Rays Winter Leagues Recap: James Houser Strong for Bravos


Andrew Friedman is gone, but the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system certainly doesn’t stop because of that. The results were mostly positive from Friedman’s draft picks and signings from the past several years.

Arizona Fall League: Glendale Desert Dogs 9, Peoria Javelinas 0

Jaime Schultz‘s ERA still stands at 12.71 after his second Arizona Fall League start, and his latest outing can’t be described as “good.” Nevertheless, he made progress, and that’s what the Rays have to be most excited about.

Overall, Schultz allowed 3 runs in 3.2 innings, but it was poor sequencing that led to those runs (and made them earned) as he allowed just 3 hits and 2 walks. He threw a lot of pitches–74 to be exact–but he also struck out 6 while walking 2 and forced a 5-0 groundout to flyout ratio, showing off the electric stuff we’re used to from him. For Schultz, he has something to build on, and hopefully his next game sees him begin to dominate.

Behind Schultz, Zach Cooper and Matt Lollis combined to allow 6 runs in an inning of work and Patrick Leonard also went 0 for 4. On the positive side, Kes Carter went 0 for 2 but had 2 walks while Colton Reavis worked around a hit with 2 strikeouts in a scoreless inning. Reavis has looked excellent so far in the AFL, allowing just 2 hits and no walks in 3 innings, striking out 4. This from a player who entered the AFL with just 17.2 innings above Low-A. Between his regular season and this AFL stint, it is becoming increasingly realistic that Reavis’ stuff will lead the Rays to be more aggressive in his development.

Mexican Pacific League: Yaquis de Obregón 6, Aguilas de Mexicali 2

Ex-Rays draft pick Mike Jacobs had a decent game for Mexicali, going 1 for 4 with a walk and a run scored. If you saw our Winter League Recap the other day, though, you know that we’re about to discuss the Obregón pitchers.

Ariel Gracia–who was in the Dominican Summer League this year–retired the only batter he faced in the seventh inning, a nice result after he failed to record an out in his first appearance. Gerardo Reyes also recorded just one out, a strikeout, but did allow 2 hits, one infield single and one line drive. This game certainly could have gone better, but it is great to see such a young pitcher appearing in the eighth inning for the Yaquis and hopefully it is quite the learning experience for Reyes.

Then there was another player in this game who haven’t yet discussed in these recaps: Edgar Gomez. Gomez was Reyes’ teammate at Hudson Valley and pitched well, managing a 2.44 ERA and a 41-13 strikeout to walk ratio in 48 innings pitched. His first appearance for the Aguilas saw him experience similar results as he went 1.1 perfect innings, striking out 3. That is the type of outing that will attract some attention. We certainly need to see more of this from Gomez, but it is nice to have another name to file away as a possible future reliever for the Rays.

Venados de Mazatlán 2, Mayos de Navojoa 0

While Jon Weber had his first hitless game for Navojoa, Olmo Rosario had a strong performance for the Venados, going 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Rosario has hit to a .294 average so far for Mazatlán while Weber still has a robust .375 mark for the Mayos.

Venezuelan Winter League: Navegantes del Magallanes 5, Leones del Caracas 4

Henry Rodriguez and Daniel Mayora keep hitting for Caracas. Rodriguez went 2 for 4 with a run scored while Mayora went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI. Unfortunately, Rodriguez was also a major reason the Leones lost as he made 3 errors, part of the reason Caracas allowed 5 runs, just 1 of which was earned.

In any event, Rodriguez is still hitting well, putting up a .588/.611/.882 line in the Leones’ first five games. He has a hit in each contest and multiple hits in four out of five. The funniest part of it all may be that he is still batting ninth. Apparently the Leones see that he has something going and don’t want to mess it up. The next question: do they feel the same way about Rodriguez at third base, or will he be moving to first or DH if his poor fielding keeps up?

Bravos de Margarita 3, Cardenales de Lara 2

I definitely pictured the Rays prospects in the AFL delivering a performance a little more like this game.

Former Rays second round pick James Houser started for the Bravos, and after lasting just one inning in his first game, he was more impressive in this start. He went 4 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. Houser, 29, made it back into affiliated ball this year with the Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate after two years in Independent ball, and this is a nice beginning as he hopes to end up with another big league organization this offseason.

Behind Houser, Omar Bencomo had a rough appearance, walking 2 batters without recording an out, but fellow former Rays minor leaguer Matt Nevarez came in to clean things up. He went 1.1 innings allowing just 1 hit while striking out 1. Injuries spelled the end of Nevarez’s Rays tenure, but he flashed good stuff and also performed well, managing a 1.50 ERA and a 36-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 30 IP.

Finally, we have the only current Rays prospect among the group, Taylor Motter. Margarita apparently decided that they couldn’t keep his power in the leadoff spot, but Motter didn’t care too much as he went 3 for 4 with a stolen base and a run scored. Motter also has a five-game hitting streak to begin his season, hitting to a .429/.455/.857 line with a pair of home runs. Motter’s breakout season at Double-A means a lot more than five good games, but it is always encouraging to see further proof that a prospect has broken out.