2021 is truly going to be a season to remember for Tampa area residents as some legendary-type players passed through the confines of GMS Field this past season. Anthony Volpe debuted in May in the top 10 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 prospects list and ended the year at the top, dethroning Jasson Dominguez, who also made an appearance in Tampa in the 2nd half of the year, and ended the year in 2nd place on the prospects list. The Tarpons ended the year at a league-best 73-43, 3.5 games ahead of the 2nd place team, Bradenton Marauders, who would ultimately sweep the Tarpons in the Low-A Southeast playoffs in September.
The year started off with a bang as the offense scored an insane 78 runs versus Dunedin’s 47 in the opening series, including a 25-10 win in the 4th game of the season, their largest win all year. By the end of May, the Tarpons had a league-best 17-7 record. A number of 2019 and 2020 draftees made pro and/or Low-A (and many later High-A*) debuts in May, including:
- Anthony Volpe (2019 Round 1)*
- Josh Smith (2019 Round 2)*
- Jake Sanford (2019 Round 3)*
- Ryan Anderson (2019 Round 12)
- Edgar Barclay (2019 Round 15)*
- Chad Bell (2019 Round 19)*
- Michael Giacone (2019 Round 28)
- Austin Wells (2020 Round 1)*
- Trevor Hauver (2020 Round 3, part of trade to TX for Joey Gallo)*
- Blane Abeyta (2020 UDFA)
- Clay Aguilar (2020 UDFA)*
- Carson Coleman (2020 UDFA)
- Elijah Dunham (2020 UDFA)*
- Trevor Holloway (2020 UDFA)*
- Ben Keizer (2020 UDFA)
May also included their only home/away series as Dunedin was still hosting the Toronto Blue Jays as a result of COVID restrictions north of the border, so Dunedin played an away series in Tampa May 25-May 30 (it was interesting to see Tampa in away grays in their home stadium). Tampa won that series, 4-2.
Offensive top performer for May: INF Trevor Hauver: 316/.491/.633. Hauver also hit 6 HR in his first 5 games with Tampa, which were also his first 5 career pro games.
Pitching top performer for May: RHP Nelvin Correa: 0.60 ERA in 15 IP; 8 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 HB, 5 BB; 0.87 WHIP
Rain dominated the month of June with 9 of 26 scheduled games being postponed or suspended due to inclement weather, but the Tarpons ended the month of June with a 32-15 record (15-8 for June).
June is also when #1 Pipeline ranked SS Anthony Volpe’s offense started blowing people away as he hit 7 HR in 79 AB, with 31 H, 22 R, and 22 RBI. Volpe posted a .392/.515/.848 slash in the month of June, his best all season. Hitting coach Kevin Martir discussed Volpe’s offense performance in this interview we did at the end of June.
Offensive top performer for June: SS Anthony Volpe: 392/.515/.848
Pitching top performer for June: RHP Trevor Holloway: 2.81 ERA in 17.2 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 HR, 1 HB, 9 BB, 32 K; 1.19 WHIP
The Tarpons’ first promotions came early in July, with pitchers Trevor Holloway and Sean Boyle moving up to High-A Hudson Valley and OF Everson Pereira moved up from the FCL team. In only his 3rd Low-A AB, Pereira tripled in an away Dunedin game, ultimately going 3-for-5, where the Tarpons won 21-2 in an abbreviated 7 inning game, the first of a doubleheader.
The next home series the following week is where we saw the biggest group of promotions all year at one time. SS Anthony Volpe, OF Jake Sanford and OF Pat DeMarco were promoted to High-A Hudson Valley the previous Monday (June 12), allowing for OF Aldenis Sanchez, OF Ryder Green and OF Jasson Dominguez to get promoted from the FCL.
Jasson Dominguez would later hit his first pro homerun on July 16th, a 344-ft. shot over the right field fence into the bleachers.
JASSON DOMINGUEZ JUST HIT HIS FIRST HOME RUN OF HIS PRO CAREER
— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) July 16, 2021
INF Roberto Chirinos and pitchers Blas Castano and Tyrone Yulie would get promoted from the FCL to Tampa in the latter half of the month after Yoendrys Gomez was put on the IL, Anderson Munoz was promoted to Hudson Valley, and INF Trevor Hauver was traded to the Rangers organization as part of the trade for Joey Gallo.
Tampa ended the month with a 20-8 record, making their season record so far 52-23.
Offensive top performer for July: OF Everson Pereira: .371/.443/.686
Pitching top performer for July: RHP Nelvin Correa: 0.00 ERA in 11.2 IP; 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HB, 7 BB, 13 K; 1.11 WHIP
The Tarpons opened August concluding an away series on the East Coast of Florida in Palm Beach, who was their only sweep of the year. That was the last series to have the core of Volpe, Wells, Pereira, Chaparro before they got promoted along with Torrealba and Santos to High-A Hudson Valley. Many of the 2021 draftees that debuted a few weeks prior in the FCL were promoted to Tampa. The remaining roster is who would take the team the rest of the season.
2021 1st round pick, Trey Sweeney, impressed at his new level, going 5-for-20 in his first home series against Clearwater, and ultimately recording a slash of .246/.380/.523 including 4 HR and 10 RBI on 16 hits.
A highly anticipated prospect, catcher Antonio Gomez, was promoted from the FCL in late August after Carlos Narvaez was promoted to High-A Hudson Valley. Gomez batted 1-for-17 in his first series (.059), but was responsible for 3 RBI. Gomez batted 4-for-5 in the last game of August in Bradenton, including one of six home runs in the 19-7 loss.
The Tarpons would end the month of August at 15-11, good for a 67-34 season record
Offensive top performer for August: SS Trey Sweeney: 246/.380/.523
Pitching top performer for August: LHP Clay Aguilar: 1.08 ERA in 16.2 IP; 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 HR, 3 HB, 3 BB, 22 K; 0.60 WHIP
September & playoffs
Despite tons of rained out and cancelled games, the Tarpons still were able to clinch the playoffs early in the month on September 7th, the first day of their only home series of September. They had 2 games cancelled in Fort Myers, and had 4 games suspended; the entire Fort Myers series was affect by rain. The Tarpons ultimately had a record of 6-10 in September, not including the playoffs. They ended the season with a league-best 73-43, good for 3.5 GA of Bradenton. Tampa ended the season with a +220 run differential, second best in Low-A behind Charleston (Rays’ affiliate).
The playoffs didn’t go like the Tarpons had wanted, being swept in three games of a best-of-5 series. Tampa was simply outmatched by Bradenton’s pitching and the more seasoned Marauders offense took advantage of arms that had been recently promoted from the Complex League. Tampa lost in a combined score of 21-7; a 4-3 loss in Game 1, a 6-1 loss in Game 2 and a 11-3 loss in Game 3. 5 of the 7 runs scored by the Tarpons in the playoffs came via HR, with the other 2 runs scored as a 2-RBI single in Game 1.
Offensive top performer for September: 1B/OF Anthony Garcia: 316/.395/.684
Pitching top performer for September: LHP Clay Aguilar: 0.00 ERA in 9.1 IP; 2 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 1 HR, 1 HB, 2 BB, 13 K; 0.43 WHIP
Best Starter: RHP Randy Vasquez, LHP Edgar Barclay
Best Reliever: RHP Nelvin Correa, LHP Clay Aguilar
Best Offensive Player: SS Anthony Volpe (batting), OF Elijah Dunham (baserunning)
Best Defensive Player: SS Anthony Volpe, SS Trey Sweeney