The Rays are always looking for a way to get a player for a low cost that could have a potential high reward. Many of these players are brought in on minor league deals or major league deals, and are coming off of a poor season. Previous Rays’ reclamation successes are James Loney, Casey Kotchman, and Fernando Rodney, among many others. One reclamation project that the Rays could look into is Jason Knapp.
Knapp was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. After logging parts of two seasons in the Phillies’ system, Knapp was traded to the Cleveland Indians as the headliner of a package to acquire ace pitcher Cliff Lee. Prior to the 2010 season, Knapp was ranked the number 64 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. Baseball America praised Knapp for his plus fastball-curveball combination that gave him the potential to be a frontline starter. He also had a changeup, although as with many young pitchers this was behind his other offerings. However, Knapp only managed to make 13 starts in the Indians system, none of which came above Low-A, due to a series of shoulder surgeries. Knapp underwent his surgeries in late 2009 and late 2011, and after he did not prove healthy, the Indians elected to release him late in 2012. Knapp has not thrown a minor league pitch since 2010 because of these injuries. But now he is making a comeback, and there is plenty of reason to give him another chance.
Jason Knapp is very far from the major leagues–he has never thrown a pitch above Low-A. However, he is still just 23 years of age and signing him would be a move that comes with almost no risk. All it would take would be minor league deal. A team could elect to bring him into minor league camp this year, and simply release him if he is not healthy with no significant cost to the team. If he does prove himself healthy, he understands that he will need more time in the minor leagues and will have no hesitation going to High-A or Double-A to begin the year. He has a long, long way to go, but his past stuff is too much for teams to ignore. Pitching is so valuable in the big leagues, teams will take any chance they can to acquire a potentially effective big leaguer. Thus, Knapp will be given a chance by somebody this offseason. A potential major league pitcher, even if the likelihood of him reaching that potential is small, is too much for teams to ignore.
Knapp is the type of signing the Rays love to make. While Knapp’s frontline potential is likely gone, if he can regain some of his stuff from the past, he could still reach the majors. Given his past injuries, it would not be surprising to see Knapp in the bullpen, where his fastball-curveball combination would slot in well. Because he has never thrown a pitch above Low-A, Knapp has years of work to do, and he will have to stay healthy. But given his past potential, there is still a chance he could end up in a major league uniform down the road. The Rays seem to always get the most out of this type of player, making a potential Knapp signing a perfect fit for both sides–the Rays get their upside and Knapp gets a chance to join the organization was as good of a track record at developing pitchers as anyone.