The Tampa Bay Rays have announced that Austin Pruitt will be getting the first start in exhibition play on Friday. But who is he?
We are getting closer to actual baseball games, as the Tampa Bay Rays will open their exhibition season on Friday against the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday, manager Kevin Cash announced that Austin Pruitt will get that first start of the year, leading to the question of just who is Austin Pruitt.
Pruitt is not considered a top prospect in the Rays system. In fact, he did not rank in the Rays Top 30 prospects according to MLB.com. At just 5’11” tall and 165 pounds, he is not exactly an imposing figure on the mound, and not a player that would jump out to the casual fan.
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And yet, if one goes beyond his size and looks at the results, Pruitt is fairly impressive. Drafted in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, Pruitt rocketed through the system, landing in Durham last year. He pitched well, posting a misleading 8-11 record with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.186 WHiP. In 162.2 innings, Pruitt struck out 149 batters while issuing just 27 walks. He even began the 2016 campaign with two consecutive starts where he struck out 11 batters without issuing a walk.
This continues what has been a surprisingly good career for the diminutive righty. Pruitt has a 27-28 record, but has posted a 3.33 ERA and an excellent 1.168 WHiP. He has displayed stellar command through his professional career, issuing only 101 walks against 416 strikeouts in 519.2 innings. He has also proven to be durable, making at least 25 starts in each of the past three seasons.
While he may not have the blazing fastball that one wants from a top prospect, Pruitt has been able to get by with his excellent control and ability to generate ground balls. At times, he can catch too much of the plate, as Pruitt did give up a career high 21 home runs last year. If he can avoid the plate, and keep the ball down, then Pruitt could be a solid pitcher who gets a look at the Majors some time this year.
Even though Austin Pruitt does not get mentioned in the conversation for the Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation, he certainly deserves a look. His start on Friday could be a nice first step towards making a case to break camp in Tampa Bay.