For the Tampa Bay Rays, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training on Sunday, February 21st which is just a mere 22 days away as we look at the starting rotation with the big club as well as a few pitchers down on the farm in Durham, NC (AAA).
Chris Archer – When David Price was traded from the Rays back in July of 2014 it was time for Archer, 27, to become that number one pitcher in this rotation. As we go through the rest of the rotation we’ll see how wisely the front office has worked the budget spent on salary when it comes to the pitching staff that will enable this team to be competitive. Archer is in the middle of a six year deal worth $25 million which compared to his productivity and continued development this is looking like a pretty sweet deal for the Rays. Last season, Archer started 34 games and finished 12-13 with a 3.23 ERA, 252 strikeouts and 66 walks while holding opponent batting average down at .220.
Alex Cobb – Cobb underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery back in May of 2015 which will continue to keep him out until the second half of the 2016 season. Cobb, 28, will be a player to watch when he returns to action on whether or not he can be an effective pitcher and more importantly can he remain healthy in order to contribute to this rotation.
Jake Odorizzi – Last season Odorizzi started three games fewer than the previous year but actually pitched a tad more innings and he saw an improvement finishing at 9-9 with a 3.35 ERA, 150 strikeouts and walking 46 batters. Odorizzi, against the American League East Division held opposing batters to an average of .235 which is good to see in games that matter the most when battling for position in the standings. Being just 25 years old I fully expect to see another year of improvement from him.
Drew Smyly – Another young arm in Smyly at 26 years of age was hit with season-ending shoulder surgery back around the same time that Cobb had his Tommy John surgery resulting in a pretty big blow to the rotation early in the year for the Rays. Before his injury, Smyly was 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 77 strikeouts and expect to see him pick up right where he left off heading into the 2016 campaign.
Matt Moore – Back in 2014 Moore suffered from a partial tear of his UCL and missed the rest of that season after requiring Tommy John surgery. Last season, Moore did not return to action in until July and finished out the season with a 3-4 record, an ERA of 5.43, and 46 strikeouts. Moore will be another player to watch once spring training gets going and we get into the regular season to see how he will bounce back and making sure his elbow no longer continues to hinder his ability to be another important piece within this rotation.
Erasmo Ramirez – It’s kind of fitting to save Ramirez for last because he was a pleasant surprise to see throughout the 2015 season especially with the rotation taking a hit with injuries. It will be nice to see Ramirez take the mound this season, you’ll know more about who he is following a full season with Tampa Bay after being acquired from the Seattle Mariners. Ramirez pitched 163 and a third innings, had 126 strikeouts and only walked 40 while finishing the season with an 11-6 record.
If everyone can stay healthy and be effective with each start this rotation will be prepared to take on any team that it comes across throughout 2016.
Blake Snell – Snell, 23, spent 2015 pitching in all three minor league levels (Single-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A) where he was a force to reckon with. In Port Charlotte with the Stone Crabs, Snell appeared in four games, two of which he was the starter and recorded a complete game on both accounts. After leaving Port Charlotte with a 3-0 record and a 0.00 ERA, Snell went on to get 12 starts with the Montgomery Biscuits obtaining a 6-2 record, 1.57 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 29 walks. Before the season concluded he moved on to Durham to start nine games for the Bulls and again going 6-2, keeping his ERA under two runs at 1.83 while striking out 57 and walking just 13 batters. Snell will start the 2016 season in Durham but do not be surprised to see him up with the Rays at the latest when the roster expands in September if not sooner.
Scott Diamond, Matt Buschmann and Dylan Floro took on a full load of the starts for the Durham Bulls with 70 and combined were 28-28, 4.27 ERA, 281 strikeouts, 94 walks and gave up 33 home runs. Diamond, 29, made his MLB debut back in July of 2011 which was with the Minnesota twins but has not seen time with a big club since 2013. Buschmann, 31, was drafted by San Diego in the 15th round back in 2006 and has not seen any time in the majors and at this point in his career do not expect him to. Floro is more of the focus here at just 25 years of age was drafted by Tampa Bay back in 2012 and completed his first season in AAA last year after spending 2014 in Montgomery (AA).
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