TWO LAST ONE MORE THINGS

You gotta love the grammar there, right?

But yes, this is my final installment in the series of “One More Thing …” entries that Jonathan, Kevin and I have been writing in our respective blogs upon the publication of our more official organization reviews.

ONE MORE THING: TAMPA BAY RAYS

With a few organizations, I will admit, it was tough to come up with a solid list of prospects for the review. But I’m sure it will come as no surprise to fans that when it came to the Rays, the hard part was narrowing down the list of names. There were several players who could have and should have made the cut, and would have with most systems.

But to pick just one, I’ll go with first baseman Rhyne Hughes. The club’s eighth-round pick in 2004 out of high school in Picayune, Mississippi (that’s not far from Gulfport/Biloxi), Hughes signed with the Rays as a draft-and-follow the next spring after leading all junior college players with 18 homers at Pearl River CC.

He had his breakthrough Minor League season in 2007 when he hit .329 at Advanced A Vero Beach and .295 at Double-A Montgomery, combining for 14 homers and 72 RBIs between the two spots and had a solid year this past summer witih the Biscuits, hitting .268 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs.

He’s 40-man eligible this year but the Rays are loaded with talent so he came into Arizona Fall League knowing he was on the bubble and hoping to show what he could do against the Double-A and Triple-A pitching here, most notably versus lefties, against whom he’d hit just .165 in the Southern League.

It would be fair to say that Hughes has done pretty much all he could have hoped with the Peoria Javelinas, hitting .394 through this weekend which includes a .333 clip off southpaws.

But these last six weeks have brought excitement and pride for Hughes beyond just his own outstanding showing here, as he got to watch the Rays’ amazing post-season surge from about 2000 miles away.

Among his teammates at Montgomery, for example, was David Price.

“Everybody in the world saw what he did and I got the opportunity to play with him for a couple of weeks and he was phenomenal,” marveled Hughes. “Not only knowing it’s your big league club but knowing guys who were there made it that much more exciting.”

Hughes did most of his Rays-watching with his Peoria teammate Matt Spring, a Rays catching prospect who actually lives in Peoria.

“We got chills watching it,” he said. “It was fun watching the success they had, not just in the playoffs but throughout the year. It just made everyone in our organization want to be there that much more because we saw how much fun they were having. It was just incredible to watch.”

In a matter of a few days, Hughes will find out whether he’s been added to the Rays’ 40-man roster, meaning he’ll get to be part of what is sure to be a media-crushing spring training in the club’s new Port Charlotte digs.

ONE MORE THING: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

I’m going to go out on a long-legged limb here with this one and talk about a player I have not seen pitch but have seen run: slender southpaw Yohan Flande.

Back during spring training, I happened to be over in Phillies camp on one of the days most dreaded by every Philadelphia pitching prospect: the two-mile run. The pitchers are required to complete the run in under 16 minutes and if they can’t, they have to do it again another day.

Most come struggling in, sweating, panting, just glad to have it behind them for another year.

Flande looked as if he could pass as an Olympic-caliber distance runner.

He clocked in at 11 minutes and change and farm director Steve Noworyta told me at the time that while no one kept records on the event, he guessed this was pretty close to a club mark.

The 21-year-old, listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, was starting his first stateside season after three years in his native Dominican Republic where he’d posted a combined 2.39 ERA in 196 innings.

This year he led the Phillies organization with a 2.19 ERA in the complex-level Gulf Coast League, walking 11 and fanning 39 in 53 1/3 innings while limiting hitters to a .200 average. He pitched five or more innings in each of his starts and in 10 games, he allowed one or no earned runs seven times.

In the playoffs, he got the win in the team’s first game and, with the championship all but wrapped up in the clincher two days later, his manager put him in to toss the final inning because he felt he had earned that honor. So with Flande on the mound, the Gulf Coast League Phillies won a league championship that, while perhaps not quite as exciting as the one their organization-mates would nail down a month later, was still certainly relished.

So there you have it, folks. Our org reviews are done, our “one more things” are done and it’s time to move on …

I plan to kick off a little blog project of my own tomorrow, one that I hope you readers will enjoy … if all goes according to plan (and really, when does that ever happen?) I hope to keep it going indefinitely …

Intrigued at all? Feel free to bookmark this page and tune in Monday afternoon for the first installment of … well, I am still toying with the title. 

 

 

 

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