The Undercards: Blake Snell Unstoppable in Double-A Debut
By Robbie Knopf
People continue to disparage the Tampa Bay Rays’ haul from the 2011 MLB Draft, where they had 12 of the draft’s first 89 selections. Only Mikie Mahtook has made the big leagues so far while three players have been released. One look at the Montgomery Biscuits’ roster, however, and there is reason to be more optimistic. Tyler Goeddel has been playing out of his mind and Blake Snell looked as electric as ever in his Double-A debut.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Pawtucket Red Sox 1
The Bulls needed to have another bullpen day after the call-up of Everett Teaford messed up their rotation, but this game worked out just fine. Lefty Jim Patterson started and went 3.2 innings allowing a run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 4-1. Strangely, Patterson has a 1.23 ERA as a starter in 7.1 IP early in the season compared to 7.56 in 8.1 frames in relief, and he will hope to narrow the gap once he returns to the bullpen.
Jhan Marinez followed and was excellent, going 3 shutout innings allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 3. Marinez began the year with Montgomery and managed just a 5.68 ERA in 6.1 innings, but he has been lights out since joining the Bulls, going 5.1 shutout innings allowing just the hit and walk in this game while striking out 7. Will the Rays still demote him to the Biscuits when Teaford returns?
I don’t think we have ever discussed a roster crunch for the Bulls, but that is exactly the predicament in which the Tampa Bay Rays find themselves. They have three choices: demote Marinez, demote Jim Miller, or demote infielder Leonardo Reginatto. Reginatto is likely the least qualified of the three, but he has been seeing a lot of starts at third base for Montgomery with Jake Elmore on the Rays’ roster. Miller is also a veteran guy at 33 years of age, and it may not go over well with other prospective minor league free agents if he is sent down to Double-A.
I’ll predict that Marinez goes back to the Biscuits simply because he was there before and it wouldn’t be controversial, but having never thought about this type of thing before, I am not very confident as I say that. It would be unfortunate for Marinez, but given that he has always been an inconsistent pitcher because of control issues, it is probably just coincidence that he had a few strong games in Durham. If he continues throwing strikes for another month in Montgomery, then the Rays might bring him to Durham to stay.
Back to the game, Bryce Stowell worked around 2 hits with a strikeout in 1.1 shutout innings before Ronald Belisario stuck out 2 in a perfect ninth. On the offensive side, meanwhile, J.P. Arencibia went 1 for 3 with a 3-run homer and a rare walk while Taylor Motter and Corey Brown drilled solo shots. Motter extend his hitting streak to 5 and is up to a .409/.440/.727 line with 4 doubles, a homer, and 7 RBI in than span.
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Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 11, Mississippi Braves 1
New level, same dominant Blake Snell. Snell is now up to 27 straight scoreless innings to begin 2015 after going 6 innings in his Double-A debut allowing just 1 hit, striking out 8 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 6-1. We have to stop short of getting too excited–we are talking about a player who walked 9 batters in his last two High-A starts. However, as he continues to conquer his control problems, his results get better and better. Snell is the most exciting Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect at Montgomery in a while–at least since Enny Romero in 2013, but maybe even since Matt Moore and Chris Archer in 2011.
Snell retired 13 in a row at one point and liked his command of his fastball, curveball, and changeup. The mid-90’s fastball and breaking ball both look like plus pitches while the changeup has significant potential as well. Now the question will be whether Snell can learn to repeat his delivery more consistently and continue generating the type of results you would expect given his stuff. It is exciting that he has reached Double-A, and now we will really start finding out what kind of pitcher he can be.
In other news from the game, Daniel Robertson continues to be extremely difficult to get out. He went 2 for 4 with a triple, a hit-by-pitch, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. In his last 6 games, he has a .417/.548/.750 line with 6 doubles, a triple, 5 RBI, and a 3-5 strikeout to walk ratio. His .284/.379/.432 line on the season is starting to get right in line with expectations after he endured a rough start.
Boog Powell also had a big game as he returned from the flu, going 2 for 3 with 2 walks, an RBI, and 3 runs scored, and Cameron Seitzer went 3 for 4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Finally, Richie Shaffer, Patrick Leonard, and Johnny Field had 2 RBI each for the Biscuits to help them get past Mississippi with ease.
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High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 2, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 1
How about the power for Jake Bauers? After he hit 8 home runs in 467 plate appearances in 2014, he is now up to 4 in 84 PA’s, putting him on pace for 22 in 467 trips to the plate. Homer #4 was a 2-run shot in the fifth inning of this game that gave Stone Crabs pitching all the support they needed. Bauers went 1 for 3 with a walk overall as his power has not come at the cost of any plate discipline. We will have to see if this newfound over-the-fence power can last, but Bauers has a .265/.405/.515 line and a 12-15 strikeout to walk ratio to begin the year and has been one of the most impressive prospects in the system thus far.
Kean Wong and Yoel Araujo both went 2 for 4 at the plate for Charlotte, with Araujo drilling a double. The bigger news from this game, though, was Jake McGee‘s rehab appearance. It didn’t go very well as he allowed 2 walks while striking out 1 in his scoreless inning. Kevin Cash stressed that McGee is not close to his return, although this game probably has little to do with that. Buddy Borden looked excellent behind him, tossing 4 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 3. Steve Ascher and Brad Schreiber finished off the game.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 6, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 1
This contest is a nice way to finish off a triumphant day in the Tampa Bay Rays system. Henry Centeno went 6 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 3. Centeno was pushed aggressively from the Gulf Coast League to Bowling Green, but he has acclimated himself relatively well so far, managing a 3.32 ERA. Edgar Gomez, who has been wildly inconsistent for the Hot Rods so far, was sharp in this game, going 3 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking none.
On the offensive side, Coty Blanchard had an amazing game while playing shortstop and right field, going 4 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. He’s now up to a .339 average on the year, albeit with little power and plate discipline. The power instead came from Casey Gillaspie, Justin Williams, and Nick Ciuffo, who drilled a solo homer each. Thomas Milone also had a great performance, going 3 for 5 with a stolen base and a run scored.
Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 23: Alex Colome Effective in Return