What the Rays 40-Man Roster Means for the Bulls

On Friday night, the Rays set their 40-man roster, adding LHP Blake Snell, UTL Taylor Motter, RHP Jacob Faria, RHP Taylor Guerrieri and RHP German Marquez from the minor league ranks. Among those designated for assignment were C JP Arencibia, RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Brandon Gomes and OF Daniel Nava, while RHP Burch Smith and LHP Grayson Garvin were outrighted to Durham.

Now, what’s the point of setting the 40-man roster in November you ask? Well, it’s to protect younger players from the Rule V draft. What’s the Rule V draft, you ask? Well, in short it is designed to keep teams from holding on to minor leaguers for too long without giving them a shot at the Majors. (For a longer, more in-depth breakdown of the 40-man roster and Rule V draft, see our post from last year, specifically paragraphs two and three.)

So how do these moves affect the Bulls? Let’s take a crack at breaking down what it means for the 2016 Bull City squad.

Blake Snell went 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine Triple-A starts in 2015

Blake Snell went 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine Triple-A starts in 2015

First things first, it’s clear the Rays wanted to protect a number of young, talented pitchers in Snell, Faria, Guerrieri and Marquez. Snell, as everyone knows, was the best pitcher in the Minors last year, going 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA between three levels. Not too far behind him was Faria, who went 17-4 with a 1.92 ERA between Advanced-A and Double-A in 2015. Guerrieri, who was in his first full season back after undergoing Tommy John surgery, went 5-3 with a 1.85 in 20 appearances, as the Rays tried to limit the 2011 first round pick’s innings coming off the injury. Marquez, just 20 years old, went just 7-13 at Advanced-A a season ago, despite a solid 3.56 ERA. Snell will be competing for a spot in the Rays rotation when Spring Training rolls around, while Faria and Guerrieri appear to be slotted to open the season in Durham. Because of his young age, Marquez would most likely open the season with Double-A Montgomery, with the potential of reaching Durham later in the season if his performance warrants it.

The other player the Rays added to the roster, Motter is a familiar name around the Bull City after he was named Durham’s Team MVP and an IL Midseason and Postseason All-Star in 2015, his first season at the Triple-A level. The 26-year-old is an intriguing prospect, not just because of his ability but because of his versatility. This past season the former 17th round pick started at least five games at six different positions, while also batting in all nine spots in the batting order. If he doesn’t open the year with the Rays, you can expect Motter to bat in the top third of Durham’s lineup on Opening Day.

In his first Triple-A season, Taylor Motter hit .292 with 14 homers.

In his first Triple-A season, Taylor Motter hit .292 with 14 homers.

Smith and Garvin, who were both on the 40-man roster for the duration of 2015, were both injured all season. Upon their return to health, they both figure to slot somewhere in Durham’s pitching staff.

For the four guys who were designated for assignment? Typically players in these situations will shop around with other teams, seeing if they can ink a big league contract elsewhere. If not, it’s not unusual for players to return to the organization that DFA’d them either.

In just 99 games, JP Arencibia led the Bulls with 22 long balls.

In just 99 games, JP Arencibia led the Bulls with 22 long balls.

Arencibia led the Bulls in homers this season, before he was called up in August. Yates, a stalwart in Durham’s bullpen for the last three seasons, shuttled back-and-forth between the Bulls and Rays all season. Gomes has played for Durham and Tampa Bay every season since 2011, while Nava was claimed off waivers by the Rays in early August and spent the remainder of the season at the big league level.

Nothing is set in stone though, and the Rays don’t mind making a trade or two as President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman has already orchestrated 13 trades in 13 months on the job. Plus, the Winter Meetings are right around the corner, where trade talks always heat up. Basically this gives us a better idea of who the Rays want to stick around, but we’re still a long way off from predicting the Opening Day lineup.

Bulls No More? “Rays” Minor League Free Agents

On Tuesday Baseball America published a list of every player who is now a minor league free agent. That is to say, these are players who were not on their parent club’s 40-man roster, and are now available to sign with any team they want. Of the 17 players granted minor league free agency from the Tampa Bay Rays organization, 14 have spent time with the Bulls in the last two seasons, while 10 spent significant time with Durham in 2015. Here we look at who hit the free agency market this season, and their contributions to the Bulls.

C Mayo Acosta: Sparingly used as a third catcher over the last two years, Acosta has appeared in just 48 games since the start of the 2014 seasons. He’s been in the Rays organization his entire career though, including re-signing as a minor league free agent each of the past two years.

LHP Jeff Beliveau: After splitting the 2014 season between Durham and Tampa Bay, Beliveau made the Rays opening day roster this season. However, after just five appearances he missed the rest of the campaign with a torn left labrum, and was outrighted off the 40-man roster once the season ended.

OF Corey Brown: At 29 Brown turned in a productive 2015 season, hitting 19 homers and driving in 60 for Durham. He was signed by Tampa Bay as a minor league free agent in December of 2014.

OF Jose Constanza: After six players were promoted to Tampa Bay on September 1st, Constanza, 32, was signed out of the independent Atlantic League to help fill out the roster for the season’s final week.


Scott Diamond led the Bulls with 11 wins and 25 starts in 2015

LHP Scott Diamond: Signed by Tampa Bay on March 30th, Diamond proved to be Durham’s most consistent pitcher in 2015, going 11-6 with a 3.71 ERA and turning in a team-high 25 starts. The 29-year-old turned it around this past year, after a 2014 season saw him post a league-worst 6.57 ERA.

RHP Jose Dominguez: Acquired from the LA Dodgers in a trade in November of 2014, Dominguez spent the majority of 2015 battling injuries. He made four scoreless appearances for Tampa Bay in April, but struggled with the Bulls, posting a 6.18 ERA in 30 games. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 16, but returned to finish the year with Durham on Aug. 27.

INF Jake Elmore: Signed by the Rays as a minor league free agent in February, Elmore made two stints with the Rays after beginning the season in Durham. He hit just .206 in 51 games with Tampa Bay, and .247 in 57 games in the Bull City.

RHP Bradin Hagens: The Rays acquired Hagens, 26, from Arizona in exchange for cash in April, just before the start of the season. After opening the year with Double-A Montgomery, Hagens was promoted to Durham for good in July and proceeded to go 5-5 with 2.67 ERA over 14 games (12 starts).


Hak-Ju Lee combined to hit just .212 for Durham over the last two seasons

SS Hak-Ju Lee: After hitting .422 through his first 15 career Triple-A games in 2013, Lee missed the rest of the season after suffering a torn ligament in his left knee. Since returning in April of 2014 the 25-year-old has struggled, hitting .203 in 2014 and .220 in 2015. He was a member of the Rays’ 40-man roster for all of 2014 and most of 2015, before he was designated for assignment on September 1st.

RHP Jhan Marinez: Picked up by the Rays as a minor league free agent last December, Marinez began the season with Montgomery. However he was promoted to Durham in late April, and earned Midseason All-Star honors. The 27-year-old finished the campaign with a 1.92 ERA and a .196 opponent’s average, the best among IL relievers.

RHP Jim Miller: Signed as a minor league free agent in March, Miller turned in an effective season by posting a 2.91 ERA in 44 outings for the Bulls. The 33-year-old led all IL relievers by allowing just 1.45 BB/9 and just 10.17 baserunners/9, while posting a career-best 23.1 consecutive scoreless innings from April 30th to June 5th.

INF Leonardo Reginatto: A Brazilian infielder, Reginatto got his first taste of Triple-A baseball this season as he shuttled back-and-forth between Durham and Montgomery. In 42 games with the Bulls the 25-year-old hit .267, and provided a memorable pitching performance in a June victory.

LHP Robert Zarate: A bit of a journeyman, Zarate hadn’t pitched on US soil since 2008, and spent the last three seasons prior to 2015 as a minor leaguer in Japan. He pitched well with the Bulls this season though, posting a 2.90 ERA as injuries limited him to just 17 games (five starts).

Also granted free agency in the Rays’ system were C Wilmer Dominguez, RHP Ely Echarry, 2B Hector Guevara and RHP Matt Lollis.

The Rays Offseason is Definitely Underway

Last night, the Tampa Bay Rays made their first big splash of the offseason, trading RHP Nathan Karns, LHP CJ Riefenhauser and OF Boog Powell to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for SS Brad Miller, 1B/OF Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar. All three players the Rays parted ways with were integral parts of the Durham Bulls over the last two seasons. Here, we look back on their careers in Durham.

RHP Nathan Karns

Acquired in February of 2014 in a trade with Washington, Karns spent the entire 2014 regular season in Durham, going 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA. His 153 strikeouts were tied for the most in the league, and are the 2nd-most in a single season in Durham’s Triple-A history. In his lone postseason start that year, the righty tied a Bulls’ single game, Triple-A postseason record by striking out 12 Columbus Clippers as the team clinched a first-round victory at the DBAP.

LHP CJ Riefenhauser

Originally a 20th round pick by the Rays in 2010, Riefenhauser spent parts of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons in the Bull City. Over those three seasons he appeared in 85 games, posting a solid 2.15 ERA, and allowing just 80 hits in 113.0 innings. After getting his first taste of the Bigs in 2014 with two stints, the southpaw opened 2015 with Durham but made four separate stints with the Rays this past season.

OF Boog Powell

Picked up by Tampa Bay prior to the 2015 season in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist to Oakland, Powell opened the season with Double-A Montgomery before he was promoted to Durham in late June. He reached base safely in 50 of the 56 games he played with the Bulls, and hit a combined .295 with a combined .385 OBP between the two levels. Plus, he gave us catches like this:

Boog 1

and this

Boog 2

and this

Boog 4

Good luck fellas.

Blake Snell Won Another Award (And He’s Making Us Feel Bad)

On Wednesday, Blake Snell earned yet another award. This one, handed out by the staff over at MiLB.com, was the cleverly-titled MiLBY for Best Starting Pitcher. And with the announcement, we realized something: Blake Snell is not good for our self-esteem. Don’t get us wrong, we’re all happy for Blake, and very happy he’s part of the Bulls family. But, he’s making us all feel bad.

You see, we live in a society where children are now given trophies and medals for participating in a sport, event or competition. As you enter adulthood, the trophies and medals you gather stop coming your way, and you never really think about it. Until someone comes along and has a year like Snell had, where he’s accumulated 14 in-season or postseason awards (see below), and NONE of them were simply for showing up. Minor League Player of the Year. Best Starting Pitcher. How about spreading the wealth a little bit, bro? The last award this writer won was tied to an eating/sleeping competition. You’re over here posting a 1.41 ERA while I’m feeling like a bear about to enter into hibernation.

But you know what man? We’ll cut you some slack since you’re on our side. Just keep doing your thing, and you can garner all the awards you want. Just please, PLEASE, don’t ever pitch against us.

In-Season Awards/Accolades:

  • Futures Game selection
  • Southern League Midseason All-Star
  • Southern League Pitcher of the Month (May)
  • Southern League Pitcher of the Week
  • Florida State League Pitcher of the Week

Postseason Awards/Accolades:

  • USA Today Minor League Player of the Year
  • Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year
  • Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year
  • MiLBY for Best Starting Pitcher (MiLB.com)
  • MLB Pipeline Pitching Prospect of the Year
  • MLB Pipeline All-Prospect Team
  • Baseball America Minor League All-Star
  • Baseball America Double-A All-Star
  • Southern League Postseason All-Star

Offseason Updates

Well fans, we’re about a month and a half into the offseason. The weather is cooling here in The Triangle, the Arizona Fall League has kicked off and other players are prepping for winter ball in other countries. As we get deeper and deeper into the winter, we’ve decided to give you a little update on all things Bulls, Rays and DBAP.

First things first though. It’s been almost five months since our last post here on Hit Bull Win Blog, and frankly, that’s no bueno. When we created this blog we promised consistent, clever, behind-the-scenes content, and this season we failed to deliver. Moving forward, we’ll ramp back up our efforts to bring you solid content like before. Now, with that out of the way, we turn our attention to some headlines of the offseason:

Fall Fan Fest on Saturday, October 24

The Bulls’ annual Fall Fan Fest is coming to the DBAP on Saturday, October 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. As always fans will have the chance to take BP on the field, and enjoy huge sales at the Ballpark Corner Store. Additionally, fans that bring three canned food items will be entered into a raffle for Wool E. Bull to join their family on Halloween for Trick-of-Treating.

Former Bulls in the Postseason

Entering Wednesday, the Blue Jays and Cubs are still alive in their respective league championship series, but just only. Former Bull Jason Hammel (2005-2007) takes the hill today for the Cubs as they try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Mets. Meanwhile in the American League, David Price (2008-2009) and Dioner Navarro (2010) hope the Blue Jays can rattle off three straight wins against the Royals, who feature both Ben Zobrist (2006-2008) and Wade Davis (2008-2009).

Charlie Montoyo Interviews for Mariners Opening

Legendary Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo made the news earlier this week, as he interviewed for the Seattle Mariners manager position. The 2015 season was Montoyo’s first at the big league level after spending 18 seasons as a manager in Tampa Bay’s minor league system, including eight as Durham’s skipper.

Birling Earns International League Award

Bulls’ General Manager Mike Birling was named the IL’s Executive of the Year for the 2015 season, marking the second time in his career he’s won the award. Under his guide Durham set its second straight single-season attendance record, tallying a paid attendance of 554,788.

Duke Baseball Moving to DBAP

Early in October it was announced Duke baseball expanded its partnership with the DBAP and the Bulls, as the team will play up to 36 games a season in the downtown ballpark. The Blue Devils completed their Fall World Series at the DBAP this past weekend, playing a three-game series.

Winter/Fall Leagues

In the Caribbean, Taylor MotterJoey Rickard and Cameron Seitzer are all suiting up for the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. Motter was Durham’s 2015 MVP, while Rickard hit a blistering .360 after his promotion from Double-A Montgomery in early August. Seitzer figures to make the jump to Durham next season as well, after earning Southern League Postseason All-Star honors with the Biscuits this year.

The Arizona Fall League – which showcases some of the best prospects in baseball – kicked off this past week. The Rays sent six prospects to the AFL, with SS Daniel Robertson one of the most heralded of the bunch. Acquired in the same trade that brought Boog Powell to the Rays’ system, Robertson spent all of 2015 with Montgomery, making him a prime candidate to begin the 2016 season in Durham.

Additionally, the Rays will send a handful of prospects to the Australian Baseball League as well to suit up for the Brisbane Bandits.

Welcome to Durham Richie Shaffer

In his Triple-A debut Sunday at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 3B Richie Shaffer made his presence known, blasting a pair of home runs while finishing 4-for-5 with four runs scored and three RBIs in Durham’s 13-10 win. So who is Richie Shaffer you ask? Well, let’s fill you in.

Originally selected 25th overall in the 2012 draft out of Clemson, Shaffer began the 2015 season with Montgomery, hitting .262-7-27 in 39 games for the Biscuits, and ranking fourth in the Southern League with seven home runs. His strong power numbers come on the heels of a 2014 campaign that saw the Charlotte, NC native hit 19 homers for Montgomery, leading Baseball America to name the 24-year-old the Best Power Hitter in the Tampa Bay minor league system.

Primarily a third baseman, he was named a 2013 MiLB.com Organization All-Star and a Florida State League Postseason All-Star after hitting .254-11-73 in 122 games for Advanced-A Charlotte. After hitting .325 with 30 home runs over a three-year career at Clemson, he joined Evan Longoria as just the second third baseman ever drafted by the Rays in the first round.

To check out his first career Triple-A blasts, just click here.

Here’s to staying on pace for 198 homers in Triple-A this year dude.

Early Season Themes

Today marks the Bulls’ first off day of the 2015 season, as after the first 25 games the team sits at a solid 14-11, 1.0 game behind Charlotte for the IL South Division lead. Durham opened the season 3-6, which incredibly, was the team’s worst nine-game start in the franchise’s 18-year Triple-A history. Since then the team has been one of the best in the IL though, going 11-5 over its last 16 games. Since we have no baseball to watch today, let’s take a look at some of the prevailing themes of the first month of the 2015 campaign.

Roster Moves

Thanks in large part to the Tampa Bay Rays putting a major-league leading 14 players on the disabled list so far this season, the Bulls have undergone 35 roster moves already this year. Durham has used 34 different players in just 25 games, and to put it in perspective, used 45 players in 2014 and 43 players in 2013. Seven of the 24 players on Durham’s active roster were not on the team’s roster on Opening Day, and eight players have already been promoted to the Rays this year.

Strong Pitching

Entering today, Durham ranks fourth in the IL with a 2.98 ERA. That number has received a boost over the team’s last 16 games, as the Bulls have held their opponents to three runs or fewer 13 times in that span. Of the four pitchers who have been in Durham’s rotation since the start of the season, three have a sub-3.00 ERA, led by southpaw Scott Diamond, who ranks 5th in the league with a 1.67 ERA to accompany his 3-0 record.


Despite posting just the 9th-best team batting average in the league (.253), the Bulls rank 5th in the IL with a .337 on-base percentage. Durham’s 101 walks at the plate are the 2nd-most on the circuit, trailing only Indianapolis (102), while Vince Belnome is tied for the minor league-lead with 22 walks drawn this season.

Road Warriors

The Bulls have played 15 road games so far this season, the 2nd-most of any International League team. After Durham’s three-game home series this week against Buffalo, the team hits the road for another six games, meaning 21 of its first 34 contests will come away from the DBAP. Still, over the Bulls are 9-6 in away games this season, highlighted by a 5-2 road trip this past week.

North and South

After opening the season with 18 straight contests against the South Division, the Bulls are in the midst of a 34-game stretch against North Division foes. Of the 41 games Durham will play against the IL North this season, 34 of those contests will be played over a 35-day span from April 27 to May 31st. So far, the Bulls are 9-9 against in-division rivals, and 5-2 against the North.

An Illustrated Guide to the 2015 Season

2015 Durham Bulls Season An Illustrated Guide

We suggest a new strategy, Artoo: let’s go FULL Star Wars uniform.

Durham Bulls Star Wars UniformsHow do you top a Star Wars theme jersey that raised nearly $20,000 for charity? You go FULL STAR WARS UNIFORM.

That’s right, when the Durham Bulls take the field for our annual Star Wars Night on May 16, they’ll do so sporting a complete uniform inspired by everyone’s favorite protocol droid, C-3PO. We obviously have a thing for droids.

A breakdown of the team’s head-to-toe Threepio look:

  • First, the jerseys. A recreation of restraining bolt-era C-3PO’s torso, these jerseys will again be available in auctions to raise money for our friends at the Autism Society of NC. There will be both an in-game silent auction, as well as an online auction that will accept bids via web, text or phone from anywhere.
  • The Bulls will sport custom gold & black hats for the occasion. These New Era lids will be available for purchase in the Ballpark Corner Store and our online shop.
  • Pants, too? Yup. Gold pants for the Bulls for that all-out C-3PO look.
  • And to round out the uniforms, sublimated socks with custom designs on front and back. And you know the Bulls always wear their socks up.

To sum it up, the possibility of having better Star Wars uniforms than us is approximately 3,720 to 1. Our favorite part about the unveiling though? It’s Autism Awareness Day. Having fun with this epic theme night is made that much better by raising money and awareness to fight a disorder that too many families face.

There will be a several jerseys available for auction at the DBAP the night of the event. The remainder of the game-worn jerseys (and a handful of non game-worn jerseys) will also be available in an online auction, where you can bid via text, web, or phone from anywhere in the world. As an added bonus, each players’ C-3PO inspired socks will be included with in the jersey package.

This year’s Star Wars Night is Saturday, May 16 (bummer, but we aren’t home on May 4th this season). Get tickets for the game, presented by Lane & Associates Family Dentistry, HERE. We’d do it quick, too…last year’s Star Wars Night generated the 4th biggest crowd in DBAP history.

Spring Training Update: Week Four

As Spring Training 2015 comes to a close, we look back at the final week of Grapefruit League play, updating you on all the roster moves that have taken place since last week’s update. Additionally, the Bulls’ 2015 Opening Day roster has become slightly clearer since our roster speculation a few days ago, as you’ll see below.

On Monday, the Rays reassigned eight players to the minor leagues in pitchers Brandon Gomes, Jhan Marinez, Jim Miller, Jordan Norberto and Everett Teaford; catcher Mayo Acosta and outfielders Corey Brown and Joey Butler. There’s a good chance each of these players begins the season in the Durham, with Teaford starting the year in the Bulls’ rotation.


Brandon Gomes has struck out more than a batter an inning during 2015 Spring Training

On Tuesday Tampa Bay made two moves that will affect the Bulls, as they released infielder Alexi Casilla, and then traded southpaw Mike Montgomery to the Mariners for pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, who will open the season with Tampa Bay. Knowing the big club only needs four starting pitchers for the season’s first nine days, this could mean Matt Andriese will open the season in Durham with Ramirez rounding out the Rays’ first four starters (Archer, Odorizzi, Karns, Ramirez). The release of Casilla now means that the backup infield spot will go to Tim Beckham, Jake Elmore or Juan Francisco, with the other two headed to the Bull City (Francisco has an April 5th opt-out clause if not on the Rays roster).


Matt Andriese’s Opening Day fate remains undecided with only days remaining in Spring Training

With three Grapefruit League games remaining, Gomes has turned in a superb spring, allowing one earned run in 12.1 innings, while striking out 16 and walking just one. Miller did not allow a run over six innings of work, while Teaford allowed just three earned runs in 13.1 frames. Offensively Brown and Butler each had productive springs, as Brown posted a .375 OBP in 20 games, with Butler hitting a pair of homers and driving in six RBIs.

For a full breakdown of Rays Spring Training statistics, click here.


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