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Futures Game offers glimmer of hope for Rays

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As the Tampa Bay Rays free-fall into the All-Star break, a four-day break can only help. When you’ve lost 21 of 24 any person or team would look for something to make the pain stop.

Some morsel of optimism is needed and today’s first All-Star event in San Diego provides such a snack. The MLB All-Stars Futures Game pits a collection of prospects from the U.S. against other prospects from around the world.

Alex Colome is the only Ray on the American League roster, but three Tampa Bay prospects will participate on Sunday. The 2013 first round pick Ryne Stanek is a member of the U.S. pitching staff while Chei-Wei Hu is part of the World bullpen.

The other Tampa Bay hopeful is the one most eyes will watch. Shortstop Willy Adames is turning some heads playing for the Montgomery Biscuits in the Class AA Southern League. After a slow start, he has come on to hit eight home runs, drive in 36 runs and post a .266 batting average.

Adames, who came to the organization as part of the David Price trade on July 31, 2014, is the Rays’ number three prospect. The 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic is gaining more confidence and hopes to be playing in Tropicana Field soon.

“I’m not trying to do anything special,” Adames told MILB.com. “I think I still want to work on being more accurate defensively. Being a good player on defense will help me get to the big leagues quicker.”

Stanek’s career can accurately be labeled a disappointment up to this point. A team’s top draft choice is expected to dominate in the lower minors, and then develop into a solid pitcher.

Instead, the Rays’ number 24 prospect has struggled with control and other issues until he was switched to a relief pitcher in May. The St. Louis native excelled in seven appearances with Montgomery leading to a promotion to Class AAA Durham on July 4. His one appearance with the Bulls was 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

Hu, Tampa Bay’s No. 12 prospect, is a right hander that came to the Rays last July as part of the trade of Kevin Jepsen to Minnesota. He had a rocky beginning in the Rays’ organization.

A starting pitcher, Hu went 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA for Port Charlotte in the second half of 2015. He was bombed in one start for AAA Durham in 2016, but has performed quite well in Montgomery. Despite a 2-6 record, he has a very respectable 2.51 ERA.

The Futures Game introduces young talent on national television who are otherwise cloaked in obscurity in the minor leagues. Last year Kyle Schwarber was in Class AA before winning the Most Valuable Player award for the 2015 Futures Game. By October, he was hitting tape measure home runs for the Cubs in the post season.

There is certainly no guarantee any of the Rays’ prospects playing on Sunday could be part of September call ups. On the other hand, there is every reason to believe their chance is coming sooner rather than later.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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