Monday night’s game for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field is important for more than one reason.
First, the Rays will be hosting the Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Rays two out of three games in Toronto last week. The Blue Jays have been one of the hottest teams during the past several week. The Jays have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games, while the Rays are 4-6.
Nonetheless, the Rays have also all but clinched the AL East title, while Toronto trails the Rays by 8.5 games and is battling the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees for a wild card spot.
Shane Baz will make his MLB debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday
Another reason for the importance of Monday night’s game is that Shane Baz will be the starter for the Rays as he makes his major-league debut. Baz started the season at Double-A Montgomery and was then promoted to Triple-A Durham. He is considered the top prospect in the Rays’ system, and also pitched for the U. S. baseball team in this year’s Olympics.
For Tampa Bay fans, all of the talk all season of Baz has made him virtually tantamount to Sid Finch, the fictional Mets prospect who was immortalized among fans in a Sports Illustrated April Fool’s story
The “legend” around Baz has grown, in realistic proportions, to match that of Finch. If he meets those expectations on Monday night, the future may have arrived for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baz has started 10 games for Durham and is 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA. He has walked 11 in 46 innings, during which he has struck out 64 batters.
Before being promoted to Durham, Baz had a 2.93 ERA and an 0.88 WHIP over his first six starts with Montgomery.
His WHIP at Durham stands at 0.85 and opponents have a .173 batting average against him.
The big concern with Baz was his control, with which he apparently has achieved success. He has a 64:11 K:BB ratio across his first 10 Triple-A starts, after having the second-best walk rate in all of Double-A.
Baz’s strikeout rate at Durham was 36% while his walk rate was only 6.2%. The 22-year old has alleviated the major concern about him. He has also been very effective against right-handed batters, which are predominant in Toronto’s lineup.
Baz is the final player to ascend to the majors that was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh in July 2018. That trade has paid great dividends for the Rays, as Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows were acquired for Chris Archer. Archer has since returned to the Rays as a free agent.