The Tampa Bay Rays top prospects are not getting as much recognition as normal, but there still are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Rays minor league talent. The Rays have struggled developing players in the past few years, but this crop of prospects has the ability to change that. Yesterday I took a look at how the Rays top positional prospects were faring in the early going this season. Now it is time to check in on how the Rays top pitching prospects are doing.
Enny Romero: 4.75 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 8.9 H/9 in 41.2 IP with Triple-A Durham
Romero has a chance to turn into the best pitcher of any Rays prospect, but he is still extremely raw. His 9.3 K/9 is great, but it could be even better if he just learns how to command his extraordinary stuff. Romero needs major work on keeping the ball down in the zone to avoid being so hittable. He also has to improve throwing strikes, but he is slowly getting better at doing so. There is still a room for improvement with Romero, and this season hasn’t done much to change that so far. The good news is that he is just 23, and the Rays will not have a dire need for him in the majors this season, and maybe not even next season, so he will have plenty of time to put everything together.
Nate Karns: 5.24 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 8.4 H/9 in 46.1 IP with Triple-A Durham
The Rays must have been sweating when their prized offseason acquisition had an ERA of 8.20 through his first 6 starts, but since then he has given up just 3 runs in his last 3 starts. Karns seems poised for a bounce back from his early season struggles. There is still work to do with his command and changeup, and his future might still lie in relief. But, he has come on strong in his past few starts, and if he continues to pitch like that we could see him in the big leagues in some capacity towards the end of this year.
Matt Andriese: 4.93 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 8.7 H/9 in 45.2 IP with Triple-A Durham
Andriese has struggled so far this season, and it all stems from his command issues. Andriese has decent stuff, headlined by a power sinker, but his ability to locate his pitches has always been what he makes a living on. This year, he has a 4.1 BB/9, which is almost two more walks per nine innings than the HIGHEST BB/9 he has ever posted in a full season, a 2.3 mark back in 2012. The good news is that pitchers don’t often lose their command so quickly, so Andriese should be able to fix his issues moving forward.
Mike Montgomery: 3.96 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 7.7 H/9 in 50.0 IP with Triple-A Durham
Montgomery has surprised with his performance this year, but he finally might have regained some of the outstanding stuff that he once had. He still struggles a bit with fastball command, but it has gotten better. His future is likely still in relief, but a year ago we thought he might never get there with how badly he pitched in 2013. Now he looks better than he has in years, and he should be with the big league club this year as a September call-up, if not before then.
Grayson Garvin: 2.98 ERA, 13.5 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 5.8 H/9 in 9.1 IP with Double-A Montgomery
Garvin was off to a great start with Double-A Montgomery, though the Rays were being cautious with him because of an injury-filled history. Despite the caution, he still found a way to hurt himself, though it was a back injury rather than an arm injury. Garvin hasn’t pitched since April 23rd despite it being considered a minor injury, so either the Rays are being cautious with his return or he has suffered an additional setback. He needs to stay healthy, but if he does he still has potential to be a good pitcher. I got to see Garvin in person this year, and I thought his stuff was much better than scouting reports indicated, and he did a great job of throwing his pitches exactly where he wanted. But, if he can’t stay healthy, none of that matters.
Jeff Ames: 5.18 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 10.7 H/9 in 24.1 IP with High-A Port Charlotte
Not much has gone right for Ames in 2014. He is getting hit hard, walking too many batters, not striking out hitters, and not lasting deep into games. The good news is that all of this is in a small sample size, as Ames has missed time with injury. His command is much better than it has been so far this year, and its rebound should help the walks and the hits. He stuff is going to be where his problem lies, as it is average at best. His performance has been solid in the minors, but as hitters get better he is going to struggle to get them out unless his command is on-point. He hasn’t done much to change his “future reliever” designation so far this year.
Ryne Stanek: 0.90 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 7.2 H/9 in 10.o IP with Low-A Bowling Green
The most important thing is that the Rays 2013 1st round pick is finally healthy and throwing meaningful pitches. Now, the battle comes to hone in his command. Stanek has outstanding stuff- maybe as good as anyone else in last year’s draft. But, command and injury concerns caused him to fall to 29th overall to the Rays. If he can’t fix these issues, he will be a reliever, albeit a very good one. But if he can fix them, the potential to be a frontline starter is there. It is hard to judge his performance on two starts, so we will have to check back once he has thrown a bit more.
Overall, the Rays have an impressive group of pitching prospects throughout the system. Not only are these guys to keep on, but players like German Marquez, Jacob Faria, Jose Mujica, and Jose Castillo, among others, could find themselves in top prospect consideration if they can establish themselves in the lower minors. Then there is Taylor Guerrieri, who could be just as good as any pitcher in this system, but he won’t pitch this year thanks to Tommy John surgery. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Rays pitching prospects, though there are plenty of questions to be answered with all of them. We will have to wait and see how they can progress as the season continues on.