The Tampa Bay Rays have always been a team that values starting pitching. Especially for a team that runs on a tight budget, finding affordable starters is critical, and building through prospects developed by the organization and acquired in trades has proven to be the most effective way of doing that. With injuries always a possibility at the major league level, “enough” starting pitching has to stretch well beyond the five major league starters. This offseason, the Rays are in that situation once again, and their recent acquisition of Matt Andriese only bolsters it more.
Not only do the Rays have a solid rotation in place once again for 2014, they also have a great amount of depth at the minor league level ready to step in at a moments notice in case of injury. The Rays’ depth got tested in 2013 as David Price, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore all spend time on the disabled list but pitchers such as Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Colome were able to step in and give the Rays effective innings. Now after finalizing the trade to send Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn to the San Diego Padres for five players, the Rays rotation depth appears to be stronger than ever. The reason: one of the five players acquired in the trade was Matt Andriese. So who is Andriese and where does he fit into the Rays’ rotation depth?
Andriese is a 24-year old right-handed pitcher who Baseball America ranked as the Padres’ number 15 prospect in their system. He spent 2013 between Double-A and Tripe-A and experienced success using a fastball in the low-90s with great sinking action and an assortment of secondary pitches. His 55.0% groundball rate was very strong and he only allowed 5 home runs between both levels in 134.2 innings pitched. He also featured very strong command with a 3.6 strikeout to walk ratio ratio. His career walk rate in the minor leagues is just 2.1 per 9 innings as he does a good job command all four of his pitches. Andriese is not overpowering, but his arsenal gives him a strong chance to be a 4th or 5th starter in the major leagues and maybe a bit more.
The Rays’ big league rotation for 2014 shouldn’t surprise anyone. It will consist of David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer and Jeremy Hellickson. This should be a very formidable rotation once again, especially if Hellickson can bounce back from a poor 2013 season. The defending international league champion Durham Bulls, meanwhile, will feature a very strong rotation as well. Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, and Enny Romero are locks while Mike Montgomery, Andriese and Merrill Kelly will likely compete for the last two spots in the rotation. There are a few interesting pitchers in the Double-A rotation as well including Felipe Rivero, Grayson Garvin, and possibly Dylan Floro, all of whom could add to the Rays’ rotation depth within a couple of seasons. The Rays’ depth looks formidable once again, and it could prove crucial next season.
It appears as if the rich got richer as the Rays added Andriese to their already impressive rotation depth. The Rays have always valued having pitchers at the upper levels of the minors ready to step in in case of injury and never put themselves in a position where they feel they might not have enough depth. Andriese may only slot in as the Rays’ 8th or 9th starter on the depth chart at this point, but the Rays must be prepared for anything. An injury could give Odorizzi his chance and Colome could head to the bullpen and suddenly Andriese could be one injury away from starting games. There are far worse things than having too many quality arms in your system. Matt Andriese will help the Rays ensure that even in the worst-case scenario, they will find a way to compete next season.