Rays announce 16 internal minor league invites to spring training
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The Tampa Bay Rays have announced the following minor league players have received invites to major league spring training: infielder Mike Brosseau, infielder Jake Cronenworth, right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake, infielder Lucius Fox, right-handed pitcher Mike Franco, right-handed pitcher Ian Gardeck, catcher Mac James, right-handed pitcher Andrew Kittredge, first baseman Nate Lowe, left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner, left-handed pitcher Dalton Moats, left-handed pitcher Colin Poche, catcher David Rodríguez, infielder/outfielder Nick Solak, right-handed pitcher Curtis Taylor and infielder/outfielder Kean Wong.
These invites bring the major league spring training roster to 64 players: 34 pitchers, six catchers, 16 infielders and eight outfielders.
Brosseau, 24, spent last season with Double-A Montgomery, batting .262/.327/.449 (97-for-370) and recording career highs with 13 home runs, 61 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He finished the season with a .968 fielding pct. while spending time at third base (64 games, 63 starts), second base (16 games, all starts), first base (10 games, nine starts) and shortstop (one game). He was signed by the Rays as a non-drafted free agent following the 2016 June Draft out of Oakland University in Michigan and is a .295/.372/.450 (252-for-854) hitter with 20 home runs and 124 RBI over three minor league seasons.
Cronenworth, 25, spent most of last season with Montgomery, aside from a short stint with Triple-A Durham in April and a promotion for Durham’s run to the Governors’ Cup. Between the two levels, he hit .253/.321/.345 (112-for-443) with four home runs, 52 RBI and a career-high 22 stolen bases while making starts at shortstop (60), third base (32), second base (18) and first base (one). He tied for fourth in the Southern League with 75 runs scored. He was selected by the Rays in the seventh round of the 2015 June Draft out of the University of Michigan and is a career .272/.363/.367 (422-for-1,550) hitter with 12 home runs and 174 RBI over four minor league seasons.
Drake, 32, was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays on January 4 in exchange for cash considerations and was outrighted to the minor leagues following the signing of Avisaíl García. Last season, he pitched in the majors for the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins, becoming the first player in major league history to pitch for five different teams in one season. He has spent parts of four seasons in the majors, going 5-6 with a 4.59 ERA (137.1-IP, 70-ER) in 135 appearances, all in relief.
Fox, 21, split last season between Class-A Charlotte and Montgomery, batting .268/.351/.341 (122-for-455) with three home runs, 39 RBI and 29 stolen bases in 116 games. He was named to the Florida State League midseason All-Star Team and finished the season fifth in the league with a .371 on-base pct. and eighth with a .282 avg. He also played 21 games for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, batting .326 (28-for-86) with one home run, 11 RBI and seven stolen bases. He was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 23 prospect in the Rays system following the season, and the publication also tabbed him as the Best Defensive Infielder in the organization. He was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants as an international free agent in July 2015 and was acquired by the Rays in the Matt Moore trade on August 1, 2016.
Franco, 27, split the season between Montgomery and Durham, going 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA (62.2-IP, 22-ER) in 41 apps (one start). He was named Southern League Pitcher of the Week for April 30–May 6 and earned a promotion to Triple-A shortly thereafter, spending the rest of the season with Durham. He was placed on the disabled list near the end of the regular season and missed the postseason due to right shoulder impingement. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 June Draft out of Florida International University and is 19-14 with a 2.48 ERA (308.2-IP, 85-ER) over five minor league seasons.
Gardeck, 28, was selected from the Giants in the Triple-A phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft. He split last season between the AZL Giants, Class-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond, going 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA (13.2-IP, 4-ER) in 14 apps, his first professional action since 2015. He underwent Tommy John surgery and hip labrum surgery in March 2016 and a second Tommy John surgery in April 2017. He was selected by the Giants in the 16th round of the 2012 June Draft out of the University of Alabama and is 13-13 with a 4.07 ERA (223.1-IP, 101-ER) over five minor league seasons.
James, 25, split last season between Montgomery and Durham, batting .192/.290/.210 (32-for-167) with 14 RBI in 54 games between the two levels. He spent time at catcher (30 games, 29 starts), first base (13 games, 12 starts) and third base (eight games, three starts). He was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 June Draft out of the University of Oklahoma and is a career .238/.306/.289 (252-for-1,057) hitter with five home runs and 89 RBI in five minor league seasons.
Kittredge, 28, was outrighted off the 40-man roster in November. He made 33 apps (three starts) over five stints with the Rays, including his first career Opening Day roster, and held left-handed hitters to a .232/.348/.393 (13-for-56) line. He recorded his first career win on April 25 at Baltimore and made nine straight scoreless outings from September 5-19. He also made 21 apps (one start) with Durham, where he went 6-0 with a 2.74 ERA (46-IP, 14-ER) and 58 strikeouts. He was acquired by the Rays in a November 2016 trade with the Seattle Mariners and has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors.
Lowe, 23, was named the Minor League Player of the Year by the Rays Baseball Operations department last season, leading Rays minor leaguers with 27 home runs and 102 RBI and ranking third with a .330 avg. His 102 RBI were the most by a Rays minor leaguer since Stephen Vogt (105) in 2011. He split the season between Charlotte, Montgomery and Durham, batting .330/.416/.568 (159-for-482) in 130 games. He was named to the Florida State League midseason All-Star Game and represented the Rays in the All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park. He was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in the Rays system following the season. He was selected in the 13th round of the 2016 June Draft out of Mississippi State University and has hit .303/.393/.476 (343-for-1,131) with 38 home runs and 201 RBI in three minor league seasons.
Milner, 28, was outrighted off the 40-man roster in November. He split last season between Triple-A and the majors in the Philadelphia Phillies and Rays organizations. He made four apps over two stints with the Rays (July 15-20 and September 20 through the end of the season) and totaled four stints in the majors. He was designated for assignment by the Phillies on July 10 and acquired by the Rays in exchange for cash considerations on July 14. In 40 apps (one start) between Durham and Lehigh Valley at the Triple-A level, he went 1-0 with a 2.88 ERA (40.2-IP, 13-ER) and 49 strikeouts. He was selected by the Phillies in the seventh round of the 2012 June Draft.
Moats, 23, spent last season with Montgomery, going 2-3 with a 5.34 ERA (62.1-IP, 37-ER) in 41 apps (10 starts). He pitched to a 0.84 ERA (10.2-IP, 1-ER) in seven outings for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League and was named to the AFL Rising Stars Game. He was selected in the 15th round of the 2016 June Draft out of Delta State University and is 11-6 with a 3.36 ERA (155.1-IP, 58-ER) over three minor league seasons.
Poche, 25, was named the Minor League Reliever of the Year by the Rays Baseball Operations department last season after being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks as a player to be named to complete the Steven Souza Jr. trade. He pitched for Double-A Jackson, Montgomery and Durham, going 6-0 with a 0.82 ERA (66-IP, 6-ER) and 110 strikeouts, good for a 15.0 SO/9 IP ratio. No minor league pitcher with as many innings recorded a better SO/9 IP ratio than Poche, who struck out 45.6 pct. of his batters faced between the two organizations. He was named to Baseball America’s Minor League All-Star Team and was ranked by the publication as the No. 20 prospect in the Rays system following the season. He was selected by the D-backs in the 14th round of the 2016 June Draft and is 10-3 with a 1.47 ERA (147.1-IP, 24-ER) over three minor league seasons.
Rodríguez, 22, split last season between Charlotte and Montgomery, batting .256/.316/.376 (91-for-356) with six home runs and 64 RBI between the two levels. He was named to the Florida State League midseason All-Star Team and earned a May 22 promotion to the Double-A level. He played for the Bravos de Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .322 (38-for-118) with three home runs and 19 RBI in 35 games. He was signed as an international free agent in August 2012 and is a career .254/.326/.370 (411-for-1,618) hitter with 31 home runs and 229 RBI in six minor league seasons.
Solak, 24, spent last season, his first in the Rays organization, with Montgomery, batting .282/.384/.450 (135-for-478) with 19 home runs, 76 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 126 games. He was named Most Valuable Player for Montgomery by the Rays Baseball Operations department and was named to the Southern League midseason and postseason All-Star teams. He led the Southern League with 91 runs, 135 hits and a .384 on-base pct., ranked second with 76 RBI, third with 68 walks and 215 total bases and fourth with a .282 avg. He also tied for fourth among Rays minor leaguers in both home runs and RBI and was one home run shy of becoming the first Rays minor leaguer with a 20-homer, 20-steal season since Justin Ruggiano in 2007. He was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in the Rays system following the season. He was selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 2016 June Draft out of the University of Louisville and was acquired by the Rays in a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks for Steven Souza Jr.
Taylor, 23, split last season between Charlotte and Montgomery, going 6-4 with a 2.54 ERA (78-IP, 22-ER) in 38 apps (four starts). He recorded at least four outs in 29 of his 38 apps and went at least two innings in 21 apps. He was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2016 June Draft out of the University of British Columbia and was acquired by the Rays in November 2017 in exchange for Brad Boxberger. In three minor league seasons, he is 10-8 with a 2.81 ERA (156.2-IP, 49-ER) and 188 strikeouts in 68 apps (17 starts).
Wong, 23, spent last season with Durham, batting .282/.345/.406 (127-for-451) with nine home runs and 50 RBI in 116 games. He was named Most Valuable Player for Durham by the Rays Baseball Operations department, ranking 10th in the International League in avg. and leading the team in hits and total bases (183). He was named to the IL midseason and postseason All-Star teams and was the IL’s Top Star of the Triple-A All-Star Game. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 June Draft out of Waiakea High School in Hawaii and is a career .283/.335/.368 (655-for-2,312) hitter with 22 home runs and 236 RBI over six minor league seasons.
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