Matt Buschmann isn’t young anymore. He’s 28 years old. He once was promising, then he completely fell apart. But the Rays gave him a chance, and Buschmann has seized the opportunity.
We talked about the signing of Buschmann when it happened as an upside play by Rays general manager Andrew Friedman. Most upside plays don’t work out. But this one truly may have. The Rays started Buschmann at Double-A Montgomery and he was solid, going 2-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 10 starts, 2 relief appearances, and 62 innings pitched. But it wasn’t just the surface performance- it was the peripherals. Buschmann posted an 8.7 K/9, a a 3.0 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9, amounting t0 a 3.05 FIP that was third in the South Atlantic League behind only Mariners top prospect Danny Hultzen and White Sox prospect Simon Castro. His strikeout to walk ratio was his best since 2007, his BB/9 his best since 2009, and his HR/9 was the best of his career. He also posted a good 47.1% groundball rate. Buschmann was good enough that when the Rays brought up lefty Alex Torres to the big leagues for their doubleheader Sunday, Buschmann made the spot-start for Triple-A Durham and pitched pretty well, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits in 5.1 innings, striking out 5 while walking 3. We will have to see whether Buschmann stays on the Durham roster or returns to Montgomery, but he deserves to be in Durham.
Buschmann was David Price‘s Vanderbilt roommate and was a promising pitcher in his own right before injury problems his senior year that dropped him to the Padres in the 15th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. Buschmann currently throws a fastball around 88 MPH with late sinking action that he has learned to control and command better over the years, making it a solid pitch for him even though it has lost velocity. Buschmann’s best pitch has always been a slider that he throws from the same arm slot as his fastball with sharp late break, and Buschmann has been able to take a little velocity off of it for more of a contrast with his fastball while still maintaining its effectiveness. Buschmann’s third pitch, his changeup, has always been inconsistent, but the Rays have helped him improve his changeup enough to be a solid third pitch for him. He has really worked hard getting the right arm action on his changeup and it also features pretty good sink. Buschmann throws all his pitches from a deceptive delivery, making them play up, and also making it easy to visualize Buschmann in a major league relief role this year or next.
Buschmann has started almost exclusively in the minors, and while he’s too old to be a true prospect anymore, he has a chance to be a solid big league 4th or 5th starter. That probably won’t happen, especially in the pitching-heavy Rays organization, but considering his sharp slider and that his sinker velocity might play up out of the bullpen, Buschmann has a chance to make an impact in a relief role. Andrew Friedman and the Rays took a cheap flier on a pitcher who had shown promise in the past, and if Buschmann can continue pitching well, they will have found yet another undervalued talent who can help out at the big league level.