunity with a big league organization.
Naranjeros de Hermosillo 4, Mayos de Navojoa 3
Jon Weber keeps coming back for more. The 36 year old hasn’t played affiliated baseball since 2010 and hasn’t played in the regular season since 2012, but he decided to return to the Mayos for the second straight year nonetheless. He also keeps hitting like usual, going 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI in this game. Near misses with the Rays and the New York Yankees may be as close to the big leagues as Weber will ever get, but it is great to see him still pursuing his dream.
Tomateros de Culiacán 5, Venados de Mazatlán 2 (11 innings)
Apparently Ali Solis only hits in the Mexican Pacific League. Solis put up just a .514 OPS with the Durham Bulls this season, but he had a .263/.323/.434 line for Culiacán last year and is off to a good start as he hopes to do the same in the 2014-2015 season. In this game, he went 2 for 6 with a pair of RBI while also catching a runner attempting to steal. Former Rays minor leaguer Olmo Rosario went 1 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored in the loss for Mazatlán.
Venezuelan Winter League: Leones del Caracas 7, Caribes de Anzoátegui 6
Ex-Rays minor leaguers (and one major leaguer) figured in heavily on both sides as this one went right down to the wire. For Caracas, Henry Rodriguez went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and 3 RBI while Daniel Mayora went 1 for 5 with a double and a run scored. Rodriguez only half-counts as a Rays minor leaguer because he played on a joint Rays-Cincinnati Reds Venezuelan Summer League affiliate but spent the rest of his career in the Reds organization. On the Caribes side, meanwhile, Brandon Allen went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored while Jesus Flores went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored. Allen hasn’t played in the major leagues since the Rays sold him to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan in 2012.
Tiburones de La Guaira 8, Bravos de Margarita 3
Taylor Motter had another good game in this one, going 2 for 3 to raise his average to .385 early on in VWL play. Unfortunately for him, the ex-Rays hitters on La Guaira came to play. Cesar Suarez went 3 for 5 with a homer, 4 RBI, and 2 runs scored while Alex Cabrera went 1 for 5 with a 3-run homer. Suarez played four seasons in the system, rising as high as Double-A Montgomery, while Cabrera played at High-A Bakersfield for one year before eventually becoming a prolific home run hitter in Japan.
To wrap up the other ex-Rays, James Houser started for Margarita and went a scoreless inning before he was replaced by fellow former Rays minor leaguer Omar Bencomo, who allowed 2 runs in 2.2 innings pitched. Luis Cabrera also appeared for the Bravos, allowing a run in an inning of work, while Ryan Reid tossed 0.2 innings to finish the game for the Tiburones.