Camp Preview 2015: The Rotation
With the season nearing, it’s time to preview the Rays’ roster, unit by unit. Here’s the schedule:
Wednesday – Rotation
Thursday – Bullpen
Friday – Depth pieces and minor leaguers
David Price served as a mentor to Archer, who takes Price’s spot as the most gifted arm on the staff. Stocked with a pair of mid-to-upper 90s fastball as well as a duel-action slider that is top-shelf in quality, Archer has front of the rotation stuff. He throws a four-seam fastball with command and drops a two-steamer that tangos arm-side. He has the traditional two-plane slider but also showed the ability to cut it short and backdoor it against left-handed competition. A better, more consistent changeup would further the repertoire, however, does not seem to be the necessity it once was. Instead, command of his fastball and emotions are likely the true key to fulfilling his potential.
The old man at age 27, Cobb is set to lead the Rays’ rotation while having some room to grow in his own right. A full season has eluded him as non-arm related injuries have cost him time (and money) in each of the past few seasons. A sinking fastball in the low-90s, an above-average bender, and one of the best off-speed pitches in the game give him a well-rounded arsenal. Meanwhile, his best weapons are command and an advanced feel for pitching. Sequencing while changing speeds and eye-level with precision may not show up in the algorithm, but they are the most important variables in the equation.
Despite being a perennial prospect, Colome has as many major league apeparances (eight) as the Rays have had seasons. A variety of things have held the nephew of Jesus back: command, size, injury, and a suspension for PED use have all contributed to his lack of progress. This season he appears to have his best chance of cracking the glass ceiling – especially with Matt Moore’s injury – however, Visa issues have him stuck in his native Dominican Republic which gives a leg up to the competition and stalls his career once again. At his apex, Alex features a mid-90s fastball with an above-average changeup eight-to-ten ticks slower. He has a pair of breaking balls, but the slider has passed the curveball in both effectiveness and usage. Out of options, he will be on the major-league roster in some capacity provided he can get to the States In time.
Acquired last February in exchange for Jose Lobaton and two minor leaguers, Karns stands a good chance at cracking the Opening Day rotation as the fifth starter. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. Karns has the physicality, fastball, and curveball to stick as a middle-of-the-rotation arm. Provided he can stay in his mechanics and command his pitches, he has the chance to complicate things when Matt Moore returns. If he doesn’t he’ll head back to Durham, perhaps to work on transitioning to the bullpen.
The Rays figure to take it slow with Moore, who continues to recover from last April’s Tommy John surgery. He could rejoin the rotation during the summer.
Odorizzi finally found an outpitch. Two of them, actually. He likes to elevate his fastball and toss his split-change low in the zone, leading to altered sight lines and empty swings alike. Odorizzi could stand to become more efficient on the mound—he recorded the third-most pitches-per-inning last season among starters with 100-plus frames—but he’s a capable back-end starter as it is.
Smyly performed better than anyone could have expected when acquired on July 31. The stuff is not overpowering by any stretch. That said, he has the depth, smarts and know-how to cover any natural shortcomings. His fastball resides in the low-90s but also in the upper reaches of the strike zone. He couples that with a plus cutter that sweeps low and to his glove-side. The heater likely picks up perceived speed and effectiveness as the change of place and location leave the opposition with little time to adapt. He throws a big breaking curveball in the mid-70s that can be used to begin or end plate appearances. The changeup is a work in progress, but not essential for success if the rest of the mix is getting the job done.