The Tampa Bay Rays offense has been playing a lot better, but listen to this report about the Durham Bulls and you still might be clamoring for a player or two to be called up. Richie Shaffer‘s huge season has continued, and he is one of three Bulls right at the top of the International League homer leaderboard.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 10, Charlotte Knights (CHW) 8
If the Rays’ pitching staff continues to collapse, they may need to follow the gameplan that the Bulls used to win this game: take such a huge lead that you can win despite a bullpen debacle. Richie Shaffer led the way, going 4 for 4 with 2 homers plus an intentional walk. He is now up to an insane .290/.367/.672 line in his 150 plate appearances on the year, and in just 37 games, he has moved into third place in the IL homer race.
Shaffer is still striking out in 27% of his plate appearances, but eventually, the Rays may have to give him a shot. His power is outstanding and he is walking at a decent rate–could he at least be capable of putting up Steven Souza-esque numbers in the majors right now? If the Rays think that the answer is yes, expect Shaffer to see time in the corner outfield in the near future. When he was drafted, he was considered a potential right fielder thanks to solid range and excellent arm strength.
Shaffer would be tied for the IL lead in homers if not for teammates J.P. Arencibia and Corey Brown. Arencibia drilled a 2-run blast in this game while Brown went 2 for 5 with a solo shot to give each of them 15 home runs on the season to lead the league. Arencibia has actually had a disappointing season, managing just a .232 average and a .261 OBP to go along with his .452 SLG, while Brown has been moderately better at .234/.299/.472. Among the non-homer hitters, Taylor Motter went 2 for 5 with 2 doubles, 4 RBI, and a run scored while Hak-Ju Lee went 2 for 4 with a steal and 2 runs.
Bradin Hagens delivered a great start for the Bulls, tossing 6 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. His groundout to ratio was also a solid 7-3. Hagens looked decent at Double-A before becoming spectacular in his three Durham appearances, pitching to a 1.29 ERA and a 16-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 innings. Enny Romero, Jose Dominguez, and Kirby Yates were then lit up in relief to make this game far closer than it should have been.
Double-A Southern League: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 3, Montgomery Biscuits 2
This was a bad start for Jacob Faria, but only on relative terms. He went 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. That is not exactly a disaster, and it is always great to see a strikeout to walk ratio like that even in an iffy outing. Matt Lollis and Mark Sappington then tossed 3 shutout relief innings to give the Biscuits a chance, but they fell 1 run short in their ninth-inning rally.
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Justin O’Conner entered this game on a hot streak, hitting to a .308/.338/.492 line with 6 doubles and 2 homers in his previous 16 games, and he kept that going with a 1-for-3 day with a double, a walk, and an RBI. He now has an 8-4 strikeout to walk ratio in his last 8 games, and we can’t appreciate how impressive that is for him until we remember that he had a 70-6 strikeout to walk ratio in his previous 54 games. O’Conner still has just a .222/.254/.353 line on the year, but it is nice to see finally moving in the right direction. Jake Bauers also went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk while Dayron Varona went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
High-A Florida State League: St. Lucie Mets 7, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2
Who doesn’t love a good bullpen implosion? It’s more important for the Rays’ future anyway that Taylor Guerrieri was unhittable in this game. He tossed 4 no-hit innings allowing just a walk while striking out 6. His groundout to flyout ratio was also 6-3. Guerrieri continues to toss very short starts, but it is difficult not to be impressed with how good he has looked post-Tommy John Surgery nonetheless. He now has a 2.43 ERA and a 41-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 33.1 innings, and Baseball Prospectus has his groundball rate at 66%. Wow.
At the plate, Braxton Lee went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI, Willy Adames went 1 for 2 with 3 walks and an RBI, and Andrew Velazquez went 0 for 3 but had 2 walks, a stolen base, and a run scored. Shockingly, that is Velazquez’s first steal of the season after being caught 3 times. Velazquez’s season was derailed by a broken hamate bone, the same injury as Daniel Robertson (although Velazquez’s injury was a fracture to be exact). The Rays are hoping that he can play well for the next few weeks and earn a spot at Double-A to start next season.
Low-A Midwest League: Dayton Dragons (CIN) 11, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
Then there is this game, where nobody pitched well. In his full-season ball debut, Brad Wallace allowed 5 runs on 7 hits in 4.1 innings, giving up 2 home runs. At least he struck out 3 while walking none and forced a 6-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Ryan Pennell and Damion Carroll then allowed 3 runs each. At the plate, meanwhile, Hunter Lockwood went 2 for 4 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored, Mac James went 2 for 4 with an RBI, and a Carter Burgess went 1 for 3.
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Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM) 1, Hudson Valley Renegades 0
There was a scary moment in this game as Cameron Varga, the Rays’ second round pick from last year, was struck by a line drive in the first inning. He had to leave the game, but he later tweeted that it was just a bruise and he will be fine. Michael Velasquez and Brandon Koch were then strong in relief, with Velasquez allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 3.1 innings while Brandon Koch tossed shutout ball on 1 hit in 2.1 frames. Velasquez also struck out 2 while walking none while Koch struck out 3 without a walk. Koch, the Rays’ fourth round pick as an electric bullpen arm, now has a 2.84 ERA and a 9-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 6.1 innings.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Pulaski Yankees 6, Princeton Rays 0
Deivy Mendez allowed 4 runs in 2.2 innings, and the P-Rays’ offense didn’t come close to making that up. Angel Perez did go 2 for 3 while Patrick Grady went 1 for 2 with a walk. Bryan Bonnell did have a decent relief outing, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 2.1 innings, striking out 2 while walking none, before Junior Feliz was even better. The 21-year-old right-hander, who had entered the game with 14 runs (11 earned) allowed in 7 innings, tossed 4 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 3, GCL Red Sox 2
The pitching was ugly for the GCL Rays game, but it would up being enough as the GCL Red Sox went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Sandy Brito began the game with 2 no-hit innings, but he allowed a run after giving up 3 walks. Ty Nichols then tossed 3.1 shutout frames, forcing a 5-1 groundout to flyout ratio, but he also allowed 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3. Herminio Germoso then allowed only 1 run in 2.2 innings despite giving up 2 hits, 3 walks, and 3 wild pitches while striking out 3 before Matt LeVert retired both batters he saw to finish the game.
Miguel Hernandez was the hero for the Grays at the plate, going 1 for 3 with a walk and 2 RBI. Joseph Astacio also went 2 for 4 while Oscar Rojas went 1 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored. Rojas is a speedy outfielder who just turned 19 years of age. Blake Grant-Parks also went 1 for 3 with a run scored in the win.