The last thing the Tampa Bay Rays need right now is another starting pitcher. But managing a franchise is not about constructing a team that is solid enough across the board to give itself a chance. No matter how good your team is, you always want to get better. It doesn’t matter whether you have five, ten, or even fifteen starting pitchers–if one comes along that can make your team significantly better, you want him and you won’t settle for anything less. Taylor Guerrieri is coming. And while rushing him risks so much and may only net the team a marginal benefit we want him in the major leagues at the earliest possible second. In 2013 at Low-A Bowling Green, Guerrieri has blown by hitters with not just outstanding pure stuff but a polish in his game unheard of for such a young pitcher. He has gone 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA, striking out 51 while walking just 12 in 67 innings pitched and forcing more than three groundouts for every flyout. We see numbers like that and we want the Rays to start pushing him towards the major leagues like we saw the Marlins do with Jose Fernandez. The Rays have something special–why aren’t they doing everything in their power to start taking advantage of it as soon as possible? The answer is simple: yes, Taylor Guerrieri has talent. But talent is only part of the equation.
Taylor Guerrieri missed the Futures Game at Citi Field because the Rays wanted to limit his innings and because he was dealing with some shoulder fatigue. Then he exited his most recent start after two innings with a sore elbow. Guerrieri’s status moving forward has yet to be determined. He may only miss one or two starts and then get right back to befuddling opposing batters. But it was an incisive reminder of the fickleness of prospects and the stark contrast between potential and results. How many great prospects have failed to live up to expectations? How many by injury and how many because they just could never adjust to the major leagues? How many times have teams let established players leave via trade or free agency to give a prospect a chance only to watch the prospect utterly collapse? And even when prospects have turned out to be everything their teams had imagined they could be, how often does it take years and years for their potential to be actualized? We hope that Guerrieri will be different. Until it happens, though, how do we know for sure?
Taylor Guerrieri has a chance to be the next great Rays pitcher. After the season, he will likely be named the team’s top prospect and be poised to expedite his path to the major leagues and prove to the Rays that he deserves a chance sooner rather than later. It’s natural for Rays fans to be excited and eagerly await the moment he joins the Rays rotation and quickly established himself as one of the top contributors to the team’s success. However, these latest injuries remind us that we can’t take anything for granted even for such a talented player. This could be just a brief stop in Guerrieri’s meteoric rise to greatness–but let’s see what happens next before we conclude anything.