Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Blake Snell Records 1st Triple-A Win
There wasn’t much of a #hugwatch in the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league games on Wednesday, which makes sense given that the Rays aren’t involved in any major trade rumors. Instead, there was just some great baseball in the system, particularly from Blake Snell, several Durham hitters, German Marquez, and non-drafted free agent Peter Maris.
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Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Gwinnett Braves 3
Blake Snell pitched well in his first Triple-A start, with the disclaimer that he lasted only 4 innings. In this game, however, he did get through 5 frames and looked even better. Snell allowed only a run on just 1 hit, striking out 7 while walking 1. He even forced a 4-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Snell has lasted 5 innings or less in 5 of his last 6 starts (going back to his Double-A time), but his strikeout to walk ratio is an impressive 39-9 to go along with a 1.80 ERA. He is laboring, but he is throwing more strikes and forcing more groundballs while still missing bats. His development as a prospect continues to go smoothly, and at this rate, it would be surprising if he didn’t finish the season with at least a game or two in the major leagues.
On the offensive side, everyone’s favorite Rays infielder had a nice game–Nick Franklin went 2 for 3 with a walk, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Franklin entered the day mired in an 0-for-13 slump, but even in that span, he struck out just 3 times while walking twice. Franklin’s big league time with the Rays this season was quite discouraging, but he has looked much better since coming back to Durham and will be back in the majors before the year is through. He will get at least one more extended major league chance, and he just might run with it.
The three players recently mentioned as call-up possibilities for the Rays also played well. Grady Sizemore went 2 for 5, Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, and Richie Shaffer went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored. Sizemore would be the clear choice other than the fact that the Rays are about to face some lefty pitchers. Mahtook’s season has been extremely tough, but he would give the Rays a right-handed bat with a good track record against left-handers.
Shaffer, though, would be the most exciting choice by far. He is only debatably ready, but is it worthwhile for the Rays to call him for a few days like the Rangers did with Joey Gallo and Cubs did with Kyle Schwarber earlier this season? Shaffer obviously isn’t that caliber of prospect, but he doesn’t need to be a superstar to be an improvement for the Rays’ offense and it would be nice to see what he can do. This is definitely sounding like a piece I should write.
Enny Romero allowed 2 runs in 2.2 innings behind Snell–his ERA is now up to 4.46 on the season even though he has spent much of the year in relief–before Jhan Marinez tossed a scoreless third of an inning but allowed one of the runners he inherited to score. Kirby Yates then recorded the save with a scoreless inning, getting past a hit with 2 strikeouts.
Double-A Southern League: Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 2
Chris Kirsch‘s Double-A time is off to a rough start, which can’t be all that surprising given that he has never been regarded too well as a prospect. He had at least been respectable in every game before this start, in which he allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, on 3 hits in 2 innings, striking out 3 while walking 4. At least every pitcher in this game for Montgomery was better than the last. Mark Sappington allowed a run on 4 hits in 2 innings, striking out 2, Jeff Ames gave 3 hits and a walk but no runs in his 2 frames, striking out 3, Matt Lollis struck out 2 while allowing only a walk in 2 innings, and Brad Schreiber finished things with a perfect frame.
On the offensive side, Dayron Varona drilled a solo home run, Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 4, and Patrick Leonard went 1 for 3 with a walk. This wasn’t Leonard’s flashiest game, but it is nice to see him continue to perform well. He has a .379/.454/.583 line in 119 plate appearances since June 17th.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 2, Dunedin Blue Jays 0
The Stone Crabs’ bats were far from great in this game, but they managed to get enough. Yoel Araujo went 2 for 3 with 1 RBI while Andrew Velazquez went 2 for 4 with the other, and Jace Conrad went 2 for 3 with 1 run scored while Armando Araiza had a 1-for-3 game and scored the other. Charlotte did a solid job seizing opportunities, going 2 for 4 with runners in scoring position, and once they had done that, their pitching did the rest.
German Marquez entered this start in a bit of a slump for the Stone Crabs. He had pitched to a 4.45 ERA and a 21-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 32.1 innings across his last 6 starts, allowing well over a hit per inning. There are certainly worse slumps than that–he was still averaging over 5 innings per start–but the Tampa Bay Rays were hoping to see him return to dominance. That is what he provided his team in this game, tossing 7 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. He forced another 8 outs on the ground.
Only recent promotion Brent Honeywell is younger than Marquez on Charlotte’s pitching staff yet he still has recorded strong numbers. He is just 5-10 on the year for whatever reason, but he has a 3.40 ERA, a 6.5 K/9, a 2.2 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 106 innings pitched, which is already his career-high. Marquez can reach the mid-90’s with his fastball, usually sitting 91 to 93 MPH, and pairs it with an excellent curveball that Honeywell can’t say enough about and a solid changeup. He has number three or four starter upside as of right now, although he could be better than that if the third pitch makes strides.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM) 6, Hudson Valley Renegades 3
The Renegades’ pitchers combined to force a 13-3 groundout to flyout ratio in this game, which is obviously very nice, but that doesn’t always go along with strong results. Roel Ramirez started and allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings, striking out 4 while walking 2. He allowed 3 runs in the first inning before doing a solid job recovering from there. Tomas Michelson then gave up 2 more runs on 3 hits in 3 innings, striking out 2 against 1 walk.
Matt Dacey led the Renegades’ offense by going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored while Jake Cronenworth went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run. Dacey has cooled off after a roaring start, but he still has a .253/.333/.407 line and the hope is that he can start hitting the ball well again. The RBIs in the game came from Cade Gotta, Hector Montes, and Angel Moreno.
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Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Bluefield Blue Jays 7 , Princeton Rays 3
Princeton’s pitching wasn’t good enough to win this game, but that can’t do too much to dampen Peter Maris’ excitement. He had his best game in his young professional career, going 5 for 5 with a run scored to take his recent strong play up another notch. Maris now has a 6-game hitting streak where he has gone 13 for 27 (.481). He now has a .317/.380/.383 line in 139 pro plate appearances, not hitting for much power but showing strong plate discipline (17-14 strikeout to walk ratio) and playing shortstop in 31 of the P-Rays’ 35 games. Every non-drafted free agent faces extremely long odds, but the Rays have had two make the major leagues in recent years (Kirby Yates and Elliot Johnson), and if Maris keeps playing well, you never know.
Blair Beck also drilled a 2-run double for Princeton while Kewby Meyer went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI and David Rodriguez went 1 for 1 with 2 walks, a hit-by-pitch and a run scored. On the pitching side, meanwhile, Ethan Clark started and allowed 4 runs on 9 hits in 3.1 innings, although he did striking out 3 while walking 1. Porter Clayton then allowed 3 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits in 2.2 innings, striking out 4 while walking 2 and forcing a 5-1 groundout to flyout ratio (apparently counting some errors) before Ty Jackson finished the game with 2 shutout innings allowing a lone hit.