The Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t find a spot for Taylor Motter on their 40-man roster last offseason, but they were excited when he went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft. After all, he had steadily worked his way through the minor leagues and added power to his solid all-around set of skills in 2014. Motter showed off some of things he is capable of on Friday as he was nearly their entire offense in their loss to Norfolk.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 9, Durham Bulls 4
This game probably should have turned into a Durham win, but Jim Patterson and Jim Miller allowed 4 runs each in relief to erase a 3-1 Bulls lead after 6 innings. Instead, we are going to have to settle for discussing what Taylor Motter did in the loss. Motter went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles, a homer, and 3 RBI as he was involved in every Durham run but one.
The frustrating thing for Motter is that his power is inversely proportional to his plate discipline. Even after this game, he still has just a .200 average and a .265 on-base percentage on the season as he has struck out 9 times while walking just twice. He also posted a 71-34 strikeout to walk ratio in 2014 after he had been at 120-108 the previous three years. The fact that Motter has faced better competition each year is a confounding variable, but no matter the true story is, Motter’s plate discipline reminds us that his realistic upside is still a bench player.
Jake Elmore went 1 for 4 with a walk for Durham in the game and is hitting .355 to start the year. If Motter had never hit for power, he could be a similar player to Elmore–good versatility, glove wherever you put him, and plate discipline, but little power. However, Elmore has never stuck in the big leagues because his profile rarely works on baseball’s highest stage. Now Motter has found a different one and it will help him. That is exciting and now we just have to say that it’s alright that he won’t be a regular.
To wrap up the notable performances by position players, Eugenio Velez went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an outfield assist while Alexi Casilla had a nice game, going 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Then, off the mound, Andrew Bellatti had a strong (albeit short) start, going 4 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. Andy Oliver and Brandon Gomes also tossed scoreless innings for Durham, with Oliver’s coming in his Bulls debut.
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Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 2
Tyler Goeddel homered on Thursday and was at it again yesterday, going 2 for 3 with a homer and 2 RBI. We have seen Goeddel get off to some hot starts only to cool off in dramatic fashion, but there is a ton to like about what he’s doing right now. He is looking comfortable in the outfield and now has a .333/.407/.583 line on the season with a solid 8-3 strikeout to walk ratio. The Rays still think that he can become a top 100 prospect in baseball, and let’s see if he can get there.
On the pitching side, Jared Mortensen looked incredible, going 6 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He also forced a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Mortensen will turn 27 in June, but the Rays have shown remarkable patience with older prospects and they will continue giving him a chance to become an impact big league player. It is easy to say that when he has a 0.75 ERA and a 13-2 strikeout to walk ratio across 12 innings in his first two starts.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 10, Palm Beach Cardinals 4
Several of the top prospects in the Charlotte lineup needed big games, and they got them in this contest. Willy Adames went 3 for 4 with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored, Juniel Querecuto went 3 for 5 with a triple and 2 RBI, Kean Wong went 2 for 5 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and Jake Bauers went 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Joey Rickard also had a 3-run triple for Charlotte while Yoel Araujo and Braxton Lee added multi-hit games.
Even after the game, Wong is hitting just .179 and Bauers is at only .192. They are two of the best pure hitters in the system, but High-A has not treated them well so far. However, their plate discipline has always been fine–Bauers’ strikeout to walk ratio is now at 5-5 while Wong’s is at 5-4– and now the hits are finally falling. One win is the nice, but the Stone Crabs have to hope that this will start a protracted run for their offense.
Christopher Kirsch also delivered a nice start for Charlotte, going 6 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. He now has a 1.69 ERA through his first two outings, albeit with a 7-5 strikeout to walk ratio.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 4, Dayton Dragons (CIN) 3
The Hot Rods pulled off a nice comeback in this game, scoring a run each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings to overcome a 3-1 deficit. They were still in the game because Hyrum Formo was hit around a little bit but managed to escape some jams, going 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 10 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. Then Edgar Gomez was incredible in relief, tossing 3 perfect innings with 3 strikeouts as the Bowling Green offense got going.
The three runs actually scored in an amazingly unexciting fashion: on a sac fly, on a fielder’s choice, and on an error. Still, several Hot Rods had great games. Thomas Milone went 3 for 5 with a double, 2 RBI, and an outfield assist, Bralin Jackson went 2 for 3 with 2 doubles and a walk, Jace Conrad had 2 RBI, and Grant Kay went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Jackson has followed up his breakout 2014 by hitting .310 to begin this year.