You likely have never heard of Michael Roth, and probably for good reason. The 24-year old lefty has an ugly 7.20 ERA in 15 big league appearances to go along with a 4.55 ERA in 32 career minor league appearances. Roth was recently designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angles and got little more than a footnote because of it. Because he was DFA’d, the Angles now have ten days to trade, release, or attempt to sneak Roth through waivers and send him back to the minor leagues. The latter option is almost guaranteed to happen, and despite the underwhelming stats, the Tampa Bay Rays would be smart to claim him if he is indeed put on waivers.
Roth may not have impressed as a pro, but he has quite the college track record. The left-hander played for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and has plenty of big game experience because of it. While Roth was there, the Gamecocks won two College World Series titles and finished runner-up in a third. Roth was never a full-time member of their rotation until his junior year, but he was outstanding that year, leading all of Division I in starter’s ERA with a 1.06 mark and going 14-3. He was drafted in the 31st round after that season, but returned for his senior year to post a 9-1 record and a 2.43 ERA. Roth was then drafted as a 9th round pick in 2012 and has since struggled as a pro, likely because he was rushed up the ladder. But, you can rarely go wrong acquiring a player that has big game experience and is used to winning.
From a scouting standpoint, Roth’s stuff is never going to blow you away and is inconsistent at times, but when it is on he can be an effective starter. He uses two fastballs, a two-seam and a cutter, that sit in the upper 80’s. What he lacks in velocity he makes up with in movement, as the two-seamer features nice sinking action and the cutter has nice bite. His changeup is his best overall pitch, and he does a good job of hiding it and keeping it down in the zone. He also throws a pair of breaking balls in his slider and curveball, both of which are fringe pitches. His mechanics are his main problem, as his arm slot is wildly inconsistent and causes his stuff and command to become iffy at times. But, if the Tampa Bay Rays were to acquire him, they generally do a good job of ironing out pitcher’s mechanical issues, and doing so could turn Roth into a decent pitcher.
So with all this information, why would the Rays consider giving him a 40-man roster spot despite his obvious struggles and inconsistent stuff? The reason is because Roth still has the potential to be a back of the rotation big league starter or at least a middle reliever. The Rays have plenty of pitching prospects in Triple-A, but their quantity of starting prospects from Low-A through Double-A is fairly thin. They could use another pitcher that has a chance of being an effective big league starter, however slim that chance is. Because he was sent to Double-A just one year after being drafted and was subsequently rushed to the big leagues, his development has been hurt. But the Rays would have something to work with in his outstanding changeup, and could have a solid pitcher if they can iron out some of his mechanical flaws. His past experience pitching in big games certainly doesn’t hurt either. The Angles thought enough of him to bring him to the big leagues in an emergency less than a year after he was drafted, and that talent is still there. The Rays can easily make space on the 40-man roster by transferring Tim Beckham or Matt Moore to the 60-day DL, so there is no issue there. Worst case scenario is that they claim Roth and then have to designate him for assignment later on, where he would have a chance of passing through waivers anyways. There is nothing to lose by giving him a chance, but the upside of a big league pitcher is there, so why not take a flyer on him? Andrew Friedman always uses any means necessary to add to the Tampa Bay Rays system, and one more way he can do that is by claiming Michael Roth.