In several ways, Sunday represented a return to order in the Tampa Bay Rays system. Jose Dominguez returned to the mound with a DL stint from shoulder tightness in the past. Leonardo Reginatto and Bryce Stowell returned to Double-A. Jake DePew had a terrible game at the plate. Mark Sappington didn’t walk anybody. Casey Gillaspie played like a first round pick. And Brent Honeywell was absolutely brilliant.
Triple-A International League: Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY) 5, Durham Bulls 0
Jose Dominguez looked like Durham’s version of Jake McGee as he struck out 2 in a perfect inning in his return, but Everett Teaford was no Chris Archer. He went 5 innings allowing 5 runs on 8 hits, striking out 1 and walking 1 as well. Jordan Norberto also appeared in relief and went 1.1 shutout innings working around a hit with a strikeout while Andy Oliver allowed a hit and 2 walks in 1.2 innings but survived thanks to a strikeout and 3 groundouts.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 2, Chattanooga Lookouts (MIN) 1
Jaime Schultz had to be taken out after throwing 79 pitches in just 3 innings, but the Biscuits bullpen stepped up to lead them to this win. Schultz didn’t pitch poorly, allowing just an unearned run on 2 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6, but staying efficient proved to be impossible for him in this game. Luckily, Colton Reavis and Mark Sappington tossed 2 shutout innings each before Parker Markel and Bryce Stowell provided 1 each. The quartet combined to allow just 4 hits and no walks in their 6 innings while striking out 5.
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Markel has found his way to a nice recovery season. In 16 innings across 12 appearances, he now has a 2.25 ERA, an 8.4 K/9, a 2.8 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9. If he is putting up those numbers with his stuff looking anything like it did before, he could still be a fascinating relief prospect. Markel was a 39th round pick in 2010, so when he faltered in 2013 and 2014, there was reason to believe that his bubble had burst. Even so, his arsenal matters a lot more than his draft slot, and if he can pair it with command, there is every reason to think that he can make the big leagues.
On the offensive side, Johnny Field tied the game at 1 with an RBI double in the fifth before Richie Shaffer delivered a go-ahead single in the ninth. The Biscuits also received huge games from Boog Powell, Joey Rickard, and Patrick Leonard. Powell went 2 for 3 with a triple, a walk, and an RBI, Rickard delivered a 3-for-4 performance with 2 doubles, and Leonard went 2 for 4 with a double. Powell is hitting .341 on the season while Rickard is hitting .429 in his 8 games with the team, but Leonard is hitting .197 and especially needs more games like this.
High-A Florida State League: St. Lucie Mets 4, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0
German Marquez‘s early-season struggles are squarely in the past after he delivered another strong outing in this game. He went 6 innings allowing just an unearned run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. Marquez is a 20 year old who is three years younger than the Florida State League’s average age, but he continues to hold his own, posting a 3.00 ERA and a 24-11 strikeout to walk ratio in 33 innings. It would be nice to see a few more strikeouts (his K/9 is currently 6.5), but it’s hard to quibble too much given his relative inexperience.
The Stone Crabs lost because Steve Ascher allowed 3 more unearned runs and the offense came up with nothing. They had as many errors (3) as hits, and that is never a good sign. Pat Blair did go 1 for 3 with a double while Maxx Tissenbaum simply went 1 for 3.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Fort Wayne TinCaps (SDP) 3
Brent Honeywell isn’t going to dominate every start. Entering Sunday, he had allowed 5 runs on 12 hits across 9 innings in his previous 2 outings, reminding us that he still has things to work on as a pitching prospect. However, that little stretch of struggles will be quickly forgotten after his most recent outing. Honeywell faced the minimum 21 hitters as he tossed 7 no-hit innings, striking out 8 while walking 1. His lone baserunner was caught stealing. Here is what Honeywell had to say about his start.
"“Today was the best I’ve played all year,” he said. “Everything complemented my pitches. My fastball command was exceptional and I was throwing my fastball, curveball and screwball for strikes and keeping them off-balance. I didn’t let them mess with my rhythm and I didn’t let them draw me into deep counts. I pitched my game and really went after them.”"
Honeywell is the top pitching prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays system at this point–Blake Snell is the only other debatable candidate–and it is a great feeling for the Rays to have a guy like that actually live up to all the hype and even surpass it. We will have to see how High-A and beyond treat him, and it is not as though he isn’t without his flaws. He managed just a 35.2% groundball rate compared to the 43.9% Midwest League average, showing that he’s pitching too much up in the zone. But that is all that we can complain about in his dominant beginning to his pro career.
Hot Rods manager Renaldo Ruiz really did try to keep the no-hitting going after taking out Honeywell–he brought in closer Kyle Bird for a 2-inning save. Unfortunately, Bird had a poor outing in a non-save situation, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits. Ruiz did what he could. Damion Carroll finished the game by allowing 2 hits but no runs in his inning of work. It is sad that we can call that encouraging because that he didn’t walk or hit any batters. When a player has a 13.8 BB/9, we are certainly at that point.
More legitimate reasons for encouragement came from Casey Gillaspie and Hunter Lockwood. Gillaspie went 2 for 4 with a homer, 3 RBI, and a run scored while Lockwood went 2 for 3 with a homer, a triple, a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. For both players, their power numbers are fine but their average and OBP are not. Gillaspie has just a .227 average and a .291 OBP while Lockwood is at just .226 and .273. At least Gillaspie has struck out in just 17.2% of his plate appearances, prompting optimism that he can get past this.
Other notable players were Coty Blanchard, who went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, and Thomas Milone, who had a 2-for-4 day with a run scored. Blanchard is up to a .351 average on the year while Milone is at a robust .310. Both of them are hitting for extremely limited power, meaning that their batting averages are quite empty, but that’s not a huge concern for the 20-year-old Milone. Blanchard gets some slack despite being 23 because of his athleticism as a former college quarterback, but that can only last for so long.