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Tampa Bay Rays: Please Don’t Idealize Matt Andriese

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Matt Andriese delivered good results for the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this season, but he finds himself back at Triple-A. He’s a major league-ready starter without an open rotation spot, just like Jake Odorizzi in 2013, Chris Archer in 2012, and Jeremy Hellickson in 2010. However, the huge difference between Andriese in that trio is that Andriese was never a top prospect to the same extent. I have seen people saying crazy things about Andriese’s ability on Twitter and elsewhere, so let’s set the record straight about who Andriese is and isn’t as a pitcher.

On the season, Andriese is 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 46.1 major league innings, posting a 6.2 K/9, a 1.9 BB/9, and a 1.2 HR/9. In the minors, meanwhile, Andriese has been unbelievable, going 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA, posting a 9.0 K/9, a 1.0 BB/9, and a 0.2 HR/9 in 44 frames. Those are really good numbers–there is no questioning that–and Andriese actually got his ERA down to 2.35 in his last 38.1 MLB innings. However, the reasons that Andriese is still considered more of a number three or four starter than something better are his less-than-impressive arsenal and his difficulty with left-handed batters.

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Andriese gives hitters two different looks just with his fastball. His four-seamer averages 92.65 MPH according to Brooks Baseball, and though it is a relatively straight pitch, Andriese does a good job throwing it for strikes and can occasionally pull off an Odorizzi impression by elevating it over a hitters’ swing for a whiff. On the negative side, it can be hit hard when he doesn’t get it up enough. His sinker, meanwhile, forces a lot of groundballs as Andriese pounds it down and away from left-handed hitters. Batters have difficulty elevating it, but they can often hit it on the ground with authority because they know that Andriese can only command it to one part of the zone.

Andriese’s best secondary pitch is his high-80’s cutter, which is his groundball pitch–and a decent swing-and-miss offering–against right-handed batters. It doesn’t play off his fastball very well because there isn’t much velocity separation between the two pitches, but there is enough of a difference in movement that he uses it to force a lot of weak contact. Then there are his two other offerings, his changeup and his curveball.

The changeup was a disaster for Andriese his first major league exposure as he allowed 3 home runs on it compared to just 2 between his two fastballs. That is despite the fact that Andriese threw his fastballs nearly five times as much as his change. It is another pitch that he can really only throw to one side of the plate–away from lefties–and he was too prone to hanging it. His curve, meanwhile, shows flashes of being a chase pitch against both lefties and righties, but it’s a red flag that Andriese didn’t trust it enough to throw it more than 6% of the time against batters of either side. It is another pitch that he too often leaves up.

Overall, Andriese works primarily with his four-seamer and cutter against right-handed batters, mixing in his other three offerings occasionally. Against lefties, meanwhile, he relies on his four-seamer, sinker, and changeup, with his cutter seeing the light of day with two strikes and his curveball getting some first-pitch nods. The fastball-cutter combination against righties has been exceptional as same-side hitters have just a .216/.253/.318 line against him. Lefties, though, are another story, as they have pounded him to the tune of a .289/.330/.456 line.

Andriese throws strikes and forces a good amount of groundballs, but he doesn’t have a true put-away pitch and doesn’t have a good secondary offering of any kind against lefties. He will continue to work on his secondary pitches–and there is always hope that he can emulate Odorizzi further by learning Alex Cobb‘s split-change–but as of right now, his difficulties against lefties limit what he can do as a starting pitcher and even as a reliever. Andriese doesn’t have the stuff to face good left-handed hitters a third time, and you also have to worry about him seeing such batters in high-leverage spots.

If Matt Andriese was in the majors right now, he could be a number four-type starter or a multiple-inning reliever. That could make him a valuable pitcher, but he simply doesn’t have the ability of any of the Rays’ other rotation options and is better off serving as starting depth at Triple-A than replacing Brandon Gomes in the bullpen. In case of injury or continued poor performance from Matt Moore, Andriese will be called up again to start, at least until Drew Smyly is ready to take his place. At the end of the day, though, there is a reason that he is at Triple-A despite his great numbers–he only has a back-of-the-rotation repertoire right now, and the Rays are hoping that he can improve upon that.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: Thinking About Trading a Reliever

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