Rays Prospects Well Represented in Rankings

Over the last two weeks, MLB.com revealed its Top 10 prospects at each position, before unveiling its Top 100 prospects at the end of last week. Tampa Bay Rays prospects were seen throughout, as Blake Snell, Richie Shaffer and Jake Bauers were all named a Top 10 prospect at their position, while Snell, Brent Honeywell and Willy Adames all cracked the Top 100.

Snell, coming off a historic 2015 campaign, will be fighting for a spot in the Rays rotation when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in three weeks. After posting a miniscule 1.41 ERA a season ago, the 23-year-old southpaw was ranked the No. 2 left-handed pitching prospect in the game, and No. 14 overall.

Shaffer

Richie Shaffer hit 19 home runs in just 69 games with Durham in 2015

Shaffer, who burst on to the Triple-A scene with Durham in May of last season, was tabbed the No. 8 third base prospect in the game. After spending two stints with Tampa Bay in 2015, he’s another guy that will go in to Spring Training looking to make the big league roster.

Although just 20 years old, Bauers could make his way to Durham in 2016 coming off an impressive 2015 season. After opening the year in Advanced-A Charlotte, he earned a midseason promotion to Double-A Montgomery where he hit .276 and tallied 36 RBI over 69 games. A first baseman, the former 7th-round draft pick was ranked the No. 7 prospect at his position.

Honeywell

Brent Honeywell has posted a 2.74 ERA over his first two seasons (MiLB.com)

While he couldn’t crack the list of top-ranked right-handers, Honeywell came in at No. 43 in the Top 100. The 72nd overall pick in the 2014 draft has made a name for himself with an effective screwball, and combined to go 9-6 with a 3.18 ERA in 24 starts between Single-A Bowling Green and Advanced-A Charlotte a year ago.

Acquired by Tampa Bay in the David Price trade of 2014, Adames is the No. 81 ranked prospect in the Top 100. In his first full season in the Rays organization, the 20-year-old hit .258 over 106 games with Advanced-A Charlotte.

Rays Recent Trade Shouldn’t Shake Up Bulls

Thursday night the Tampa Bay Rays made a trade, acquiring Corey Dickerson and minor leaguer Kevin Padlo from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jake McGee and minor leaguer German Marquez. Additionally, the Rays signed Steve Pearce.

On the surface, this trade doesn’t seem to have much of an affect on the Durham Bulls. Dickerson and McGee are both bona fide major leaguers, and won’t/wouldn’t factor into the Bulls roster at all. Marquez, a right-handed starter, was probably tabbed for Double-A Montgomery to begin the season, despite being on the 40-man roster. Padlo is just 19, and spent the 2015 season between Short-Season Boise and Single-A Asheville, so a jump to Triple-A seems highly unlikely.

The biggest piece of last night that could affect Durham is the signing of Pearce. The 32-year-old has hit 36 home runs over the past two seasons, and is expected to add pop to the middle of the Rays’ lineup. Pearce can play corner infield and corner outfield, but the addition of Dickerson creates a logjam in the outfield along with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer. With Pearce’s ability to play first, the Rays now have Pearce, James Loney and Logan Morrison who can all play that position.

So what does this mean for Durham? It appears that, should the Rays carry this roster into Opening Day, Richie Shaffer and Mikie Mahtook would open the year with the Bulls. Mahtook, strictly an outfielder, could have a hard time cracking the top five in the outfield. Shaffer, primarily a third baseman who the Rays played at first base and rightfield a year ago, still sits behind Longoria at third and the aforementioned three at first.

2016 State of the Bulls, Based on the Rays

SOTB

It only comes once a year. Today, as we sit just a little more than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Port Charlotte, Fla. for Spring Training, we examine the state of Durham Bulls baseball. Over the next 10 weeks the Rays’ (and therefor the Bulls’) rosters will take a more defined shape, whether by trades, free agency or other. For now though, we take a look at who could be bound for Durham come early April.

Starting Pitchers

As is typical for Tampa Bay, the starting rotation is strong and young. Headlined by Chris Archer and complimented by Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly and Erasmo Ramirez, the Rays’ staff seems fairly stable. So what does this mean for Durham? First things first, Blake Snell could make a run at the big league staff. He’ll be just 23 this year, but coming off a historic 2015 campaign will earn him a good look in camp. If he doesn’t make the squad, expect him to take the ball on Opening Night for the Bulls. Behind him in that rotation could be Jake Faria and Taylor Guerrieri, two right-handers who were added to the Rays’ 40-man roster back in November. Behind those three the rotation isn’t so clear, with a number of options. Burch Smith and Grayson Garvin are expected to return from injury at some point in 2016, and both have been starters in the past. Additionally Jaime Schultz went 9-5 in 27 starts for Double-A Montgomery last season at age 24, while Ryne Stanek – a 2013 first round pick – made 16 appearances for the Biscuits in 2015. Righty Austin Pruitt posted a 3.09 ERA for Montgomery last year, and Jared Mortensen joined Durham over the final week of the 2015 season, winning both his starts. One unknown is where Dylan Floro fits in, after he spent much of last season in Durham’s rotation but finished the year in the bullpen. Additionally, if Tampa Bay decides to keep Matt Andriese as a starter, expect him to open the year in Durham to stay on a regular routine. The righty was dominant for the Bulls last season, but split the entire year shuttling between North Carolina and Florida as both a starter and long reliever.

Snell

Blake Snell aims to crack Tampa Bay’s rotation out of Spring Training

Relief Pitchers

A veteran relief corps could begin the year in the Bull City. Signed before the 2015 season, Jonny Venters and Neil Wagner each sat out all last year with injuries, but each have significant MLB time. Dana Eveland and Tyler Sturdevant were each picked up as a minor league free agents, and Danny Farquhar was acquired in a trade with Seattle. Most likely to return is Jhan Marinez, a 2015 IL Midseason All-Star who went 4-1 with a 1.92 ERA for the Bulls in his first year in the Rays system. On the younger side, Andrew Bellatti, who opened 2015 in Durham, had a lot of success at the big league level with Tampa Bay but struggled at the Triple-A level. Parker Markel, who’s fastball reaches the high 90s, could open the year in Durham after a call-up late last season, and he could be joined by Brad Schreiber, who saved 30 games between Advanced-A and Double-A last year.

Catchers

After his promotion last summer, Curt Casali took the reins as Tampa Bay’s number one catcher. Rene Rivera appears to be the backup, but Hank Conger was acquired for cash and Luke Maile played well in his first taste of the bigs in September. Expect the Rays to open  the season with Casali and Rivera, leaving Maile and Conger for the Bulls. Don’t forget about Justin O’Conner though, one of the best defensive catchers in the minors and a member of the Rays’ 40-man roster.

Infielders

The Rays infield has had a little bit of a shakeup so far this offseason, acquiring shortstop Brad Miller to replace Asdrubal Cabrera, who signed with the New York Mets. Other than that Evan Longoria will play third, Logan Forsythe second and James Loney first. Assuming the team carries no more than two infield backups, it would appear Tim Beckham and Logan Morrison would have the inside track. On the Durham front, that would mean Richie Shaffer, Ryan Brett and Taylor Motter (all 40-man players) would return to the Bulls to open the year. Still, Durham could also see 22-year-old Daniel Robertson open the year at shortstop after a solid first year at the Double-A level. Tampa Bay also has 2015 Southern League All-Star Cameron Seitzer who can play first base, along with Kyle Roller, an East Carolina University product that hit 14 home runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year.

Robertson

Daniel Robertson looks to make his Triple-A debut in 2016 (Marvin Gentry)

Outfielders

Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. all have secured spots on Tampa Bay’s roster. The big question is whether or not Mikie Mahtook will make the big league Opening Day roster after hitting .356 with four homers in 23 games last September. If not, expect him and Motter (who can play infield and outfield) to hit in the top third of Durham’s lineup. After Tyler Goeddel and Joey Rickard were taken in the Rule 5 draft, Tampa Bay’s minor league outfield depth has shortened some. Still, 20-year-old Jake Bauers has a chance to make Durham’s squad after hitting .276 across 69 Double-A games last season, after opening the year with Advanced-A Charlotte. Additionally Johnny Field, another prospect, could make his way to the Bull City as well after tallying 14 homers and swiping 18 bags for the Biscuits last year.

Aside from the bullpen, the 2016 Bulls squad is shaping up to be very young. Still, with plenty of time left between now and the beginning of April, expect Tampa Bay to round out the roster with some veteran additions.

Durham Bulls Top 10 Moments of 2015

2015 marked another historic season of Durham Bulls baseball. From attendance records to another winning season to breakout prospects, the year offered constant surprises and memorable moments. On the doorstep of a new year, we look back at the Durham Bulls Top 10 moments of 2015.

*Editor’s Note: Please take the term “moments” lightly. Some of these are not actual “moments.” We are aware of that. Bear with us.

10. The DBAP Hosts the ACC Tournament

This season Durham Bulls Athletic Park kicked off a four-year run as the site of the ACC Tournament. The six-day event drew a total of 64,140 fans (third most in tournament history), while the championship game between NC State and Florida State drew a tournament-record 9,759 fans.

9. Mike Birling is Named International League Executive of the Year

For the second time in his career, Bulls General Manager Mike Birling earned the IL’s Executive of the Year award. After starting with the club in 1998, Birling led the franchise to back-to-back single-season paid attendance records in 2014 and 2015, while guiding the team through the process of hosting the 2012 Triple-A National Championship Game, 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game and the 2015 ACC Tournament.

8. Jared Sandberg Named Durham’s New Manager

On January 20 Jared Sandberg became the youngest manager in the Triple-A ranks when he was named the new skipper for the Durham Bulls. Just 37, he led Durham to a 74-70 mark, despite seeing the team undergo a franchise-record 213 roster moves and playing in a division in which every team finished at least four games above .500. He became just the fourth manager in the franchise’s Triple-A history (1998-present), following an eight-year stint by Charlie Montoyo.

7. DBAP Celebrates 20th Anniversary Season

2015 marked the 20th anniversary for one of Minor League Baseball’s most iconic ballparks. In the preseason fans voted for the All-DBAP Team, players wore a special commemorative patch on their jerseys and fans shared their favorite ballpark moments all season long using #DBAP20

6. Joey Butler Hits Walk-Off Home Run

On April 24 against Gwinnett, Joey Butler cracked a walk-off, two-run homer to beat the G-Braves 8-6. It marked the first time Durham had won a game via a walk-off dinger since Aug. 11, 2013, and was the team’s only win via a walk-off homer of 2015.

5. Boog Powell Becomes a Human Highlight Reel

Promoted from Double-A Montgomery at the end of June, Boog Powell made the most of his time in the Bull City, turning in highlight reel catches regularly. The play below earned him No. 2 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, while he also turned in this play and this play. A fan favorite, BOOOOOOOOOOOG was traded to Seattle in November.

4. Richie Shaffer Hits Three Homers in One Game

On June 12 at Louisville, Richie Shaffer cracked three home runs in Durham’s 11-7 win over the Bats. Promoted from Double-A Montgomery just 20 days earlier, Shaffer became just the third Bull in the team’s Triple-A history – and first since 2009 – to hit three homers in one game. The 24-year-old posted four multi-homer games for Durham after he had never had a multi-homer game in his career prior to joining the Bulls.

3. Matt Moore Strikes Out 16

Gaining strength after returning from Tommy John surgery, Matt Moore struck out 16 Columbus Clippers in six innings on Aug. 22 at the DBAP. The southpaw broke the franchise’s Triple-A single-game record for strikeouts, breaking the previous best of 13 set by him and two others.

2. Blake Snell Takes the International League by Storm

After joining the Bulls in late-July, Blake Snell was brilliant over the first nine Triple-A starts of his career. The left-hander allowed one earned run or fewer in eight of his nine starts with Durham, and from the time of his promotion through the end of the season led the league in opponent’s average (.187) and ranked second in wins (6), ERA (1.83) and strikeouts (57). At the end of the season he was crowned the Minor League Player of the Year by both USA Today and Baseball America.

1. Bulls Set Numerous Attendance Records

In 2014 the Bulls completed a $20 million renovation and hosted the Triple-A All-Star Game en route to breaking the franchise’s single-season paid attendance record by drawing 533,033 fans. In 2015 the organization shattered that record – drawing 554,788 fans to the DBAP – over 21,000 fans more than the 2014 campaign. The 20th anniversary season of the DBAP saw the stadium hold a record 15 sellout crowds, hold three capacity-plus crowds on three consecutive days for the first time ever, and set a new single-game paid attendance record on July 4 with 11,871 fans.

From all of us here at the Bulls, we wish you a happy, safe and healthy New Year, and we can’t wait to see you at the DBAP in 2016!

Additions and Subtractions, Offseason Transactions: 2015 Edition

Last year we brought you an update of what players moved where during the 2014 offseason, and at the time of publishing, the list was fairly small. This year though, as we examine where some of the 2015 Durham Bulls have landed this offseason, the list is considerably larger. Here we take a peek at who’s departed the Tampa Bay organization, and some of the guys who have joined the Rays family.

The Departed:

Lee

Hak-Ju Lee signed with San Francisco after spending three seasons in Durham

INF Hak-Ju Lee, who spent parts of three seasons in Durham (2013-15), signed as a minor league free agent with the San Francisco Giants. After hitting .422 to open his Triple-A career in 2013, an injury cut his season short after just 15 games, and he hit a combined .212 in 2014 and 2015.

RHP Kirby Yates was traded to Cleveland after he was designated for assignment. The Hawaiian native saved 42 games in 46 chances for Durham from 2013-2015, while posting a 2.33 ERA in that span. The 28-year-old split the 2014 and 2015 campaigns between the Bull City and Tampa Bay.

C/1B JP Arencibia, who ranked 2nd in the IL with 22 home runs in 2015, signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia. Despite playing just 99 games Arencibia hit more home runs in a single season than any Bulls player since 2010, while also earning the team’s Community Service award.

LHP Scott Diamond, the Bulls 2015 Pitcher of the Year, was picked up on a minor league deal by Toronto. The southpaw was picked up just before the season started, but went on to go 11-6 with a 3.71 ERA. The 29-year-old made a team-high 25 starts, and tied for third in the IL with 11 wins.

Rickard

Baltimore selected Joey Rickard in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings

OF Joey Rickard was selected by Baltimore in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. Rickard, who made his Triple-A debut in August, tore up the IL over the season’s final month by hitting .360 with a .437 OBP. Between three levels in 2015 the product of Arizona hit .321 and finished with a cumulative .427 OBP.

RHP Jim Miller, who ranked second on the squad with 44 appearances in 2015, inked a deal with Milwaukee. The veteran reliever led all IL relievers in fewest BB/9 (1.45), and posted two scoreless streaks of at least 13.0 innings, including a career-best 23.1-scoreless inning streak that spanned the entire month of May.

INF Jake Elmore will join Miller in the Milwaukee system, as the Brewers become the eighth organization of his career. Elmore split 2015 between Durham and Tampa Bay, hitting .247 but posting a .377 OBP over 57 games with the Bulls.

OF Joey Butler, who hit .333 over 31 games for the Bulls in 2015, was claimed off waivers by Cleveland after Tampa Bay designated him for assignment. The veteran outfielder spent the majority of the season with the Rays, hitting .276 with eight homers over 88 games.

LHP Robert Zarate was signed as a minor league free agent by Pittsburgh. The Venezuelan pitched to a 2.90 ERA in 17 games with Durham, while battling injuries throughout the season.

Note: LHP CJ Riefenhauser, OF Boog Powell and RHP Nathan Karns were traded to Seattle in November.

ADDITIONS

LHP Dana Eveland, 32, agreed to a minor league deal with the Rays per Marc Topkin. The veteran southpaw has spent parts of 10 seasons at the big league level, including appearing in 10 games for Atlanta last season. Eveland split 2015 between three organizations, and combined to go 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 33 Triple-A appearances with Pawtucket, Gwinnett and Norfolk.

LHP Adam Kolarek was picked up by Tampa Bay in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. The 26-year-old made 51 appearances at the Double-A level a season ago, and reached the Triple-A ranks briefly in 2013.

RHP Tyler Sturdevant signed with Tampa Bay as a minor league free agent in November after spending all of 2015 with Triple-A Columbus. Last season with the Clippers the 29-year-old pitched to a 3.16 ERA, a year which marked his fourth straight season appearing at the Triple-a level.

RHP Danny Farquhar, who was traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Riefenhauser, Powell and Karns west, could make an impact in Durham as well. The 28-year-old split 2015 between the Mariners and Triple-A Tacoma, making 43 appearances at the big league level and 27 in the minors.

 

Baseball America Announces Rays Top 10 Prospects

On Friday our friends at Baseball America published their annual list of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Top 10 prospects. Here we take a look at who made that list, and if/when they’ll make an impact on the Durham Bulls.

Snell

Blake Snell combined to post a 1.41 ERA between three levels in 2015

1. Blake Snell

Named Baseball America’s and USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year, Snell had an unreal season. You can read about it here or here, so we’ll skip that part. The real question is whether or not the 23-year-old will open the 2016 season in the Bull City or with Tampa Bay. Coming off the year he had, it’s not crazy to expect him to start the year at the big league level. Don’t forget though, the Rays still have a stacked pitching staff, and they might want to limit Snell’s innings by keeping him in the minors to start the year.

2. Willy Adames

A key piece in the David Price trade in July of 2014, Adames is still just 20 years old. The shortstop hit .258 with Advanced-A Charlotte this season, and projects to spend the majority of 2016 with Double-A Montgomery. Still, with a strong campaign there, a late-season promotion to Durham might not be out of the question.

3. Brent Honeywell

A 2nd-round pick in 2014, Honeywell will turn 21 just before Opening Day 2016. This past season he combined to go 9-6 with a 3.18 ERA between Single-A and Advanced-A, striking out almost a batter an inning. He’s received notoriety for his effective screwball, but is most likely still a season away from reaching the Triple-A level.

4. Jake Bauers

Picked up by the Rays in the same deal that saw Tampa Bay ship Wil Myers to San Diego, Bauers had a strong first season in the Rays’ system, hitting .272 with 11 homers and 74 RBI between Advanced-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery. After the season, the former 7th-round pick was selected to the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars team. Though he’ll spend the entire 2016 season at age 20, it’s not crazy to think he could join the Bulls at some point after hitting .276 over 69 games in Double-A this past season.

5. Garrett Whitley

Whitley was the 13th overall pick the 2015 draft, and struggled in his first foray into professional baseball as he hit just .174 between the Gulf Coast League and Short-Season Hudson Valley. He’s just 18 years old, so don’t expect him in Durham for the next couple of seasons.

Mahtook

Mikie Mahtook ended the 2015 season hitting nine home runs with the Rays

6. Mikie Mahtook

After he was Durham’s MVP in 2014, Mahtook shuttled back-and-forth between the Bulls and Rays throughout the 2015 campaign. Upon being called up for the rest of the year in September, the 26-year-old rattled off a strong month, and finished the season with a .295 average and nine homers at the big league level. Mahtook will compete for a spot on Tampa Bay’s Opening Day roster in Spring Training.

7. Taylor Guerrieri

After missing almost all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Guerrieri came back with a strong campaign in 2015. As the Rays limited his innings, the 2011 1st-round pick was 5-3 with a 1.85 ERA between Charlotte and Montgomery. The Rays added him to their 40-man roster in November, and he projects to start 2016 with the Bulls.

8. Jacob Faria

Faria, 22, split the 2015 season between Charlotte and Montgomery, going 17-4 with a 1.92 ERA and leading all of Minor League Baseball in wins. A 10th-round pick in 2011, the right-hander should start the year in the Bull City coming off a year in which he struck out more batters than innings pitched.

9. Casey Gillaspie

The 20th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Gillaspie spent the majority of 2015 with Bowling Green, while appearing in 13 games for Charlotte. The 22-year-old showed good power this season by cracking 17 home runs, but is still most likely a year away from joining the Bulls.

10. Daniel Robertson

Acquired from Oakland in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist to the A’s, Robertson missed almost half of the 2015 campaign after suffering a broken hamate bone. Still, the 21-year-old hit .274 and drove in 41 in 78 games for Montgomery. The shortstop, taken 34th overall in 2012, projects to spend significant time with the Bulls in 2016, if not begin the year in Durham.

Wool E. Bull’s Letter to Bulls Fans

On Tuesday afternoon the Lehigh Valley IronPigs reported an agreement had been reached with the Durham Bulls, to trade one of the IronPigs’ mascots, Hambone, to Durham in exchange for Wool E. Bull.

Roughly 30 minutes later the Durham Bulls addressed the report, citing anonymous sources Wool E. Bull would not waive his no-trade clause.

On Tuesday evening, Wool E. Bull passed along a letter to the Durham Bulls PR department citing his desire to stay in Durham. The full text of the letter is below:

Bulls Fans,

Earlier today it was reported that I had been involved in a trade to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in exchange for one of their mascots, Hambone. There were reports the only reason the deal fell through is because of a failed physical exam, which negated the trade.

I’d like to set the record straight, and inform you that those reports were inaccurate. Since I first signed with the Bulls, a no-trade clause has always been a part of my contract. The DBAP is my home. You, our amazing fans, have cared for me as one of your own, inviting me to birthday parties and festivals and parades. For reasons such as these, I would never want to leave this city.

I’ve spent my entire career with the Durham Bulls, and this is where I intend to end my career, whenever that day may come. Know that I have no aspirations to leave Durham, and I have no desire to perform for any crowd other than the DBAP’s. You, the fans, are the reason I wake up in the morning.

Thanks, and go Bulls.

Wool E. Bull

Wool E. Bull, a Durham staple, signed a 13-year contract extension with the Bulls in November of 2014, just days after the Marlins inked slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a contract of the same length.

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.

Diamond

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).

Lee

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.

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