The Triple-A level’s All-Star Break is happening right now as well, but luckily for all of us, the rest of the Rays’ affiliates are continuing to play. How could we survive without games to read about for that long? There were no spectacular catches by Kevin Kiermaier or clutch hits by Evan Longoria, but Jake Bauers, Justin O’Conner, and Adrian Rondon were three of the players who delivered excellent performances.
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Double-A Southern League: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 6, Montgomery Biscuits 2
At 19 years of age, Jake Bauers is five years younger than the average Southern League player. However, after a rough beginning following his promotion from Charlotte, Bauers has fit right in with the Biscuits. In this game, Bauers went 4 for 4 with an RBI, raising his line to .333/.385/.456 in his new surroundings. He is hitting .441 with a 4-4 strikeout to walk ratio in his last 10 games. Bauers is not the highest-upside prospect because he will never have big power, but between his youth, excellent plate approach, and strong defense, he is becoming an increasingly safe bet to become a big league starter at first base.
Justin O’Conner also impressed in this game for Montgomery, going 2 for 4 with a solo homer and a double. O’Conner now has a .325/.357/.588 line in his last 20 games, still not showing much plate discipline but at least tapping into his power. It doesn’t look like O’Conner will be much of a hitter for average to begin his major league career, but his defense remains spectacular and hopefully he will recognize enough pitches to hit some home runs and doubles.
Austin Pruitt had 1 bad inning as he worked with O’Conner in this game, giving up a 3-run homer to spoil an outing where his stuff was very good. He went 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 9 while walking 1. Pruitt has been sharp nearly all the through in 2015, pitching to a 3.08 ERA and an 88-24 strikeout to walk ratio in 105.1 innings. Ryan Garton followed with a perfect relief inning before Kyle McPherson allowed 3 runs in a third of an inning. Matt Lollis tossed the final 0.2 innings of the loss.
High-A Florida State League: Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 3, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2
This was just one of those days for the Charlotte offense as they went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 9 runners on base. At least Andrew Velazquez had a big game, going 2 for 5 with a triple and a run scored. Velazquez now has his average up to .286 as he hopes to salvage his injury-plagued season. Buddy Borden was mediocre in his start for the Stone Crabs, going 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3. Edwin Fierro followed with 2 shutout innings allowing just a hit before Isaac Gil was even better, tossing 2 perfect frames with 4 groundouts.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 4, West Michigan WhiteCaps (DET) 2
Yonny Chirinos had a great start while the top of the Hot Rods order was rolling as Bowling Green came away with the victory. Chirinos tossed 6 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 4. Chirinos still has a perfect 0.00 ERA through 2 Hot Rods starts, striking out 8 while walking 1 and allowing just 3 hits in 11 frames. That’s quite a beginning for Chirinos, who zoomed by Hudson Valley after just 3 outings.
On the offensive side, meanwhile, Bralin Jackson and Riley Unroe continue to be Bowling Green’s breakout stars. Jackson went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and a run scored in this game while Unroe went 3 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored. We are still waiting for the power from both of them, but both have shined defensively and show great plate approaches and athleticism. Thomas Milone wasn’t too shabby himself in this game, going 2 for 5 with a stolen base, a run scored, and an outfield assist.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Twins 5, GCL Twins 3
It was Garrett Whitley’s professional debut and it was great to see him on the field. He went 0 for 3–better games are coming. Instead, it was the GCL Rays’ other top prospect, Adrian Rondon, who had a huge game, going 3 for 4 with 2 doubles and an RBI. Rondon has started off slowly, hitting to just a .192/.311/.288 line, but everything is relative. He just turned 17 on July 2nd and the Grays entered this game hitting to just a .197/.269/.258 line as a team. Rafelin Lorenzo also went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored while Juan Carlos Arias went 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.
Abrahan Rodriguez had an iffy start, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 9 hits in 4.2 innings, but Sam Triece did look great later in the game, tossing 2.1 innings allowing just 2 hits while striking out 2. He also recorded a perfect 3-0 groundout to flyout ratio.