The Tampa Bay Rays recently promoted four of their better prospects up a level, with three of the moves being ones we could have expected. Jake Bauers and Jacob Faria both advanced from High-A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery after being about as good as the Rays could have hoped for the Stone Crabs. We’ll discuss the other two later on, but right now let’s talk about Bauers and Faria.
Jake Bauers’ call-up is interesting because he is just so young. He won’t turn 20 until October, making him a full five years younger that the Double-A Southern League’s average age. Though he is so young, Bauers doesn’t have the raw tools to be a potential superstar, but the Rays see a player who could be their starter at first base before he turns 22 years of age. Bauers has stood out since he was drafted for his Gold Glove-esque defense, excellent plate approach, and ability to hit line drives from gap to gap. Then this season, he has begun to hit for more power.
Bauers’ OPS stayed relatively stagnant from Low-A in 2014 to High-A in 2015, going from .789 to .791. However, his offensive output was still quite impressive for a variety of reasons. Firstly, every minor league level is harder than the next, and Bauers did a nice job maintaining his production. Beyond that, the 2015 Florida State League has just a .652 league OPS while the 2014 Midwest League had a .692 mark–Bauers is in a more pitcher-friendly league, and it hasn’t fazed him.
Even if Bauers’ OPS was very similar, his slash line changed markedly, from .296/.376/.414 in 2014 to .267/.357/.433 this season. Bauers’ average went down, but we can talk about batting average on balls in play–he has been unluckier this season, seeing his BAbip going from .347 to .288, but he has still been productive. His OBP is lower, but part of that comes from the BAbip luck and his strikeout to walk ratio actually improved from 80-51 to 33-29. He was hitting more homers and doubles, yet he was striking out less and walking more. Then we can talk about the power, which increased significantly no matter how you slice it.
Jacob Faria’s numbers for Charlotte were incredible. He went 10-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a 63-22 strikeout to walk ratio in 74.1 innings pitched, allowing just 1 home run. However, unlike Blake Snell, another pitcher who dominated for the Stone Crabs before moving to Montgomery, Faria will have to continue proving himself at higher levels in terms of not just performance, but also in terms of stuff.
Faria’s 2015 season looks like a breakout, but he has struck out less batters, walked more, and forced fewer groundballs. He has reached the mid-90’s with his fastball, but he leaves it up in the zone and may be in for a rude awakening at Double-A. His changeup can make hitters too foolish, but the better ones have been able to track it down in the zone and hit it well. Finally, his curveball has never come along as hoped, and he needs to work to make it more than a distant third pitch in his repertoire.
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It won’t be easy for Faria to continue dominating hitters at Double-A, but that is part of the point. It is difficult to change your approach when you know that what you’re doing is working. Once Faria starts having a tougher time, he will more easily internalize the lessons that the Rays have been trying to teach him and that may be exactly what he needs to take the next step as a pitcher. Faria has already demonstrated his work ethic by adding 25 pounds of good weight since he was drafted and gaining major velocity because of that. Now it’s time to see how far hard work can get him at Double-A.
Jake Bauers and Jacob Faria give the Montgomery Biscuits two impressive Tampa Bay Rays prospects who will the fans something to watch and help the team on its push for the Southern League playoffs. Both players have adjustments to make at the second-highest level of the minor leagues, but the Ray believe that their talent will shine through before long.