We all remember 2011, when Matt Moore worked his way from Double-A to the major leagues striking out seemingly every other hitter he faced. Blake Snell is doing his best impression of Moore after his dominance following his promotion to Double-A. Beyond that fact that they are lefties with excellent stuff, Snell and Moore are very different. Snell is an inch taller, lankier, throws more sinkers, and a slider instead of a curveball. Even so, it is only a good thing that Snell is starting to generate Moore-esque excitement, and we will have to see if he can keep it up.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 4, Buffalo Bisons (TOR) 2
The Bulls proved that they were better animals than the Bisons once again, even though the Bisons seemingly have half of the Blue Jays’ roster among their ranks. They had Dalton Pompey in centerfield, a double play combination of Munenori Kawasaki and Steven Tolleson, and both (recent Toronto closer) Miguel Castro and Todd Redmond appear off the mound. There are reasons that each of them is at Triple-A, though, and the Bulls came away with the win nonetheless.
Everett Teaford started for the Rays and had a solid outing, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. The bullpen was even a little smoother behind him, with Jhan Marinez allowing just 2 hits while striking out 4 in 2.1 shutout innings, Jordan Norberto striking out 2 of the 3 hitters he faced, and Ronald Belisario tossing a perfect ninth. All they needed was some run support, and they got it.
Taylor Motter and Hak-Ju Lee both had big game, going 3 for 4 with a run scored, and Motter also delivered an RBI. Motter continues to work his way towards respectability after a rough start while Lee simply needs more signs of life. Alexi Casilla also went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored while Curt Casali had another RBI for the Bulls. Casali had the only run-scoring hit for the Bulls, with the other runs scoring on a sac fly, a wild pitch, and a double play grounder.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 8, Birmingham Barons (CHW) 7
This game got ugly, but that had nothing to do with Blake Snell. Snell is now up to 33 straight scoreless innings to begin 2015–he hasn’t even allowed an unearned run–after tossing 6 shutout innings in this game allowing 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8. Moving to Double-A hasn’t fazed Snell in the slightest so far as he has allowed just 4 hits in his first 12 innings at the level, striking out 16 while walking just 3.
Snell still has control issues to fight through–he walked 9 batters in his last two High-A starts–but when he knows where the ball is going, he can be unhittable. We have seen over the years how well mid-90’s sinkers play in the major leagues, and he also has two strong secondary pitches in his slider and changeup. Snell has never quite been a true top prospect because people weren’t convinced that his delivery was repeatable enough to dominate consistently. Questions linger, but Snell is certainly moving in that direction.
Let’s not talk about the bullpen collapse other than to say that the Biscuits rallied in the ninth when it was all over. Down 7-6 entering the frame, Montgomery wound up being down to their final out with a runner on second base. Johnny Field proceeded to deliver a game-tying RBI double before Cameron Seitzer followed with a walk-off single. Both of them had 2-for-5 days and could not have capped their performances in any better fashion.
Also impressing on the offensive side for Montgomery were Richie Shaffer, who went 2 for 4 with a homer, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Strikeouts remain Shaffer’s flaw, but he is drawing his walks and hitting for a lot of power on his way to a .260/.363/.490 line to start the season. We have to imagine that he will be in Triple-A relatively soon. The Biscuits also received multi-hit games from Boog Powell and Jake DePew, with Powell going 2 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, and 3 runs scored. He is now hitting .337 on the season.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, St. Lucie Mets 2
Ryne Stanek continues to pitch well to start the season, lowering his ERA to 1.99 after his outing in this game. However, his lack of strikeouts are mystifying. In this game, he went 6 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. Despite the fact that he is a power pitcher with a shiny ERA, he has just a 5.7 K/9 to start the season and a 4.8 K/9 counting his time with the Stone Crabs last season. He is forcing a lot of groundballs–he had a 9-4 groundout to flyout ratio in this game–but he may be in High-A longer than expected.
Jeff Ames and Brad Schreiber tossed shutout relief behind Stanek, and the Stone Crabs were able to get just enough offense. They managed just four hits in the entire game, but three of them came in the third inning as they scored on a Juniel Querecuto RBI groundout and a Jake Bauers 2-run double. Braxton Lee also went 1 for 3 with a run scored in the victory.
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Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Cubs 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
The Hot Rods did everything they could to work around Henry Centeno‘s short outing. He lasted just 3 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 4 as he had issues throwing strikes and labored enough that he needed to be taken out of the game. However, Hunter Wood followed with 3 innings of his own allowing 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1, and Mike Franco was even better, delivering 3 shutout frames allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 3. Franco now has a 2.31 ERA and a 15-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 11.2 innings this season.
However, as Tampa Bay Rays fans are used to, the Hot Rods offense couldn’t get enough runs to make the efforts of Wood and Franco matter much. Both of their runs came on sacrifice flies by Casey Gillaspie, who went 0 for 1 with a walk otherwise. Nick Ciuffo also went 2 for 4 while Grant Kay had a 1-for-3 day with a triple and a run scored. In other news, Jace Conrad somehow managed to steal 2 bases, giving him 11 in 11 attempts this season, despite going 0 for 4 and Bralin Jackson registered an outfield assist.