Dylan Floro has one thing missing from his game that lowers his probability of being a successful big league starting pitcher: his inability to strike out hitters. Floro has just 6.0 strikeouts per 9 innings in his professional career, a ratio that dropped to 5.7 at Double-A and 4.7 so far this season at Triple-A Durham. Yet in a season where their starting depth has come apart, the Tampa Bay Rays just might have to see if Floro can defy the odds. After all, he has been Durham’s best starter so far.
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Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 3, Durham Bulls 2
Taylor Motter now has 3 errors in just 2 games at third base for the Bulls, and his latest one led to Dylan Floro’s only bad inning. In the fifth, Floro issued a leadoff walk before Motter’s error gave the Tides two runners on with nobody out. Henry Urrutia‘s double narrowed the Bulls’ lead to 2-1 before Floro got right back to work, forcing two groundouts. However, the second groundout scored a run before a bloop single by Julio Borbon scored another. Before we knew it, the Tides had taken a 3-2 lead.
Floro retired the first nine batters he faced in the game and also faced the minimum nine in the final three innings of his outing. Unfortunately, his one poor frame was enough for him to take the loss, but we can describe that as nothing more than bad luck. Floro was outstanding, going 8 innings allowing just 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 11-7, and half the hits he allowed came on the ground as well.
Floro tossed an insane 178.1 innings in 2014 at Double-A and is ready to throw 200 this year. Especially given that Floro will need to be added to the 40-man roster following the season, some of those innings will almost surely come for the Tampa Bay Rays at some point this year, in September if not earlier. The Rays would love if Floro could turn his slider or changeup into a true put-away pitch, but if not, his sinker, command, and deception may be enough nonetheless.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 2, Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 0
Drew Smyly‘s rehab start could have been a little better. He threw 68 pitches as he lasted 3.2 innings allowing just a hit but also 3 walks, striking 4 in the process. His groundout to flyout ratio was 4-1. Smyly’s command was off–especially given that he was facing Double-A hitters–but at the same time, statistics in rehab starts mean little and the Rays certainly trust Smyly. If he is healthy, will they really let Matt Andriese make his next start?
Given that Andriese isn’t as much of a concern as Erasmo Ramirez, though, there is a pretty decent chance that Andriese gets another start. Unless the Rays have Alex Colome toss a short outing in his rehab start tomorrow, he won’t be available to start again until April 26th–the spots of Andriese and Ramirez next come up on the 24th and 25th. In any event, this whole discussion deserves its own piece, and I probably shouldn’t hijack this minor league recap.
Bradin Hagens followed Smyly by going 4 shutout innings allowing 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He forced 4 groundouts against 2 flyouts as he improved his ERA on the season to an outstanding 0.73 and earned his first win of the year. Jhan Marinez allowed just a walk in 1.1 innings while striking out 2 as he finished the shutout. He prevented the two runners he inherited from Hagens to score in the eighth before he wrapped up the save in the ninth.
On the offensive side, meanwhile, Justin O’Conner drilled his third homer of the year to cap a 1-for-3 day with a hit-by-pitch that finally gets his OBP above his average. His power has been great, but we can’t like his 12 strikeouts without a walk in 32 plate appearances. Daniel Robertson went 2 for 4 with the other Biscuits RBI while Kes Carter went 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored and Boog Powell went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Palm Beach Cardinals 6
The Stone Crabs roared back in this game with 6 runs in the eighth inning, with Braxton Lee delivering the go-ahead 2-run single. He finished the game 2 for 4 to place him among the many heroes at the plate for Charlotte. Jake Bauers delivered a 2-run triple, Andrew Velazquez went 3 for 5 with 2 runs scored, Kean Wong went 2 for 4 with a stolen base, and Marty Gantt and Armando Araiza contributed an RBI each.
Velazquez has one of the more bizarre lines in the system: .333/.360/.354. He is racking up the hits, but with no extra-base power and plate discipline to along with poor defense. It’s pretty incredible given all of that, though, that he has 9 runs scored in 11 games. How many will he get when he actually gets his entire game together?
On the pitching side, German Marquez allowed 4 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings, but he didn’t provide plenty of reason for encouragement nonetheless. He struck out 6 while walking none and also forced a 4-2 groundout to flyout ratio. It is hard to believe that he will struggle the next time he delivers those two stat lines. After Jeff Ames allowed 2 runs in 2 relief innings, Nick Sawyer went 0.2 innings allowing a hit and striking out 1 before Brad Schreiber struck out 4 of the 5 batters he faced for the save.