Caminero's HUGE game backs Bradley's near-perfect rehab start

April 28th, 2024

If the Rays want to see a glimpse of their future, they only need to look 700 miles north to Durham, N.C.

On Sunday afternoon, top prospect (MLB No. 4) homered twice in a four-hit game as rehabbing , their top prospect from 2023, tossed five hitless innings in Triple-A Durham's 6-2 win at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Caminero continues to show off his power since returning from the IL two weeks ago with a left hamstring strain. Although these were his first homers since April 14 -- in his first multihomer game since Sept. 3, 2023 -- the 20-year-old has been crushing the ball lately. Since his return, 15 of his 26 batted balls qualify as hard-hit (95 mph or harder), including both roundtrippers Sunday.

The third baseman didn't wait long to make an impact Sunday. He jumped on the first pitch he saw, a fastball down the pipe, and launched it 396 feet to right-center at 106.2 mph.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Yoendrys Gómez made the same mistake in his second AB against Caminero, this time leaving a second-pitch slider middle-middle, which was ruthlessly punished. The second homer traveled 433 feet (his longest hit of the year) at 109.7 mph (second-hardest-hit).

For good measure, Caminero lined a single to left in the sixth inning (at a mere 92.4 mph) and doubled in the eighth (at 101.7 mph) on a ball that would have gone out for a third homer if it flew a few feet to the right to avoid the 32-foot left-field wall.

"This is what I've been accustomed to seeing," said Bulls manager Morgan Ensberg, who previously managed Caminero and Bradley at Double-A Montgomery. "When you look at the swing, when you look at the speed off the bat, it's just very easy to see that he stands out."

Camerino alone was enough offense to support Bradley, who made his first rehab appearance after suffering a right pectoral strain during Spring Training. The righty dominated with seven strikeouts across five frames, with the only batters reaching on a six-pitch walk and a throwing error. This was his third professional hitless outing, with the most recent coming on July 29, 2021, in A-ball.

Bradley, who graduated last June as MLB's No. 15 overall prospect, was extremely efficient -- needing just 65 pitches (42 of which were strikes) -- so much so that he needed to throw on the side to get up to his pitch limit. Not only that, his stuff was as effective as ever.

His average fastball velocity (96.6 mph) was up a half-tick from his 2023 average, and he topped out at 98.5, a mark he surpassed just 12 times last year. Bradley picked up whiffs on 12 of the 34 swings against him while getting opponents to chase on 33 percent of swings outside the zone. Those last two figures are up compared to his marks of 24.9 percent and 27.2 percent, respectively, in the Majors last year.

"I didn't know what I was going to see out of Taj, but I don't think it mattered who he faced today," Ensberg said. "It was 97, 98. The offspeed was sharp, late-breaking. He was pounding the zone. He was moving the ball around. He was throwing 97, quick to the plate, sub-1.1 seconds to home. That's when you know that his body is lined up and feeling good."

The Rays are expected to build up the 23-year-old's pitch count in further rehab outings before he can potentially return to the bigs in the first half of May. And with Caminero slashing .313/.377/.646, it may not be long before he joins his Durham teammate at The Trop.