As the Rays career of one Vanderbilt lefty is set to come to an end, another one’s is just getting started. Grayson Garvin was the 59th overall pick by the Rays in the 2011 MLB Draft, and getting selected 58 picks after David Price was selected in 2007 certainly meant that he came with lesser expectations. But the Rays were hoping that Garvin could arrive in the major leagues just as fast. A 6’6″ lefty just like Price, Garvin entered pro ball with an advanced arsenal, commanding his low-90’s fastball and pairing it with a plus changeup and solid breaking ball. However, after just 11 professional appearances, Garvin went down with an elbow injury that led to Tommy John Surgery. The dream of Garvin pitching in the major leagues the year after he was drafted came crashing down. A year and a half later, though, Garvin is primed to make up for lost time. Garvin had a 1.08 ERA in 5 starts at High-A Charlotte at the end of the year, but the best wasn’t to come until his Arizona Fall League debut.
Starting for the Salt River Rafters against the Scottsdale Scorpions, Garvin went 5 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 5 while walking 1. That’s an impressive enough outing to begin with, but let’s put that in perspective. He did against primarily Double-A and Triple-A hitters as a player who had never pitched a game above High-A. And there is the fact that it was his first appearance of five innings or more since May 19th, 2012. Garvin was amazed by how well he was able to locate all three of his pitches.
“I felt I threw good pitches with all of my stuff,” Garvin said. “I have a breaking ball that I’m working on that was on and off, but I threw some quality strikes with all of my pitches.”
Grayson Garvin is not quite a finished product yet, but he’s getting close. His fastball has been hitting the low-90’s and as he moves past Tommy John Surgery, we could see him touching 95 MPH more often. His changeup is already better than Price’s and with more time, it could be another dominant changeup like Alex Cobb‘s or Jeremy Hellickson‘s. And while he is still working to get more consistent break on his slider to turn it into a swing-and-miss pitch, he is already able to keep it down and use it to force groundballs even if it isn’t quite overpowering yet. The biggest thing for Garvin is going to be his health. He has to keep building his arm strength back after Tommy John Surgery, and how well he recovers will determine his future. Garvin is not nearly as talented as a pitcher like Price–his upside is closer to a number three starter than an ace–and having the black spot of surgery on his resume will only make things tougher. But now that Garvin is back on the mound, he can start proving himself once again. His fate is in his hands, and if he stays healthy and finishes off his development as planned, he could surface in Tampa Bay as soon as the second half of next season. Consider this outing the start of Grayson Garvin’s meteoric rise to the major leagues. David Price might be traded this offseason, but the Rays may not be without a Vanderbilt lefty on their roster for long.