Second-round selection Brett Cumberland has been the sole proprietor of media attention this season attention among the alumni of Cal baseball in the minor leagues, but former teammates Robbie Tenerowicz and Ryan Mason have quietly put together strong individual seasons and are on the verge of moving on up.
Tenerowicz, 22, didn’t receive much fanfare outside of Cal circles when the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 27th round of the 2016 MLB draft, but in his brief two years in the Rays farm system, the second baseman done nothing but outplay his draft rank.
Tenerowicz didn’t take long to adapt to pitching at the professional level, hitting .291 to go with team-highs in both RBI (38) and doubles (17). The second-baseman clearly out-hit Josh Lowe, the organization’s first selection, 13th overall, in that 2016 draft.
In his first full season in the minors with the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, Tenerowicz has built upon the foundation he set for himself in rookie ball, improving nearly every aspect of his offensive game, all while playing against a slightly superior level of pitching. Over 347 plate appearances, Tenerowicz has slugged 11 home runs with a batting average of .306, both of which are the second-highest on the Hot Rods.
Tenerowicz has been a living nightmare for southpaws, batting 28 points better against lefties than righties. The second-baseman has also hit five of his 11 home runs against left-handed pitching despite 92 more at-bats against right-handed pitching.
Tenerowicz’s development has not been limited to his bat, as he has grown as a defender as well. While he was primarily a second baseman during his time at Cal, Tenerowicz has played all around the diamond with Bowling Green. In addition to spending 310 innings at second base, Tenerowicz has spent 235 innings at first in addition to four starts at third base and one in left field.
As the MLB has become more versatility-driven, players such as Tenerowicz are becoming more sought after commodities by the day. If he can continue to expand upon the early stages of his defensive versatility, especially in the outfield, while maintaining his offensive prowess, a spot will be waiting for him in the show.
Cumberland and Tenerowicz have excelled at the plate during their time in the minors, but a member of that Class of 2016 who has carved out a role for himself on the mound is Ryan Mason, who the Minnesota Twins selected in the 13th round of the draft.
Drafted as a starter, Mason, 22, had a rough start to his professional career, sporting an eyesore of a 5.33 ERA in rookie ball. The tall right-hander started nine of the 11 games he appeared in for the Elizabethton Twins — while he put together a couple of quality starts, he was lit up on the mound more often than not.
Instead of continuing down the path of a starter, Mason converted to a multi-inning reliever and has thrived in his new role from the jump. In 41 innings on the mound for the Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels, Mason has put together an ERA of 1.84, the fourth-lowest among relievers who have appeared in at least 14 games. Mason has also recorded a team-high eight holds in the set-up role.
The most noticeable difference between Mason’s time with Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids is the type of contact he is inducing. In the relief role, Mason has allowed fewer line drives and fly balls and has generated more ground balls. Mason has also become more adept at striking out batters, something that wasn’t on display during his time with the Bears.
Relievers who can throw multiple innings such as Andrew Miller and Chris Devenski are hot commodities in today’s game. Should Mason continue to string together strong outings and rise through the Rays’ system, a spot will be waiting for him in the pen.