Third baseman Junior Caminero had done enough.
His spectacular performance between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery—he hit .324/.384/.591 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs in 117 games—had earned him the Rays’ minor league player of the year honors.
When the Biscuits were eliminated from postseason play on Sept. 21, Caminero planned to go to Tropicana Field for the team awards ceremony then head home to the Dominican Republic.
But the Rays had more than a plaque for him
Tampa Bay called up the 20-year-old Caminero to add offense to the injury-stricken team down the stretch. He is the first position player in franchise history to be called up straight from Double-A.
The Rays liked a lot of what Caminero did. He settled in at third base while improving his pre-pitch footwork. He became more consistent at the plate by focusing on swing decisions and improving his walk-to-strikeout ratio. He paid more attention to nutrition and recovery.
“It’s been an exciting year for Junior, progressing from High-A to Double-A, earning an invite to the Futures Games and more,’’ Rays vice president Carlos Rodriguez said. “To his credit, Junior bought into the adjustments that our staff challenged him to make and saw meaningful returns while facing better competition.’’
But his greatest strength is quite obvious.
“He can really hit,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He hits the ball as hard as anybody in the game. And he’s doing it at 20 years old.”
Or, as teammate and fellow prospect Carson Williams said: “Man, that kid’s a ballplayer. He can swing it . . . You guys are going to see something special, that’s for sure.”
Caminero was surprised and shocked to get the callup, and a video of his reaction when Montgomery manager Morgan Ensberg shared the news was heart-tugging.
“I was honestly mentally checked out and I was ready to be home,’’ Caminero said. “But once I got the call and the news, I said, ‘Forget going home. Forget everything else.’ I didn’t think I’d be in uniform here, but I’m glad I’m here.”
— Righthander Yoniel Curet was chosen the Rays’ minor league pitcher of the year for going 8-1 with a 2.94 ERA performance with Low-A Charleston and High-A Bowling Green. Alex Cook was named top relief pitcher, Chandler Simpson top baserunner and Carson Williams top defender.
— The Rays’ minor league team MVPs were second baseman Jonathan Aranda at Triple-A Durham, third baseman Austin Shenton at Double-A Montgomery, shortstop Carson Williams at High-A Bowling Green, first baseman Xavier Issac at Low-A Charleston, righthander Santiago Suarez in the Florida Complex League and shortstop Jose Monzon and righthander Jonathan Russell in the Dominican Summer League. Gionti Turner won the Erik Walker Community Champion award.