Sunday was an interesting day for the Montgomery Biscuits as their youngest player and their oldest position player had huge days at the plate. The Biscuits’ offense had a little bit of a different day than the Tampa Bay Rays did yesterday on their way to a blowout win.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Pawtucket Red Sox 0
The Bulls’ pitching staff rolled and a pair of home runs provided the run support. Dylan Floro started and tossed 6 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits. For once, he also had the strikeouts working as he struck out 6 while walking none. Floro has allowed just 1 run combined across 12.1 innings in his last 2 starts after allowing at least 6 runs in his previous 5 starts. It’s nice to see him bounce back, and eventually his numbers should return to the range of respectability.
Jhan Marinez followed by working around a hit with a strikeout before Andrew Bellatti tossed a perfect frame. Kirby Yates that rehashed his days as the Bulls’ closer by earning the save with a shutout inning, allowing a hit but forcing a pair of groundouts. Yates has just a 6.35 ERA in 17 innings with the Bulls to go along with a 6.14 mark in his 7.1 innings with the Rays. He has certainly struggled this season, with his right pectoral strain also being a factor, but we have to think that he is better than that.
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On the offensive side, J.P. Arencibia and Nick Franklin had identical days, going 1 for 3 with a solo home run while striking out once. Franklin now has a .307/.376/.520 line at Triple-A, amounting to an .896 OPS that is his best at the Triple-A level since 2013. Even his .912 mark in that season came in the much more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League–this may be his best performance at the minors’ highest level ever. The numbers can only tell us so much–what is more important is whether Franklin made the necessary adjustments after he fell apart in the major leagues–but this is certainly nice to see.
Boog Powell also went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI for the Bulls while Hak-Ju Lee went 1 for 2 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored. It’s hard to believe that Powell has a .290/.423/.403 line with more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A right now after he played most of 2014 at Low-A.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 12, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 2
Jake Bauers is a 19 year old on a team with an average age over 23. Despite that, he leads the Biscuits in OPS with no signs of slowing down. In this game, Bauers went 3 for 5 with a grand slam, an RBI single, and 2 runs scored. He now has a .351/.402/.481 line since joining Montgomery with 4 doubles, 2 homers, and 17 RBI in 21 games. He continues to demonstrate great plate discipline, drawing 7 walks against 11 strikeouts. And he has been playing especially out of his mind lately, hitting to a .472/.537/.583 line with 4 walks against only 1 strikeout on his current 10-game hitting streak.
Bauers is turning himself into a legitimate first base prospect, but it is harder to figure out how to view Dayron Varona. The Cuban defector is 27 years old and still has yet to play against opponents his own age. With that in mind, though, he was really going to need to play well to remain a player in the mix for the Rays, and that is what he has done. In this game, he went 5 for 5 with a homer, a double, a stolen base, 3 RBI, and 3 runs scored. He now has a .299/.337/.495 line with Montgomery, showing solid power but not much plate discipline.
That being said, Varona has adapted well after a rough start at Double-A. He had just a .200/.213/.356 line with 11 strikeouts against 1 walk in his first 47 plate appearances, but he has a .385/.439/.615 line with 7 strikeouts against 3 walks in his 57 PA’s since, even better than his .377/.386/.551 line at High-A. We will have to see if that can last, but Varona has the defensive skills to become a useful fourth outfielder in short order if he can keep hitting.
Other notable performances for the Biscuits came from Justin O’Conner, who went 2 for 5 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and a run scored, and the duo of Joey Rickard and Johnny Field that each went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. We can make the same comment about all of them–they were all struggling for a while but have particularly come alive of late. Rickard and Field both started slumping after getting off to scorching starts while O’Conner had never really played well to begin with. Luckily his .296/.330/.531 line is prompting more optimism.
Austin Pruitt earned the win in this game despite allowing 3 runs on 8 hits in 5.2 innings. Ryan Garton and Kyle McPherson were both sharp in relief behind him, with Garton allowing 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 4 in 2.1 shutout innings before Kyle McPherson struck out 1 in a perfect frame.
I’m going to stop this minor league recap early once again in the interest of writing other pieces about the Tampa Bay Rays today. Unfortunately I’ve been busy and sick, and that has been messing everything up. I’ll try to get back to covering every minor league game again beginning tomorrow.