Top prospect David Price was chosen as USA TODAY’S Minor League Prospect of the Year on Wednesday, in a vote decided by the staff of USA TODAY and Sports Weekly as well as online voting for fans.
A powerful lefthander, Price went a combined 12-1 in three levels of the Rays Minor League system, with a 2.30 ERA and 109 strikeouts.
Tuesday night marked his final start with the Triple-A Bulls, as the team is currently in the best-of-five Governor’s Cup Finals. Price tossed six innings in the opening game, allowed four runs on seven hits while fanning nine. The Bulls rallied to take the lead with five runs in the 7th inning, but eventually lost, 8-7 to the Yankees Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
With the conclusion of Price’s season, the question remains as to when or if the Rays will call upon the touted lefty to help in their franchise-first pennant race. Although it was widely assumed that the 22-year-old Price would end his season in the Majors, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sounded more skeptical when speaking with ESPN’s Peter Gammons on Monday.
According to Gammon’s blog , Friedman wasn’t definite that Price would join the Rays heated American League East battle. “We don’t want people getting ahead of themselves,” Friedman told Gammons. “Anointing [Price] a savior and putting undo pressure on a kid in his first full professional season.”
Price’s teammate in Durham, right-hander Jeff Niemann, could get the nod to join the big league club after his start on Thursday. Niemann (1-0, 1.13) will take the hill against LHP Kei Igawa (1-0, 1.29) for Game 3 of the series, and is coming off an impressive start against Louisville in Round One, in which Niemann took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Friedman told Gammons he has been watching the International League playoffs closely and after seeing Niemann throw so well was sure the lanky right-hander would fit into the Rays bullpen sometime this month.
If the success of the last batch of call-ups from Durham is any indication, Tampa Bay will be greatly benefitted by dipping into their farm system again following the Governor’s Cup.
Although Friedman had originally planned to make only two waves of call-ups, early August injuries to Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria coupled with recent setbacks by centerfielder B.J. Upton (strained left quadriceps) and backup catcher Shawn Riggans (bursitis in his right knee) has made more frequent moves necessary.
Despite substantial roster thinning, Durham is making the adjustments and is set to play Game 2 vs. Scranton on Wednesday night with right-hander Mitch Talbot on the hill.
— Brittany Ghiroli
The Durham Bulls, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate, defeated host Louisville (Reds), 3-0, in Game 1 of the International League playoffs on Wednesday night. Top prospect David Price tossed five shutout innings in the win with six strikeouts. Elliot Johnson, Dan Johnson and Chris Richard each homered.
But the Bulls couldn’t replicate the magic on Thursday, as Louisville handed Durham a resounding 19-3 defeat to even the best-of-five series. The Bulls trailed 17-0 after four innings and 19-0 after seven. Starter Mitch Talbot lasted a mere two innings, allowing seven runs off nine hits. But the brunt of Louisville’s offense was felt by reliever Chris Mason, who was tagged for 10 runs off nine hits in just 1 2/3 innings.
The series will shift to Durham on Friday for the final three games.
Double-A Montgomery and Single-A Vero Beach both finished their seasons on Thursday night. Montgomery fell 7-6 to the Suns with catcher Matt Spring leading the offense in a 2-for-5 plate appearance with a home run and two RBI. Vero finished fifth in the Florida State League with a 54-81 record. RHP Heath Rollins ended the year with a 3.30 ERA and 115 strikeouts, fifth-most in the League.
— Brittany Ghiroli