There is plenty of minor league content in store for today between this recap and pieces on the Tampa Bay Rays’ Future Game participants and recent promotions. Sometime today or tomorrow, we will also discuss new information that someone was kind enough to pass along to me about one of the Rays’ draft picks–if 40 draft profiles weren’t enough, one player is going to get a second piece. In any event, let’s get started.
Triple-A International League: Toledo Mud Hens (DET) 10, Durham Bulls 7
Hak-Ju Lee drilled a grand slam, but the Bulls still lost. That is not a sentence that I ever could have anticipated writing. Lee’s season continued to be disastrous otherwise as he went 1 for 4 with 2 strikeouts. Lee is closer to a DFA candidate than a top prospect at this point after following up his .203/.287/.276 line from last season with a .232/.277/.316 mark this year. He has looked a little better since May 17th, hitting to a .246/.300/.385 line, but nobody else would call that a hot streak. Lee has serious work to do as he hopes to get his career back on track.
Speaking of struggling Durham middle infielders (and now we can lump Nick Franklin into that group), Ryan Brett went 1 for 5 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored in this game. He has just a .205/.265/.303 line on the season, but we’ll give him a little patience because of his shoulder injury and strong track record of hitting. Even so, the Rays would love to see him catch fire really soon. J.P. Arencibia also drilled a 2-run homer for the Bulls while Taylor Motter went 2 for 5 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and a run scored.
On the pitching side, Scott Diamond allowed 7 runs, 6 earned, on 14 hits in 5 innings. That is pretty bad. Jose Dominguez then looked good behind him, striking out 1 in a perfect frame, before C.J. Riefenhauser looked decent, allowing 1 run on 1 hit in 1.2 innings, striking out 3 while walking 1. Jhan Marinez then allowed 2 runs in 1.1 innings to finish the game.
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Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 12, Chattanooga Lookouts (MIN) 7
This was another slugfest, but thankfully the Biscuits found a way to win. Leading the way was Jake Bauers, who went 3 for 5 with a solo homer, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored in his first Montgomery game. Bauers immediately becomes one of the youngest players at the Double-A level as he won’t even turn 20 years of age until October. We will see how much Bauers’ power comes along, but he has a tremendous plate approach, good bat speed, and excellent defense, plus he has delivered more extra-base hits this year. If he develops as hoped, Casey Gillaspie may end up as the Rays’ regular designated hitter.
James Loney will be a free agent following the 2016 season, and Bauers may be ready to take his place the following year. Bauers drew Loney comparisons for his abilities last year at Low-A, but there is a distinct chance that he ends up being a better player. He may not match Loney’s .285 average, but exceeding his .339 OBP and .414 SLG is certainly within reach given his outstanding pitch recognition and power that continues coming along. The race for Rays first baseman of the future is started to get crowded and that can only be a good thing.
Also delivering multi-hit games for the Biscuits were Dayron Varona (2 for 4, 3B, BB, run), Leonardo Reginatto (2 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 runs), Patrick Leonard (2 for 4, 2B, a walk, 2 RBI, run), and Boog Powell (2 for 4, RBI, run). Juniel Querecuto also went 1 for 2 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored while Tyler Goeddel went 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Varona has a .261/.280/.522 line since joining Montgomery, and the walk was just his second in 95 PA’s in America. The lack of patience reminds us why he wasn’t expensive to sign, but his defenfse, speed, and solid power have all looked promising.
Ryne Stanek earned the win for the Biscuits despite an iffy outing. He allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings, although he did strike out 4 while walking 1. Bradin Hagens and Mark Sappington then combined to allow 3 runs in the following 3 innings before Matt Lollis struck out 2 in the ninth to close out the contest.
High-A Florida State League: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
Chris Kirsch delivered one of his best outings as a professional and handed a 1-0 lead to his bullpen, but they were unable to hold it. Kirsch tossed 8 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 10-6. Kirsch has delivered a 2.28 ERA in 75 innings for Charlotte, and for the first time in any of his seasons in the system, he has a strikeout to walk ratio better than 2-to-1. He also has a groundball rate over 50%. He has never been an impressive prospect, but he’s a lefty with a sinker who’s pitching well, so that’s a start.
Pat Blair went 1 for 3 with a double and the lone Stone Crabs run while Braxton Lee and Mike Marjama each went 1 for 3. Tim Beckham had a horrific rehab game (that means almost nothing), striking out in all 3 of his plate appearances, while Grady Sizemore went 0 for 4 with 2 K’s.
Low-A Midwest League: Dayton Dragons (CIN) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
This was one of those games where a bunch of players performed well, but all you can say is “Two runs is not enough.” Enderson Franco tossed 6 strong innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was even an excellent 10-1. Franco has a 3.19 ERA at Bowling Green this season, and though he is striking out 6.1 batters per 9, he is walking absolutely nobody, managing a 0.9 BB/9. Franco is already 22, but he has made himself into a solid pitching prospect since the Rays made him a Minor League Rule 5 pick.
It was an all Franco day for the Hot Rods pitching staff, and it finished reasonably well. Mike Franco went 3 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. However, that one run was enough to cost the Hot Rods the game. Hunter Lockwood went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI while Riley Unroe went 3 for 4, but the Bowling Green offense managed little else.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Vermont Lake Monsters (OAK) 4, Hudson Valley Renegades 3
The other Minor League Rule 5 selection we’ll talk about, Luis Urena, allowed 3 runs in the eighth to turn the Renegades’ 3-1 lead into a 4-3 deficit. Yonny Chirinos was solid to begin the game, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 5 innings, striking out 6 while walking 2. Chirinos, a 6’2″, 170 right-hander who turns 22 in December, joined the Rays from Venezuela as a 19 year old in 2013 and has done nothing but pitch well since. The Rays liked him enough to jump him from the Venezuelan Summer League to Princeton last season, and he made a pair of spot appearances for Charlotte this year.
On the offensive side, Manny Sanchez drilled a solo home run, Nic Wilson went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, Cade Gotta went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored, and Oscar Sanay went 2 for 3. Gotta turns 24 in August, has athleticism, and is off to a great start, so we have to wonder if the Rays will push him to Bowling Green if the opportunity emerges. Sanchez, meanwhile, joins Angel Moreno to give the Rays two toolsy prospects at Hudson Valley, although both of them need to work on their plate approaches.
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Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 5, Burlington Royals 4
Outfielder Zac Law, who the Tampa Bay Rays managed to sign as a 23rd round pick out of high school in last year’s draft, had a huge game to lead the P-Rays to the win. Law went 2 for 4 with a solo homer, 2 runs scored, and 2 outfield assists, both at home plate. This game could have been drastically different if either one of those throws had not worked out as well. Third baseman Bret Sullivan, the Rays’ 17th rounder from this year, also went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI and a run scored while catcher Jose Rojas went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI.
Blake Bivens, 2014’s fourth rounder, started for Princeton and allowed 4 runs on 8 hits in 4.1 innings, striking out 1 while walking 3. His control was off, but he did force a 6-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Then we have the pro debuts of two 2015 draft picks. Porter Clayton (19th) worked around 2 hits and a hit batsman in 1.2 shutout frames, striking out 1 and forcing 3 groundout, before Ian Gibaut (11th) got past a hit and a walk with 2 strikeouts. Alberto Casanas finished the game with 2 shutout innings, striking out 1. He is listed at just 6’2″, 158.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 5, GCL Rays 4
Kyle McPherson made his second Tommy John rehab appearance for the GCL Rays in this game, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits in 2 innings. Right-hander Abrahan Rodriguez looked better behind him, tossing 5 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 6-2. Rodriguez, 20, was retained by the Rays despite missing all of 2013 from injury, and he worked his way from the VSL to the GCL last year.
Offensively, young catcher Rafelin Lorenzo went 3 for 4 with a homer, a double, and 2 RBI, centerfielder Oscar Rojas went 3 for 5 with a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored, Ty Morrison 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and an RBI, and first baseman Gilbert Marrero went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Lorenzo, just 18, was one of the better prospects among their 2013 international signings, and he performed well for the VSL Rays in 2014.