We look back five years at the Tampa Bay Rays’ top ten prospects of the 2015 season and how they panned out.
10. Blake Snell
Blake Snell was coming off a 2014 season in which he pitched 75.1 innings at High-A Charlotte posting a 3.94 ERA and striking out 77 batters while issuing 37 free passes. Snell also pitched 40.1 innings at Low-A Bowling Green where he posted a 1.79 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched.
At 21-years-old, Snell was still working on control issues. He finished his time in High-A Charlotte with 4.4 walks per nine.
Baseball Prospectus had his future potential capped as a no. 3 starter with a realistic role as a “High 4; 5th starter/middle reliever.”
Snell would make his debut in the Majors in 2016 and the command issues did rear its ugly head. Snell was effective at missing both bats and the strike zone. He finished his first major league season with 89.0 innings, 98 strikeouts, and 51 walks. His K/9 ratio was 9.9 with a 5.2 BB/9 and a 1.62 WHIP. He kept damage minimal with a 3.54 ERA.
The next season Snell improved his walks per nine by 1.2 batters per nine innings. Then of course, in 2018 Snell made 31 starts for the Rays and finished with a spectacular 1.89 ERA over 180.2 innings. Snell led the league in ERA and allowed the fewest hits per nine innings in the American League.
He saw his strikeouts per nine soar to 11.0 and brought his walks per nine down to a new career-low at 3.2.
Snell won the AL Cy Young that season and finished ninth in AL MVP voting. In 2019, Snell struggled through injuries but still saw more improvement upon his strikeout numbers, reaching 12.4 per nine innings and was able to still keep his walks under control.
His peripherals looked similar or improved from his 2018 season, his 4.29 ERA was a let down from the incredible 2018 numbers, but the underlying metrics indicate that Snell was still a very effective pitcher last season.
It’s reasonable to believe he’ll be rated among the best in the league again in 2020. He’s blown well past his 2015 pre-season projections as a fourth or fifth starter.