The Undercards: Casey Gillaspie Drills 2 Homers
By Robbie Knopf
The Tampa Bay Rays conservatively sent 2014 first round pick Casey Gillaspie to Low-A rather than High-A. In doing so, they put him in a rough situation not based on competition but on expectations–a strong performance would mean little while a rough year could take him off to prospect map. We won’t know who Gillaspie really is as a prospect until he reaches High-A and beyond, but it is nice to see him playing well and, if nothing else, making his promotion to the Stone Crabs come a little bit closer.
As you’ve probably noticed, there haven’t been too many articles on this site lately, and I’ve especially been slacking on the minor league recaps. Let’s get back on track starting today, but before we get to yesterday’s games, here are a few notable performances in the Tampa Bay Rays system from the two days I missed.
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Sunday, May 3rd: Mikie Mahtook had a nice game for the Durham Bulls, going 3 for 4 with a homer, a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored in their 8-2 win. Justin O’Conner showed signs of life amid an early-season slump with a 2-for-4 day with a grand slam in the Montgomery Biscuits’ 7-2 win. There was also great starting pitching from the Bulls, Biscuits, and Stone Crabs (who won 5-2), with Scott Diamond, Jared Mortensen, and Chri Kirsch all allowing 2 runs or less 6 innings of work. Mortensen somehow did so without striking out a batter.
Monday, May 4th: Daniel Robertson continued his hot streak for the Biscuits, going 1 for 3 with a two-run homer off ex-Rays prospect Victor Mateo and a walk in Montgomery’s 3-2 loss. For the Hot Rods, meanwhile, they lost 6-4 as Brent Honeywell and Hunter Wood fell back to earth. Honeywell still looked fine, going 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. He is allowed to have just a quality start every once in a while. Wood’s struggles were a touch more concerning as he allowed 3 runs in 2 innings–and lacks Honeywell’s stuff.
Now on to yesterday’s games, which we’ll discuss in more detail because they’re actually the scheduled content.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 7, Buffalo Bisons (TOR) 0
I’m happy that I don’t have to summarize this game because there is simply too much going on. To begin, ex-reliever Andrew Bellatti continued his strong results as a starting pitcher, going 5 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 5. He even forced a 5-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Bellatti’s first time starting on a consistent basis since Short Season-A has been better than anyone could have thought. He now has a 2.11 ERA and a 20-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 21.1 IP.
Following Bellatti was Jake McGee, who may be a while away from returning to the Rays but looked great in this game. He used 14 pitches to toss a perfect inning, striking out 1. It was nice to see his command on point after he had walked a pair of batters in his previous outing. Nick Franklin was another rehabber in this game and went 1 for 3 while playing second base. You can sing the praises of Logan Forsythe and Tim Beckham, but Franklin has more offensive potential than either of them and has a chance to give the Rays lineup some help.
Jim Miller, Jordan Norberto, and Bryce Stowell finished the shutout for Durham, but we’ll talk a lot more about the offense. J.P. Arencibia and Corey Brown absolutely went off, with Arencibia going 4 for 5 with 2 homers, a walk, 3 RBI, and 3 runs scored and Brown going 3 for 4 with a homer, a triple, a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Arencibia and Brown entered the game as a pair of struggling veterans for the Bulls, but maybe this is the start of a turnaround for each of them.
The prospects in the Bulls lineup give us something to discuss as well as Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 5 and Leonardo Reginatto went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Mahtook was passed over for a call-up in favor of Joey Butler, but he’s playing extremely well, hitting to a .328/.406/.475 line. We should see him in the big leagues again in the next few months, but in the meantime, the Rays feel like the extra development time is helping him. Reginatto, meanwhile, showed no reason to be promoted from Double-A (.449 OPS) yet is hitting .333 through 44 Triple-A plate appearances.
High-A Florida State League: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 4, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0
The good news is that Enny Romero is progressing in his rehab. The bad news is that he got hit around by some A-ball hitters in this game. Romero went 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. His 7-2 groundout to flyout is more encouraging. German Marquez was excellent to finish the game, tossing 3 innings allowing 2 hits and no walks while striking out 2, but by then it was too late.
The Stone Crabs offense did its best Tampa Bay Rays impression, managing 8 hits but no runs. They were even worse in the clutch when we factor in walks as they left 14 men on base and went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Willy Adames went 3 for 4 with a walk while Braxton Lee had a 2-for-3 day with a walk and a stolen base.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Lake County Captains (CLE) 6
The Hot Rods received mediocre pitching from Greg Harris and Edgar Gomez through the first 6.1 innings as they allowed all 6 runs (though just 3 earned), but their offense stepped up big-time to win the game nonetheless. Casey Gillaspie led the way, going 2 for 4 with a pair of 2-run home runs. Remarkably, both of those home runs tied the game for Bowling Green–can’t get much more clutch than that.
The things to like from Gillaspie’s start to the season are his 6 home runs in 93 plate appearances after he managed just 7 in 308 PA’s for Hudson Valley in 2014 and his 15.0% strikeout rate. On the other hand, his .238 average and .301 OBP are both low for a player as advanced as he is, even if his .512 slugging makes his OPS look fine. But can we really quibble about a prospect who is hitting for power, walking at a decent rate, and not striking out?
Taylor Hawkins also delivered a strong game, going 2 for 4 with a solo homer. Hawkins, signed to an above-slot bonus in the 12th round of the 2012 MLB Draft because of his power, is hitting .357 in his first 17 plate appearances at Low-A. He needs a lot more where that came from, but it is nice to see him showing something after three disastrous years at Rookie ball. Jace Conrad and Riley Unroe also had nice games, with Conrad going 2 for 4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored while Unroe had a 2-for-4 game with a triple and a run scored.