Even though the Tampa Bay Rays promoted Jose De Leon yesterday, his stay in the majors may not be long. Instead, Blake Snell could find his way back into the rotation in short order.
When Blake Snell was sent to Durham, it was with the idea that he would work on his command. He had been missing with his pitches, particularly with his fastball, leading to a 0-4 record with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.619 WHiP. In his 42 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays, Snell had issued 25 walks, as he was unable to throw strikes when needed.
Thus far, Snell’s results in Durham have been quite encouraging. He has allowed five runs on 12 hits and six walks in his 11.2 innings of work. The greatest sign of encouragement, however, has been his strikeout rate. In that time, Snell has struck out 21 batters, overpowering the opposition.
While the strikeouts are great to see, Snell still does have a high walk rate. Even though his 4.6 BB/9 rate is currently close to his career minor league average of 4.4 BB/9, that is far too high for the type of starter the Rays envision. The Rays want more consistency from Snell, and those command issues are not going to help in that quest.
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But at what point does Snell’s bouts of wildness become acceptable? If he is walking under four batters per nine, and retaining that strikeout rate, he could be a top of the rotation arm. That may well be exactly what the Rays are hoping for in this stint in Durham.
However, if he continues to strike out the opposition at the same pace that he has, Snell may simply not have anything left to prove. Including this brief stint in AAA, he has struck out 168 batters in 119 innings of work. His stuff is just too good.
That type of dominance, if it lasts over another start or two, will get the attention of the Rays. He will likely find himself back in Tampa Bay, again slotted into the rotation upon his return. Whether or not he stays there for the long term, however, may be a different discussion.
Blake Snell has been a strikeout machine thus far in Durham. If that continues, his ticket back to the Tampa Bay Rays could be punched soon.