In 2014, it took Tommy Coyle 39 games to reach two home runs. This year, it only took 10. Coyle has managed a few power streaks in his professional career so this may mean nothing, but since he a player who rarely delivered extra-base hits last season, Coyle’s performance prompts a little more optimism than would usually be the case. He entered last offseason with his prospect light dimming, but he is doing everything he can to ensure that it doesn’t go out.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 4, Charlotte Knights (CHW) 2
We can say that Alex Colome got his pitch count up in his appearance for the Bulls, but not exactly in the way that he had in mind. He needed 77 pitches to get through 3.1 innings, a total that he hoped would get him through 4 or 5 frames. At least his results were fine as he allowed 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3 and forcing a 3-0 groundout to flyout ratio. We will have to see if the Tampa Bay Rays recall him on April 26th nonetheless or give him another rehab start.
After Jim Patterson tossed 2.2 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1, Kirby Yates, Bryce Stowell, and Jim Miller tossed a scoreless frame each. On the offensive side, meanwhile, the prospects did nothing but several veterans had nice games. Eugenio Velez drilled a solo homer, Joey Butler went 3 for 4 with a triple, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, J.P. Arencibia went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, and Jake Elmore went 2 for 4.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 5, Mobile BayBears (ARI) 1
If you knew the players on the Biscuits but hadn’t heard about any games, an interesting exercise would be to show you everyone’s statistics and see if you could match them with the correct prospects. It would be extremely difficult, especially in the case of Tommy Coyle. Last season, Coyle hit to a .249/.331/.345 line to go along with a 97-52 strikeout to walk ratio. He wasn’t hitting the ball with much authority, but his plate discipline remains excellent. To begin this year, everything has changed.
Coyle drilled his second homer in three games for the Biscuits in this contest, going 2 for 4 with that homer, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. His line now stands at .282/.300/.564 to go along with 3 doubles, a triple, 2 homers, and 5 RBI. He managed just 26 extra-base hits in 525 plate appearances last year, but he’s currently on pace for 79. Obviously he won’t get there, but that’s not the point. To go along with his power, though, Coyle has now struck out 9 times while walking just once.
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For the most ardent Tampa Bay Rays prospect watchers, Coyle’s start might remind you of Taylor Motter‘s 2014 season. Coyle entered 2015 with 16 professional home runs, but Motter managed just 13. Everything changed once the season began, though, as Motter drilled 16 homers for the Biscuits. Can Coyle do the same? He may have a chance to do so, but even if he does, it will mean nothing unless he finds plate discipline to pair with his newfound power. Motter put up a 71-34 strikeout to walk ratio last year that Coyle will look to emulate.
Richie Shaffer also delivered a nice game for Montgomery, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a solo homer. Shaffer has looked decent to begin the year, but Tyler Goeddel has been unstoppable. Goeddel went 2 for 3 with a run scored, giving him a 10-game hitting streak and a .421/.511/.684 line with 2 homers, 2 triples, and 11 RBI. He even has a reasonable 11-6 strikeout to walk ratio in his 45 plate appearances. It’s always dangerous to read too much into a hot start, but Goeddel couldn’t be playing any better.
Jake DePew isn’t really a prospect at this point, but he had a huge game by his standards and I should probably discuss it because he might not have another one for a long time. He went 2 for 4 with a double and threw out both runners that attempted to steal against him. Daniel Robertson also went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored in the Biscuits win.
We haven’t even talked about the pitching yet. Austin Pruitt has also been incredible to begin the year, and his ERA stands at 0.96 after his latest outing. Pruitt went 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. Aside from that ERA, he now has a 9.6 K/9, a 1.9 BB/9, and not a single homer allowed. Pruitt is already 25, so even a breakout would not make him into a top prospect, but it is time to start asking whether he has made some adjustment that is helping him look this good.
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High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 8, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 3
Ryan Stanek wasn’t nearly as overpowering as usual in this game, but he delivered an excellent start nonetheless. He went 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 1 while walking 1. He has never been the biggest groundball pitcher, but he was in this game, forcing a 10-3 groundout to flyout ratio. It’s always better to see striking everyone out, but it is nice to know that Stanek has more to his game than that. Buddy Borden followed Stanek with 3 innings allowing a run on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1.
It’s far from clear that it can last, but Braxton Lee is making himself comfortable despite being put into a rough situation in his first year at full-season ball. Lee showed enough to be moved into the leadoff spot for Charlotte as Andrew Velazquez received a day off and preceded to go 3 for 4 with a walk, a run scored, and an outfield assist. Lee hasn’t managed an extra-base hit yet and is just 1 for 2 stealing bases, but he is hitting .371 with a 4-5 strikeout to walk ratio.
Maxx Tissenbaum, meanwhile, drove in 3 runs for Charlotte and Yoel Araujo drove in 2 more to cap a 2-for-5 day. Marty Gantt also had a very good game, going 2 for 3 with 2 walks, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored, while Jake Bauers went 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs and Juniel Querecuto went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored. Querecuto, a usual shortstop, finds himself playing third base for the Stone Crabs, but he has hit well so far, hitting to a .297/.350/.405 line.
Kean Wong isn’t fast. He possesses one of the sweetest swings in the system, he has some raw power, and he has worked hard on his defense at second base, but he was never considered to run well. Yet after this game, he now has 5 stolen bases while being caught just once in 11 games played. Two of them came in this game as he went 1 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored. Wong is doing what he can to compensate amid a rough start that has him hitting .214.