Though he was armed with a fastball that had reached 100 MPH, Bryce Stowell could not find a major league organization willing to give him an opportunity until the middle of April in 2014. However, once the Tampa Bay Rays did add him to their Double-A roster, Stowell performed well, displaying the promise that had netted him a $725,000 bonus by the Cleveland Indians back in 2008. That was enough for the Rays to want him back as they re-signed him to a minor league deal for 2015.
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Bryce Stowell did make an appearance at Triple-A for the first time since 2010, but he wound up spending most of the year at Double-A for the fourth straight season. Was there anything different this time around? It certainly appears that there was. Stowell was healthy enough to appear in 39 games and toss 51.2 innings, both his most since 2010. Most important, though, was how well he pitched when he was on the mound.
Stowell managed a 1.99 ERA, a 9.8 K/9, a 3.6 BB/9, and a 0.2 HR/9 during his time with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, but that does not actually tell the full story. From June 28th to the end of his Biscuits tenure on August 28th, Stowell trimmed his ERA to just 0.66, striking out 10.9 batters per 9 innings while walking just 2.6 in 27.1 innings pitched. His fastball command looked as good as ever, and he even started getting better results with his slider.
There is always the possibility that Bryce Stowell was just feeling it for a couple of months. We won’t truly know anything until he pitches at Triple-A, and even then, he will be 28 years old and above the International League’s average age. However, the Rays have nothing to lose giving him a minor league deal and a chance to prove that he really found something at the end of 2014.
The fact that Stowell could give the Rays an electric bullpen arm who doesn’t need to be protected on the 40-man roster until he is ready is an exciting possibility. The Rays have proven time and again that they can get the most out of pitchers with impressive stuff, and Stowell’s age is their last concern. Even if nothing happens, all the Rays are doing is giving him a Triple-A bullpen spot, far from the most risky proposition.
If there was any minor league free agent that the Rays wanted to retain this offseason, it was Bryce Stowell. His improvement in his first season in the organization was interesting, and he deserved a chance to take another step forward.