Alex Colome has been on the Tampa Bay Rays prospect map for quite a while, and it appears as if his 8-year minor league career might finally be culminating. Colome will start for the Rays tonight, and given he has little left to prove in the minors this could finally be when he cracks the Rays roster for good. Despite that, Colome’s future role with the Rays is still up in the air. Can he remain a starter, or is he destined to the bullpen?
On one hand, Colome absolutely has the pure stuff to be a starter in the big leagues. His plus fastball sits in the 94-96 MPH range with late movement and he pairs it with an excellent hard slider that grades out as well above-average or fringe plus. He also has a mid-80’s changeup that, though inconsistent, is an above-average pitch, and he mixes in an occasional average curveball. That is quite an impressive arsenal, and it is why the Rays are still letting Colome start. That said, there are plenty of factors that could lead to Colome moving to the bullpen in the near future.
One reason that moving Colome to the bullpen makes sense is that he has not built up enough innings to be a big league starter. In the past two years he has only thrown 193 innings because of a combination of arm injuries and a drug suspension. Also, Colome has only topped the 120-inning mark one time in his 8-year professional career. Durability will be a big issue for Colome if he is to remain a starter given his past injury history and lack of built-up innings. Also with Colome already 25 years old and being out-of-options next season, his chances to build up those innings might be gone.
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Colome also has command and control issues, and that makes him inconsistent as a starter. His 3.1 BB/9 this year at Triple-A was a big improvement over his 4.0 career mark, but that led to him grooving more pitches and his 8.8 H/9 was worse than his 7.5 career H/9. Moving him to the bullpen would help mask these issues, but if he remains a starter the Rays run a risk that his command struggles will be exposed even more than in the minors.
With Colome out-of-options next year, he is a sure bet to make the team barring extreme circumstances. But, the Rays’ rotation already appears to be set for next year, as Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Archer are all already established big league starters. Matt Moore will also likely make his return in late May or early June, which would even further compound the pitching logjam. The Rays could trade a guy like Hellickson this offseason, which might open up a temporary spot for Colome in the rotation (though he’d have competition), but it still seems like the Rays won’t be able to accommodate him in the rotation next year for more than a month or two at most.
When you put together all the evidence, it appears that a move to the bullpen is likely for Alex Colome, though he could turn into a very good reliever. That said, he has avoided a move to relief so far despite many years of skepticism over his ability to remain a starter, so it is not yet a completely foregone conclusion. We likely will have to wait until next year to get our answer, but for now it appears that Colome is likely going to make a move to the bullpen in the near future.