It’s always exciting when a later-round draft pick gets off to a roaring start in the minor leagues. Most of time, such players don’t amount to much, but you never know when you are watching those one or two players from each draft who go from 15th or 20th round picks to superstars. Matt Dacey, the Rays’ 21st rounder from this year, continues to play well for Hudson Valley, and especially as someone who was quickly identified as a sleeper prospect, it will be fascinating to see just how good he can become.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 3, Durham Bulls 1 (11 innings)
Matt Andriese is starting on the same day as Matt Moore, but after Moore looked better in his last start, Andriese isn’t set to replace him anytime soon. Instead, all he can do is continue rolling for the Bulls. In this game, Andriese tossed 6 innings allowing an unearned run on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. Andriese has a 2.32 ERA and a 30-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 31 Triple-A innings. He is clearly big league-ready, and expect him to make a big push for the Rays’ rotation next year. But like guys like Chris Archer (2012) and Jake Odorizzi (2013) before him, he doesn’t have a spot right now.
A couple other pitchers that we will see in the big leagues soon also looked good as both Enny Romero and Kirby Yates tossed 2 shutout innings allowing only 1 hit each while striking out 2. Yates has really had a horrific year, managing just a 6.92 ERA at Triple-A, while Romero has better numbers but still needs to prove that he throws enough strikes to be an effective major league reliever. Then a pitcher far out of the Rays’ plans at this point, Jordan Norberto, allowed 2 runs to finish off the game. On the offensive side, meanwhile, Boog Powell went 2 for 4 with a walk, a steal, and a run while Taylor Motter went 1 for 3 with an RBI.
Double-A Southern League: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 4, Montgomery Biscuits 1
It looked like Ryne Stanek was finally tapping into his potential after he pitched well at High-A and got off to a nice start with the Biscuits. Instead, Stanek has struggled since then and the calls for him to move to relief are only becoming more prevalent. In this game, Stanek allowed 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings, striking out 6 while walking 4. He now has a 4.57 ERA and just a 32-24 strikeout to walk ratio at Double-A, allowing at least 3 runs in 4 of his last 5 starts. His stuff is still great, but his control has been iffy and he isn’t missing enough bats.
Mark Sappington followed by allowing 1 run in 2 innings before Brad Schreiber tossed a perfect eighth inning with 2 strikeouts. Schreiber, a former non-drafted free agent, was great at Charlotte and has now tossed scoreless ball with 3 strikeouts in his first two Double-A appearances. There wasn’t much happening at the plate for Montgomery, but Jake Bauers, Johnny Field, and Dayron Varona all went 1 for 3, with Bauers drawing a walk and Field scoring a run. Bauers has rebounded from a rough start with the Biscuits to look almost exactly like he did at High-A.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 8, Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 3
We kept alluding to the Stone Crabs in the Biscuits recap, and the players still in Charlotte are gong well. In this game, Mike Marjama went 2 for 3 with 2 walks, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored, Kean Wong had a 2-for-4 game with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored, and Armando Araiza went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI. Willy Adames also went 2 for 4 with a walk while Pat Blair went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI. Wong recorded an extra-base hit and he needs a whole bunch more of those–he has a .291 average but just a .354 SLG. Even so, it’s hard to complain about anything when he’s hitting .370 in his last 156 plate appearances.
On the mound, Brent Honeywell looked good enough that he was sent out of the seventh inning, but he departed after allowing a pair of baserunners, 1 of which came around to score. He still finished with solid numbers, tossing 6.1 frames allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. Honeywell has looked better in his last 2 outings after his first 2 were especially tough, and he will eventually get back to dominating. The process is taking a little bit of time, but when you have a pitcher as talented as Honeywell, he is certainly worth the wait.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rod 5, West Michigan WhiteCaps (DET) 2
Chris Pike was great again in this game, tossing 7 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He has now gone 7 innings 5 different times this year, which is crazy for a Low-A pitcher and must be one of the highest totals among anybody in the Rays system. Pike isn’t missing many bats–just 5.4 per 9–but he is a polished pitcher with the ability to keep starting in the minor leagues for a while before eventually turning into a solid reliever. Mike Franco then finished the game with 2 shutout innings, striking out 1 while getting past a hit.
Pike’s run support came primarily from Grant Kay and Justin Williams. Kay went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and a run scored while Williams went 2 for 5 with an RBI. In addition, Mac James went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI, Alec Sole went 2 for 4, and Thomas Milone went 1 for 3 with 2 walks, his 16th steal, and a run scored. We are still waiting for Milone to tap into his power, but he already has the trifecta of centerfield defense, speed, and plate discipline.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 14, Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) 6
It seemed crazy that the Rays found Matt Dacey’s power in the 21st round, and Dacey has quickly illustrated why. In this game, he went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles, 5 RBI, and 3 runs scored. In 4 professional games, he is now 8 for 16 (.500) with 5 doubles, a triple, and 10 RBI. He hasn’t hit his first homer yet, but it’s difficult to ignore that 6 of his first 8 hits have gone for extra bases. His defense at third base is another story, but Dacey’s power is excellent while his bat speed is solid, and that gives him a chance to go somewhere in his professional career.
Even if Dacey does end up at left field or first base, though, he has the power to profile at either spot. He wasn’t a senior sign–he doesn’t even turn 22 until next March–and though his plate approach isn’t great, he has plenty of time to work on that as well. We can come up with excuses for why Dacey slipped so far in the draft, but we can also say that it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he turns into a top-30 prospect in this system after next season.
Other notable performances were delivered by Alex Schmidt, who went 2 for 5 with a triple, 3 RBI, and a run scored, and Joe McCarthy, who went 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. Jake Cronenworth also went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored while Cade Gotta went 1 for 5 but somehow scored 3 runs. The one hit was a triple.
Angel Yepez gave the Renegades 5 shutout innings before coming apart to end his outing. He finished with 5.1 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. Tomas Michelson allowed 2 more runs, but Reece Karalus was excellent to finish the game. He tossed 3 shutout innings allowing 3 hits and a walk while striking out 2.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 2, Bluefield Blue Jays 1 (11 innings)
Every team wishes that their pitching in an 11-inning game could be something like what the P-Rays received in this one. Jose Alvarado started, and the 20-year-old lefty rebounded in a huge way after getting shelled in his first 3 starts. He tossed 5 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 5 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was also a perfect 7-0. It looked like Alvarado might be coming a prospect after he pitched well in the Gulf Coast League last year, and we will have to see if he can deliver a few more performances like this one to make that possible.
Spencer Moran allowed a game-tying homer in the ninth, but that was his only blemish as he was fantastic again. He tossed 5 innings allowing that 1 hit and no walks while striking out 4. Moran now has a 2.25 ERA and a ridiculous 17-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 16 innings this season. He has been as good as expected since the Rays signed him to a well above-slot deal last year. Bryan Bonnell then earned the save with a perfect inning of work.
Princeton pitching 2-hit Bluefield over 11 innings, which is pretty crazy, but the offense was stranding runner after runner before finally winning the game. Kewby Meyer went 3 for 4 with a double, Blake Butera went 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI, and Brett Sullivan went 2 for 6. Landon Cray won the game on a sac fly.