This week, the Tampa Bay Rays suffered serious harm to their rotation, losing two-thirds of its membership, and not the weak two-thirds of it. Instead, they lost the pitchers that would make them most able to compete in the form of Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb. That leaves them with Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi as the two remaining mainstays and three pitching slots that are quite likely to vary in whose name occupies them for the remainder of the season. Matt Moore is due back, tentatively, in June, and he could provide a major boost (or not), but keep in mind that it is still just May, so we could see quite a few different pitchers receiving starts regardless of whether Moore is healthy or not. Let us review!
In the Majors
Earlier this year, I investigated two of the Rays’ younger pitchers in Matt Andriese and Nate Karns. Both will get much longer leashes now, but to sum up my earlier analysis – Andriese – mediocre stuff/extremely hittable. Karns throws hard, has a curve that is sometimes a plus, mediocre at best command and lacks secondary stuff, which makes him best suited for a relief role.
Alex Colome currently commands a rotation spot as well. I like him best out of the bunch to hold down a rotation spot over the long haul provided he can keep his oft-injured body in one piece. So far, he has struck out 10 in 10 innings and walked zero (late note: Colome was hit hard by the Yankees last night). The righty has never been known for his ability to throw strikes, so expect that K/BB ratio to shrink quite a bit over time. Colome is armed with a quality 4-pitch arsenal, so it’s not a question of stuff here. If you are going to pick a target to try in Tampa, make it him for now even with the bad start. Everyone has their growing pains.
Erasmo Ramirez technically remains an option, but he cannot be trusted at the MLB level until he translates his control from the Minors to the Majors. He’s had multiple, rather unsuccessful, extended big league opportunities, so look elsewhere for pitching help.
Andrew Bellatti could also get a look. The 23-year-old was working in the Triple-A rotation until his call up to a middle relief role, the role he had been used almost exclusively in since 2011. He is a fastball/slider/changeup guy who has posted some solid K/9 numbers and BB/9 numbers in the Minors.
Meanwhile, Back in the Minors
Continuing on the unexciting front, the Rays do have former Twin and Binghamton University graduate Scott Diamond in Durham. The righty throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground, but he fools no one. It is possible he makes 10+ starts for the Rays this year and perhaps with some short-term success, but it must be noted he’s even more hittable than Andriese. Matt Buschmann and Everett Teaford are two 31-year-olds serving as Triple-A roster filler.
Former 13th round draft pick Dylan Floro has been moving through the Rays system one level at a time and has made six starts at Triple-A. Floro does not lack for control. In fact, he hasn’t posted a BB/9 higher than 1.6 in his entire professional career. That said, his K/9 dropped to 4.6. The righty simply does not have a wipeout pitch and despite the fact that he does a good job of keeping the ball in park, he is in the strike zone far too often to consider for fantasy play.
Moving on to pitchers with an inkling of potential, we come to Grayson Garvin. A 2011 supplemental first round pick, Garvin has struggled to come back from Tommy John surgery and managed to pitch 74 innings in Double-A last year. He’s currently on the DL once again in Double-A, so it’s a longshot to expect him to help this year, but he is at least on the Rays' 40-man roster. When healthy, he has at minimum three MLB quality pitches, and he commands those pitches well. He also throws hard for a lefty. The question is health. Since 2012, he’s made just 41 minor league starts plus six in the Arizona Fall League. Almost half of them came last year.
The Rays had hoped Enny Romero might help the team last year, but he did not make an appearance and is instead in his second season in Triple-A. He’s been out with a back injury and made just one start this season. The 6’3” lefty can reach the upper nineties on his fastball and possesses a plus-fastball/changeup combination that gives him middle of the rotation potential. That said, his command of those pitches has been up and down throughout his career. His 3.71 BB/9 last year was by far the best he’s done since rookie ball in 2010. He might have a career as a late-inning reliever too.
Jaime Schultz is a 23-year-old righty who has been fairly dominant in Double-A this year. Though on the short side for a starter at 5’10”, Schultz has a plus fastball and a solid curveball/changeup combo, but like many Rays hurlers, command has been a major issue. Over six Double-A starts, Schultz has an 11.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. Still, a promotion to Triple-A with all the attrition going on would be far from shocking.
Blake Snell, like Grayson Garvin, was a 2011 supplemental first round pick, but unlike Garvin, he was drafted out of high school and has been working his way up the system all that time. A 6’4” left-hander, he can reach the lower to mid-nineties with a good slider and a workable changeup. The recurring theme of control issues, however, rears its ugly head once again as Snell has yet to post a sub-4.0 BB/9 at any level since 2012. On the good side, Snell has already been promoted once this year, starting the season in A+ and now in Double-A, where he has posted a 12.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over a tiny sample size of two starts.
So to sum things up, there is not much immediate help on the horizon. The club's 2015 chances largely depend upon a healthy Moore and Colome. They could then shuffle between fifth starters throughout the rest of the season while regrouping for 2016, when Cobb and Smyly come back from their respective injuries by mid-season. However, keep an eye on the likes of Colome, Romero and Garvin as pitchers with some legitimate potential as big leaguers.