Rays Prospects

Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Taylor Motter Durham’s Hero

By Robbie Knopf
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Having a player deliver a game-changing hit in a huge situation–that is not something that the Tampa Bay Rays have experienced often in the last ten days. Taylor Motter and Riley Unroe delivered hits that fit that description exactly, and hopefully the Rays will be getting such performances of their own in the coming days.

Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 3

The Bulls trailed the Tides 3-1 with 2 outs in the eighth inning before Taylor Motter took over the game. After a Tim Beckham single, Motter drilled a game-tying home run. Then, in the ninth, there were 2 outs and the bases loaded when Motter hit a bloop into right field, and it dropped in front of right fielder Dariel Alvarez to give the Bulls a 5-3 lead. Motter finished the game 2 for 5 with a double, a homer, and 5 RBI.

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Motter is playing out of his mind, and that certainly extends beyond this game. He has homered in consecutive games and 3 of his last 4, matching his total from his previous 69 contests. He has a ridiculous .485/.541/.1000 line with 8 doubles, 3 homers, 12 RBI, and a 4-4 strikeout to walk ratio on his 9-game hitting streak, and a .365/.429/.547 line in 169 plate appearances since May 19th. Motter is doing everything in his power to turn himself into a big league option, and while that won’t happen right now with James Loney coming back, the probability is only increasing that we see him in the majors before the year concludes.

To finish off the hitting performances, Tim Beckham went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored while J.P. Arencibia went 2 for 4. Beckham has hit the ground running at Durham, going 5 for his first 11 with 3 doubles. He also has 2 walks versus 2 strikeouts after barely walking at all in the majors. Hopefully he can improve upon that when he returns.

On the pitching side, meanwhile, Matt Andriese pitched like a big leaguer stashed at Triple-A should–looking good overall and showing just a hint of disappointment. He went 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. Enny Romero allowed a run in 2 innings before Andy Oliver and Ernesto Frieri looked good to finish the game.

Double-A Southern League: Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 4, Montgomery Biscuits 2

The Biscuits had their highlights in this game, but their pitching was short of dominant and they went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Stanek had a solid outing, tossing 5.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3. His groundout to flyout ratio was 6-3. Stanek hasn’t found himself yet in Montgomery, putting up a decent 3.82 ERA in 6 starts but just a 23-18 strikeout to walk ratio. Hopefully he can start turning that around. Matt Lollis then allowed 2 runs in 2.1 innings to take the loss.

Justin O’Conner had a great game for the Biscuits in this one, going 3 for 4 with a double, both runs scored, and a runner picked off third base. We saw the Tampa Bay Rays try to pick a runner off third on two occasions in spring training only to see both attempts allow the runner to score. Apparently the Biscuits finally got it to work. O’Conner has also shown some encouraging signs at the plate lately, managing a .340/.353/.553 line in his last 48 PA’s, but he has still struck out 10 times while walking just once in that span. Tyler Goeddel also went 2 for 5 with a double and his 15th steal.

High-A Florida State League: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 7, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3

Brent Honeywell has struggled in both of his High-A starts, and this one was especially rough as he allowed 5 runs on 8 hits in 2.1 innings. Before we read too much into anything, though, the first game was bad luck and he just didn’t have his stuff in this contest. He would have gotten hit hard in this game even if he was still at Bowling Green. We know how talented Honeywell is, and let’s give him a chance to make his numbers look more respectable by the end of the year. Steve Ascher followed with a nice relief stint, stranding 2 of Honeywell’s runners and going 3.1 innings allowing a lone run.

At the plate, John Jaso got a start in left field, going 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. It’s nice to see him continuing to progress towards a return. The Rays need more offense, and Jaso can help provide it. Remember that he hit to a .270/.372/.425 line the last three years–he gets on base like crazy, and while he isn’t the power bat the Rays could use, he can fill another hole by leading off games, and getting aboard is the first step to scoring runs.

Casey Gillaspie finally got to return to the Stone Crabs lineup with James Loney flying to New York to meet the Rays and Jaso in left. He went 0 for 2 with 2 walks, with his plate approach failing to miss a beat. The 3 runs came from Willy Adames‘ 2-run homer and Yoel Araujo‘s solo shot. It’s cool to see a prospect as young as Adames homer in consecutive games.

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Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, South Bend Cubs 0

In the fifth inning, the Hot Rods finally got Greg Harris some support. Grant Kay made it 1-0 on a sac fly before Riley Unroe delivered the big blow, a 2-out grand slam. Unroe also had a walk in his 1-for-3 game while Cristian Toribio went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Unroe capped his .356/.406/.450 line in his last 166 plate appearances with his second homer of the season. Hopefully he can deliver a few more of those to make this relative breakout season even better.

Harris, meanwhile, had an outstanding outing, going 5.1 innings allowing no runs on 6 hits, striking out 8 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 4-1. Harris has basically cut his ERA in half in his repeat of Low-A, going from 4.45 to 2.25. He has allowed quite a few unearned runs, but it’s hard to quibble with his 72-24 strikeout to walk ratio in 72 innings. Brian Miller followed with 2.2 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits while striking out 1 and forcing 4 groundouts, before Damion Carroll worked around 3 walks in the ninth.

Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM) 2, Hudson Valley Renegades 1

Yonny Chirinos was removed from this game after 49 dominant pitches, and the Renegades quickly paid the price after Michael Velasquez allowed the 2 runs that lost them the game. Chirinos had tossed 5 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. At least he finished the game with some momentum. He now has a 0.60 ERA and a 14-3 strikeout to walk ratio in his first 15 innings in Hudson Valley.

In terms of the limited offense, Manny Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a double, Angel Moreno went 1 for 2 with a double, a hit-by-pitch, and a run scored, and Jose Paez went 1 for 2 with a walk. Sanchez, a 19-year-old outfielder who stands out for his raw power, is off to an excellent start, hitting to a .333/.405/.576 line with 5 doubles, a homer, and 3 RBI in 37 PA’s. He even has a 10-4 strikeout to walk ratio, miles better than his 72-15 mark at Princeton. He’s someone I’ve been hearing good things about for a while, and he certainly deserves a spot on the sleeper prospect list.

Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Danville Braves 1

18-year-old lefty Brock Burke is off to some start for the P-Rays. In this game, he tossed 5 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He even forced a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Burke has a 7-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 10 innings this season to go along with a 1.80 ERA, and he is even forcing groundballs. Burke was the Rays’ third round pick from 2014 as a relative unknown, but they gave him a $900,000 bonus–they liked him a lot. He is demonstrating why.

Andrew Woeck followed Burke by working around a hit in a scoreless frame, and Ian Gibaut was dominant later in the game. He recorded the save with 2 shutout innings allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 3 and getting 2 other outs on the ground. Overall, Gibaut has gone 5 shutout innings allowing 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 9. His electric arsenal really isn’t fair for Rookie ball hitters, and it may not be long before he is moved up a level.

At the plate, Kewby Meyer had a great game, going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored, and a trio of others were solid. Landon Cray went 1 for 2 with a triple and a run scored, Patrick Grady replaced him and went 1 for 2 with a stolen base, and Jose Rojas went 1 for 2 with a walk.

Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Twins 2, GCL Rays 1 (10 innings)

I guess this minor league recap needed to end with an extra-inning loss after the Tampa Bay Rays game yesterday. Edwin Fierro had a very good rehab start, tossing 2 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 1 and getting his other 5 outs on the ground. Sandy Brito then managed to get past 2 walks with 2 strikeouts in 2 scoreless frames before Orlando Romero had a huge game. Romero entered this game with a 7-2 strikeout to walk ratio but a 7.04 ERA in 7.2 innings. In this game, however, everything clicked.

Romero tossed 5 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was even 6-1. Romero has touched as high as 97 MPH with his fastball to go along with a curveball, and he is a pitcher with a chance to shoot up prospect lists if he can continue to improve his command. He is the jewel of the Rays’ 2013 international free agent class, and though they were hit with spending limitations because they had exceeded their bonus pool the previous year, Romero immediately started looking like a diamond in the rough.

Unfortunately, the 1 run Romero allowed was enough to tie the game, and Ty Jackson then allowed the walk-off in the 10th. Offensively, Jaime Ayende went 2 for 4, Blair Beck went 1 for 3 with a walk and a huge outfield assist at home, and Joseph Astacio went 1 for 3 with a walk.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 81: At Least the Homestand Is Over

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