Tampa Bay Rays: Ryne Stanek Ignites the Radar Gun

Feb 18, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Ryne Stanek (62) posses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Ryne Stanek (62) posses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

With a fastball that has reached well over 100 mph, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek may have finally found a clear-cut way to the major leagues via the bullpen.

Projected as a starter, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek never had the confidence nor the resilience to take to the mound every fifth day. A starter needs to have more than just three or four pitches that are rated average despite a fastball that is lights out, reaching 98-100 mph and freighting coming into home plate.

His average rated pitches and his blazing fastball, which have been impressive enough to watch Stanek climb through the Rays minor league system at a rate almost as fast as his strikeout pitch have caught the eyes of coaches and managers throughout the organization.

Even though he quickly sailed through the farm system, playing at five different levels in just three years, his development as a starter was questionable – he lacked the command, and what it would take as a starter, especially playing in the majors.

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Tampa Bay Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics during an interview with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times said this regarding not just about Stanek, but what they look for in a pitcher during their development:

"The idea is to give the pitchers as many outings, innings and pitches as they can to build arm strength. It also helps the organization identify bullpen candidates. Can they develop three, maybe four pitches needed to face a batting order three times? Can they throw all for strikes? Or can do they throw hard but for shorter periods? Can they arm withstand multiple appearances in a week?"

What they found is that Stanek was a prime candidate for the bullpen. Lukevics went onto to say that despite having the potential he (Stanek) was struggling as a starter – but thrived in a scripted role as a reliever.

"“He comes at you hard,” Lukevics said. “Hard and short.”"

In his first full season (2014), with the Gulf Coast Rays, Bowling Green and Charlotte, Stanek was a combined 4-5 with a 3.99 ERA, with 18 walks, giving up 60 hits and 50 strikeouts while pitching 58.2 innings in 13 starts. Opponents though batted .271 against him

Stanek begin his second season (2015) back in Charlotte (A) where he posted good numbers going 4-2 with a 1.78 ERA, with 15 walks and 38 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched. He held opponents to a .189 batting average in his nine starts while giving up just 33 hits before his promotion to Double-A Montgomery.

He finished the season with Montgomery, appearing in 16 games (8 starts) where he was 4-3 with a 4.09 ERA and one save in 61.2 innings. He allowed 52 hits, gave up 7 homers, while walking 31, striking out 41 and holding his opponents to a .232 average.

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Overall, in 2015 Stanek was 8-5 with a 3.04 ERA in 112.1 innings pitched, with 46 walks, and 79 strikeouts. He gave up 85 hits and nine home runs as opponents batted .213.

Entering 2016, Stanek would open the season back in Montgomery when his inconsistencies in a starter’s role really became evident. Appearing in 18 games (11 starts), Stanek was 2-6 with a 3.79 ERA in 78.1 innings, with two saves. He allowed 64 hits, gave up 6 home runs, walked 35, while striking out 91 and holding opponents to a .227 average.

With promotion in July to Triple-A Durham, the Rays at this time began to transition Stanek into a reliever full time. His stats however were not overly impressive as he finished the season going 2-4 with a 5.92 ERA in just 34.1 innings of work (16 appearances). He did earn a save; however, he gave up 22 hits, allowed 17 runs (16 earned), and walked 13 while striking out 22.

So far this spring, Stanek the Rays No. 13 prospect has impressed manager Kevin Cash as evident in his first appearance against the Twins on Feb. 24. In his one inning of work, Stanek allowed just one hit and a walk but it was his fastball that did all the talking. Although he did not hit 100 mph, he hit 99 mph twice, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that 16 of his pitches were at 97 or above.

"“Ryne Stanek, obviously, with the big fastball was impressive,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “You can’t overlook the velocity, it’s pretty impressive.”"

However, in his last outing on March 2 against Boston, Stanek allowed five runs (all earned) on five hits in a third of inning – one of the hits was a home run, and he walked one while striking out none.

In 1.2 innings (3 appearances) so far this spring, Stanek has given up six hits, five runs (all earned), walked two with just one strikeout. He has thrown 23 pitches, 14 for strikes with a whopping 27.00 ERA.

While it is still early and his appearances being short, it is hard to say whether he can make the Opening Day roster, but speculation on my part is that Stanek will open the season at Durham and make his major league debut sometime this season.

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Nevertheless, the Rays will continue to do what they do best – which is developing pitchers and in Stanek’s case transitioning him into a reliever.