Rays Prospects

Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Blake Snell Makes Triple-A Debut

By Robbie Knopf
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In his first Triple-A start, Blake Snell‘s promise was evident, but he also showed that it may take a little time for him to conquer the level as a starting pitcher. Other highlights from the system include a player being in two places at the same time, another big finish in Montgomery (to go along with the Tampa Bay Rays game), and crazy things happening in Charlotte.

Triple-A International League Game 1: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 2, Durham Bulls 0

Clearly something is off in the universe as Tim Beckham went 1 for 2 with a double in this game. How could he have gotten a hit against the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate if he was too busy delivering a clutch single against their big league club? Luckily, the end of the world has not yet come and the reason Beckham got a double was that this contest was the resumption of a suspended game from July 3rd. Richie Shaffer took over for Beckham at third base and in the second place in the Durham order on Friday.

Robert Zarate got the start for the Bulls and looked extremely good before the game was halted, tossing 4 shutout innings getting past 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. Jim Miller was not as good, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits in 2 innings, and that proved to be the difference in the game. Jordan Norberto finished the game with 2 no-hit innings, striking out 2 while giving up 1 walk. The Bulls finished with just 3 hits in this one, with singles from Taylor Motter and Mikie Mahtook accompanying Beckham’s double.

Game 2: Norfolk 3, Durham 2 (7 innings)

This game was Blake Snell’s Triple-A debut, and he failed to get past 4 innings, allowing a home run to Sharlon Schoop, Jonathan Schoop‘s younger brother. However, stating it that way doesn’t make clear just how good Snell was otherwise. He certainly labored, needing 87 pitches to get through his 4 frames, but he allowed just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. He also forced a 4-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Everyone’s worst nightmare was Snell walking 5 or 6 guys in this game, but that didn’t happen.

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It was aggressive for the Rays to promote Snell to Durham after a Double-A stint where he walked 3.8 batters per 9 innings. On the other hand, he walked 4.5 per 9 at High-A before he dominated to the tune of a 1.57 ERA in his 12 Montgomery starts, and he was able to get past the walks to deliver excellent numbers on the whole. It may take Snell a little time to work more than 5 innings at Triple-A consistently, but he retains the ability to pitch effectively as he continues to make adjustments. The Rays thought that their best course of action was to start that adjustment period now knowing that he had little left to prove at Double-A. He won’t be in the majors as a starter until he proves that he can work deep into games, but that doesn’t matter as much at Triple-A, especially with the Bulls in need of starters of any kind. If he can pitch well while he is out there, that is a good enough place to begin.

The fact that Snell only went 4 innings also mattered less because this was only a 7-inning game, as is the case with most games of minor league doubleheaders that are not the resumptions of suspended games. Unfortunately, that still wasn’t enough for the Durham relief corps to pitch well as C.J. Riefenhauser and Jhan Marinez combined to allow 2 runs in the fifth inning before Jose Dominguez tossed a scoreless sixth.

The big hits in the game came from J.P. Arencibia, who finished 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI, and Mahtook, who went 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored. Ryan Brett went 1 for 3 with the other run while Corey Brown turned in a plain 1-for-3 evening. This contest was just the second time since April that Arencibia drove in multiple runs without hitting a homer. Mahtook, meanwhile, especially needed a game like this because he entered the game hitting to just a .189/.264/.261 line since returning to Durham from the majors on June 13th.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 5, Jackson Generals (SEA) 4

Montgomery entered the ninth trailing 3-2 before pulling off their best imitation of the Rays’ huge rally. Trey Cochran-Gill remained in the game to start the ninth after tossing a scoreless eighth, but he departed after walking Leonardo Reginatto. Jake DePew followed with a line drive single off new pitcher Tyler Knigge, and the Biscuits were in the business. Justin O’Conner then pinch-ran for the catcher DePew, and despite being a catcher himself, he actually stole second base to give Montgomery a pair of runners in scoring position.

O’Conner has been surprising good stealing bases this season and throughout his minor league career. He didn’t swipe any bags in 2014, but he now has 8 in 10 attempts in 2015 and 20 in 25 attempts for his career. I guess that can’t be too surprising from a player who saw a lot of time at shortstop in high school. In any event, O’Conner’s steal proved to be especially meaningful as Hector Guevara, batting ninth in the lineup, proved to be the Tim Beckham of this game, delivering a go-ahead 2-run single. Guevara later scored on a fielder’s choice before the frame was complete.

Guevara finished the game at 1 for 3 with 3 RBI and a run scored, also adding a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Guevara, 23, entered the game with just a .194/.233/.206 line in his third season spending time at the Double-A level. Guevara was an interesting prospect at one point after drilling 8 home runs in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2009, and he managed to deliver decent results while still being a teenager at Princeton and Bowling Green. Unfortunately, youth doesn’t mean everything as Guevara hasn’t hit much since. At least he will have moments like this game to hold his hat on.

Tyler Goeddel also continued his recent hot streak by going 2 for 2 with 2 walks and a run scored. He is on a nice little stretch, walking 5 times while striking out just twice in his last 5 games, not to mention that he has gone 8 for 16 (.500). Goeddel’s plate discipline (68-34 strikeout to walk ratio) and speed (17 steals in 21 attempts) have actually looked fine, but his inability to tap into his raw power continues to hold him back–his slugging percentage is just .354. Leonardo Reginatto and Jake DePew each added a 1 for 3 game with a walk in the win.

High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs and Daytona Tortugas (CIN) were rained out

This game was rained out, but there was an alligator in the visitor’s clubhouse and Brent Honeywell had some interesting things to say about it.

Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 3, Fort Wayne TinCaps (SDP) 2

We had to give Snell the headline because it was his Triple-A debut, but Henry Centeno was the most impressive pitcher in the system on Friday night. He struck out the first 6 batters he faced and finished with 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 11 while walking none. Centeno has experienced his ups and downs since jumping from the Gulf Coast League to Bowling Green this year, but he now has a 2.41 ERA and a 28-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 37.1 innings in his last 6 starts. The soon-to-be 21 year old continues to progress in his first year at full-season ball.

Centeno spent three years in the Venezuelan Summer League as an unheralded prospect before bursting onto the scene to lead the Rookie Gulf Coast League in ERA and win Baseball America’s Rookie Ball Pitcher of the Year award in 2014. He hasn’t missed many bats this season before this game, but it’s nice to see him throwing strikes against more advanced hitters on his way to a solid season. I still haven’t heard much about Centeno’s stuff–now I have further incentive to ask around–but he has turned himself into a prospect that is worth keeping an eye on.

Jordan Harrison finished the game with 3 shutout innings, and then there was the offense. Grant Kay went 2 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI, Thomas Milone went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored, Carter Burgess went 1 for 3 with a double and run, and Riley Unroe went 1 for 3 with an RBI. Kay’s second professional season has been extremely rough, but he has picked things up of late, hitting to a .329/.395/.397 line in his last 80 plate appearances.

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Short Season-A New York-Penn League: State College Spikes (STL) 2, Hudson Valley Renegades 0

This was an especially tough game for the Renegades as they went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and allowed both Spikes runs on an error. Jake Cronenworth and Michael Russell each went 1 for 3 with a walk while 5 other players went 1 for 4 (including 2 with doubles), but that still wasn’t enough. At least the pitchers looked strong. Angel Yepez started and tossed 6 innings allowing just the 2 unearned runs on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was a great 8-2. Then Tim Ingram finished the game with 3 shutout innings allowing just a hit, forcing 4 outs on the ground.

Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 6, Johnson City Cardinals 4

The Princeton bats did enough to overcome a lackluster effort from their pitchers. Landon Cray capped a 2-for-4 game with his second professional homer to lead off the contest, Jose Rojas went 2 for 4 with a homer and 2 RBI, Kewby Meyer went 2 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and Blake Butera went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Cray entered the game with just a .345 slugging percentage, but he had stood out for a 13-17 strikeout to walk ratio. If he could hit for more power, he would be an interesting player.

Spencer Moran has had better games than this one as he pitched the first 4 innings and allowed 2 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 1 while walking 2. Ethan Clark then allowed 2 runs on 5 hits in the following 2.1 innings, although he did strike out 3 while walking none, before Noel Rodriguez finished the game with 2.2 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 1.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 98: A Desperately Needed Rally

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