FT. MYERS FL - FEBRUARY 22: : Chris Archer #35 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
With Jeremy Hellickson placed on the DL with shoulder fatigue, Chris Archer will make his major league debut tonight for the Rays against the Washington Nationals. A key component of the Matt Garza trade, Archer has been among the Rays top prospects ever since the trade. With Hellickson out for two starts, the Rays will rely on Archer to help keep them in the chase for the playoffs.
Click on the jump for background, scouting information, and statistics on Chris Archer, as well as some excellent links.
Chris Archer was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of Clayton HS (NC). He signed with the Indians for $161,000 (per Baseball America). As a draft prospect, Baseball America praised his raw talent, saying, "Archer's best pitch is a sharp slider that he throws in the 78-81 mph range on two planes. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range but has a tendency to be a bit flat."
The Indians sent him to the Gulf Coast League that year, where he pitched 19.1 innings (7.45 ERA) before moving up to the Appalachian League for 1.2 innings (10.80 ERA).
In 2007, Archer pitched in the GCL and the Sally League. His ERA was high on the year (5.88), but he struck out almost a batter per inning with a solid walk rate.
2008 saw Archer returning to the Sally League. The second time around, he managed to lower his ERA (4.29) while maintaining his strikeout rate, yet the walks came in droves, with a 6.6 BB/9. Concern began to mount about Archer's future role.
After the 2008 season, the Indians completed a trade with the Chicago Cubs, shipping Archer and two other pitchers for Mark DeRosa. However, the Indians themselves would soon trade away DeRosa when the club failed to remain in playoff contention during the 2009 season.
As soon as Archer became a member of the Chicago Cubs, he progressed rapidly. In his first year with the Cubs, Archer pitched 109 innings with a 2.81 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and 5.4 BB/9. Scouting reports on Archer were now very positive, citing a much improved slider/curve and a slight increase in velocity. Baseball America's report after the 2009 season noted his low to mid-90s fastball and plus slider/curve.
In 2010, Archer only improved, lowering his ERA to 2.34 in 142.1 IP, striking out 9.4 batters per nine innings, and allowing 4.1 free passes per nine innings. Following the year, Baseball America rated Archer the best prospect in the Cub's farm system and the 27th best prospect in the game. At the time, it seemed as though consistency was the only barrier for Archer to cross to become a front of the rotation starter.
With the Rays looking to move Garza, and the Cubs having a need for pitching, the two clubs sealed a trade. The Rays packaged Garza with two other minor pieces and sent them to the Cubs for Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, and Sam Fuld.
While Archer impressed many during spring training with his electric stuff, his 2011 season came up short statistically. His stuff was as sharp as ever, but he walked more batters (5.3 BB/9), inflating his ERA to 4.09 in Montgomery and Durham. In their offseason rankings, Baseball America still displayed confidence in him, rating him the Rays #3 prospect and the 89th best prospect in the minor leagues.
So far this year in Durham, Archer still faces command issues, walking 5.3 batters per nine innings. As a result, his ERA sits at 4.81 in his 76.2 innings pitched. However, Archer has shown improvements recently, walking 13 batters in the past 30 innings. The Rays obviously hope that Archer's recent display of command will remain with him in the major leagues.
Chris Archer has always been known for his devastating stuff that has helped him strike out an average of one batter per inning over his professional career. His repertoire comprises of a trio of pitches (four if you divide the fastballs into 4-seam and 2-seam), which are detailed below.
Baseball America: "His heater resides at 90-95 mph and touches 97 with run and sink."
Chris Archer (his own scouting report, per this)
Purpose: Everything works off my fastball. If my fastball is good, hard and low, then I can throw my slider down there too and the slider might break out of the zone and they'll swing over top of it and ground out. Same thing with my changeup -- it works right off of it as well.
Grip: A stereotypical grip.
Speed: My comfort zone with either fastball -- because they're both about the same speed -- is probably in the 92-93 mph range. I can run it up a little bit higher, but just from the numbers -- we get the charts after the game -- I'm in that range.
Evaluation: I don't feel comfortable grading it -- that's for scouts -- but I will say it's my No. 1 pitch. It's a pitch I have to be comfortable with to have any type of success in this game.
Baseball America: "He falls in love with his plus-plus slider, an 86-88 mph offering with incredible tilt and good depth."
Origin: When I was younger, we had a guy who went to my high school, Clayton High School in North Carolina, and went to East Carolina and got drafted -- his name was Davey Penny -- and he had a pretty good slider. During his offseason from pro ball, before my junior season, we would play catch together and pitch bullpens together. One day, he was like, "Hey, you have the right arm-action for a slider," and he showed me the grip. At the time, I didn't know much about mechanics anyways. We tried it out, and it did work.
Purpose: I like to use it [two ways]: for strikes, and I can throw it off of a good fastball and get them to swing at it and miss.
Grip: An off-set two-seam grip. You really don't have to do to much with your arm. Just think fastball and, once you get in front, you make an "X," like a diagonal, with your wrist as opposing to coming straight down. You can keep a firm velocity and command the pitch by doing that.
Evaluation: It's my second-best pitch. I feel like I can throw it in any situation, to any batter, in any count.
Baseball America: "He'll need to improve his below-average changeup in order to remain a starter."
Origin: Since I was in high school. I played with it on my own. Found a grip that worked for me and just threw it over and over and over. It really started to develop my first couple of years in pro ball.
Purpose: The grip gives me movement as well as take away speed.
Grip: Circle-change. It's kind of like the two-seam: You want to let the grip take care of the action of the baseball, not really try to manipulate it too much.
Speed: 80 to 83, like 10 to 12 miles an hour off the fastball.
Evaluation: I'm confident in throwing it whenever the situation dictates. I feel like I have multiple pitches I can do that with, and that's what takes me over the hump. There are some situations where people can throw only fastballs or only changeups or only sliders or curveballs, but I feel like I can throw any of my four pitches for strikes at any time, and that's helped make me succeed.
As someone who has watched almost every one of Archer's starts this year (Milb TV), the reports are correct in assessing that his stuff is superb. Archer's primary issues stem from his lack of command, which shows up in the walks and the hits. Struggling to locate a pitch can often result in pitches left over the middle of the plate.
Prior to the season, Baseball America expressed concern, saying, "He struggles at times to repeat his delivery, which leads to control issues. He led the Double-A Southern League with 18 wild pitches and ranked third with 80 walks in 2011."
|2006||17||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk||CLE||0||3||7.71||8||6||21.0||2||18||22||1.762||8.1||0.9||7.7||9.4||1.22|
|2007||18||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A||CLE||1||7||5.88||13||11||56.2||4||24||53||1.500||9.7||0.6||3.8||8.4||2.21|
|2010||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||CHC||15||3||2.34||28||27||142.1||6||65||149||1.173||6.4||0.4||4.1||9.4||2.29|
|2011||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||TBR||9||7||4.09||27||27||147.1||11||86||130||1.581||9.0||0.7||5.3||7.9||1.51|
|A (3 seasons)||A||10||12||3.67||55||53||228.1||8||153||230||1.436||6.9||0.3||6.0||9.1||1.50|
|Rk (2 seasons)||Rk||1||10||6.23||20||17||73.2||6||39||70||1.548||9.2||0.7||4.8||8.6||1.79|
|AA (2 seasons)||AA||16||9||3.52||38||38||204.1||13||119||185||1.483||8.1||0.6||5.2||8.1||1.55|
|AAA (2 seasons)||AAA||5||8||4.22||16||16||89.2||4||51||102||1.416||7.6||0.4||5.1||10.2||2.00|
|A+ (1 season)||A+||7||1||2.86||15||14||72.1||4||26||82||1.106||6.7||0.5||3.2||10.2||3.15|
Statistically speaking, Archer has had his ups and downs. In 2009 and 2010, he posted strong ERAs. However, outside of those years, his ERA has resided in a higher range. The strikeouts have been consistently excellent, which is in contrast to his consistently weak walk rates except for 2010.
Be sure to read some of these excellent articles written about Chris Archer.
- In this previously linked piece, Andrew Pentis of Milb.com gets a first hand scouting report of Archer, written by Archer himself. Link
- When Archer was first promoted to Durham, Adam Sobsey of indyweek.com wrote this article on the Raliegh-born Archer coming home. Link
- Robert Emrich did a Q&A with Archer last year. Link
- Rays Digest profiled Chris Archer before this season. Link
- If you have never seen Archer pitch, here is a highlight video of him recording a strikeout this year. Link
On a personal note, I have had the privilege of watching Archer pitch last year in Durham and this year as well. He is a very talented pitcher, as his stuff rivals that of almost any pitcher in the major leagues. Hopefully he finds new levels of success with the Rays and helps fill in the void created by Hellickson's absence.