Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Injury Sidelines Jake Thompson
By Robbie Knopf
Winter Ball can have so many benefits, but injury is the greatest risk involved. After Jake Thompson left his start with the Tiburones de La Guaira with rotator cuff inflammation, his stint with the team is likely over and the Tampa Bay Rays have to hope that he won’t miss any regular-season time.
Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 6, Salt River Rafters 3
Jaime Schultz still has not delivered a great start for the Javelinas, but this one was encouraging. Working with Justin O’Conner, Schultz went 4.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. Three straight hits and (eventually) two runs ended Schultz’s outing, but it was his first time completing four innings and he rebounded well from 6 walks in his previous outing.
Schultz’s stuff has always been electric, but command is a concern as he moves up the ladder. It is nice for the Rays to have Schultz facing advanced competition so early on in his career, and they are hoping that he will continue adjusting as the fall progresses.
O’Conner went 1 for 5 in the game and threw out 1 of 2 runners attempting to steal.
Dominican Winter League: Gigantes del Cibao 9, Leones del Escogido 4
Wilson Betemit drilled a 2-run single in the first inning to start a 20-hit offensive outburst for Cibao and two other former Rays minor leaguers mades sure their lead didn’t slip away. Betemit wound up going 2 for 5 with a double, a walk, those 2 RBI, and a run scored before Jhonny Nunez and Ramon Ramirez appeared later in the game. Nunez worked around a hit with a strikeout in a scoreless 7th inning before Ramirez tossed a perfect frame with a K to finish the game.
Jordan Pacheco, getting a game in at catcher for Escogido, went 1 for 5 with a run scored, allowed 2 passed balls, and caught 1 of 4 runners attempting to steal.
Aguilas Cibaenas 8, Estrellas de Oriente 3
Matt Fields provided a little bit too much of the Oriente offense in this one, going 2 for 4 with an RBI. Entering the game, his stats through 6 games were a pretty good approximation of his Triple-A stats from this year–he had a .261/.320/.609 line compared to his .262/.326/.514 line at Omaha. Once his power comes down to earth, he could get even closer to that.
For Cibaenas, Manny Ramirez went 1 for 4 with an RBI while Cesar Cabral worked around a walk to toss a scoreless inning, forcing a pair of groundouts.
Mexican Pacific League: Charros de Jalisco 3, Aguilas de Mexicali 1
Just two days after recording his first win for the Aguilas, Edgar Gomez took his first loss. But not everything was bad. Mexicali trusted Gomez in a 1-1 game in the 8th inning, and after allowing a single and a sac bunt, he recorded a strikeout and was out away from escaping the inning unscathed. Of course, then the Aguilas changed their minds and brought in someone else, and two runs scored before the inning was through. It was Gomez’s loss, but it was only half his fault at most and maybe Mexicali will consider keeping him in longer next time.
Mike Jacobs went 0 for 4 in the loss for the Aguilas.
Venezuelan Winter League: Tiburones de La Guaira 8, Tigres de Aragua 4
We’ll start the VWL section with the bad news before finishing on a more positive note.
Jake Thompson started for La Guaira and was doing fine, going 1.1 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits. He had struck out 2 and gotten his other 2 outs on the ground. However, an injury removed him from the game right there in the second inning, and the diagnosis eventually came in: rotation cuff inflammation. It wasn’t a tear, luckily, but it has to be frustrating for Thompson to see injury strike right as he was hitting his stride for La Guaira.
While injuries are a major reason why many pitchers with great stuff never reach their potential, that really has not been the case for Thompson. Until now, he has missed almost no time with injury in his professional career, and his biggest issue has been commanding his pitches well enough to miss bats. Unfortunately, now injury is another obstacle standing in his way, and hopefully Thompson will be fine in a few weeks.
Hector Gimenez went 1 for 4 for Aragua while Cesar Suarez went 0 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Tiburones.
Caribes de Anzoátegui 7, Cardenales de Lara 6 (10 innings)
Brandon Allen has to among the scariest hitters to face in the Venezuelan Winter League right now, and he got some help from his fellow ex-Rays in this one.
Allen now has 4 homers in 4 games after he drilled a homer in the 8th inning to bring the Caribes within a run. Overall in the game, he went 2 for 4 with that homer and a walk, and his numbers on the season are getting ludicrous. He’s hitting only .340–we’ve been covering a couple of other guys at .400 or above–but he now has a .475 OBP and a .660 slugging percentage through 13 games. He has paired power (4 homers, 3 doubles) with an 11-11 strikeout to walk ratio as he has delivered some of the best baseball of his life.
Speaking of the other former Rays, it was actually Jesus Flores that finished the job in that 8th inning, drilling an RBI double to tie the game and eventually send it into extras. Tomas Perez, meanwhile, drew a walk to begin the 10th inning, and the runner who pinch-ran for him wound up scoring the tying run in the game before Anzoátegui won moments later. Obviously Allen is head and shoulders above the rest, but what a game for these three!
Aguilas del Zulia 5, Leones del Caracas 1
Among the players we have talked about before, Henry Rodriguez went 2 for 4 with a walk–he’s hitting .426–while Daniel Mayora had a rough game. He went 0 for 3 with a hit-by-pitch, a caught stealing, and an error at third base. But let’s talk about a player we have not mentioned before, one I probably would not have picked up in if not for Baseball America’s Prospect Report.
Sergio Perez never played a game in the Rays organization, but Baseball America mentioned him among the Rays prospects, so of course I looked him up. As it turns out, the Rays signed him in March of this year before releasing him before the month was through. If it wasn’t clear, I find nearly all of the players in the Winter Leagues with Rays connections through my own efforts, but this is a case where I owe Baseball America.
Speaking of Perez, he was excellent for Zulia in this game, going 6 shutout innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 3. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 8-2. Perez, who attended the University of Tampa and was formerly an interesting prospect for the Houston Astros, wound up with the Independent Long Island Ducks after the Rays released but showed control problems as he worked in relief. Perez now has 16 shutout innings as he hopes to get another big league offer–but his strikeout to walk ratio is just 8-7.