The Tampa Bay Rays have several interesting options for the starting rotation in 2018. However, when discussing the future rotation, Nathan Eovaldi tends to be forgotten.
Although the Tampa Bay Rays are in the midst of a postseason push, it is natural to look ahead towards next season. The Rays will have quite a few changes to the roster, particularly with the pitching staff. Alex Cobb is expected to leave in free agency, and with an anticipated trade of Jake Odorizzi coming at some point, there are likely to be a few openings in Tampa Bay next year.
Currently, Chris Archer and Jacob Faria may be the only definite options for next year. One has to imagine that Brent Honeywell will claim a spot in the rotation, while the Rays have to hope that Blake Snell will discover the form that made him a top prospect. Yet, that leaves one spot in the rotation available.
It is likely that the open spot will be expected to go to Jose De Leon, the top pitching prospect who was acquired for Logan Forsythe during this past offseason. However, he has struggled to find himself this season, with his 2017 campaign delayed by injuries. De Leon has been ineffective when he has made it to the mound, leaving his readiness in question. That spot may well go to Nathan Eovaldi, a quiet free agent signing who is recovering from his Tommy John surgery last year.
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Signed to a one year contract with an option for 2018, Eovaldi is a bit of an enigma in his own right. He has a strong 2.26 K/BB rate, and has allowed just over a hit per inning. Eovaldi has also done an excellent job of keeping the ball in the yard, allowing one homer for approximately every 12 innings pitched. His 3.85 FIP is indicative of a slightly better than average pitcher, one who would be a good fit in the back of the rotation.
And yet, his performance does not match the peripherals. In his career, Eovaldi has posted a 38-46 record, along with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.382 WHiP. While his ERA and WHiP may see a bit of correction after leaving the launching pad known as the new Yankee Stadium, his performance has just never been what should be expected.
Perhaps that can change in Tampa Bay. With their excellent outfield defense, and ability to get the best out of their reclamation projects, Eovaldi could be a surprise in 2018. With at least one spot in the Rays rotation likely to be open next season, he could be the perfect fit as the fourth or fifth starter.
Out for the entire 2017 season, it is easy to overlook Nathan Eovaldi. However, he could be a key piece of the rotation in 2018.