Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Meet Your 2016 Biscuits - Batters Edition

The first workouts were held at Riverwalk on Tuesday, followed by the Meet the Team event.

Today we learned the roster and can offer up some info on the players we can expect to see this season. This team looks good, on paper they are loaded with prospects and guys who are more than just roster filler. Even the bench is a cut above, in part due to the infamous "LogJam" of talent backing up at Durham.

In January I predicted the opening day roster. I got 16 of the 25 guys on the roster, and one who has started on the DL. Not bad!

Justin O'Conner landed on the DL with a sore back, he has stayed in Port Charlotte for extended spring and treatment.

A terrible first half of the season last summer kept his full season numbers down and likely kept him from moving up. Turning 24 years old on March 31st, the former 1st round pick has lost a little of his prospect status but remains a talented catcher with an elite throwing arm.

For the Biscuits, once he arrives, a healthy O'Conner should catch often and pose a serious threat to would-be opposing basestealers.

Jake DePew
 @JDePew33 on twitter

DePew, known sometimes as BamBam, will be handling most of the games behind the plate, as well as throwing out opposing baserunners at an excellent clip.

Biscuits fans know what to expect of this Jake, smart fingers calling pitches and occasional pop with the stick. DePew had two triples last year, three homers and nine doubles to post a career high .620 OPS.

Granite City, Illinois is where Jake hails from, the 24 year old is a veteran presence behind the plate - BamBam enters his third season in a Skitz uni.

Mike Marjama
@MMarjama on twitter

 The Rays went after Marjama, dealing cash/ptbnl to the ChiSox for the converted third baseman turned catching-firstbaseman from Roseville California.

Transferring from Sacramento City College where he was an AllStar to a bigger school, Marjama the Dirtbag with Long Beach State got noticed and was taken in the 23rd draft round by Chicago.

Marjama will turn 27 this summer and has been tagged as organizational catching depth, but his versatility makes him more than just the 25th man on the roster. The Rays catching depth has driven Mike from behind the plate except as a backup, basically unconverting him from catcher. Now he is mostly a first base guy.

A solid batting average of .279 in his pro career is robust for a backup catcher, last summer he spent a majority of his time at first base. He also tossed two good innings of relief in a blowout game, walking just one while giving up no hits.
Marjama overcame an eating disorder in his teens before making baseball his main focus. After addressing his eating habits and self-image concepts he moved ahead in life, putting the issues behind him for good. A nice writeup from a few years back covers his situation well and serves as a positive example.

For the Biscuits Marjama will show a good batting eye and drive in runs, hitting more doubles than homers. He should play a good defensive first base and back up at catcher occasionally.

Armando Araiza 

The 22 year old backstop, Armando had a nice year at Port Charlotte last summer, and seemed a likely promotion. Araiza shared time catching for the StoneCrabs and swatted a few homers and drove in some runs. More importantly, the Mexican native caught 36 of 80 attempted basestealers.

Araiza hit .260 in the second half of 2015.

He may serve as a bullpen catcher, last year we had a catcher appear in one single game but he was with the team pretty much all season to warm pitchers in the bullpen. More likely he will get into some games, sharing time with DePew or be sent back to the StoneCrabs once O'Conner returns.

SS Willy Adames

The Dominican native is listed as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Just 20 years old, Adames topped 100 hits for the second year in a row last season. He also had his second straight season of 120+ strikeouts.

 The right hander batted third in the StoneCrabs lineup, its likely he will return there for Montgomery. A doubles hitter who can reach the wall but not clear it, Adames should have a chance to drive in plenty of runs.

His defense has been improving, errant throws can be an issue but he has great range and a strong arm. Willy was an important part of the David Price trade, his development is important to the organization, so his progress in Montgomery will be closely watched by the Tampa front office.

For the Biscuits, Adames should start at shortstop and hit in the middle of the lineup nearly every day. 

2b Tommy Coyle

Back for a second helping of Biscuits, fan favorite Tommy Coyle returns to cover the keystone sack.

Of his 81 hits last season, 24 went for extra bases. Coyle drove in 38 runs last summer and took a pile of walks. Good speed and defense is the hallmark of Tommy Coyle's game - he swiped 20 bases last year in 107 games.

For the Biscuits Coyle will get plenty of starts at second base, sharing time but playing often. A great choice for late inning defensive replacement or as a pinch runner, Coyle gets into a lot of games even when he doesn't start.

Casey Gillaspie

Casey was a first round pick in 2014 out of Wichita State and has moved quickly up the ladder. Playing at three levels in one season is rare, but BigCaseDawg did just that last summer.

Overall Casey hit 17 homers, 47 RBI's and batted in the .250s at Rookie Ball, Low-A and finally High-A Port Charlotte. Most of his appearances were in Low-A Bowling Green, he only got 13 games with the Stone Crabs.

The 23-year old switch hitter got nearly 100 at bats in the Arizona Fall League, meaning he got time with four different teams in 2015.

Gillaspie's father Mark played in the Southern league in the Memphis Chicks outfield back in 1988. Caseys brother plays a little ball too, Connor has played over 100 MLB games for the Giants/Angels/WhiteSox.

With the Biscuits Gillaspie will play first base and occasional DH, batting lower in the order early in the season.

Jake Hager

Injury derailed Jake Hager, 2015 was a lost season for the talented infielder. As a first round pick in 2011, Jake was zipping through the levels for the Rays. At just age 21, Hager was the Biscuits shortstop in 2014 batting .271 with 47 RBI's.

Hager on right
Now he is healthy, still just 23 years old, and on track to prove he belongs in the Rays plans. Hager is athletic and has great instincts. He hits lefties well, batted a strong .293 with Runners in Scoring Position for the Biscuits in '14 and has over 100 hits in each of his full seasons of play.

But where will Jake Hager play? I asked this question directly to Biscuits manager Brady Williams. "Where won't he play?" was the reply I got. We can look forward to seeing Hager on the field often, deployed as a super-utility man at multiple positions, particularly on the infield.

Jake has never played a pro game at any position other than Shortstop.

Look for Hager all over the field and the batting order as Brady Williams mixes and matches him into situational moves and daily lineup juggling. 

Juniel Querecuto

The Biscuits fans enjoyed watching Q last summer, as he made circus catches, miracle throws and motored around the bags for an inside the park home run.

Since then Juniel has gotten noticed by more than just us - Querecuto's walk off hit in the Serie Caribe woke many up to his clutch hitting. But for Juniel, its just a family tradition. His father, Juan, played more than a dozen years for the Cardenales de Lara and Juniel said in a recent interview "I was born and raised in a baseball house".

JuneQ is just 22 years old, but already a five year veteran of the Rays organization. His .209 batting average for Montgomery last year is about fifty points below his career mark. He hit in the .290s for Bowling Green and Port Charlotte, his average in Durham was .300 so its a safe bet he will improve on last years Biscuits average.

Querecuto's inside the park home run last season was one of the most exciting plays of the year at Riverwalk Stadium. It was his first career home run and helped energize the team going into the playoff hunt.

Could he do it again?
Thats the question I asked Biscuits Manager Brady Williams. "Absolutely," Brady replied "I think he gets another one this year. He'll do it".

For the Biscuits, JuneQ will play both middle infield positions as well as third base and offer spectacular defense.

2b Kean Wong

Say Aloha to the Biscuits new second sacker, a fourth round pick in 2013 out of Hawaii. He bats left and throws right, has a strong infield arm and good speed. His brother is a big leaguer, but Kean is moving through the organization quickly.

Last summer Wong improved his batting eye, drawing a bunch more walks, stealing 15 bases and helping lead the StoneCrabs to the FSL pennant with a championship-clinching walk-off base on balls.

With Montgomery Wong will see tough pitching and could be challenged at the plate. However once on the bases he should enjoy turning the tables with his baserunning speed. Solid defense at second base is expected, good instincts and accurate throws should be the Kean Wong forte.

Wiki says Kean learned baseball from his father. With two pros in the family, dad should open an academy!

For the Biscuits Wong should start at second base and play often. He could start lower in the batting order early in the season, but is probably best suited to hitting second in the lineup.

1B/OF Jake Bauers

A midseason addition to the Biscuits last summer, the Huntington Beach guy returns to Montgomery. Bauers had a nice Arizona Fall League, hitting a couple homers in 18 games.

The lefty was part of the Wil Myers deal, he popped about half his 11 homers last year after his promotion from Port Charlotte. Jake is the first Biscuit born after the 1994 MLB strike.

Bauers played first base for Montgomery last year, now he will likely see most of his action in right field. He should hit fifth or sixth in the batting order, last year he had a .295 average in the sixth spot.

OF Johnny Field Jr.

Somewhat overshadowed by the ranked prospects and hyped players on the roster, Montgomery's AllStar outfielder and MVP candidate Johnny Field returns to the Biscuits. Field was an instant favorite for his highlight reel catches and long fly balls, he was leading the playoff push when a hit-by-pitch resulted in a broken wrist to end his season.

Field brings great range, good glove and strong arm to any position in the outfield. A 5th round draft pick in 2013, Johnny had 14 homers and 18 steals in just 116 games last summer. Batting .293 in the first half, Field was slowed in the second half before the injury that cost him playoff appearances.

Field played more games in right field (40) than at any other position in 2015.

For the Biscuits, Johnny Field Jr will probably bat high in the order and play often in the outfield in left field, right field and centerfield.

LF Granden Goetzman

After a season and a half at Charlotte, GG had a nice spring training with the Rays and comes to Montgomery to work in left field. The Rays second round choice in 2011, taken out of high school in Palmetto, Florida. This will be Goetzman's sixth season in the Rays organization.

GG had a career year during the offseason between 2014-15, mashing nine homers in just 44 games for Brisbane in the Australian Baseball League, passing the eight he had just hit for Bowling Green-Port Charlotte in the regular season.

Granden worked through a few injuries after being drafted, as well as the loss of his father, crediting new Biscuits hitting coach Dan Dement for helping him past the obstacles.

Last year, GG started strong with a .256 average in the first half. A doubles hitter, he grew up as a Jason Werth fan.

For the Biscuits Granden Goetzman should play left field often, batting fifth or sixth in the batting order.

CF  Braxton Lee

Montgomery with a Rebel named Lee?

Batting left and throwing right, Braxton Lee is a 12th round pick out of the University of Mississippi. Chosen by the Rays in 2014, the Picayune native brings good wheels and outfield range as his strengths.

The speedy centerfielder will turn 23 years old later this summer. He brings a .283 batting average as a pro, compiled over the last two seasons. Lee has yet to hit a pro homerun, but his good speed could lead to a few extra base hits.

In a 2014 interview, Lee said he admired OF's Ken Griffey and Ichiro, as well as Jim Edmonds for his diving catches.

For the Biscuits, look for Braxton Lee to play centerfield often. Lee has great numbers when hitting ninth in the batting order.

Tomorrow we will take a look at the pitchers!

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