The Tampa Bay Rays system is in a huge slump, for whatever reason. Over the last two days, the team’s US affiliates have gone just 2-13! On the other hand, there are inevitably going to be a few terrible days over the course of the season, and there are always still things for us to discuss. On Wednesday, a couple of pitchers followed Erasmo Ramirez‘s lead and struggled, but two young arms delivered strong games.
Triple-A International League: Indianapolis Indians (PIT) 8, Durham Bulls 1
At this point, there is no two ways about it–Dylan Floro has come apart entirely. In this game, Floro showed some great signs, striking out 8 while walking none and forcing a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio. However, he imploded in the sixth inning, allowing 7 runs on 8 hits. We can make our typical excuses–5 of the 9 hits he allowed in the game came on groundballs, and another came on a bunt. But can bad defense and bad luck really explain away a season where he has a 4.99 ERA and a 10-start stretch where that mark goes up to 7.76?
Everett Teaford allowed an inherited runner from Floro to score and also let up another run in 1.1 innings. C.J. Riefenhauser then got past a walk and a strikeout to toss a scoreless inning before Jim Miller had a great frame, allowing a hit but striking out 1 and getting his other 2 outs on the ground. The Bulls have had all sort of bullpen problems this year, but Miller deserves credit for being absolutely fine, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and a 48-11 strikeout to walk ratio in 34 appearances and 59.2 innings pitched.
On the offensive side, the Bulls received 2-for-4 performances from Boog Powell, Jake Elmore, and Ryan Brett, with Brett scoring their lone run in the game. Brett is slowly starting to find himself, hitting .294 in his last 52 plate appearances. Brett’s shoulder injury may still be affecting him as he hasn’t the ball with any authority this year, but the hope is that he get into a rhythm to end the season and deliver a resurgent 2016 when he is back at 100%. Hak-Ju Lee also went 1 for 3 with a hit-by-pitch and the lone RBI for Durham.
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Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 3, Montgomery Biscuits 2
As expected, Jacob Faria is having more trouble at Double-A than he did at Charlotte. This was his roughest start yet as he needed 81 pitches to get through 3 innings. He surrendered 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 4. But let’s take a step back. “Struggling” for Faria is a 3.05 ERA through 8 Double-A starts. He did much better in the first 4 (1.88 ERA, 36-11 K-BB) than the last 4 (4.43 ERA, 19-10 K-BB), but his talent hasn’t changed and Faria just needs to make an adjustment. He still has questions that come with him as a prospect, but it isn’t as though his stuff is bad–he can touch 96 MPH with his fastball. He has done enough this season between his High-A time and his start with Montgomery to warrant a good deal of patience.
Parker Markel followed with 3 shutout innings, getting past a hit and a walk with a strikeout and 5 groundouts, before Matt Lollis and Mark Sappington tossed a shutout frame each. The Braves’ pitching was excellent, and the Biscuits were lucky that Dayron Varona singled in the second inning–otherwise, they would have been no-hit through 6 frames. Fortunately, Varona delivered that hit and a 2-run single in the eighth to provide some excitement at the end of this one. Tyler Goeddel and Jake Bauers had the other 2 Montgomery hits.
High-A Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0
This game marked Chih-Wei Hu‘s Tampa Bay Rays organization debut after the Rays acquired him in the Kevin Jepsen trade, and it went pretty well. Hu tossed 5 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. In 15 games with Fort Myers, also in the Florida State League, Hu was 5-3 with a 2.44 ERA and a 73-19 strikeout to walk ratio in 84.2 innings, and it’s nice to see him actually lower his High-A ERA in this game. Hu has already thrown 95.2 innings this year compared to 71 in 2014, but if he has enough innings left, the Rays may give him some Double-A time before the year is through.
Hu, who will turn 22 in November, is a 6’1″, 230 right-hander who stands out for a low-90’s fastball, a good palmball that he uses as a changeup, and a solid slider. He has done nothing but pitch well in the minor leagues–his 2.41 ERA at High-A is his highest at any level–and it is impressive that he is already at High-A and could even make it to Double-A after starting 2014 at Advanced Rookie ball. Though his upside may be a number four starter, evaluators give him a great chance to remain a starting pitcher and the Rays will hope to sharpen his breaking ball to improve his future outlook.
Speaking of innings concerns, German Marquez appeared in relief in this game and tossed 2 shutout innings, giving up just a hit while striking out 3. Marquez is only at 108 innings on the season after accumulating 98 last year, so this may just be rainouts messing up Marquez’s schedule. That being said, adding Hu to the fold makes it easier for the Rays to manage Marquez’s workload, and it isn’t out of the question that he finishes the year in relief. Colton Reavis finished the game with a perfect inning, striking out 1.
The Stone Crabs managed just 3 hits and no walks in this game. Braxton Lee went 2 for 3 while Mike Marjama had the other hit. Lee would be interesting if he had any power at all–he is hitting .281 with a .348 OBP even after skipping from Short Season-A to High-A, but he has 5 doubles and no home runs in 334 plate appearances to give him just a .298 SLG.
Low-A Midwest League: Quad-A River Bandits (HOU) 10, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
Needless to say, the pitching was bad for the Hot Rods in this one, although at least each pitcher was better than the last. Bradley Wallace allowed 6 runs, 5 earned, in 1.2 innings and Ryan Pennell gave up 3 runs, 2 earned, in 2.1 innings, but then Edgar Gomez only let up 1 more in 2 innings before Jordan Harrison finished the game with 2 perfect frames, striking out 4. Offensively, Grant Kay went 2 for 4 with a run scored, Hunter Lockwood went 1 for 2 with 2 walks and a run, and Bralin Jackson went 1 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 2, Tri-City ValleyCats (HOU) 1
As we discussed, it has been surprisingly difficult to win in the Rays system the last few days, but the Renegades found a way. They scored both of their runs in the second inning on sac flies by Nic Wilson and Taylor Hawkins. Jake Cronenworth also went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk while Cade Gotta went 1 for 3 with a double and a run scored. As the score tells us, though, this game was really about the pitching.
Travis Ott started for Hudson Valley coming off a pair of rough starts where he managed just a 9.00 ERA while lasting only 7 combined innings. He got right back on track in this game, however, tossing 5 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. Ott’s 3.86 ERA for the Renegades doesn’t immediately jump out at you, but there is a lot to like about his 8.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and 0.7 HR/9. The other player that the Rays acquired from the Washington Nationals along with Steven Souza Jr. has some potential, although it will be a while before we find out what he can become.
Reece Karalus followed with 2 shutout innings, getting past 2 hits with 3 strikeouts, before Brandon Koch finished things off with 2 no-hit frames, striking out 3 while walking 1. Karalus, the Rays’ 8th rounder from this year, is off to a great start to his pro career, putting up a 1.69 ERA and a 17-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 21.1 innings. Koch was drafted four rounds ahead of him but has been markedly worse, managing just a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 innings. On the positive side, Koch’s 22-3 K-BB ratio certainly stands out, and with a few less pitches left right down the middle, his results should more closely mirror his stuff.
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Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Danville Braves 3, Princeton Rays 1
It was Danville’s Ryan Clark against Princeton’s Ethan Clark in this one, and it was Ryan who pitched better. Even so, the latter Clark still showed some good signs even as he allowed 2 runs in 4 innings, striking out 5 while walking 1 and forcing a 5-1 groundout to flyout ratio. The trio of Spencer Moran, Garrett Fulenchek, and Ruben Paredes combined to allow only 1 run in the final 4 innings, although they needed to get past 6 walks in order to do so. David Rodriguez went 1 for 3 with a double and a run scored for the P-Rays while Kewby Meyer went 1 for 3 with the lone RBI.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 4, GCL Rays 0
Devin Davis hit his first professional home run on Tuesday and followed it up with a big game in this one, going 3 for 4. Anthony Cantillo also went 2 for 3, but the GCL Rays still couldn’t score. On the mound, Adrian Navas was incredible, throwing 3 no-hit innings in which he struck out 3 while walking none. He faced the minimum 9 batters as he picked off his 1 baserunner. Matt LeVert also looked great, getting past 4 hits with 4 strikeouts in 3.1 frames, while Sam Triece retired both batters he faced. Unfortunately, Jesus Ortiz allowed 4 runs in the fourth inning to provide the GCL Red Sox’ winning margin.