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Rays Minors: Five Guys, Week One

Johnny Field is one of five Rays prospect hitter off to an outstanding start
Johnny Field is one of five Rays prospect hitter off to an outstanding start
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Week one of  2016 is in the books and I'm kicking off a new series that will focus on minor league achievements. The categories will be the 5 best hitting performances (with 5 runners up noted), the 5 best pitching performances (with 5 runners up noted), the top 5 hitters so far in 2016, and the top 5 pitchers, and finally, the 5 biggest surprises of the week (or thus far). And you guessed it, that adds up to 5 categories!

The series will be updated each Sunday evening and may be posted Sundays or Mondays, depending on site scheduling.

Of note, for this week only, is that the players will obviously be the same for both the overall and week, so next week's version will see a differing commentary in each category.

The 5 best hitting performances

The following Rays minors hitters came out swinging and knocking this week:

Johnny Field AA 15 1 8 10 2 0 0 5 1 4 2 0.533 0.529 0.667 1.196
Richie Shaffer AAA 10 2 7 9 2 0 0 7 3 1 0 0.700 0.769 0.900 1.669
Jaff Decker AAA 11 3 6 10 1 0 1 2 0 2 1 0.545 0.545 0.909 1.455
Jake Cronenworth A(Full) 16 7 8 12 2 1 0 3 4 0 1 0.500 0.600 0.750 1.350
Peter Maris A 16 3 7 10 0 0 1 5 3 2 1 0.438 0.526 0.625 1.151

5 runner ups

The following hitters came close, but fell a little short: Riley Unroe (.333/.474/.533), Dayron Varona (only 7 AB but 3 extra base-hits), Daniel Robertson (first AAA HR), Jake Bauers (.313), Mac James (.583/.615/.667)

There were some impressive performances overall. Shaffer was able to put himself in line for an early season call up, and Field proved he could carry the AA lineup hitting cleanup. Decker is leading by example as a veteran on the AAA team, and Cronenworth has matched his production lower in the minors. Maris may be the most surprising name on the list, but he certainly deserves it.

Shaffer was also named the IL batter of the week:

The 5 best pitching performances

The following Rays minors hurlers came chucking accurately and/or effectively this week:

Austin Pruitt 1 0 1.5 1 6 3 1 1 1 0 11 0.50
Hunter Wood 1 0 0.00 1 6 3 0 0 0 2 5 0.83
Brent Honeywell 0 0 1.5 1 6 4 1 1 0 0 5 0.67
Chris Kirsch 1 0 0.00 1 6 4 0 0 0 2 2 1.00
Jose Mujica 1 0 1.80 1 5 3 1 1 0 1 4 0.80

Pruitt was outstanding and deserves more attention. Here's a little more detail on his start:

I wouldn't say that it wasn't expected, but he definitely needs to be on more people's radars.

5 runner ups noted

The following hurlers came close, but fell short of the top 5: Blake Snell (5 Ks, 1.20 Whip), Jaime Schultz (7 Ks), Eddie Gamboa (0.55 Whip), Matt Andriese (9 Ks), Jacob Faria (0.71 Whip)

Pruitt really came out on fire, Wood and Kirsch proved to be hard to hit, and Honeywell and Mujica performed as expected. If this is the first time you hear of Mujica, it's time to take note of the 19 year old RH. In his first year of full season ball, he could make a huge leap up the rankings this season if he pitches as expected.

The top 5 hitters so far in 2016

The following Rays minors hitters have been swinging and knocking the ball all over the field in 2016:

See above.

The top 5 pitchers so far in 2016

The following Rays minors hitters have been swinging and knocking the ball all over the field in 2016:

See above.

The 5 biggest surprises of the week or thus far in 2016

The following are notables that you may or may not know about who are performing well above - or below - expectations this week and/or this season:

Kevin Padlo only managed a .182 average and may be at the level due to teams pitching around the talented 3B. He wound up walking 4 times to maintain a healthy .400 OBP and did manage to hit his first HR of the season. Expect his average to improve once others in the lineup force pitchers to throw him more strikes.

Jake Cronenworth (above) may be the biggest surprise of all this week. The 22 year old second baseman has always had a good quick bat, but this week he's showing more power than ever after managing 2 doubles and a triple. He had only managed 12 doubles and 3 triples all of 2015 (196 AB), so it's a great sign to see him come out of the gates strong and is something to keep an eye on going forward.

Mac James, who is catching in Charlotte, is about as hot as you could expect at the plate, getting 7 hits out of 12 AB. Only one has been for extra bases, a double, but also managed a walk which sees his OBP at a whopping .615 at the moment. It's a tiny sample size, but he's off to an outstanding start.

Parker Markel, the Montgomery reliever who got a long look with the Rays this spring, has had a rough go of it early on. He's allowed 5 hits in 1 IP with 3 ER. We're expecting this to improve and have much higher hopes for him in 2016.

Although I'd love to talk about how outstanding Daniel Robertson has been since his promotion (both offensively and defensively), I have to go with Austin Pruitt's performance so far in AAA. His start saw 11 hitters strike out with no walks and only 3 hits allowed. He may be the forgotten promoted pitcher in Durham, but he's firmly in position to compete for a rotation or pen spot if and when one becomes available. He could be the most under rated arm in the entire Rays system since he doesn't even rank among the Top 30 on's list despite a solid track record.

Week's Overall Thoughts

If you've watched Durham's games (3 - 1), you've seen a lineup and rotation that is poised to compete for a championship in 2016 and will do a great job of supporting the Rays. The pen there is going to need a lot of work, but when injuries sort themselves out, I also expect this to become a strength of the team.

Montgomery (1 - 3) may be the biggest surprise of the week in the standings and this should improve shortly. The lineup, particularly its top 5 hitters, is quite strong and simply needs more opportune hits to get more runs across the plate.

Charlotte (1 - 3) has reason to be encouraged. Wood seems poised to lead their staff, Riley Unroe seems to be building off a great experience in Australia, and once Justin Williams and Tommy Milone will start getting more hits. This team should quickly improve.

Bowling Green (3 - 1) took what Cronenworth and Maris gave them at the plate and ran with it to a great start. Cameron Varga also had a decent start, while Roel Ramirez and Ian Gibaut did an outstanding job out of the pen. This team should be in the hunt all season long.

And finally, I have this note that points to why paying attention to these players and their performances is important:

That's it for this week! Look for this series to continue through the weeks and let us know your thoughts, agreements or not, in the comments below!