Rays Prospects

Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Good Luck Stopping Taylor Motter

By Robbie Knopf
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Count Taylor Motter among the prospects that will not passively sit to see what happens as the Tampa Bay Rays decide on their 40-man roster additions prior to the Rule 5 Draft. Motter is making the case that he has the ability to be an impact player in the major leagues, and if the Rays don’t value him enough, he hopes that another team will be sufficiently impressed to give him a chance.

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Arizona Fall League: Mesa Solar Sox 6, Peoria Javelinas 5 (10 innings)

If you want a definition of effectively wild, it was Jaime Schultz on Wednesday night. He went 4 innings in his start and was all over the place, walking 5 batters and hitting 2 more. He didn’t even record a strikeout. However, he held the Solar Sox to just 1 hit and 1 run to depart with a 2-1 lead. When he was around the plate, he forced weak contact, and that was enough to keep his team in the game. This obviously is not what Schultz hopes to do in any outing, but it’s nice for him that it worked out well here.

Patrick Leonard went 0 for 4 for the Javelinas but did encouragingly draw 2 walks while Kes Carter went 0 for 4 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Leonard has reached base in his last 7 games, but he has just 1 hit in his last 6 contests. His plate discipline has been excellent, but hopefully the hits can start to fall as well.

Dominican Winter League: Estrellas de Oriente 4, Leones del Escogido 1

Make it 3 homers in 3 games for Matt Fields. The slugging first baseman went 1 for 4 with a solo shot as he continued to tap into the power that helped him to 28 regular-season home runs. Jordan Pacheco, meanwhile, went 0 for 4 for Escogido. That’s it for the players we have discussed before, but we actually have a new face.

Right-hander Julio DePaula did not have his best appearance for Escogido in this game, going an inning allowing 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 1. Luckily for him, such an appearance has been rare for him as he now has a 1.59 ERA through 11.1 innings pitched. DePaula made the major leagues for the Minnesota Twins in 2007, but his struggles eventually led him to signing a minor league deal with the Rays for 2009. While DePaula did manage a 3.48 ERA for the Durham Bulls, but a 57-40 strikeout to walk ratio in 79 innings pitched left him ticketed for Korea.

DePaula spent 2010 to 2013 splitting time between Korea, Mexico, and Independent ball in the US, and he began 2014 the same way playing for the York Revolution. However, before long the Orioles came calling, and he actually made 21 appearances for their Double-A affiliate. DePaula is 31 years old and did have a 4.97 ERA in affiliated ball, but there is still a chance that we have not seen the last of him yet.

Tigres del Licey 7, Gigantes del Cibao 5

Jose Ruiz was a solid contributor to the win for Licey, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Braulio Lara also made an appearance for the Tigres, retiring both batters he faced. Lara has allowed just a walk across 2 innings in his last 2 appearances, but struggles before that has his ERA at 10.13 on the season. Lara’s stuff is electric, but his inconsistency continues. Wilson Betemit went 0 for 1 with 2 walks in the loss for Cibao.

Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 3, Venados de Mazatlán 2

Apparently nobody gave Jon Weber the memo that he’s about to turn 37 years old. Weber capped a 2 for 4 day with a 2-run homer in the 5th that gave the Mayos the 3-2 lead that wound up being their winning margin. He now has a 4-game hitting streak and 3 homers in his last 6 games. His 7 homers on the year are tied for second in the Mexican Pacific League.

Olmo Rosario went 0 for 4 in the loss for Mazatlán.

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Indios de Mayaguez 11, Gigantes de Carolina 9

The Rays-related players on offense had a nice day, but the score hints at the fact that their pitching counterpart did not see similar results. Cameron Seitzer had an excellent game, going 1 for 2 with a walk and 2 runs scored, and Jesus Feliciano went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI. Unfortunately, Jimmy Patterson allowed 4 runs in 1.2 innings pitched (albeit with 2 of them being from inherited runners) to take the loss.

Venezuelan Winter League: Cardenales de Lara 11, Caribes de Anzoátegui 1

The hitters for Anzoátegui had quite a forgettable day. The ex-Rays minor leaguers in their lineup were no exception, with Jesus Flores going 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI but both Brandon Allen and Tomas Perez going 0 for 3 with a walk. On the pitching side, it was another relevant player who managed to end the game on a high note.

Joice Linares never did much in the Rays system as he pitched all his games between the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues in 2008 and 2009. However, the 5’10” lefty flashed some potential in his Caribes debut, finishing the game with 2 shutout innings, working around a hit and a walk while striking out 2.

Aguilas del Zulia 8, Leones del Caracas 3

It was with the Aguilas that Alex Torres recaptured his control on his way to a big rookie year in the Rays’ bullpen in 2013. Now Torres is back with Zulia hoping to continue improving his control after walks plagued him in his first season for the San Diego Padres. Torres did toss 2.1 scoreless innings in his season debut, but walks continue to be a problem for him as allowed 2 free passes while striking out 1.

Albert Suarez hopes to follow Torres’ example and break out in the Venezuelan Winter League, but outings like this have been the bane of his existence. He lasted just 2.1 innings for the Leones allowing 5 runs, 4 earned, on 8 hits, striking out 1 while walking 1. In his defense, half of the hits did come on groundballs (including a groundball triple), but this was Suarez’s second disaster start in his last three tries.

Daniel Mayora did have a solid game for Caracas in the loss, going 2 for 4 with an RBI, and Henry Rodriguez went 1 for 4 with a run scored.

Tiburones de La Guaira 4, Navegantes del Magallanes 3

Alex Cabrera is a baseball legend of sorts as his 55 home runs in Japan in 2002 was tied for the single-season record there until Wladimir Balentien broke it in 2013. Well, his legend continues. Cabrera, now 43, isn’t quite hitting the way he did when he won the triple crown in the VWL in 2013, hitting to a .391/.480/.744 line with 21 homers and 59 RBI. However, fading is relative when you’re as accomplished a hitter as he is.

In this game, Cabrera hit 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI, delivering his third straight multi-hit game. His “slowing down” is hitting to a .271/.330/.518 line. Will this guy ever stop?

Cesar Suarez also had a good game, going 2 for 4 with a triple. Another player we can discuss is Miguel Rojas, a 25 year old shortstop who was on the Venezuelan Summer League affiliate shared by the Rays and the Cincinnati Reds back in 2007. He went 1 for 3 in this game to raise his average to .257 on the VWL season. Rojas didn’t hit at all but showed spectacular defense in his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014, and he’ll hope to add hitting to his repertoire this offseason.

Bravos de Margarita 5, Tigres de Aragua 2

Taylor Motter couldn’t homer for the third straight game, but that doesn’t mean that he cooled off. He went 2 for 3 with 2 walks and a run scored, and he’s now an insane 6 for his last 12 with 3 homers, 4 RBI, and a pair of walks. A few great games won’t sway the Rays’ decision about whether to protect him on their 40-man roster or not, but Motter has everyone’s attention now and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Omar Bencomo allowed a run on 3 hits in 2 innings for the Bravos, striking out 2 while walking none. Matt Nevarez appeared later in the game in a setup capacity and worked around a hit with 2 strikeouts in a scoreless frame. And for Aragua, Hector Gimenez went 1 for 4 with a double, a walk, and an RBI.

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