Will Jake Bauers go down as the best player that the Tampa Bay Rays received in the Wil Myers–Steven Souza Jr. trade? It is too early to tell, but the chances of that being true are far higher than anyone would have expected. Bauers is a full year and a half younger than any player on the Montgomery Biscuits, but he keeps hitting and–more importantly for his future–improving his power output.
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Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 6, Durham Bulls 3
Just like the Mets did to the Rays on Saturday and Sunday, the Tides got ahead of the Bulls 3-0 in the early stages of this game. In a reminder that falling behind 3-0 is not a winning strategy, however, Durham was unable to come back. Bradin Hagens was able to rebound from that rough beginning to deliver a decent outing, allowing just those runs in 5 innings, striking out 3 while walking 1. He also forced an 8-3 groundout to flyout ratio. The Rays aren’t concerned about their starting depth with Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, and Matt Andriese all currently at Triple-A, but Hagens has made himself a candidate for an emergency start or long relief appearance. He has a 3.12 ERA and a 38-13 strikeout to walk ratio in 40.1 innings for the Bulls.
Dylan Floro appeared in relief behind Hagens and continued to struggle, allowing 2 runs in just 1 inning. Then, after Andrew Bellatti tossed a scoreless seventh, Jhan Marinez allowed a solo homer in the eighth (at least he struck out the side). There were some offensive highlights, though, as Leonardo Reginatto went 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and a run scored while both Boog Powell and Joey Rickard went 2 for 5 with a double. Powell drove in a run while Rickard scored once. Rickard is off to some start with the Bulls, going 12 for his first 28 (.429).
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 11, Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 7
This game was crazy, but thanks to Dayron Varona and Jake Bauers, everything worked out well for the Biscuits. Both of them went 2 for 5 with a homer and 2 runs scored, with Varona driving in 4 runs while Bauers brought home 3. It was the Biscuits’ oldest position player and youngest position player coming together to lead their team to victory. Varona, 27, has a .279/.313/.464 line since joining the Biscuits, and overall, the Rays are pretty satisfied with that. Varona’s plate discipline has been bad (34-6 K-BB), but he’s hitting for much more power than expected and his speed and defense give him some margin for error.
Bauers, interestingly enough, has almost the same exact OPS this season (.788) that he did last year (.789). That is quite impressive given that he spent all of 2014 at Low-A while moving up to High-A and then Double-A this season. But the way that Bauers has gotten to that OPS is quite different and quite encouraging. Last season, in 467 plate appearances, Bauers hit to a .296/.376/.414 line with 18 doubles, 8 homers, 64 RBI, and an 80-51 strikeout to walk ratio. This year, his triple-slash is .276/.355/.432 to go along with 25 doubles, 10 homers, 65 RBI, and a 55-45 strikeout to walk ratio in 429 PA’s.
Bauers isn’t hitting for as high of an average, but he has managed the incredible feat of both hitting for more power and cutting down on his strikeouts while keeping his walk rate constant. He still doesn’t have huge power potential, and it is difficult to be a top prospect as a first baseman without a chance to hit 30 home runs, but Bauers is doing everything he can to raise his stock. The chances of him becoming at least an average major league first baseman between his pure hitting, plate discipline, solid power (say 15 homers), and excellent defense just keeps going up.
Other notables offensively were Tyler Goeddel, who went 2 for 4 with a triple, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, and Thomas Coyle, who went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run. The Biscuits’ pitching was incredibly mediocre, with Chris Kirsch allowing 3 runs in 5 innings, Ryne Stanek allowing another in 2, and Brad Schreiber having his first Double-A collapse after he gave up 3 runs in the ninth. Parker Markel did get past 2 hits to toss a scoreless eighth.
High-A Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals 8, Charlotte Stone Crabs 7 (12 innings)
The Stone Crabs came back from a 7-2 deficit to take this game to extra innings, but they easily could have won this game without too much of a hassle. Brent Honeywell started and retired all 4 batters he faced, 3 via the strikeout, before rain halted the contest and prevented him from coming back in. Steve Ascher got through the next 2.2 innings without a problem, but he gave up 6 runs while recording just 1 out in the fifth. Mike Franco, Isaac Gil, and Colton Reavis then gave up just 1 run in the following 5.2 innings before Kyle McKenzie gave up an unearned run in 1.2 innings to take the loss.
At the plate, Willy Adames went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, Kean Wong went 2 for 4 with a walk and a run, Jace Conrad went 2 for 5 with a double, and Armando Araiza went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run. Yoel Araujo also drilled a 2-run home run. Adames entered this game having gone 0 for his last 14, but a game like this–not to mention his overall body of work–inspires confidence that he will be fine.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 7, Hudson Valley Renegades 0
Roel Ramirez allowed 6 runs on 10 hits in 5 innings, sidearmer Justin McCalvin allowed another run in 2 innings, and the Renegades offense managed just 4 hits, 2 from Jose Paez. With that out of the way, let’s talk about Diego Castillo. In this game, he tossed 2 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 4 while walking none.
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Castillo wasn’t a guy on my radar at all until I visited Hudson Valley on Sunday and the people in their press box raved about him. Castillo is far from your typical international signing. He didn’t sign with the Rays until last season, when he was 20 years old, and despite his advanced age for the level, he pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year. But the Rays saw something special in him as they jumped him all the way from the DSL to Short Season-A, and he has shown exactly why. Castillo has reached 97 MPH with his fastball as he has posted a 2.42 ERA and a 23-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 22.1 innings for the Renegades. He didn’t pitch on Sunday, so I didn’t see him–we still need more information–but Castillo is the type of guy that could start zooming through the system in a relief role.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Danville Braves 5, Princeton Rays 3 (11 innings)
Eduar Lopez, who was acquired in the David DeJesus trade, pitched well for the P-Rays, allowing no runs on 3 hits in 6 innings, striking out 3 and walking 3 as well. Ty Jackson then tossed 2 shutout innings before Ruben Paredes collapsed. Offensively, Peter Maris went 2 for 5 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored while Zac Law and David Rodriguez drove in the other 2 runs. Angel Perez and Landon Cray each had an outfield assist in the loss.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Twins 11, GCL Rays 3
The GCL Rays’ pitching was terrible in this one, bad enough that outfielder Jaime Ayende needed to make his second pitching appearance. Ayende retired both batters he faced and has now allowed just a hit and a walk while striking out 1 in 1.2 innings overall. Morales was known entering the 2014 draft for excellent arm strength, and considering that he has just a .154/.268/.176 line in his 162 professional plate appearances, all with the GCL Rays, don’t be surprised if he is converted to the mound in Instructional League following the season.
We won’t talk about the performances of Jose Disla, Sandy Brito, and Collin Chapman, but Tyler Brashears forced the only batter he saw to ground out while Justin Marsden looked excellent. He allowed just a hit in 3 shutout innings, striking out 2. In 5.1 professional innings overall, Marsden has allowed just a hit and a walk while striking out 6. It is great to see him off to a great start, but we can’t be too surprised as he was the late-round pick many Rays people were talking about after the draft.
Oscar Rojas drove in 2 runs for the Grays while catcher Rafelin Lorenzo went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a runner picked off second base. Gilbert Marrero also went 2 for 4 while Garrett Whitley tripled and scored a run.