Shane Baz: Rays 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year
Righthander Shane Baz pitched at Low-A in 2019 and was limited to alternate training site workouts in 2020 during the pandemic.
The 22-year-old more than made up for missed time this year, pitching his way from Double-A Montgomery to Triple-A Durham to the major leagues, with side trips to the Futures Game and the Summer Olympics as part of silver-medal winning Team USA.
In the minors, Baz logged a 2.06 ERA over 17 starts, striking out 113 and walking 13 in 78.2 innings. His 0.80 WHIP was second lowest among pitchers with at least 70 innings.
“It's been a little bit of a whirlwind, but I couldn't be more comfortable here," Baz said when he joined the Rays in September "I've been throwing the ball since I was 5 years old, so it's kind of what I feel like I was meant to do.’’
Baz made three big league starts before the Rays added him to their postseason rotation, though his start in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox didn’t go well. He was pulled in the third inning after allowing three runs.
That the Rays were impressed enough to give him that opportunity, ahead of more experienced options such as Luis Patiño or Michael Wacha spoke to how much they think of him.
“He showed us enough in his three outings that we felt good about it,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The funny thing about Shane is his three outings up here were definitely as good, probably better than anything that he had shown in Durham this year.
"He really took to the alternate site last year and made himself better, and this year he has just skyrocketed with the strike-throwing and the stuff.’’
— The Rays' seven minor league affiliates finished with a cumulative 411-249 record, good for a .623 winning percentage that easily topped all organizations. Three of their four full-season affiliates won league championships, and the fourth lost in the fifth and final game of the championship round.
— Among those making strong early impressions in the Arizona Fall League was third baseman Curtis Mead, who hit two homers through five games after already working his way from Low-A Charleston to High-A Bowling Green to Triple-A Durham.
— Other Rays players in the AFL include outfielders Matt Dyer and Heriberto Hernandez, and pitchers Trevor Brigden, Carlos Garcia, Matthew Peguero, Caleb Sampen.
— David Hess, who spent parts of 2021 pitching with the Rays and Triple-A Durham, posted on social media that he was diagnosed with a “cancerous germ cell tumor” and was being treated with chemotherapy.