It seemed a little strange that Brent Honeywell and Jace Conrad were promoted to Charlotte while Casey Gillaspie was left behind in Bowling Green. However, the Tampa Bay Rays rectified that quickly, and Gillaspie did not take long to demonstrate why.
Triple-A International League Game 1: Durham Bulls 5, Columbus Clippers (CLE) 0 (7 innings)
Wins don’t get much smoother than this one. On the mound, Robert Zarate tossed the first 5 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 3 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a solid 6-3. Preston Guilmet then worked around 3 hits with a strikeout in 2 scoreless innings to finish off the shortened shutout.
At the plate, meanwhile, Boog Powell had quite a game at the top of the order, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks, his first Triple-A stolen base, and a run scored. It is great to see Powell’s plate approach continue to stand out with the Bulls, and the hope is that he can improve his success rate on stolen bases to add another dimension to his game. Ryan Brett also drilled a 3-run double, Corey Brown had an RBI single and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, and both Mikie Mahtook and J.P. Arencibia delivered multi-hit performances.
Game 2: Columbus 3, Durham 2
This was a bullpen game for the Bulls, and it didn’t go well enough. Jose Dominguez, C.J. Riefenhauser, and Ernesto Frieri allowed a run each in their innings of work, with only Enny Romero proving to be effective. He tossed 3 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and no walks while striking out 4. Romero showed flashes but extreme inconsistency during his most recent stint in the major leagues. His stuff remains electric, though, and the Rays are optimistic that he can be a strong bullpen option at some point.
The Bulls’ 2 runs came on homers by Richie Shaffer and Taylor Motter, who each finished the game 2 for 3. Shaffer now has 10 home runs in 27 Triple-A games, which is nothing short of remarkable. Perhaps more notable is then he didn’t strike out in either end of the doubleheader and actually walked twice in the opener. James Loney is about to come back, but a September call-up could easily be in the cards for Shaffer if he keeps hitting. Powell also went 1 for 3 with a triple in the loss.
Double-A Southern League: Chattanooga Lookouts (MIN) 9, Montgomery Biscuits 8
This one had a crazy finish as the Biscuits scored 3 runs in the eighth and 4 more in the ninth, but they lost because Bryce Stowell allowed 4 runs in the top of the ninth. Joey Rickard went 2 for 4 with a homer, a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored, Patrick Leonard went 1 for 3 with a homer and 2 RBI, Tyler Goeddel drilled a 3-run triple and delivered an outfield assist, and Justin O’Conner went 1 for 3 with a walk, a run scored, and two attempted basestealers thrown out. What else is new?
It is funny to have Leonard on the same team as Jake Bauers–the throw-in from the first Wil Myers trade together with the throw-in from the second. Leonard has taken a step back after a huge 2014 season, but he finally has his OPS over .700 after strong recent numbers. He has a .407/452/.630 line on his 7-game hitting streak with 3 doubles, a homer, and 3 RBI. Rickard has been even better, managing a .394/.487/.667 line on his 8-game hitting streak.
On the mound, Jaime Schultz‘s uneven season continued as he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits in 6 innings, striking out 7 while walking 4. Jared Mortensen, who was recently converted to relief, did look electric, striking out 2 in a perfect frame. Mortensen is already 27, but he pitched well as a starting pitcher and throws in the mid-90’s. He is the type of guy who could zoom to the Rays’ bullpen if he pitches well.
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High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 4
The Stone Crabs won this game with 7 runs in the third inning, and the big blow came off the bat of their newest player, Casey Gillaspie. He drilled a grand slam in his second at-bat to make it a 5-1 Charlotte lead at the time. Another recent promotion from Bowling Green, Jace Conrad, followed two batters later with a 2-run shot to make it 7-1. Gillaspie has cited a greater focus on finding pitches to hit as the reason for his incredible run the last couple of months. His 17 home runs on the year are tied for third in the minor leagues (Shaffer also has 17).
Taylor Guerrieri started for the Stone Crabs and rolled, tossing 4 innings allowing an unearned run on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was also 6-1. Guerrieri has been incredible in his first full year back from Tommy John Surgery, pitching to a 2.73 ERA, a 28-5 strikeout to walk ratio, and a crazy 64% groundball rate in 26.1 innings pitched. The Rays would never do this, but another team (e.g. the Blue Jays) would consider fast-tracking Guerrieri to their bullpen. He might just be advanced enough to handle it.
Guerrieri only tossed 4 innings, so he wasn’t eligible for the win, which instead went to Buddy Borden. Borden has delivered a great year, but he certainly didn’t deserve the W after allowing 3 runs on 1 hit in 2 innings, walking 4 while striking out 1. Better results came from Isaac Gil, Kyle McPherson, and Josh Kimborowicz, who all tossed perfect frames. Kimborowicz struck out 1. McPherson probably deserves his own piece (if I can get through my current backlog) as another pitcher recovering from Tommy John with a chance to be a part of the Rays’ bullpen this year or next.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 10, Dayton Dragons (CIN) 2
I’ve been well aware of how well Hunter Wood has been pitching, but I had no idea he was touching 97 MPH. He is turning into a real prospect and excelled in his first start of the season after 17 relief appearances. He tossed 5 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and no walks while striking out 6. His groundout to flyout ratio was 4-2. Wood stood out for his promising curveball even before his velocity ticked up, and he has also made strides with his changeup. He is turning himself into a real prospect and is the favorite to be the next Hot Rod promoted to Charlotte.
Hunter Lockwood has among the best raw power in the entire system (behind Shaffer, Gillaspie, and not too many others), and he finally displayed it in this game. He went 3 for 5 with a 3-run homer and a 2-run shot to lead the Bowling Green offense. Lockwood has a .467 slugging percentage on the year now, but he has just a .200 average and a .240 OBP. He needs to get his plate approach together for his power to matter.
Mac James also had a big game, going 3 for 4 with a homer, 2 RBI, and a runner picked off second base. James has been rock-solid in his first year at full-season ball, hitting to a .305/.350/.380 line. It would be nice if he hit for a touch more power, but he shows potential as a two-way catcher and you have to like that profile. Justin Williams, Bralin Jackson, and Cristian Toribio also had multiple hits in the victory.
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Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 11, West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) 5
Hector Montes is not a real prospect, but he had the best game in the Tampa Bay Rays system yesterday, going 3 for 5 with 2 homers and 7 RBI. The 23 year old’s previous career-high in RBIs was 3. Directly ahead of him in the lineup, Michael Russell went 2 for 4 with a walk and 4 runs scored while Manuel Sanchez had a 2-for-3 day with 2 walks, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. Russell, a middle infielder, was the Rays’ 5th round pick in 2014 but didn’t play because of a stress fracture in his back. He is trying to make up for his lost time now, hitting to a .296/.367/.519 line in his first 30 pro plate appearances.
Roel Ramirez tossed a nice game on the mound for the Renegades, tossing 6 innings allowing 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 2 while walking 1. Ramirez has a 1.64 ERA after managing a 1.86 mark with the Princeton Rays last year, but the problem is that he is striking nobody out. Timothy Ingram and Reece Karalus allowed 2 runs each behind him, but Brandon Koch did look sharp, striking out 2 in a perfect frame. His second professional appearance was much better than his first.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League Game 1: Bristol Pirates 4, Princeton Rays 3 (10 innings)
This game was frustrating for the P-Rays as they blew a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh (which was the last inning because this was a doubleheader) and then a 3-2 lead in the 10th. Deivy Mendez managed to start the contest with 3 shutout innings despite allowing 3 hits and 4 walks while striking out 3. Genesis Cabrera and Ruben Paredes were less fortunate. At the plate, Angel Perez went 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored while Landon Cray went 2 for 5 with an RBI.
Game 2: Bristol 7, Princeton 6
This one was even worse as the Princeton led 6-0 after the top of the third inning before everything fell apart for Junior Feliz. Patrick Grady and Bill Pujols each had a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored while Peter Maris went 2 for 3 with a stolen base and 2 runs scored, but the offense went silent after Bristol rallied back. Noel Rodriguez and Alberto Casanas did toss shutout ball behind Feliz, with Casanas allowing just 1 hit while striking out 1.