Drew Smyly has been great for the Tampa Bay Rays since being acquired as a part of the David Price trade. Through 5 starts with the club entering Monday, he has posted a stellar 1.50 ERA and a 3-1 record. However, Smyly may only have one or two more starts for the Rays this season, as Marc Topkin reports that the Rays would like to keep Smyly to around 150-160 innings on the year (he sat at 141.2 innings entering Monday). So if Smyly indeed reaches his innings limit, who are the candidates to replace him in the rotation for the final couple of weeks of the season?
Andriese hasn’t been too special at Triple-A Durham this year, but his 3.77 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 are all solid marks. He doesn’t have the highest upside of the starts at Durham, but he is the safest bet among them. Andriese has excellent command, control, and pitchability, which always plays at the big league level. His stuff- a low 90′s fastball with devastating sink, a good curve, and an improving split-change- isn’t anything that is going to blow away big league pitchers. But thanks to his polish he should be a solid number 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues soon, and he could end up as a number 3 starter when all is said and done.
Of the Triple-A starters, Colome has the highest upside. He still has electric stuff, including a mid-90′s fastball, a devastating slider, and a an improved changeup. His control has also improved this season, as he has posted a 3.1 BB/9 vs. a career 4.0 mark, and his 3.77 ERA this year is a good mark. That said, his command can still get the best of him, and that results in him being too hittable at times despite his great stuff. Injuries have resulted in a lack of built-up innings over the past couple of years, and that could affect his long-term prognosis as a starter. However that doesn’t really matter if the Rays want him for just a couple starts at the end of this year, and Colome might be their best option.
Karns has been wildly inconsistent this year, and his 5.08 ERA leaves much more to be desired. That said he has dominated at times, and his peripheral stats- a 9.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9- are solid enough. He features a plus fastball and slider that have the ability to get big league hitters out, though his changeup is well behind those pitches. Like Colome, Karns lets his command get the best of him at times, which results in his inconsistency. Depending on the day you see him he can look like a number 2 starter, but other times it seems like he is destined for relief.
Ramos is a long-shot to start another game for the Rays this year, but it can’ t be completely discounted. He has done a good job this season, posting a 3.53 ERA in 31 relief appearances and 7 starts, though his 7.1 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 do leave more to be desired. His upside is limited to a fringe 5th starter at best, but you can’t ignore that he is far-and-away the most experienced of this group.
Of course, the Rays don’t have to limit themselves to just giving one player two or three starts, rather they could give one start each to a couple of different players. Also, Enny Romero and Mike Montgomery have been starting at Triple-A this season and are both on the 40-man roster, though it seems unlikely that either one would receive a start.
Overall, this is a solid bunch of players that could fill-in and get some big league experience at the tail end of the season. The Rays have their choice between a guy with polish in Andriese, a guy with experience in Ramos, or two higher upside players in Karns or Colome. I would lean towards the Rays picking Colome given his upside, however we will just have to wait and see which of the players they favor.