Princeton Notebook: Plenty of Surprises Early

The Princeton Rays jumped out to their best start in 16 years when they started the season with a 5-1 record, but as the team settled into the season they have since cooled down quite a bit. While the team numbers don't necessarily jump out at as anything special, some individual players are dominating the league.

Blake Snell: No runs allowed

There are no pitchers on the Princeton Rays who are putting up numbers like Blake Snell. The 2011 first round pick has been an unstoppable force on the mound so far this season. In his first three starts, he has only allowed two hits and no runs while striking out 20 batters. He allowed one hit in his first start, and he was in the middle of a perfect game during his second start when his outing was cut short due to a rain delay.

Snell's starts have been short though – only a combined 12.2 innings – and manager Michael Johns said that the team will try to make sure he pitches more innings going forward. "He's been really good for us this season," said Johns. "He's pitched really well but obviously we want him to go deeper in games.

Since Snell was drafted, he has fully lived up to the expectations of a first round pick. He pitched in 11 games for the Gulf Coast League Rays last year, posting a 3.08 ERA and an average of one strikeout per inning.


Surprises and disappointments on offense

Not many people expected infielder Julian Morillo to play as well as he has so far this season. Through the first 11 games of the season, he is leading the team with a .341 batting average. Manager Michael Johns said his two biggest surprises so far have been the offensive and defensive production from Morillo and infielder Darryl George, who is hitting .313.

"Right out of the gate, those two surprised me," said Johns. "They are playing really well in terms of position players."

While Morillo and George have been the most surprising so far this year, prized outfield prospect James Harris has been a disappointment at the plate. Looking frustrated and lost offensively, the 2011 first round pick has the team's lowest batting average at .159 and he was hitless in the team's recent home series against the Minnesota Twins rookie affiliate.


Utility infielders

The Princeton Rays have switched around their infield defensive alignment quite a bit this season, and it all appears to be a part of the Rays' plan to teach the young players how to play different positions. However, the one constant has been shortstop Brandon Martin, a highly touted first round pick who was ranked by Baseball America as the third best defensive high school shortstop before the 2011 draft.


Roster changes

Nicholas Sawyer and Matthew Ramsey were both recently called up to Princeton from the Gulf Coast League Rays. Sawyer was just called up on Tuesday and will be flying in on Wednesday. Also added to the roster last week was pitcher Alex Keudell.

Outfielder Andrew Toles joined Princeton last week after he finally signed his contract. Toles is one of the top prospects on the team and manager Michael Johns said he will be getting plenty of playing time.

"Toles hadn't played in awhile so we had to make sure he was ready to play," he explained. "He'll be playing. He is a big priority for us."

Toles was previously drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2010, but did not sign and went to Tennessee before transferring to Chipola College.



Matt Tracy is the Princeton beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewtracy.

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