The Undercards: Daniel Robertson Drills 3 Doubles
By Robbie Knopf
Three bad starts in the Tampa Bay Rays system in one day–it’s kind of remarkable. Dylan Floro, Jaime Schultz, and German Marquez all struggled, and it’s not surprising that the Rays lost two of those three games. Luckily for Schultz, Daniel Robertson and the Montgomery offense overshadowed him to lead their team to victory.
Triple-A International League: Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 4, Durham Bulls 2
Here is an incredible statistic: Dylan Floro has now made 56 professional starts and 18 relief appearances, and Thursday’s game marked just the fourth time that he walked 3 or more batters in a game. How is that even possible? It was also his first game walking more than one batter in 10 starts. Floro struggled mightily, needing 99 pitches to go 4.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 9 hits, striking out 3 and walking 3 as well. It was an aberrant outing for him, and hopefully he will be back to sharp control and hyper-efficient innings in his next game.
The positives in this game for Durham were the performances of Jim Miller and Taylor Motter. Miller looked excellent as he finished the game for Durham, going 3.1 innings allowing just a hit, striking out 2 while walking none. He needed just 42 pitches to get that far. There is a reason that Miller has made just three big league appearances the last two years, but it is always nice to have a veteran guy capable of providing depth and maybe even throwing a few innings if necessary.
Motter, meanwhile, now has a four-game hitting streak including three multi-hit games after going 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI in this contest. He is hitting .471 (8 for 17) on the streak with 4 doubles, 6 RBI, and 3 stolen bases. Motter is hitting just .235 on the year after a rough start, but his OPS is finally over .700 as he has begun to figure out the Triple-A level. The Rays see a potential big league contributor, and Motter is doing what he can to prove them right.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 10, Mississippi Braves 6
Jaime Schultz somehow picked up a win in a game where he went 5 innings allowing 5 runs on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. That was entirely thanks to his offense, which was led by the top prospect on the Biscuits, Daniel Robertson. Robertson went 4 for 5 with 3 doubles, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. It was the sixth career four-hit game for Robertson counting the Arizona Fall League, and now he has plenty of time to try to match his three such performances from last season.
As recently as April 24th, Robertson was off to a dreadful start to the season. He was hitting to just a .228/.297/.298 line with just two extra-base hits and a 19-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 64 plate appearances. However, now his line stands at a perfectly reasonable .273/.367/.403 and his strikeout to walk ratio at 21-10 after his .400/.538/.700 line in his last five games. Robertson has 8 hits in that span, 6 of which have been doubles, and walked 5 times while striking out just twice.
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Small sample size fluctuations don’t mean too much, but Robertson needed a stretch like the one he has pulled off of late and now his confidence is growing. There are evaluators who don’t believe in Robertson’s bat like the Rays do and it’s a natural reaction to be concerned when your team’s high-profile trade acquisition gets off to a rough start. Especially when the player dealt was Ben Zobrist, the standard is impossibly high. However, we also know that the Rays only made that trade because they see Robertson as their shortstop of the future, and we can expect a season filled with significantly more excitement than disappointment from Robertson.
Also having a huge game for Montgomery was Johnny Field, who went 2 for 3 with a triple, 2 walks, 3 RBI, and 3 runs scored. The Rays’ 2014 Minor League Player of the Year is making an early bid to go back-to-back with his .315/.400/.562 line to start the season. Patrick Leonard and Justin O’Conner also had 2-hit games for Montgomery while Leonard and Tyler Goeddel drove in 2 runs each. Parker Markel finished the game for the Biscuits with 2 shutout innings of relief.
High-A Florida State League: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3
Once Alex Colome comes off the disabled list today, the Tampa Bay Rays will have only 10 players on the DL. However, that number actually understates the Rays’ plight because two more members of the 40-man roster, Enny Romero and Grayson Garvin, have been on the shelf in the minor leagues. Romero did finally take a step towards getting back to Triple-A as he went 1.2 innings in this game allowing a run on 2 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2. He is recovering from a back injury and could be a factor in the Rays’ bullpen if he pitches well once he returns.
Romero somehow threw 55 pitches in those 1.2 frames and German Marquez wasn’t all that much more efficient, needing 85 to toss 4 frames. He allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 5. The 20-year-old right-hander now has just one good game out of his four appearances thus far and will hope to find more consistency moving forward. Despite his youth, he has always been considered advanced for his age to make his impressive arsenal play up, and the Rays are not concerned yet.
Kean Wong had a great game on the position player side for Charlotte, going 2 for 4 with a walk, a stolen base, and 2 RBI. Wong still isn’t fast, but he now has 6 stolen bases in 7 attempts in his first 18 games of the season after he went just 13 of 20 stealing bases in 106 games last season. Wong is doing what he can to help his team win despite his rough start–he has just a .232/.293/.275 line thus far. A 3-for-23 start to the season bears much of the blame for that. Mike Marjama also went 2 for 4 with a run scored in the loss.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Great Lakes Loons (LAD) 0
Finally, we have the type of game this system always love to see. The Hot Rods received excellent pitching and drove in all five of their runs with two outs on their way to victory. Hyrum Formo started and tossed 6 scoreless innings allowing just 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Formo has a 2.86 ERA and a 14-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 22 innings to begin the year. Edwin Fierro then worked around 3 hits to toss 2 shutout frames before Brian Miller tossed a perfect ninth inning with a strikeout. Miller has allowed just 4 hits and a walk in his 9 innings this season.
Mac James caught all three of those pitchers and delivered a nice all-around game. He went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI and also picked a runner off of first base. James is off to a slow start, hitting just .207, but the Rays saw him as a late bloomer coming out of Oklahoma and are wondering whether he can emerge as another solid catching prospect for them. Justin Williams also stayed red-hot in the game, going 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. He is 8 for his last 18 (.444) with 2 doubles and a home run.
Next: Tampa Bay Rays: The Joe Maddon Tampering Saga Officially Concludes