The de facto high leverage man and also unfortunately the goat (not g.o.a.t.) of game six of the World Series, Nick Anderson has been largely spectacularly for the Rays. Since coming over from Miami in a trade in 2019, Anderson has carried an otherworldly 1.43 ERA and 1.50 FIP despite pitching in about as many high leverage situations as anyone in baseball.
Despite being the man notorious for replacing Blake Snell in the World Series, Anderson should continue to mow through the league in 2021.
Quietly one of the more sensational relievers in the league, Diego Castillo has also largely managed to beat the odds. Owning a 4.53 FIP in 2020, Castillo still managed to finish with a 1.66 ERA second only to Anderson amongst Rays relievers. He even managed to continue this dominance in the postseason holding a 1.64 ERA against some of the best offenses in the game.
Ryan Thompson stood out in his debut season not just because of his unique arm angle but his stellar start to the year. Through August, Thompson held at a 3.18 ERA and delivered in tight spots as shown by his average leverage index of 1.22 (1.0 is average).
Its unlikely that any Rays pitcher took as far a leap forward in 2020 as Pete Fairbanks. Acquired in the Nick Solak trade with the Rangers in 2019, Fairbanks struggled greatly in the run up to the Rays postseason berth with a gruesome 6.86 ERA and got tagged for a 5.07 FIP.
In 2020, however, it was a different story. Pete managed to turn in a 2.70 ERA in the regular season as well as clutch postseason performances including the final four outs of game seven of the ALCS against the Astros.
A new addition to the “stable,” Collin McHugh can bring both length and situational relief to the Rays back end. McHugh racked up 150+ innings from 2014-2016 and notched a top-10 Cy Young finish in 2015 where he sported a 19-7 record with a quality 3.89 ERA.
After opting out of the 2020 season despite signing a contract in Boston, McHugh is a cheaply acquired arm with a track record who can provide both in single inning as well as multi-inning relief appearances.
Getting the nod for the Opening Day roster spot over fellow bulk pitcher Trevor Richards, it is the 2.78 ERA across five starts and seven total appearances that gives Josh Fleming the edge. Despite a less than stellar showing in the postseason, Fleming is one of many young arms including Brent Honeywell, Brendan McKay, and Shane McClanahan that will get plenty of run this season.
Recently brought back on a one-year, $1.275 million deal, Chaz Roe will be back to spraying and praying with his notorious slider. According to Baseball Savant, Roe catches swings and misses on the legendary pitch nearly 32% of the time but is also prone to walks sitting in the 4th percentile of all pitchers in BB%.
The remaining lefty specialist in the bullpen, Cody Reed only pitched 2.2 innings with the Rays in 2020 but clearly the team has faith in his abilities as they let fellow southpaws Aaron Loup and Jose Alvarado leave in the offseason.
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