Kevin Witt called up to replace Branyan on roster
Last night the Devil Rays traded Russell Branyan to the San Diego Padres for minor leaguer Evan Meek and either a player to be named later or cash. The Padres, who are 1 game back of the Dodgers in the NL West and 1.5 games back in the wild card race, are looking to bolster their bench with a power bat that can also fill in at third base. Branyan is not the sort of player that is going to make a difference in a pennant race. He has the worst batting average of any Major Leaguer with 150 at bats (.201) and has as many singles as home runs (12). He also struck out 62 times in 169 at bats. His last at bat as a Devil Ray was a fitting end to his short stint for Tampa Bay. Last night, with 2 outs and the tying and winning runs on base, Branyan struck out to end the game. Still, the price was cheap and the Padres decided to take a chance.
In return the Rays received Evan Meek. Meek was an 11th round draft pick by the Twins in 2002 out of high school. After going 7-1 with a 2.47 in his first professional season, Meek lost his control and began to walk batters at a Ankielian rate. In 2004 he walked 40 in 28 innings. In 2005, he walked 36 in 18 innings. At the end of that season, the Twins cut their ties with Meek and he was signed by the Padres. He has been much better this season with Beloit in the Midwest League (same league as Southwest Michigan Devil Rays). In 119 innings he has 113 strikeouts and 62 walks. He has a fastball that reaches the upper 90s but little command of any other pitches. At best he is a project and a longshot to ever be a legitimate prospect. He will begin his tenure with the Devil Rays in high-A Visalia.
To replace Branyan on the roster, the Devil Rays have called up Kevin Witt. Witt’s promotion was long speculated, long overdue and very deserving. At 30, Witt is past the status of prospect but some players develop a little later than others and Witt has thoroughly dominated the International League this season and is a leading candidate to be named league MVP. In 128 games for Durham he hit .291 with 36 home runs and 99 RBI. Witt has 10 more home runs and 15 more RBI than any other hitter in the IL. With Gomes out nursing his sore shoulder and possibly done for the season, Witt is expected to get a lot of starts as the team’s DH down the stretch.
Devil Rays get righty Meek for Branyan. [MLB]