Durham Bulls (AAA)

Unlike their Major League counterparts, the Bulls are running like, well, like the Bulls of Pamplona.
In 14 games they lead the International League with 30 stolen bases, 11 more than the next team. In fact they have the top two thieves in the IL, Delmon Young (10) and B. J. “Don’t call me Melvin” Upton (8). As noted last week, Upton hit a walk-off grand slam, his first home run of the season, in a 5-4 victory over the Toledo Mud Hens. As a whole, the team has not flexed their muscles in the power department. Firstbaseman Kevin Witt leads the team with 3 home runs. As mentioned earlier, Upton has only hit one in the first two weeks of the season and Young has failed to clear the fence yet. Unfortunately, Upton continues to struggle in the field with 7 errors in the first 14 games. On a brighter not, Young is hitting .396, with a .441 OBP. In fact young has 4 walks and 5 strikeouts. The only hole in his game to this point was that he tended to strike out a bit too much and was not drawing any walks. Last season in 52 games at Durham his strikeout to walk ratio was 33/4. Young is such a good hitter, that we have the feeling that he could do anything he put his mind to.

Add the name Elijah Dukes to the list of talented outfielders in the Devil Rays organization (Josh who?). About the only thing holding back Dukes from superstardom, might be his emotions. Last season he was ejected from 5 games and suspended twice. However, nobody doubts his physical tools and at times he has put them on display early on this season. He is only batting .269, but he has an OBP of .356 and is slugging .500.

Another bright note on the young season has been the starting pitching. Of the pitchers that have started a game for Durham, only Jackson has an ERA north of 3.00. Jamie Shields, in 3 starts is 0-1 with a 2.76 ERA, but has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio of 17-1. Chris Seddon has an ERA of 0.82 in his first starts of the year.

Montgomery Biscuits (AA)
firstbaseman Gabriel Martinez is as hot as a, well he’s as hot as a biscuit. In the first 14 games of the season he is second in the Southern League in batting (.357) and second in slugging (.690). Martinez has never hinted at this sort of success in the past, so it will be interesting if he can keep it up. One prospect that the Rays have high hopes for at Montgomery is Wes Bankston. Bankston a firstbaseman has spent most of the season playing third base. The move to third base is designed to speed his ascent to the majors. The move has been shaky to start, as he has committed 6 errors in the first two weeks of the season.

Like the staff at Durham, the Biscuit’s pitching has been solid early on. Only one starting pitcher has an ERA over 4.00. Leading the way has been Tony Pequero, who is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 3 starts. In 19.1 innings he has surrendered only 13 hits and 1 walk while striking out 10. Chuck Tiffany, the other pitcher in the Dodger trade this past off-season has been solid, but he has not been the strikeout artist he has shown in past seasons, with 7 K’s in 12.1 innings.

Visalia Oaks (High-level A)
The Oaks put on an offensive display on April 12th, hitting 8 home runs in a 17-15 victory over the Bakersfield Blaze.
The onslaught was led by the “Cajun God of Baseball”, Reid Brignac, who hit 3 round-trippers and drove in 8. Shaun Cumberland and Patrick Breen hit two a piece. On the season, Brignac is hitting .353/.407/.569. However, he does have 6 errors in the first two weeks of the season. Between Brignac and Upton, the first one to figure out how to field the position will likely end up the shortstop of Tampa Bay’s future. The race is on! Outfield prospects Francisco Leandro and Fernando Perez are off to very slow starts.

The lone bright spots on the Oaks pitching staff have been James Houser and Christopher Mason. Houser has a 0.82 ERA in his first two starts, giving up only 5 hits in 11 innings while walking 4 and striking out 6. Mason has an equally impressive 1.80 ERA in 2 starts. There is not a single reliever on the staff with an ERA less than 5.00.

Southwest Michigan Devil Rays (A)
Remember this name…Wade Davis.
If all goes well, the D-Rays starting rotation will consist of Scott Kazmir, Jeff Niemann, Mark Hendrickson, Edwin Jackson and Wade Davis with Wade Townsend closing. Will it actually work out that way? Probably not, but it could be a great staff. Kazmir is already there and is an ace in the making. Hendrickson is starting to look like a solid left-handed starter. Jackson has the talent and could be up to stay very soon. Niemann, the Rays first pick of the 2004 draft is nursing a sore shoulder and is yet to pitch this season and appears to be a year away at best. Townsend, the first pick of the Rays in 2005, is also coming back from an injury and in the long run may be better suited for the bullpen. And Wade Davis. Davis, the third round pick in 2004 has been nothing short of outstanding early on this season. In 3 starts he is 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA. In 15.2 innings he has surrendered 6(!) hits and 7 walks while striking out 22. He is clearly overpowering opposing batters in the Midwest League. He won’t be there long.

Jacob McGee, a lefty, has also been impressive early on. He is 1-2 in three starts with a 2.51 ERA. He has struck out 21 in 14.1 innings while only walking 5. On the offensive side of the ball, Matthew Spring, who may be the catcher of the future for the D-Rays is off to a solid start, hitting .318-2-4-2.



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  2. colin says:

    I'm a bit concerned about the WHIP on Jackson, but I'm excited to see him aginst the rangers nevertheless


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