On Saturday, Erasmo Ramirez became the latest Tampa Bay Rays pitcher to get hurt, leaving his start with a groin strain. We have yet to hear about the severity of the injury, but it is always concerning when another pitcher goes down for any period of time. On the positive side, however, the Rays can look forward to two pitchers coming back in the next couple of weeks–Jake Odorizzi and now Matt Moore. Moore looked solid for the Durham Bulls on Sunday, and he may need only one more rehab start before returning to the majors.
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Triple-A International League: Columbus Clippers (CLE) 5, Durham Bulls 2
Matt Moore wasn’t dominant in this game, but it honestly didn’t matter. His stuff looked good and he got up to 92 pitches–that is what the Rays were looking for. Moore went 5.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits, striking out 7 while waling 1. He was missing bats and throwing strikes– the only concern was that he made mistake pitches to James Ramsey and Carlos Moncrief that led to back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. Moore has made a lot of progress after Tommy John Surgery, and he is just about ready to return to the majors and remind Rays fans what they were missing when he was out.
Behind Moore, the trio of Ernesto Frieri, Jordan Norberto, and Andy Oliver looked mediocre while C.J. Riefenhauser tossed a perfect frame with a strikeout. On the offensive side, meanwhile, Luke Maile and Corey Brown both drilled solo homers and Richie Shaffer returned from an injury to go 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. We will talk a little bit later today about why Shaffer is still in the minor leagues (aside from the injury).
Low-A Midwest League: Fort Wayne TinCaps (SDP) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
This was an all-around decent game for the Hot Rods. Henry Centeno had an OK start, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits in 5.2 innings, striking out 1 while walking. He now has a 4.81 ERA as one of the younger pitchers on the Bowling Green roster. Ryan Pennell and Brian Miller then tossed shutout ball for the final 2.1 frames, allowing 3 hits but striking out 2 while walking none.
Offensively, Casey Gillaspie went 2 for 4, Riley Unroe singled in both runs, Justin Williams went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk, Alec Sole went 1 for 2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and a run scored, and Grant Kay went 1 for 3 with a run. A bunch of guys can’t complain, but they aren’t going to write home about this game either.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League Game 1: Hudson Valley Renegades 2, Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 1 (15 innings)
When another affiliate starts its season, it feels like a new spinoff of a TV show, say a new CSI taking place in another city. The sport is the same–baseball–but get ready to discuss a whole new cast of characters as we get into the two Renegades games from yesterday. Rest assured, there will be plenty of scouting reports.
Cameron Varga started this game for Hudson Valley and pitched well. He tossed 5 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out just 1 while walking 1 but forcing a 10-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Varga was the Rays’ second round pick from 2014 and received an above-slot bonus as the team was impressed by his fastball reaching the mid-90’s, promising curveball, and developing changeup. Varga is not young for a high school draft pick as he already 20 years old, but he has the stuff to quickly make that a non-factor.
20-year-old lefty Cristopher Crisostomo followed with 1.2 shutout innings, allowing a hit while striking out 1, before Luis Urena tossed 2.1 perfect frames with 2 strikeouts, forcing a 3-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Urena was selected by the Rays in the Minor League Rule 5 Draft, and he is quite interesting. He is a converted outfielder who already touches 94 MPH with his fastball. The Rays had success was another Minor League Rule 5 pick, Enderson Franco, as recently as last season.
Tomas Michelson was next and tossed 3 hitless innings allowing just a walk while striking out 3. His groundout to flyout ratio was a perfect 7-0. Michelson was a senior sign in the 29th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, but he is more interesting than that would indicate. He has reached 93 MPH with his sinker to go along with a solid slider and changeup. The Rays will try to get him moving more quickly through the system.
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Finally, lefty Michael Velasquez earned the win in the game by tossing the final 3 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He also joined the groundball parade by forcing 5 groundouts against no flyouts. Velasquez was signed by the Rays as a non-drafted free agent in 2014 after an open tryout. He had been an interesting prospect coming out of high school back in 2011 before a back injury derailed him, and the Rays liked him sufficiently not only to sign him but to send him to Instructional League last year. Put him down as another sleeper.
Game 2: Hudson Valley 9, Aberdeen 1
Speaking of the bats, it was one somewhat familiar player and another that we have never heard of leading the Renegades offense in this game. Alex Schmidt, a non-drafted free agent third baseman out of the University of Washington, went 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored. He has some pop and decent plate discipline, but his defense at third is questionable and we’ll see about pitch recognition.
Taylor Hawkins, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 with a triple, a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Hawkins was an above-slot signing as a 12th rounder way back in 2012 as a catcher with good power potential. He hit well in a cameo at Bowling Green earlier this year, but the Rays deemed it worthwhile to send him to Hudson Valley so he could catch regularly. Another strong performance came from Cade Gotta, who went 3 for 4 with an RBI. Gotta is extremely old for the level–he turns 24 in August–but he is an athletic outfielder was blazing speed.
The last two multi-hit games came from Angel Moreno and Jake Cronenworth. Moreno went 2 for 5 with a triple, a double, and 2 runs scored while Cronenworth went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Moreno, who turns 19 in July, is a five-tool talent and one of the highest upside players in the system, but his plate approach remains raw. Cronenworth, on the other hand, was the Rays’ seventh round pick, and though he is playing the middle infield now, he may be more interesting on the mound.
In terms of the current pitchers, Roel Ramirez started for Hudson Valley and tossed 5 innings allowing 1 run on 7 hits, striking out 1 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was 7-2.Roel was the Rays’ 8th rounder in 2013 and stands out for his fastball touching 92 MPH and a very good changeup. He was considered polished at the time and it is a little disconcerting that he is still at Short Season ball, but he is still only 20 years old.
Diego Casillo then finished the game with 2 perfect innings, striking out 1 and forcing 5 groundouts to 1 flyout. I can’t say that I have a scouting report on him, but we can already put him down as a player to watch nonetheless. The 21-year-old right-hander showed the Rays enough to jump all the way from the Dominican Summer League to Hudson Valley–I have never seen a jump that big–and it is only a good sign that his first appearance went so well.