At the end of the day, the Tampa Bay Rays drafted four pitchers from four-year colleges in the 2015 MLB Draft (plus a potential fifth in current 2B Jacob Cronenworth), tying 2011 for their most since 2005. The way they got there, though, was quite unexpected as the first such pick was Brandon Koch in the fourth round. The last of the four is Sam Triece, a senior right-hander out of Washington State who is 6’2″ and 215 pounds.
In his last year for the Cougars, Triece delivered a solid season, going 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA and a 59-25 strikeout to walk ratio in 28 relief appearances, 3 starts, and 50.2 innings pitched. He didn’t always know where the ball was going, allowing 11 wild pitches in addition to all of those walks, but he proved to be quite effective nonetheless. The key to his success was major run and sink on his low-90’s fastball.
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Most pitchers have control issues because of an inability to repeat their delivery, but while Triece’s motion isn’t perfect, the movement on his fastball is the biggest reason why he has bouts of wildness. Luckily for him, hitters had enough issues hitting it with authority that he was able to get past all of the walks. Triece also throws a curveball that features sharp 11-to-5 break at its best, which is not often enough at this point. Right now, it hangs up in the zone too often. Triece also brought out a changeup in his longest outings, although it was not anything particularly special either. It’s nice that Triece throws three pitches, but he is a bullpen guy all the way.
A lot of times, we hear about velocity as being “something you can’t teach.” Especially when a guy’s velocity is at a reasonable level, though, you can say something similar about movement. If the Tampa Bay Rays can teach Triece to throw a halfway-decent number of strikes and get him a serviceable secondary pitch or two, he will be difficult to square up, even against upper-levels hitters. Of course, we are talking about a potential middle reliever here, not a high-upside player, but when your money-saving pick can amount to something, that’s always a good thing.
We don’t know for certain exactly what Chris Betts is demanding for his signing bonus, but Triece joins seven other college players, including four seniors, who the Rays expect will sign for little enough money that reeling in Betts will not be a problem. To what extent were the Rays willing to let the presence of Betts at 52nd overall hijack their draft plans and lead them to select players more conservatively? We can see now that Betts’ pick was a huge factor, but the Rays still found plenty of talent, from advanced hitters like Brandon Lowe and Joe McCarthy to promising arms like Brandon Koch and Benton Moss.
The Rays have a great track record with 10th round picks, getting two big leaguers in Desmond Jennings and Jason Hammel plus current pitching prospect Jacob Faria. Sam Triece will hope to harness the movement on his fastball to be the next in that group.
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