Rays Winter League Recap: Brandon Allen Drills 2 Homers
By Robbie Knopf
Brandon Allen has plenty of power–people throughout baseball are well aware of that. His issue has always been harnessing it consistently, but when he does, it can be something to watch. Allen was at his best as he led the Caribes de Anzoátegui to a blowout victory.
Arizona Fall League: Glendale Desert Dogs 10, Peoria Javelinas 1
Justin O’Conner, Patrick Leonard, and Kes Carter all appeared for Peoria, but they went a combined 0 for 9 for 5 strikeouts. Matt Lollis did toss a solid relief inning, allowing a hit but striking out 1.
Salt River Rafters 9, Surprise Saguaros 2
This was Luke Maile‘s one game a week for Surprise and he proceeded to go 0 for 3 at the plate and 1 for 4 catching attempting attempted basestealers. It is awfully tough playing just once a week, but Maile is doing a nice job dealing with it and taking everything in stride.
Reid Redman appeared for Salt River, tossing a perfect inning. He now has 6 shutout innings across 5 appearances, allowing 1 hit and no walks while striking out 4. That it is a nice way to start a season, and it will be interesting to see whether Redman can keep it up.
Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 2, Leones del Escogido 1
Merrill Kelly‘s Winter Ball debut for the Leones got off to a great start. He retired the first seven batters he faced and had allowed just 1 hit through 3 innings. However, everything unraveled for him in the fourth inning as he allowed a double, a walk, another double, and a single before departing with just one out. Overall, Kelly went 3.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1 and forcing a 3-0 groundout to flyout ratio.
Kelly’s start had a disappointing end, but he has a nice opportunity here for Escogido. He has a chance to catch the eyes of the Rays and other teams after he was stuck as a swingman in Durham behind a prospect laden-rotation, and he also can continue building up his innings. Kelly tossed 158.1 innings in 2013 but fell to just 114 this season. That gives him a chance to throw quite a few innings this winter if his performance warrants it, and he has to hope that scouts will be watching closely.
The last hit Kelly allowed was an RBI single by Manny Ramirez, who went 1 for 4. Matt Ramsey, meanwhile, recorded the save for the Aguilas, allowing an unearned run on 1 hit in 0.2 innings of work.
Estrellas de Oriente 11, Tigres del Licey 1
This may have been a lopsided loss for the Tigres, but it was a notable game nonetheless as Tampa Bay Rays top prospect Willy Adames made his debut for the team. Adames, who just turned 19, went 1 for 3 as the Tigres’ shortstop and ninth-place hitter.
Braulio Lara certainly had a game that he would like to forget for Licey, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) in 0.2 innings pitched, while Matt Fields went 0 for 4 with an RBI for Oriente.
Gigantes del Cibao 4, Toros del Este 1 (10 innings)
Four different Rays-related players appeared in this one, and all of them made their impact in either the ninth inning or the tenth. It began with Jhonny Nunez tossing a perfect ninth for Cibao with 2 strikeouts to send this game into extras. Then, with 1 out and the go-ahead run already in for Cibao, Bruedlin Suero and allowed a two-run double to Wilson Betemit to ice the game. It can’t be much of a surprise that the 2014 Durham Bull beat the 2014 Hot Rod/Stone Crab. Finally, Ramon Ramirez recorded the save for Cibao with another spotless frame with 2 strikeouts.
Betemit went 2 for 5 overall in the game while Ramirez and Nunez have now allowed just 2 baserunners in their four combined innings of work. The Gigantes are hoping that they have found a late-inning tandem that can take them places.
Venados de Mazatlán 7, Yaquis de Obregón 6 (14 innings)
This game started with one Rays-related player on the mound and ended with another leaving the rubber. Neither liked his results.
Sergio Espinosa‘s second start was not nearly as much of a hit as his first as he went 2.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out none while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 5-1 and he did allow 3 groundball hits, so it is not as though there is reason for serious concern. In Kelly-esque fashion, he faced the minimum 6 through 2 innings before 3 straight groundball hits were the beginning of the end of his outing.
At the end of this game, Ariel Gracia was pitching for the Yaquis and forced one groundout and intentionally walked a batter before giving up a walk-off groundball single. The pity about extra innings is that running out of pitchers forces you to bring in less experienced guys, but every inning still has so much on the line. The Yaquis didn’t really have a choice, but that was a tough spot for a pitcher coming off a season in the Dominican Summer League.
In between the beginning and the end, Olmo Rosario and Armando Araiza had their moments for Mazatlán and Obregón respectively. Rosario had a monster game, going 4 for 7 with a homer, a double, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He now has a 6-game hitting streak and a .342/.375/.579 line on the season.
Araiza, meanwhile, went 0 for 1 after entering as a defensive replacement, but his defense certainly stood out as he threw out the only runners who attempted to steal against him. He threw out 58% of attempted basestealers at Bowling Green this season, and all the indications are that his defense is for real.
Tomateros de Culiacán 3, Aguilas de Mexicali 2
Edgar Gomez continues to look sharp for the Aguilas, quite a feat for a pitcher that has yet to pitch at full-season ball. In this game, he went 1.2 shutout innings allowing a hit and a walk but striking out 1 and getting 3 outs on the ground. He now has tossed 6 innings on the season allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. Is Gomez preparing for a breakout season next year at Bowling Green?
Mike Jacobs went 0 for 3 with a walk for the Aguilas while Ali Solis went 0 for 3 for Culiacán.
Mayos de Navojoa 6, Charros de Jalisco 1
Make it 4 home runs for 36 year old Jon Weber now after he drilled a 2-run shot in the third inning of this game. In vintage fashion, the only player with as many homers in the Mexican Pacific League, Sebastian Elizalde, has yet to turn 23. In an interesting twist, Weber had already made his professional debut in the Cincinnati Reds organization when Elizalde was 7 years old, and the Reds are actually the organization that Elizalde is a part of now. In any event, Weber now has a .350/.395/.725 line on the season and is doing his best to make people wonder what he could have been in the major leagues.
Venezuelan Winter League: Caribes de Anzoátegui 13, Bravos de Margarita 3
This game began with the wrong type of fireworks as Taylor Motter was ejected in the first inning after arguing a strikeout. Luckily, the performance of Brandon Allen gives us plenty else to talk about.
Allen went 2 for 4 with 2 homers, 5 RBI, and a walk to top it off to lead the way for the Caribes. Don’t tell anyone, but those were actually Allen’s first two homers of the season! Allen still has strong numbers overall, though, managing a .306/.444/.528 line. He actually has 8 walks against 9 strikeouts and that (along with the lack of power prior to this game) speaks quite a bit to the adjustments Allen has made in an attempt to return to the major leagues. The last two years, he has played for the Triple-A affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets, managing just 30 combined home runs but also showing a 156-113 strikeout to walk ratio.
Tomas Perez had a great game ahead of Allen in the spot ahead of him in the Anzoátegui order, going 2 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored. Perez is still hitting .441 through 9 games thanks to an 8-game hitting streak and multi-hit games in 6 of the 8 contests. We also need to keep reiterating that this former Devil Ray is 41 years old!