While it is always great to be hitting .330 at any level, the question with minor league stats–and MLB numbers as well–isn’t what production you just delivered, but whether you can keep it up at higher levels. One great indicator is plate discipline, but especially as we look at an upper-level prospect trying to break into the majors, power is also a critical factor. Can you hit the ball with enough authority that pitchers are afraid to simply pound the strike zone against you and render your patience irrelevant? That is Boog Powell‘s challenge.
Triple-A International League: Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY) 8, Durham Bulls 4 (11 innings)
It is always frustrating to allow multiple runs in an extra inning and lose what had been a nail-biting game by a wide margin. The Bulls received a poor start from Enny Romero, who allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 4.1 innings, and Ronald Belisario finished the game by allowing the other 4 RailRiders runs in his 2 innings. In between, Jim Miller was spectacular, going 3.2 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 4, and Grant Balfour tossed a scoreless inning.
On the offensive side, Alexi Casilla had a huge game, going 3 for 4 with a homer, a double, a stolen base, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. He now has a .345/.406/.506 line as he hopes to make it back to the major leagues. Jake Elmore also went 3 for 4 with 2 walks, a stolen base, and an RBI while Taylor Motter went 3 for 6 with a double and a run scored.
Double-A Southern League: Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 9, Montgomery Biscuits 4
Many of the Biscuits had rough games, but Boog Powell certainly wasn’t a part of that group. He went 3 for 5 with a homer, a steal of home, and 2 runs scored. Smokies catcher (and top Cubs prospect) Kyle Schwarber apparently made the mistake of throwing through on a Daniel Robertson stolen base attempt with Powell on third, and once he did, Powell was able to run home with the Biscuits’ first run, tying the game at 1 at the time.
More important for the long-term, though, was Powell’s homer. It was his first of the season and just his 5th extra-base hit of the season–Robertson already has 16. Powell had a .330 average and a .414 OBP, but he needs to find a way to deliver more extra-base hits. Despite the steal of home, he only 5 for 10 in stolen base attempts. The Rays see a potential starting centerfielder in Powell, but his game is certainly far from a finished product at this point despite his advanced plate approach.
Also having solid performances at the plate for Montgomery were Patrick Leonard, Joey Rickard, and Richie Shaffer, who each went 1 for 3 with a walk. Leonard also had a triple, an RBI, and a run scored while Rickard also stole a base. Leonard especially needed a good game as he is hitting to just a .189/.262/.333 line to begin the year. That sounds a lot more like his rough 2013 in his first year in the Tampa Bay Rays system than his breakout 2014, but hopefully he will start changing that now.
On the mound, the Biscuits bullpen was a train wreck, but Austin Pruitt broke a streak of two straight rough starts with an excellent outing. He went 6 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was an insane 11-1. Pruitt is now 2-3 with a 2.59 ERA with a 37-10 strikeout to walk ratio and a 52.0% groundball rate in 41.2 innings pitched. After a solid 2014 at High-A, he has taken his game to another level to begin this season.
High-A Florida State League: St. Lucie Mets 8, Charlotte Stone Crabs 4
Chris Kirsch posted a 9-0 groundout to flyout ratio for the Stone Crabs in this game. However, that doesn’t mean that his outing is good by any stretch. He went 4+ innings allowing 8 runs, 4 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 2 while walking 4. Isaac Gil allowed 3 inherited runners to score, although he didn’t allow any runners of his own to score. Yonny Chirinos was actually good behind him, allowing just a hit in 2 innings while striking out 2 and forcing 2 groundouts.
Maxx Tissenbaum had half of the runs driven in for Charlotte, going 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, while Willy Adames went 1 for 3 with a triple, a walk, and a run scored. Braxton Lee also had a nice game, going 1 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Tissenbaum is off to a slow start, hitting just .218, but his 11-7 strikeout to walk ratio is a good sign.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 3, Fort Wayne Tincaps (SDP) 2
Not every team in the Tampa Bay Rays organization needed to lose yesterday. Chris Pike delivered a great start for Bowling Green and came two pitches short of 7 no-hit innings. Unfortunately, both of his mistakes were solo homers, but they were all he allowed in his 7 innings as he struck out 7 while walking none. He also got 8 outs on the ground. He is now 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA in six starts for the Hot Rods, striking out 22 while walking 5 in 34 innings. Bizarrely, those 2 homers were the first that he allowed all season.
Edgar Gomez finished up the 2-hitter with 2 perfect innings, striking out 4 and getting the other 2 outs on the ground. He still has just a 4.91 ERA on the season thanks to a few disaster appearances, but he has an impressive 22-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 18.1 innings pitched and an 8-1 mark in his last 2 appearances. He looked very good against much older competition in the Mexican Pacific League last winter to make himself into a player to watch for this season. He has only lived up to the hype at times, but his peripherals are as good as we could have hoped for.
In terms of the bats, Nick Ciuffo went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, Riley Unroe went 2 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base, Jace Conrad went 2 for 4 with an RBI, and Bralin Jackson went 2 for 3 with a stolen base and a run scored. Ciuffo is suddenly hitting .261 on the season, although we are still waiting for the power and plate discipline to come around. There are a lot of talented prospects on the Hot Rods, helping them to a 21-14 record, and that is despite the fact that players like Ciuffo, Unroe, and Jackson are still trying to find their forms.