Sometimes the results in the Tampa Bay Rays system perfectly parallels the thoughts of Rays fans after the big club loses another game. Add in the fact that Richie Shaffer had a great game, intensifying the calls for him to be promoted, and everything that is on your mind can be found right here in this minor league recap.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 6, Durham Bulls 4
The Bulls got a nice start and solid offense before their bullpen completely imploded. Bradin Hagens started and tossed 5 shutout innings despite giving up 3 hits and 4 walks. The fact that he struck out 9 in the game certainly helped him do that. However, Jose Dominguez allowed 4 runs in 1+ innings to tie the game at 4, and after Jhan Marinez tossed a perfect frame with a strikeout, Kirby Yates allowed 2 more runs to seal the defeat.
At least there were some offensive highlights, particularly from Richie Shaffer. He went 2 for 2 with a homer, a double, a stolen base, and even a pair of walks. He is now up to a .282/.377/.654 line in 183 Triple-A plate appearances. Wil Myers was a better prospect than Shaffer back in 2013, but his .286/.356/.520 line from that year pales in comparison to that and Shaffer’s .272/.370/.564 line counting his Double-A time is quite comparable. Shaffer has struck out slightly more than Myers (both at Triple-A and overall), but he has made up for that by walking more.
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The statistical argument absolutely says that the Rays should call Shaffer up and watch him blossom in their lineup. Of course, the statistics can only tell us so much and Shaffer simply may not be able to adjust once big league pitchers start throwing him more breaking balls. There is a certain point where fans need to say that the Rays know more than they do and there is a reason that Shaffer isn’t in the major leagues right now. On the other hand, a trade could create everyday time for Shaffer, and it is possible that the Rays could trade say David DeJesus and actually improve as Shaffer takes his place. If the Rays do start selling, it certainly seems like he should deserve a chance.
J.P. Arencibia also continued his “home runs and nothing else” parade, going 1 for 4 with a 2-run blast, and a couple of struggling prospects also had good game. Ryan Brett went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored while Luke Maile went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and a run scored. It’s perplexing that Brett is hitting just .210 this late in the year, but the scouting reports remain good and he has time to prove that he will be OK.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 6, Montgomery Biscuits 5
This one was a gut punch as Parker Markel blew a 2-run lead in the ninth. Before that, Chris Kirsch started and tossed 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. That wasn’t a particularly good start, but Kirsch has struck out a few more guys, walked a few less, and hasn’t allowed a home run since being promoted to the Biscuits. Jeff Ames and Matt Lollis then tossed a shutout inning each before Markel’s collapse.
On the offensive side, Joey Rickard had a big day, going 2 for 3 with a walk, 3 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored. Rickard continues to play extremely well since rejoining the Biscuits, hitting to a .312/.404/.449 line with 14 doubles, 2 homers, 25 RBI, a 40-30 strikeout to walk ratio, and 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He was able to get past a slump in the middle of that. Thomas Coyle also went 2 for 4 with a double and a stolen base while Dayron Varona went 0 for 4 but still managed to impact the game by stealing a base, driving in a run, and throwing out a runner at second base.
High-A Florida State League: Daytona Tortugas (CIN) 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2
This was a different type of cliche Rays game as the Stone Crabs got iffy pitching and defense and then didn’t score at all until it was too late. German Marquez got the ball and was alright, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings, striking out 4 while walking none. Mike Franco then allowed 2 unearned runs on 4 hits in 2 innings, striking out 3 without a walk.
Charlotte got its share of hits, but it went just 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 8 men on base. Kean Wong went 2 for 4 with a stolen base, Andrew Velazquez went 2 for 5 (but like Brandon Guyer, he got picked off), Pat Blair had a 2-for-4 game with a run scored, and both Maxx Tissenbaum and Marty Gantt went 1 for 3 with a walk. Tissenbaum also looked great defensively, throwing out both runners that attempted to steal against him.
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Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 4, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
Get ready for more runners left on base. Justin Williams went 3 for 4 while Grant Kay went 2 for 4 with a double, yet neither player factored in the scoring. Alec Sole did go 2 for 4, scoring the first Bowling Green run on a passed ball before driving in the other. Nick Ciuffo also went 1 for 4 with a stolen base and 1 of 2 runners caught stealing. On the mound, Hyrum Formo allowed 4 runs in 4.2 innings before the bullpen looked better. Ryan Pennell worked around a hit with a strikeout in 1.1 innings before Brian Miller finished the game with 2 innings allowing only a hit while striking out 1.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 5, Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) 3
Maybe this entire minor league recap is an analogy for a disappointing Tampa Bay Rays loss. The highest four affiliates lost, then the next two won before the GCL Rays got blown out to cement the negative day. In this game, though, we do have reason to smile. Joe McCarthy had a big game, going 3 for 4 with a stolen base and 3 RBI, while Michael Russell went 3 for 4 with 2 stolen bases and 2 runs scored and Alex Schmidt went 3 for 4 with a triple and a double. Manny Sanchez also went 1 for 3 with an RBI.
On the pitching side, Roel Ramirez tossed 6 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He has struck out 4 in each of his last 3 starts after striking out a combined 4 in his first 3–he still needs to miss more bats, but that’s a good sign. Reece Karalus then tossed 2 innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 3 before Brandon Koch finished the game with a perfect inning, striking out 2.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Elizabethton Twins 0
Other than the pitcher usage, this was a reasonable facsimile for one of the Rays’ better games. Brock Burke started and tossed 4 shutout shutout innings. He got past 5 hits with 5 strikeouts and 4 more outs on the ground. Bryan Bonnell followed with 3 shutout innings allowing just a hit while striking out 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 5-2. Bonnell has a 3.37 ERA with the P-Rays, a welcome change from his 7.39 ERA at UNLV in 2015. Alberto Casanas then earned his 5th save by getting past 2 hits in 2 innings, striking out 2.
At the plate, Zac Law had a big game, going 2 for 4 with a double and a stolen base. Law, who the Rays managed to sign after making him just a 23rd round pick in 2014, has a great .287/.342/.424 line to begin his second professional season. He still needs to work on stealing bases–he hast 4 in 8 attempts–and his plate approach needs improvement as well, but it is always cool when a player selected so late moves towards relevancy as a prospect.
Landon Cray went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, a run scored, and an outfield assist while Blake Butera went 1 for 3. Cray isn’t hitting the ball with much authority, but he has ridden a 13-17 strikeout to walk ratio to a .720 OPS in Princeton. We’ll have to see if his pop ever comes, but Cray’s plate approach, speed, and centerfield defense is a nice place to start.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 7, GCL Rays 2
Orlando Romero had a disastrous start, allowing 4 runs on 3 hits in 3 innings, striking out 1 while walking 5. Matt LeVert then allowed 4 more runs on 2 hits and 3 walks in just an inning. But now we can get to the highlights. Reign Letkeman finished the game with 3 innings getting past 3 hits with 2 strikeouts. Relatively highly touted third baseman Juan Carlos Arias had his best game on the young season, going 3 for 3 with a homer and a double. He wasn’t the only sleeper prospect to perform well as Rafelin Lorenzo drilled a solo homer, Devin Davis went 2 for 3, and Oscar Rojas went 1 for 3 with a double.