Rays Prospects

Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Benton Moss Sharp for Renegades

By Robbie Knopf
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There five games in the Tampa Bay Rays system last night, and five of them ended with the Rays affiliate losing by 2 runs or less. The other two were a blowout and an actual win. It was closer to usual Rays baseball than what we have seen from the big league club the last few days–good pitching, but not enough run support–and we will get to discuss several interesting outings from the pitchers in addition to a few strong individual performances at the plate.

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Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 3, Durham Bulls 2

The Rays are three games below .500 at 51-54 while the Bulls are right there with them at 52-55. The Rays’ team .240/.304/.381 line is quite similar to the Bulls’ .243/.320/.383 mark, and though the Rays’ 3.59 ERA beats the Bulls’ 4.03 allowed per 9 by a good margin, the two teams have similar K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 ratios: 8.2, 3.0, and 1.0 for the Rays versus 7.6, 2.9, and 0.9 for Durham. The Bulls are really an extension of the Rays this year, which is a good thing in terms of depth, but not necessarily in terms of promise for the future. Taylor Motter is Durham’s Logan Forsythe and they have other productive hitters like Richie Shaffer and (ex-Ray) Nick Franklin, but even with pure home run hitters J.P. Arencibia and Corey Brown (neither of which have good numbers despite the homers), the Rays have out-homered the Bulls 93 to 91 in 2 less games.

In this game, Scott Diamond had a mediocre start, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits in 4.2 innings. At least his 6-1 strikeout to walk ratio and 4-1 groundout to flyout ratio are signs of better things to come. Jhan Marinez, who could eventually be a Rays bullpen option, allowed 2 hits and no walks in 2.2 shutout innings, striking out 4, before C.J. Riefenhauser pitched 0.2 perfect innings with a strikeout and Jordan Norberto tossed a perfect frame.

On the offensive side, Arencibia went 2 for 5, Desmond Jennings went 1 for 2 with a double and a run scored in his rehab game, Luke Maile went 1 for 3 with a hit-by-pitch, and Taylor Motter went 1 for 3 after replacing Jennings. Jennings’ importance to the team has skyrocketed with Steven Souza on the DL again. It also particularly hurts now that David DeJesus was traded, although the question will be whether the opening will make the Rays more likely to promote Richie Shaffer or Motter. There is also Ryan Brett, who went 1 for 5 with a double and a run in his sixth game in centerfield and recorded his first ever outfield assist.

Double-A Southern League: Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 5, Durham Bulls 4

Jared Mortensen had a poor outing, giving up 5 runs on 10 hits in 5 innings, and the Bulls couldn’t quite overcome it. Jeff Ames and Parker Markel each tossed 2 shutout frames behind him, but the Biscuits scored no runs after doing so 4 times to take a 4-3 lead in the third inning. Cameron Seitzer went 3 for 4 with a 2-run homer, Joey Rickard went 2 for 5 with a double, a stolen base, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and Patrick Leonard went 2 for 4 with a double. Tyler Goeddel also had a great game, going 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, and an outfield assist.

Seitzer is in his third year at Double-A, but it is also his best one as he is hitting to a .302/.380/.470 line with 18 doubles, 9 homers, and 40 RBI in 321 plate appearances. The only player beating him on the team in OPS is Rickard, whose repeat of the level has done wonders for him as he now has a .322/.420/.479 line with 19 doubles, 6 triples, 2 homers, 32 RBI, and 19 stolen bases in 282 PA’s. Rickard has a better chance than Seitzer of making the major leagues and having a decent career because he is a strong defensive outfielder.

Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1

The Hot Rods scored just 1 run despite 3 hits with runners in scoring position, and Chris Pike was not quite good enough. Hunter Lockwood had the lone RBI while Mac James went 2 for 4 with a double, Alec Sole had a 1-for-3 day with a double and a walk, and Justin Williams and Coty Blanchard each went 1 for 3 with a walk as well (Williams added an outfield assist). Sole continues the most surprising breakout in the system as he is hitting to a .307/.358/.436 line in Bowling Green compared to just .199/.285/.243 in Hudson Valley last year.

Pike did finish with strong numbers, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out 6 while walking 1 and also forced an 8-4 groundout to flyout ratio. Kyle Bird finished the game with 2.1 innings allowing a run on a hit and a walk while striking out 4. Pike isn’t missing many bats with the Hot Rods, but he has thrown strikes and kept hitters off-balance on his way to a 3.18 ERA in 99 innings. His fastball touching 94 MPH is a great place to start, and hopefully he can keep developing his secondary pitches.

Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Auburn Doubledays (WSN) 1, Hudson Valley Renegades 0

Benton Moss was one of the Tampa Bay Rays’ more interesting selections in the 2015 MLB Draft. He was a senior sign, but he had reached 95 MPH with his fastball (although he usually sits 88 to 92 MPH) and had shown promise with both a curveball and a split-change. He was even mixing in a cutter that was helping him force groundballs. Moss had enough stuff to get a chance to start in pro ball, and the early returns have been pretty good.

In this game, Moss tossed 6 innings allowing a lone run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a superb 10-1. Moss now has a 3.04 ERA, a 9.1 K/9, a 2.4 BB/9, and a 0.7 HR/9 in 4 starts, 4 relief appearances, and 26.2 innings with the Renegades, and that is quite encouraging. If he keeps pitching well, it would be interesting if the Rays skipped him to the High-A level, where his age versus the level weren’t be as big of a concern. Moss has the stuff to turn into a solid prospect for this team, and despite his status as a senior sign, only Justin Marsden may have more upside than him among the pitchers the Rays drafted this year.

Tim Ingram finished the game for the Renegades, allowing a hit while striking out 1 in 2 shutout frames. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 3-1. In terms of the limited offense, the trio of Hector Montes, Nic Wilson, and Jose Paez each went 1 for 4 while Matt Dacey drew both walks that the Doubledays issued.

Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Pulaski Yankees 1

Yay for winning! Blake Bivens started and delivered one of his better starts, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 5 innings, striking out 5 while walking 2. Bivens has looked good on the whole in his second pro season, giving up too many home runs (1.1 HR/9) but posting a 3.27 ERA and a 29-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 33 innings. He is the type of guy who could start next season in the Bowling Green rotation if the Rays decide to be aggressive with him. Noel Rodriguez was then awesome to finish the game, allowing just a hit and a walk in 4 shutout innings, striking out 3. He now has a 0.95 ERA in 19 pro innings.

Offensively, 8-9-1-2-3 in the batting order came up big. Angel Perez went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and a run scored, Blake Butera went 1 for 3 with a run, the seemingly unstoppable Peter Maris had a 1-for-3 day with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run, Zacrey Law went 2 for 3, and Landon Cray went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Maris isn’t hitting for much power but does have a .311 average and a .375 OBP. Perez, meanwhile, has been the P-Rays best all-around hitter as one of their younger players, hitting to a .317/.354/.475 line.

Rookie Gulf Coast League Game 1: GCL Orioles 2, GCL Rays 0 (7 innings)

Abrahan Rodriguez came through with a nice start for the GCL Rays, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings. You wouldn’t know based on that that he has pitched to just a 6.75 ERA this year. On the offensive side, Oscar Rojas went 1 for 3 with a double while Garrett Whitley went 1 for 3 with the lone additional hit. Daniel Robertson went 0 for 2 in his rehab game but walked and felt good enough to steal a base while Miguel Hernandez did just about everything you can do without recording a hit. He went 0 for 2 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, and an outfield assist.

Game 2: GCL Orioles 11, GCL Rays 4

The pitching was bad for the Grays, but 6 of the runs were unearned. Ty Nichols allowed 6 runs, just 2 earned, in 4.1 innings, Tyler Brashears had forgettable pro debut (3 runs, 2 earned in an inning), and Edrick Agosto gave up 2 more runs in the final 1.2 frames. At least there was some offense. Ryan Caldwell moved up to the leadoff spot and went 3 for 4 with a run, Oscar Rojas went 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, Juan Rodriguez went 2 for 4, and Adrian Rondon went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 105: Souza Back To DL, Moore Demoted

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