Continuing in our look at the Rays farm system, we now move on to the AA Montgomery Biscuits. A somewhat disappointing followup to 2007's overall best record in the Southern league, the Biscuits came in 3rd with a 69-70 record in 2008. They finished 4th out of 10 teams in runs scored per game at 4.83. On the other side of the ledger they allowed the 6th least at 4.81 per game. As we get deeper into the organization you'll notice the names start to get less familiar to the casual fan. That does not mean Montgomery was completely bereft of talent. Let's take a look at the end of year stats.
Open the link in a new tab and you will see the Biscuits sorted by AB's. Like in the first installment guys in Green spent some time, and should stay, up a level. Guys in Blue are ones that I am assured of or have a good idea are no longer in the organization. Hat Tip to RaysProspects for their minor league roster. This is the best source I could find and they do great work over there.
Though prone to the K, Gabriel Martinez had a real strong year at the plate working the second best SLG (.450) of the regulars and leading the team in Total Bases (230) and dingers (20). Erold Andrus is the older brother of Elvis Andrus, the Rangers heir apparent to GG'er Michael Young at SS. He tied for the team lead in triples, but that speed did not translate to well to stealing bases with only 3 and a 60% success rate. His modest average,.255, is helped out by a 10.2% walk rate that helps him to a .331 OBP. We are now at a guy I mentioned in my Durham Bulls post. Chris Nowak saw some time at AAA and you can see why pretty quickly. His 35 doubles helped power him to 54 XBH's. On top of that his 10.7% walk rate helped him to a very healthy .381% OBP. His .867 OPS easily led the team, but so did his 19 errors.
Leading the team in SB's (24), 71% success rate, was Rashad Eldridge. He was another really good OBP guy at .387. Great at taking a free base, but he also does K at a higher level than you would like at 17.6%. Rhyne Hughes played 1B. His SLG of .448 helped him to a respectable OPS (.804), but he struck out over a quarter of the time. Not much of a contact hitter (60% singles) he could still develop some more power and turn those doubles into homers. Hughes will be 25 years old for the season so now is the time to flash that power. Merrill and Raburn are older guys that are not in minor league as far as I can tell. I wish them luck, but there time may have run out. Pedroza came over with the departed Joel Guzman in the Lugo trade a couple years back. In my mind this makes you root a little harder for him. Known for his power in lower levels he only had 5 homers, though the 16 doubles are a nice touch. Being one of the youngest guys on the team he should have plenty of time to assert himself.
John Jaso should be familiar to most here, high OBP due to a gross walk rate of nearly 18%. He's another guy I mentioned in the Durham post and should spend the year there improving his footwork behind the plate. Asanovich has a great eye and thats about the best thing you can say about him, he doesn't hit for much power (.319 SLG, ok no power) and went 0-4 on the basepaths. Matt Spring is another catcher. He hit for good power and took 3.4% of his plate appearances out of the yard. He's the youngest guy on the team and it seems like he got a long look at ST this year. He is my guy to watch for AA.
I wanted to show what their slash line at Montgomery would look like translated to Durham. I won't talk much about this since it is pretty self explanatory. Again, this is courtesy of MinorLeagueSplits, play around with the calculator as it is a nice reference tool.
You will notice the pitchers are sorted by K:BB rate. Hellboy refuses to walk anyone, that coupled with his 9.47 K rate make me salivate at what he can do in a full season. Most people don't see him as a high ceiling guy since he doesn't have disgusting stuff, but he sounds like another under-rated guy starting for the Rays. He turns 22 next month and is primed to jump all over the radar if he can build on his success. Heath Rollins is a guy that doesn't get much said about him, but he got guys out while maintaining a low walk rate. He had a pretty small sample in 2008 so lets hope he can continue to put up that 1.12 WHIP. David Price is next and had a phenomenal AA experience. He treated Montgomery like a turnstile as he showed up for 9 starts allowed basically a baserunner an inning, struck out roughly a guy an inning, and kept his homers against in check.
We recently got Morlan back, but it remains to be seen if he will stay in AA. My gut says yes as he could use some more polish and is still a young guy that throws gasoline while posting a sub-3 BB rate. He has future closer written all over him. Brock Till had good K and BB rates, but struggled giving up the longball. According to RaysProspects he was not in Minor League camp. Same with Colter Bean who has bounced around a little and is probably too old for the league at this point. Cromer looked good in Spring Training and may have lodged his name in the brain of another interested GM. With all of our pitching depth I think he could be a second guy thrown in in a trade. He doesn't allow homers, but does give up almost 1.25 hits an inning. Frontz is just as hittable, but gives up twice as many homers, more walks, and pitched about a 1/3 of the innings as Cromer. The one thing he has going for him is time as he turns 25 next month. Wade Davis was profiled in the Durham post and should be familiar to anyone with a pulse. His numbers at Montgomery were not exactly eye-popping, but he's a good one. Houser was a good starter as far as limiting baserunners, and consequently runs. He is helped by a HR/9 of less than 1 and a decent K-rate (7.27). He struggled with walks a little, but at the rate he gets hit this is probably less of a concern than other guys. Andrade is out of the system as near as I can tell. He walked a lot of guys but was hard to hit and threw a ton of K's. Being an older guy with control problems he will not be missed.
Jake McGee is a former Uber-prospect that was struck down by routine Tommy John surgery (what I can't joke a little). He wasn't having a great year, but as a starter he was striking quite a few guys out and giving up less than a hit an inning. Walks limited his effectiveness. He should be throwing off a mound by July and as long as he doesn't lose that velocity we are talking about a great closer prospect. Reid is another guy that k's a bunch, but walks too many. He only gave up one dinger and will only be 24 next month. If he can find a way to limit his walks without hurting his other numbers he could be a very good one, but that is a big if. De Los Santos is kind of an unheralded guy with a not great K/BB (1.63). As near as I can tell, Deago, Henderson, Lynn, Prochaska, and Flanagan were not in Minor League camp and are probably too old for the league now. None were really superb with Old Man Deago being the best of the bunch. Jino Gonzalez got some starts last year, he got some bullpen calls, and he got a couple of saves, but overall his numbers aren't much to brag about. He walks a ton, much like everyone left to cover, and gave up more hits than innings. This just in Wade Townsend is injured, what else is new, next. Barratt pitched less than 4 innings so take what you will. In fact I'm not even going to cover Mike W and Kamrath.
Out of the guys that will most likely start in AA next year my guy to watch is Hellickson. If he can do what he did for virtually all of 2008 he should end the year in AAA. If you remember a few hundred
years words ago my batter to watch was Matt Spring. If he can get significant playing time you may see a solid battery of Hellboy and his sidekick Spring um boy that could stick together and get moved up to AAA sometime this year. Stay tuned for the Charlotte Stone Crabs nee Vero Beach Devil Rays. As always any input is more than welcome.