Hi, my name is Robby Killette. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with sports. Baseball has always been my passion–I played it for nine years when I was younger and have been watching the Tampa Bay Rays since the days of Lou Piniella. I was the sports editor and editor-in-chief for my high school newspaper, and I look forward to continuing my journalism career with Rays Colored Glasses.
Already a few games into the minor league season, we’ll finish up our look at the Tampa Bay Rays affiliate teams and see who the top prospects are in the farm system. We already analyzed the Durham Bulls and the Montgomery Biscuits last week and now we’ll delve into the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
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Out of all of these young pitchers, Blake Snell is the one that stands out in the bunch. The 22 year-old was a first round pick by the Rays in 2011 and posted a 3.96 ERA in Charlotte after moving up in late May of last year. He stands out for an electric sinker-slider-changeup combination, and he managed to strike out 9.3 batters per 9 innings in 2014 while cutting his walk rate to 4.4 per 9. He is one of the top pitching prospects in the Rays system and may not be with the Stone Crabs for long.
Behind Snell, Stanek and Marquez and the pitchers that stand out the most in terms of stuff. Both can hit the mid-90’s with a promising breaking ball, a slider in the case of Stanek and a curveball in the case of Marquez. Faria and Kirsch, meanwhile, put up strong ERAs at Low-A Bowling Green last year and will hope to continue that despite less impressive arsenals.
There are a pair of 40th rounders in this group, but both of them are actually interesting. Sawyer returns to the Stone Crabs with his control issues hopefully in the past. He has the fastball-slider combination to zoom through the system if he throws strikes. Schreiber, meanwhile, pitched to a 3.57 ERA and an impressive 10.9 K/9 for Bowling Green last season.
We can honestly say that there is promise throughout this bullpen as Borden, Gil, and Ames have all sit in the mid-90’s in the past. Kimborowicz and McCalvin, meanwhile, throw in the low-90’s, but with good deception and sliders. A-ball relievers come with plenty of risk, but there is a pretty good chance that at least one or two of these guys will end up in the big leagues for the Rays.
Araiza, although never having been a good hitter, continues to get chances because of his spectacular defense. Last season, Araiza threw out 39 out of 67 runners who attempted to steal against him, and his receiving also draws rave reviews. The Rays are still hoping that his offense improves enough for him to become a big league backup.
Tissenbaum’s situation in the field is interesting as he played exclusively catcher and DH last season after playing mostly second base and shortstop beforehand. Tissenbaum has been solid at catcher, throwing out 43% of batters that have tried to run on him, and also possesses decent upside at the plate. Marjama, meanwhile, is a depth piece that could see a bigger role if Tissenbaum earns a promotion to Double-A.
Adames, just 19, is probably the best known and most important name on the Stone Crabs’ roster after the Rays acquired him in the David Price trade. Adames is expected to be a future starter in the Rays middle infield along with Montgomery Biscuits shortstop Daniel Robertson. Adames combines bat speed and power potential with an advanced approach for such a young player, and he will hope to make the defensive strides necessary for him to stick at shortstop.
Bauers is another name that stands out on this list after he was a piece of the return in the Wil Myers trade. Bauers draws James Loney comp with his excellent plate discipline, ability to make contact, and defense. Velazquez and Wong are two other standout players on this team, with Velazquez’s athleticism and Wong’s pure hitting ranking among the best in the system.
There isn’t much happening in this Charlotte outfield with Andrew Toles released and Boog Powell at Double-A. Rickard played at Double-A last season, but wound up in Charlotte for this year after he experienced poor results. He will hope to combine his speed and plate approach with more hard contact to get his career back on track.
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The others have assorted things that are interesting about them. Araujo shines for his raw power, although he has never been able to tap into enough. Gantt has managed to get to this point despite a deformed hand, and it will be quick a story if he makes the major leagues. Finally, Lee was promoted straight from Short Season-A to Charlotte, and if he succeeds, he could make his way onto the prospect map.
Overall, the bright spots on the team are guys like Adames, Snell, Velazquez, and Bauers, but they are far from alone. At least three or four other players will eventually get the call up they’ve been dreaming of their whole lives and get a chance to make an impact for our Rays in the future. The depth that the Stone Crabs have in their bullpen and infield is extremely impressive, and there will be a variety of guys to watch as the season progresses.