Best Player: Righthander Chris Archer showed he had the stuff to pitch in the majors during his impressive big league debut June 20 against the Nationals—he yielded just one earned run over six innings while going head-to-head with Stephen Strasburg. "It was unbelievable," first baseman Carlos Pena said.
But for Archer, 23, it was a continuation of the progress he made at Triple-A Durham. Archer struggled in April, posting a 6.75 ERA, but had a 3.93 ERA through his next nine starts, leading up to his debut. He was 5-8, 4.74 overall for the Bulls, where he returned after Jeremy Hellickson came of the disabled list, and he led the International League with 97 strikeouts. "Physically, it's been there for a little while, but mentally I think I've become more consistent," Archer said.
Biggest Leap Forward: Outfielder Josh Sale was undoubtedly frustrated from last season, his professional debut. Sale, the 17th pick in the 2010 draft, hit just .210/.289/.346 in 214 at-bats with Rookie-level Princeton, an admittedly humbling situation.
So Sale went back home to Seattle in the offseason, reworked his swing and entered this year with a new mental approach—and motivation. Sale had bounced back, batting .276/.393/.528 with eight home runs in 123 at-bats for low Class A Bowling Green.
Biggest Disappointment: Since the Rays took Tim Beckham No. 1 overall in 2008, ahead of Buster Posey, they've been very patient and encouraging of the shortstop, believing he could at some point make an impact at the major league level. But then Beckham was suspended 50 games for a second violation of a drug of abuse.
"Tim possesses great potential," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "And he must rededicate himself in order to become the person and player we know he can be." Beckham returned to Durham in late June and got off to a 14-for-42 start.
• Double-A Montgomery second baseman Tyler Bortnick bounced back from a rough start to the season and hit .315 in June while stringing together a 15-game hitting streak. The 2009 16th-round pick out of Coastal Carolina was hitting .291/.397/.432 overall.
• The Princeton Rays got off to a running start in the Rookie-level Appalachian League by swiping a league-leading 33 bases in their first 14 games (Danville ranked second with 17). Outfielder Granden Goetzman topped the Rays with eight steals and was followed by William Argo (six) and Ismel Antunez and Brandon Martin (five each).