Tampa Bay Rays: Is the Starting Rotation Fixed or in Flux?

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Tampa Bay Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Tampa Bay Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation has always been the backbone of the team. However, will they stick with the projected rotation or take a gamble with some new arms.

The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation has a always been the backbone of the team. In the Rays’ halcyon days, pitchers such as David Price, James Shields and Matt Garza were stars of the team. Today things aren’t quite as positive.

The current Rays starting pitching staff had a .500 record last year and that pretty much matched the teams overall record. Will the Rays stick with their starting rotation or will they gamble on a set of new starters? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

If the season were to start tomorrow, the starting rotation would probably include Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Matt Andriese and Jake Faria. The only David Price level talent in this group is Chris Archer.

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He has a load of talent and is under team control until 2021 at a very favorable salary. The only issue is that he has not pitched like an ace over the last two years. He has posted a 19-31 record with an ERA of just over 4.00 for the 2016-17 seasons. The Rays cannot live with that type of performance in the future.

Jake Odorizzi is a solid starter and when healthy could be the number two or three man in most rotations. Despite injuries, he had a 10-8 record with a 4.14 ERA last season. However, arbitration is pushing his salary past $6.0 million and that seems to be pricey for the cost conscious Rays. No matter how well Odorizzi pitches, he could be on his way out of town between now and next September.

Seen as the Rays’ number one prospect in 2016, Blake Snell looked like a future ace and a sure shot to make the 2017 opening day rotation. He made the rotation but had a hard time staying, as his performance was so uneven that he was sent back to Durham twice to refine his game.

Last year he posted a 5-7 record with a 4.04 ERA in 129 innings. The Rays hope that he will settle in and be a number two or three starter in 2018.

Matt Andriese and Jake Faria round out the current rotation. Andreise was forced into a starting role when injuries hit the rotation. He posted a serviceable 5-5 record with a 4.50 ERA in 2017.

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With a wide open bullpen, his services may be better utilized in a relief role. Faria was promoted from Durham mid-season and for much of 2017 he was the Rays most dependable starter with a 5-4 record and a 3.43 ERA. He should be the Rays number four or five starter in 2018.

Of course, this whole plan changes if Odorizzi is traded, Snell stumbles again and/or Andriese goes to the bullpen. These changes would open up spots for any number of pitchers in the Rays’ organization.

The first choice would be Nathan Eovaldi. A former Yankee prospect, he is coming off Tommy John surgery and is seen as another Rays reclamation project. I’m not convinced that he is back to his former talent level but others see him as a rotation candidate.

The next candidate would be Austin Pruitt. Pruitt had an up and down season with the Rays last season. Thrown into the bullpen with no relief experience, he struggled but seemed to do a little better in eight starts. He finished the year with a 5.31 ERA in 83 innings. He’ll get another shot in spring training.

Beyond this pair, there four top AAA prospects in the mix including Brent Honeywell, Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos and Jose De Leon. Honeywell is a Snell type of prospect and could reach the rotation in 2018. However, he probably wouldn’t start the year with the team as they would not want to start his arbitration clock.

Yarbrough and Chirinos are solid AAA performers and represent depth at Durham. De Leon is a hot prospect but was injured for most of the 2017 season. He needs to throw 100 or more innings at Durham.

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Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Hechavarria Beats Rays in Arbitration

There may not be a David Price or James Shields in this group and the rotation alone cannot carry the team. However, there are a lot of solid performers. If the Rays’ lineup provides a decent offensive output, some combination of veterans and prospects could give the team a decent shot at the playoffs.