Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Tommy Coyle Named ABL All-Star
By Robbie Knopf
There were only a few games in the Winter Leagues last night, so this piece will be a combination of news and a couple of recaps.
The Australian Baseball League All-Star Game is tomorrow, December 17th, in Melbourne, and three Rays prospects will be participating. Tommy Coyle has been incredible so far for the Brisbane Bandits, hitting to a .359/.434/.576 line with 7 doubles, 3 homers, 14 RBI, and 7 stolen bases in 24 games. His .359 average leads the league. Coyle has delivered quite a performance on the heels of a disappointing year at High-A, and he will do his best to ensure that Double-A is a different story.
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Johnny Field hasn’t quite lived up to his teammate’s standard, but the Rays’ 2014 Minor League Player of the Year was certainly going to be a part of the All-Star Game. Field has hit to a .275/.376/.516 line with 4 doubles, 6 homers, 12 RBI, and 7 steals in 24 contests. His 6 homers are tied for third in the ABL with, among others, fellow Rays farmhand Granden Goetzman. After Field managed an .864 OPS in his breakout 2014, he has actually upped that to .893 in Australia.
Finally, Maxx Tissenbaum headed to the Bandits for additional catching reps but has done plenty with the bat as well. In 20 games, he has a .328/.416/.507 line with 3 doubles, 3 homers, and 13 RBI. He has even walked 8 times against just 5 strikeouts. Defensively, meanwhile, Tissenbaum has thrown out 26.5% of attempted basestealers, just below the league average of 32.3%, and has allowed just 2 passed balls. The lack of passed balls may be the biggest deal of all after he allowed 17 in just 36 regular season games at catcher in 2014.
Congrats to Tommy Coyle, Johnny Field, and Maxx Tissenbaum on making the ABL All-Star Game, and hopefully they can finish strong in the second half and return home with even more momentum.
In more mixed news, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that Durham Bulls right-hander Merrill Kelly and ex-Rays prospect Jason Pridie have signed with the SK Wyverns in Korea. Pridie heading there makes sense–he’s only played in a few big league games the last three years–but it’s unfortunate that Korea wound up being the best option for Kelly despite his 2.76 ERA at Triple-A last season.
Starting games was not in the wings for Kelly with the Tampa Bay Rays because the team just has too much starting depth. It is telling that despite Kelly’s strong results, the Bulls actually had to move him into their bullpen after Alex Colome returned from his suspension. Now Kelly will hope to impress in a year or two in Korea to the point where big league teams will be interested when he returns. The good news for Kelly is that he will be getting a bump from his Triple-A salary, and if he pitches well, everything else will work out.
Now, to the games.
Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 10, Tomateros de Culiacán 6
The Mayos went 6 for 11 with runners in scoring position in their win, and Jon Weber had one of the big hits, a two-run single to start the scoring. Weber went 1 for 4 with a walk, those 2 RBI, and a run scored in the game, extending his hitting streak to 5 in the process.
For the Tomateros, meanwhile, Russell Branyan was finally able to make something happen after three straight 0-for-4 games, going 1 for 4 with a solo homer and a walk. The blast was his first of the season, and Culiacán has to be hoping that many more are on the way.
Venezuelan Winter League: Tiburones de La Guaira 7, Aguilas del Zulia 4 (11 innings)
Speaking of Pridie, he had a solid game for Zulia, going 1 for 4 with 2 walks. However, he was overshadowed by several of the other Rays-related players in this game.
Ray Olmedo also played well for the Aguilas, going 3 for 6 with 2 runs scored, but the players we’ll talk about from the La Guaira side were just a little better. Alex Cabrera went 3 for 4 with a walk and an RBI, Cesar Suarez went 2 for 4 with a walk, and Miguel Rojas went 1 for 4.
We keep talking about Rojas because he was kind of a Rays prospect in 2007, when he played for the Venezuelan Summer League affiliate shared by the Rays and the Cincinnati Reds. Ironically enough, he actually made it onto Andrew Friedman’s 40-man roster with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but then Friedman included him in the Dee Gordon trade and now he’s on the Miami Marlins.