One defining characteristic of the Tampa Bay Rays right now is that there is no prospect like Wil Myers or Chris Archer ready to come up and help turn around their season. With that in mind, it is pretty ironic that two former Rays farmhands, Jesse Hahn and Wilking Rodriguez, have now made the major leagues with their respective clubs.
Jesse Hahn, who the Rays traded away in the Alex Torres-Logan Forsythe deal, will make a spot-start for the San Diego Padres tonight after getting off to a strong start at Double-A San Antonio. Hahn was 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA and an impressive 58.5% groundball rate in seven starts and three relief appearances before getting the call. Before you say that trading Hahn was another disastrous move by the Rays, though, it must be noted that Hahn has tossed just 32.2 innings pitched this season, reaching five innings in a game just once. Overall, he has gone five frames in just three times in the last two years. Hahn still faces injury concerns and faces an uphill battle to build up the durability necessary to be a big league starter. Matt Andriese, who the Rays acquired as part of the trade, has a better chance of being a 180 to 200 inning pitcher moving forward. That being said, Hahn’s stuff remains electric, and now he will get the chance to show what he can do at the highest level.
Wilking Rodriguez, meanwhile, has made an impressive comeback from shoulder surgery as a member of the Kansas City Royals organization. After undergoing shoulder surgery in 2010, Rodriguez never threw more than 45 innings in his final three seasons in the Rays organization from 2011 to 2013 before the Rays let him leave as a minor league free agent. With the Royals, however, Rodriguez has moved to the bullpen and looked quite impressive, managing a 1.38 ERA and a 14-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 13 appearances and 13 innings pitched. With a fastball that has touched the mid-90’s and a very good slider, all Rodriguez needed to make an impact was his health. Now that is finally falling into place as the Royals have called up Rodriguez to join their bullpen. Should the Rays regret allowing Rodriguez to walk? Yes, but at the end of the day, they have plenty of relief depth and what he really needed was a change of scenery.
Jesse Hahn and Wilking Rodriguez making the major leagues should not be construed as a failure by the Rays but simply the way baseball goes. Hahn remains an interesting pitcher, but he still carries plenty of risk and the Rays acquired value in return for him. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has a chance to be effective out of the bullpen but would not have changed much for the Rays. The best way to look at Hahn and Rodriguez is to simply wish them good luck and see if the Rays can continue developing players who can make just as much of an impact and hopefully more.