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Tampa Bay Rays: Starting Pitching Remains a Rays’ Strength

By David Egbert
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Pitching depth is still the main weapon for the Tampa Bay Rays and the future remains promising with a handful of prospects not far away from making their major league debuts.

Alex Cobb will return to the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend and a solid starting rotation will get even deeper.

Despite a mysterious awful start to the season, starting pitching has always been the Rays the best route to a winning season.

A deep rotation sets up the bullpen and takes the pressure off an average offense. It also sets up the possibility of trading pitching for position players.

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Let’s take a look at the current starting pitchers both in the big leagues and in the farm system and see how they might help the Tampa Bay Rays now and in the future

The starting rotation going into the last month of the season will consist of Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Matt Andreise and Blake Snell.

Archer, Odorizzi and Cobb are locks.

Smyly will probably be in the rotation but he has experience in the bullpen. He is a free agent in 2018 so he may also be trade bait to a contender.

Snell is definitely the future but his last couple of outings has been rough and they may want him to take a rest and regroup in spring training.

The Rays have three swing-men in Andreise, Erasmo Ramirez and Chase Whitley.

Andreise is currently a starter and will keep that job as the Tampa Bay Rays will go to a six-man rotation to limit the innings Snell and Cobb throw.

Starting pitchers don’t like six-man rotations but it looks like that’s the way the Rays will go for the remainder of the season.

For now, Ramirez will stay in the bullpen where he has been a valuable setup man.

Whitley is a dark horse who is currently starting for AA-Montgomery and may work himself into the mix by opening day 2017.

If the current major league starters aren’t enough, the Tampa Bay Rays have quality pitching prospects at the top two levels of their farm system.

It starts with Jacob Faria at Durham. Faria is the No. 5 prospect in the Rays system and is an absolute strike out machine.

Combined at Double and Triple-A  he has 4-10 record with a 4.19 ERA and a 153/65 strikeout to walk ratio.

Faria has thrown 533 innings in the Tampa Bay Rays system and should get a major league look next season.

Also at Durham is No. 11 prospect Jaime Schultz. Schultz had a 5-6 record with a 3.48 ERA and a 160/65 strikeout to walk ratio. Another flamethrower, Schultz profiles as a starter or late inning reliever.

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Things get even better at AA-Montgomery, with No. 2 prospect Brent Honeywell leading the way.

Projected as a No. 2 starter, Honeywell has a 7-2 record with a 2.14 ERA and a 112/23 strikeout to walk ratio in a combined A-AA season.

He only has thrown 273 minor league innings so he needs more minor league time but worth the wait.

Joining him at Montgomery are No. 6 prospect Chih-Wei Hu and No. 13 prospect Taylor Guerrieri.

Hu has surprised everyone with his variety of pitches and command while posting a 6-8 record and 2.74 ERA.

Guerrieri, a former No.1 draft choice has come back from arm problems and a suspension to post a 12-6 record and a 3.90 ERA.

This group of major and minor league starters and swing-men should serve the Tampa Bay Rays well now and in the future.

The current rotation looks solid. Ramirez and Andreise may start or join an already solid bullpen of Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno and Enny Romero.

Faria and Schultz have Triple-A experience and should be ready if anyone falters, is hurt or traded.

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The starters are not only solid but they should be around for a while.

Archer is signed through 2021. Odorizzi is under team control through 2019 and Snell 2021.

Smyly and Cobb are free agents in 2018 but two or more of the minor leaguers should be ready by then.

It’s nice to have a group as deep and talented as the Tampa Bay Rays starters. After all, pitching is the core of any successful team and every team needs plenty of it.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Remembering the Consistent James Loney

Now if the Tampa Bay Rays can garner that same depth of quality, healthy catchers and corner outfielders, they could be on their way to post season play in future years.

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