Tampa Bay pitching probably has the best collection of UTR’s in the AL East., as a nice balance has been mentioned over the last two seasons. As we review the starters that I’ve listed, only two pitchers were drafted above the fifth round (Brent Honeywell and Blake Snell). The 21- year-old RHP Honeywell was a UTR-OAS the last two seasons and just barely missed making it for a third year in a row. He had an outstanding season splitting time between HiA and Double-A in 2016 and has never seen his TPS over .090 in 279.1 innings. This indicates that Honeywell is living up to the 2nd round pick billing and was the obvious pick for the Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Last year I tagged Blake Snell with “ASAP Roster Add” and hopeful that readers took heed. Snell was placed into the Rays rotation for a spot start on April 23rd. The 23-year-old lefty threw a two-hitter over 5 innings, struck out six and issued only one walk. He was sent back to AAA-Durham, then called back to the majors in mid-June. He remained in the Rays rotation for good, but did display some inconsistency with his command (5.2 BB/9). Expect better things from Snell in 2017. Another two-timer was Jacob Faria (“Legit UTR/Solid Stash”) who was also the 2014 “One To Watch”. The 10th round pick in 2011 started at AA Montgomery and finished strong at AAA Durham. There’s a lot to like about Faria, who should see a mid-season call-up with the Rays. The most true UTR that I liked from 2015 was Jamie Schultz. The right-hander had another strong season where he copied his K/9 rate of 11.2 [again] in 2016. A few other names just off the scope are Henry Centeno, Hunter Wood, and Adrian Navas. Navas has been on my radar the last two seasons and was my 2016 “One To Watch” pick. The 20-year-old held his own with Short-Season Hudson Valley this season and should continue to be tracked.
As the upper levels are solid for the Rays, the International side was a rather disappointment. 2015 ‘Watch’ Resly Linares spent the season with Appy League Princeton and put up OK numbers in his U.S. debut. Angel Yepez had his full season with LoA Bowling Green cut short after two starts with a apparent injury. A quick study of my Rays spreadsheet doesn’t show much improvement in Latin America.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS
1. RHP Jose Mujica– 14.5/.114
20 years old (LoA Bowling Green)
International Free Agent – 2012
Mujica was ranked #30 on the Rays prospect list to start the 2016 season. The big- bodied right-hander should see his stock rise with his outstanding finish in August going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. He struck out 23 in 26 innings without issuing a single walk. Reports indicate, with the Rays pitching depth, Mujica could be expendable, as he is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
Moss was just off my scope at the end of the 2015 season. I thought he might stay that way because the Rays aggressively assigned him to HiA Charlotte after 14 appearances (10 starts) in his pro debut at Short-Season Hudson Valley. Various sources state that he’s being groomed for a move to the bullpen.
Harris is one of a few UTR pitchers that pre-dates UTRMinors.com. The right-hander was garnering mentions since his debut in 2013, back when Marc and I were providing content to another site. Things took off for Harris after he was sent to Tampa Bay where the mentions piled-up into a #2 Factor Score ranking as a 2015 UTR-OAS. At only 21-years-old this past season, Harris looked strong and sipped a cup of coffee with AAA-Durham in September.
Velasquez proved to be hittable in 2016 (133 hits in 113 innings), but TPS loved him enough to place him in the top five. Even though he threw most of his pitches in the hot zone, his periphials were strong: a 4.04 K/BB ratio with 113 K’s and 28 BB’s.
So many pitchers could have occupied the last spot. I already mentioned Navas, Centeno, and Hunter Wood above, but figured to bury another name within this blurb. Of all the middle-of-the-pack arms sitting within my spreadsheet, Travis Ott (25th round-2013) really shined the best, and is the front-runner for the 2017 “One to Watch’ list. Cabrera posted pedestrian numbers this season in his first full season.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score /TPS
1. RHP Fernando Baez – 11/.049
24 years old – (LoA Bowling Green)
International Free Agent – 2009 (St. Louis)
The Rays picked up Baez from the Rule 5 draft in December 2015. Prior to the 2014 season, I predicted Baez to breakout as a relief pitcher, but he was thrown into a starters role with Short-Season State College. I wrote that Baez had upside, but I just didn’t know where that would lead him. The Rays shifted him back to the bullpen and they should be very happy with the results.