The Tampa Bay Rays have had terrible luck in the Rule 5 Draft. First Josh Hamilton left and became a superstar, and then there was Oscar Hernandez in this past year’s draft. We will see what Hernandez turns into, but an injury in spring training gave Arizona the chance for a 30-day rehab stint in the minors and made it easier to keep him on their 25-man roster when healthy. Now it looks like Hernandez will not be coming back. The Rays’ next big Rule 5 Draft decision is Patrick Leonard. What will they make of his three months of excellent hitting at Double-A?
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 2, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 1
The Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t beat the Baltimore Orioles yesterday, but at least the Bulls beat the Tides. J.P. Arencibia delivered an RBI single in the first inning before Boog Powell‘s bunt single brought home a second run in the second frame, and the Bulls’ pitching was just barely able to do the rest. Arencibia finished the game 2 for 4 while Ryan Brett went 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored and Hak-Ju Lee continued his hot streak by going 1 for 2 with 2 walks, a stolen base, and a run scored. Lee has been playing well for a while now, and the Rays have to like that Brett is coming around as well.
On the mound, the results were sketchy but the Bulls’ pitchers found a way to strand runners on base. Dylan Floro tossed 5 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2. He didn’t have great control, miss bats, or even force grounders (5-5 groundout to flyout ratio), but he somehow made it work. Enny Romero then threw the next 3 innings in shutout fashion, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2, before Kirby Yates escaped a bases-loaded, 1-out jam in the ninth to earn the save, striking out 1.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 11, Jackson Generals (SEA) 6
Wouldn’t it be great if the Rays could win some games like this? Jacob Faria had an ugly start, giving up 5 runs, 3 earned, on 6 hits in 5.1 innings, striking out 4 while walking 1. Even so, he was able to earn the win because the offense was surging behind him. Patrick Leonard had the best game of all, going 4 for 5 with a homer, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Leonard is now up to a .262/.346/.436 line on the year, which is impressive enough by itself, but that really doesn’t tell the whole story. Since April 30th, Leonard has a .288/.377/.476 line in 265 plate appearances. And he has reached another stratosphere since June 17th, hitting to a .380/.452/.590 line with 4 of his 7 homers on the season.
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You may forget that Leonard also delivered strong results in 2014 at High-A, hitting to a .284/.359/.448 line with 26 doubles, 13 homers, 58 RBI, and 14 stolen bases in 515 plate appearances. He stands out most for his solid plate approach and strong power potential, although the power has never fully come and holes in his swing will still lead to strikeouts. Even after a season like he had last year, Leonard was still ranked as just the Rays’ 24th-best prospect. It isn’t a sure thing that a team would give him a look in the Rule 5 Draft. However, between his ability to play a strong first base plus a halfway-decent third and his strong numbers against left-handed pitchers the last two years, there is at least some reason to believe that Leonard could be a useful player on a big league bench next year.
Jake Bauers also had a nice game at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, and another player on the Rule 5 bubble, Tyler Goeddel, went 2 for 4 with a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Goeddel is now 9 for his last 17 (.529) with 5 walks against just 2 strikeouts. Dayron Varona and Hector Guevara contributed multiple RBIs while Joey Rickard went just 1 for 4 but delivered a double, 2 walks, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. Then we need to talk about one more pitcher: Mark Sappington, who finished the game with 3 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 5.
Low-A Midwest League: Fort Wayne TinCaps (SDP) 2, Bowling Green Hot Rods 0
Errors by Cristian Toribio and Nick Ciuffo proved to be the difference in a game where the two teams combined for just 6 hits, 3 walks, and 1 hit batsman. Chris Pike had a nice start, going 7 innings allowing 2 unearned runs on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He also forced 9 outs on the ground as he lowered his ERA to 3.22 on the season. Damion Carroll followed with 2 perfect innings. He was under control for once and managed to entice 4 groundouts. Toribio and Grant Kay had the 2 Hot Rods hits, with Toribio also stealing a base.