Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Jon Weber Slams Game-Winning Homer
By Robbie Knopf
36 years old, four years removed from affiliated ball, and still an impact player in the Mexican Pacific League. Jon Weber really is something, and it is sad that he never made the major leagues.
Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 3, Salt River Rafters 3 (11 innings)
Apparently the Arizona Fall League has ties. On the offensive side for Peoria, Justin O’Conner and Patrick Leonard both went 0 for 4, but O’Conner managed to have an interesting game nonetheless. He reached base via a hit-by-pitch and also picked a runner off. Of course, in vintage fashion, he also allowed a passed ball and 3 of 3 stolen bases. O’Conner’s defensive upside is ridiculous, but it would be nice to see a little more consistency from him.
Off the mound, Zach Cooper had a much-needed strong appearance after a couple of bad games, going a scoreless inning working around a walk. And now, for the first time ever, we are going to talk about a non-Rays prospect here in the AFL section of one of theses Winter Leagues Recaps.
Reid Redman went a scoreless 11th inning for Salt River, striking out 1. Drafted by the Rays in the 23rd round of the 2012 MLB Draft as a second baseman, Redman was released after just one season and thought his career was over. But, much to his surprise, the Marlins has interest in him as a pitcher after he didn’t pitch a single time in college, and everything has changed since then. This year between High-A and Double-A, Redman went 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA and a 68-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 61.2 innings pitched. No word on his stuff (I’ll have to get back to you all on that), but best of luck to him as he continues his journey to make the big leagues as a pitcher.
Dominican Winter League: Toros del Este 9, Estrellas de Oriente 4
The Dominican Winter League is finally going, and current and former Rays were prominently involved on Friday.
For Este, Winston Abreu allowed a hit to the only batter he faced, Bruedlin Suero forced the only batter he saw to ground out, and Josh Lueke tossed a perfect inning with a strikeout. Abreu should be the least familiar name of that group–he pitched for the Durham Bulls in 2009 and 2010, actually making 2 appearances with the Rays as well. Suero, meanwhile, is an organizational soldier who did a great job eating innings between Bowling Green and Charlotte this year. Of course, we all know Lueke far too well.
Then, on the Oriente side, we have our second field good ex-Rays draft pick story in as many games. Matt Fields went 1 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored for the Estrellas, who are hoping for a lot more power from him as the season progresses. Fields was a 44th round pick by the Rays in the 2004 MLB Draft who the Rays somehow signed out of high school. Once in the system, he actually showed some good power, slamming as many as 19 home runs, and he made it as high as Double-A. However, in his final three seasons in the system from 2008 to 2010, he struck out 420 times against 90 walks and couldn’t manage an OPS higher than .708, and the Rays had seen enough.
Then Fields signed with the Kansas City Royals after a stint in Independent ball, and he proceeded to slam 31 homers in 2013 at Double-A, and then 28 at Triple-A this season. Fields is 28 years old and retains his high-power, low-plate discipline profile, but it is exciting that he has made it Triple-A and maybe eventually he’ll get a chance at a big league role.
Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 12, Yaquis de Obregón 11
The score gives you some idea how crazy this game was, but it really was so much more than that. The Mayos entered the bottom of the 8th inning down 11-4 and then proceeded to score 8 runs in the frame to take the lead. Finishing off the comeback was Jon Weber, who drilled the 3-run home run that proved to be the difference in the game.
Weber finds a way to keep being productive, hitting to a .292/.320/.583 line so far for Navojoa, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Will we be covering him Winter Ball again next year? The chances seem pretty high.
Among the Mayos’ victims in that inning was Edwin Fierro, who allowed 4 runs while recording just two outs.
Venezuelan Winter League Game 1: Caribes de Anzoátegui 9, Cardenales de Lara 4 (7 innings)
Game 2: Caribes 5, Cardenales 4 (9 innings)
Brandon Allen had a strong doubleheader for the Caribes, going 2 for 4 with a run scored in the opener and 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored in the second game. He now has a .320 average and a .469 OBP on the young season, neither of which is too shabby at all.
In the second game, Allen was joined by fellow ex-Rays Tomas Perez and Jesus Flores. Perez went 3 for 4–he’s up to .444 on the season after three straight multi-hit games–while Flores went 0 for 2.
Aguilas del Zulia 6, Tiburones de La Guaira 4 (11 innings)
It wasn’t quite enough, but La Guaira’s ex-Rays quartet had a decent game. Alex Cabrera went 2 for 4 with a walk, Erold Andrus went 1 for 4 with a double and the first run scored of the game, Cesar Suarez went 1 for 5 with a run, and Ryan Reid worked around 2 hits to toss a scoreless relief inning. Andrus has hit .308 to start working himself into more regular time while Suarez is hitting a solid .273.
Leones del Caracas 4, Bravos de Margarita 3 (14 innings)
Two Rays-related players on each side on this one, and each player can say that he had a nice game. Daniel Mayora finally had a breakthrough game after a few too many one-hit performances, going 3 for 5 with a solo homer and 2 walks. Mayora now has a seven-game hitting streak going, but this was his first game with more than one hit. Henry Rodriguez pinch-hit successfully for the Leones, drilling a single.
On the Margarita side, Taylor Motter went 2 for 5 with an RBI and an outfield assist while Matt Nevarez tossed a perfect inning of relief. Baseball America had extremely nice things to say about Motter the other day, and a piece about him is oncoming.