Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Albert Suarez Solid for Caracas
By Robbie Knopf
After he made just two appearances in 2013, few people thought that Albert Suarez would be making starts in the Tampa Bay Rays system in 2013. Instead, Suarez made it back to Double-A Montgomery as he made 14 starts total, and he hopes to build on his solid season in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Mexican Pacific League: Yaquis de Obregón 6, Caneros de los Mochis 4
A couple of former Durham Bulls got into this game for the Caneros, with Justin Christian going 0 for 3 with 2 walks while Carlos Fisher allowed a solo homer in 1.1 innings pitched but struck out 4 while walking 1. A little more interesting, though, were the trio of pitchers who got into the game for Obregón.
Ariel Gracia and Edwin Fierro did not experience the best results–they failed to record an out, allowing 3 hits. Of course, those hits were a bloop single and two groundball base hits, and all three runners came around to score. More important, though, is that the Yaquis thought enough of them to have them on their team.
Gracia, a lefty who just turned 20, turned in a strong season with the DSL Rays in 2014, going 2-0 with a 3.11 ERA and a 50-17 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 starts and 63.2 innings pitched. Fierro, meanwhile, is a 21 year old righty who was signed by the Rays out of the Mexican League and wound up making it as high as Hudson Valley. He managed a 2.89 ERA overall in his 11 games with the system, and that actually goes down to 1.02 if you take out a poor appearance to end the season. Garcia should be in the GCL next season while Fierro will either be at Bowling Green or back with the Renegades.
The third Rays minor leaguer to appear for Obregón was 21 year old Gerardo Reyes, and they actually brought him into a big spot: the eighth inning with a two-run lead. Reyes lived up to the hype, tossing 0.2 innings working around a hit. Reyes showed off a fastball touching 97 MPH as he managed a 39-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 33 innings at Hudson Valley after he was signed out of the Mexican League. With his stuff, he has the ability to start moving quickly towards the Rays’ bullpen.
Naranjeros de Hermosillo 3, Mayos de Navojoa 2 (10 innings)
Just one ex-Ray in this game, but he is worth discussing. Jon Weber went 2 for 4 with a sixth-inning solo homer that eventually sent this game into extra innings. Weber is 36, but you wouldn’t know that from his first two games of the season as he is 4 for 8 with a pair of extra-base hits and 2 RBI.
Venados de Mazatlán 4, Tomateros de Culiacán 2
We’re used to Rays pitchers and Rays hitters facing each other in these games, but rarely do we talk about basestealer-catcher matchups. Well, we will here. Olmo Rosario had a strong game for the Venados, going 3 for 5 with a stolen base and a run scored. That was a great game, and that stolen base was particularly notable because Ali Solis threw out the other two runners who attempted to steal. Solis went 0 for 1 at the plate and also made an error, so his day certainly could have gone better, but you have to like that caught stealing rate. Solis’ defense may be enough to entice another team to sign him as Triple-A depth.
Venezuelan Winter League: Caribes de Anzoátegui 7, Leones del Caracas 5
I think we have officially adopted Henry Rodriguez as a Rays prospect, at least until he stops hitting. The former major leaguer for the Cincinnati Reds went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI for Caracas, putting him at .615 (8 for 13) with 3 doubles and 6 RBI to begin the season. That is pretty crazy. Daniel Mayora also went 1 for 4 with a run scored for the Leones while Alejandro Segovia went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Mayora and Segovia also made errors, and that is particularly bad for Segovia because he was playing first base. Segovia has shown flashes at the plate the last couple of years, but he could not handle catcher and even first base has not been easy for him. Segovia either has to start hitting a lot more or find a way to get his defense up to par.
On a more positive note, we have Albert Suarez on the pitching side for Caracas. The Leones put him in when they were down a run in the sixth inning, and he proceeded to retire the first six batters he faced, two via the strikeout. Suarez’s third inning did not go as well as he allowed a run on 3 hits before being replaced with 2 outs, but his first two frames certainly inspired confidence. Suarez has never really been a reliever yet in his pro career, and as this game remind us, he still has some promise in that role. Will the Rays re-sign him again this offseason to give him an opportunity in shorter stints?
On the Anzoátegui side, meanwhile, Brandon Allen went 0 for 5 with an RBI and a Devil Ray for a while back appeared: Tomas Perez. Perez did not do much hitting for the D-Rays in 2006, hitting to just a .212/.224/.286 line in 254 plate appearances, but he went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored in this game. Perez is now 40 and hasn’t played affiliated baseball since 2008, but maybe he used his time off to learn how to hit.
Tiburones de La Guaira 6, Bravos de Margarita 4
We can’t give Taylor Motter the headline every day, but he looked very good once again in this game for Margarita. He went 1 for 4 with a solo homer, a walk, and 2 runs scored, giving him two home runs after his 16 in the regular season for the Montgomery Biscuits. He now has a hit in all four of the Bravos’ games and a tidy .352/.389/.882 line overall. Gotta love that slugging percentage.
Matt Nevarez gave Margarita a second ex-Ray in this game, allowing a solo homer but nothing else in 1.1 innings pitched, striking out 1. Nevarez ended up back in independent ball after injuries held him to just 9 appearances in the Rays system in 2013, but strong performance there inked him a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates before the season was through.
There were also a trio of former Rays minor leaguers who appeared for the Tiburones in their victory. Erold Andrus combined with Motter to give both teams a leadoff hitter playing left field with Rays ties. He couldn’t match Motter but still played well, going 1 for 2 with a walk. Alex Cabrera, meanwhile, went 1 for 3 with a run scored while Cesar Suarez went 0 for 4. Cabrera has exactly one hit in all four of La Guaira’s games, hitting to a .286/.412/.714 line overall.