The Tampa Bay Rays are known for their knack for developing pitchers, and there are almost always reasons to be excited about their future because of it. One of these players to be excited about is pitcher Ryne Stanek, one of two Rays first round draft picks in 2013. To see how Stanek has come along so far, I took a trip out to Low-A Bowling Green last Sunday to watch him pitch. Here’s what I saw.
Stuff-wise, Stanek’s fastball sat in the 92-94 MPH range and featured great sinking action. He dialed it up to 96 on occasion when he needed to get a crucial out. He could stand to follow through a bit more at the end of his delivery, and that could add a tick of velocity to the pitch in the future. Also, at 6’4”, 190 pounds he has room to fill out a bit, so he could add a bit more velocity by spending some time in the weight room. The command of his fastball was his biggest issue, and it needs to vastly improve. This alone is his biggest issue as a pitcher, but if he can learn how to command it, the fastball will be at least an above-average pitch, and will be plus if he can add a tad more velocity.
Coming into his time with the Rays organization, it wasn’t clear if Stanek would favor his curveball or slider. The slider had shown more potential, but the curveball looked to be a good pitch too, and the Rays as an organization generally favors the curve to the slider. But in the end, Stanek stuck with the slider. It is a plus pitch for him, and he commands it very well. It generally sat in the 84-86 range, and featured good late action. His curveball, on the other hand, did not feature late break, and he threw it from a different arm slot than his other pitches, making it easy to pick up on. The only advantage that it really has is that at 77-79 MPH, it is slower than the rest of his pitches. He only threw it 3 times in the game, and I would not be surprised if he ends up ditching the pitch, though given its different speed from the other pitches it would be fine if he kept it as a “show me” pitch.
Where I was most impressed was with Stanek’s changeup. Coming into the Rays organization, it was labeled as “developing”, but it looked great when I saw it. The pitch generally sat in the 83-85 range and it featured good late sink, though adding a little more sinking action in the future would help the pitch even more. The best part about it was that Stanek commanded it perfectly. When he wanted to induce a groundout (he induced 8 in this start against 0 flyouts), he would throw it for a strike low in the zone. When he wanted a hitter to chase, he could start it in the zone and make it dive below the zone. He also did a great job of throwing the pitch with the same arm action as his fastball, giving it nice deception. I was impressed with how far the pitch has come in such short time, and while it still needs a tad more work, it will be a great weapon for him in the future.
Mechanics-wise, Stanek features a loose 3/4 delivery and creates nice behind the head deception, which makes all of his pitches hard to pick up on. A big issue coming into the draft was his ability to repeat his delivery, and while it seemed better than scouting reports had described, he definitely needs work in that area. As his start went on and he got tired, he started to lose the consistency of his arm slot and his secondary pitches flattened out, causing him to rely heavily on his fastball. Adding muscle to his frame will help him repeat his delivery later on into his starts, as well as ensure he has the durability to remain a starter. As mentioned earlier, he also could be a tad better about following through at the end of his delivery to get a bit more zip on his fastball, though that isn’t a huge deal.
All-in-all, I was impressed with Ryne Stanek. He has all the stuff to become a frontline starter, and I was especially impressed with how his changeup has come along. He needs work commanding his fastball, but he does command his secondary pitches very well. He also has to maintain the consistency of his delivery later into his starts. Many people have worried Stanek might have to move to relief, and while that is possible from a durability standpoint, he should remain a starter if he can stay healthy. Overall he is an impressive pitcher, and Rays fans should be excited about his future.