A different look at the Rays' pitching depth

Chris Archer could be a cornerstone player for the Rays - Brian Blanco

Instead of looking at pitchers by what level they're at, looking at them by position helps see which areas they can improve at

Last week, I covered the Rays' batting depth.  It's the pitchers' turn now.

Like that post, I split players into different groups and ranked them based on their preseason positions on our writers' top prospects poll.  I included additional lists of unranked players or players not in the organization at the time, and they're in alphabetical order.  If you read one sentence in this nonsensical screed, I hope it's that one.

Again, these "rumors" and potential trade partners are not based in reality.  The Dodgers and Blue Jays probably are actually interested in David Price, but this is just me playing fantasy baseball with players in their organization.  I think this can still help to see where the Rays' weak points are and which teams could be good fits for improving them.

Right-handed starters

Chris Archer
Alex Cobb
Jake Odorizzi
Jeremy Hellickson

1. Jake Odorizzi
4. Taylor Guerrieri
5. Alex Colome
8. Nathan Karns
12. Matt Andriese
13. Ryne Stanek
20. Jose Mujica
22. Jeff Ames
30. Dylan Floro

(NA) Blake Bivens
(NR) Jake Faria
(NR) Nolan Gannon
(NA) Brent Honeywell
(NR) German Marquez
(NR) Jaime Schultz
(NR) Albert Suarez
(NA) Cameron Varga
(NR) Hunter Wood

This group of big league starters is ideal.  Hellickson has fallen on some hard times lately, but he's still a former Rookie of the Year and working his way back to where he used to be.  Archer and Cobb are both above average starters under team control, and Odorizzi is really settling in after a rocky start.  Maybe there's no true number one starter here, but this is a foundation.

There aren't any aces on the farm either.  There's pretty good depth with Durham though, and the Rays should certainly be able to fill out a big league rotation.  The two prospects I think might have the highest ceilings, Guerrieri and Stanek, are still in the lower minors working their way back from injuries.  Injuries are presently affecting Mujica and Ames.  Ames has hardly pitched this season, but Mujica hasn't pitched at all.

Fortunately, they should be supplemented from non top 30 prospects and newcomers to the organization.  Bowling Green has three potential risers themselves in Faria, Marquez and Schultz.  Faria gets it done with pretty average stuff, Marquez has youth on his side, and Schultz had a ridiculous 41.5% strikeout rate in 30.2 innings before going on the DL.

If the Rays want to make a move that's a bit bold, three division rivals could offer right-handed pitching prospects.  If the Red Sox push their current place in the standings aside and believe a trade for David Price would be a good long term investment, they have three 24 year old righties in Pawtucket, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes, although Barnes has been struggling.  Toronto would have to put with one of Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez, and Baltimore has Dylan Bundy on the way back, plus Hunter Harvey is one of the fastest risers of the 2014 draft.

Outside of the division, the Royals have some arms to offer, even though top prospect Kyle Zimmer hasn't even pitched this year because of shoulder problems.  Miguel Almonte has very good stuff but is struggling in pitcher friendly Wilmington, but Futures Game participant Christian Binford offers a higher floor with less stuff.  Despite Zach Lee's struggles at Albuquerque, he leads the Dodgers pack of right-handed starters.

Left-handed starters

David Price
Matt Moore

3. Enny Romero
19. Blake Snell
21. Jose Castillo
29. Grayson Garvin

(NA) Brock Burke
(NR) Mike Montgomery

Clearly, the depth from the left side just isn't there like it is with the righties.  It's realistic to be counting down how many days Price has left with the organization, and talent like that doesn't come by very often.  Moore is a big wild card though.  He has the stuff to pitch game one of a playoff series for a serious contender, but he wasn't that guy yet, even before undergoing surgery.

Romero's ceiling is through the roof, but I think the day where he moves to the bullpen is coming sooner rather than later.  He could be a real weapon in that role and give the Rays two big time lefty arms in the late innings.  Neither Snell nor Castillo are particularly close to the majors, but they do have upside.  Garvin is closer than them, but he's still coming back from elbow surgery.

Montgomery's rebound season has really been one of the more interesting things to follow this year.  At one point, he was one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, but that point was pretty long ago.  He has been performing very well and is certainly back on the map.  I'm not sure how high I'm willing to go with him in my top 30, but he should be in pretty comfortably.

The Dodgers will certainly want to be in the mix for Price, and they have some lefty depth.  Just two days ago, Julio Urias pitched in the Futures Game as the youngest player to ever participate.  He has impressive stuff and a feel for pitching and could be in the big leagues as a 19 year old in a couple years.  Tom Windle is a big lefty drafted in the second round last year, and Chris Reed is a former first rounder in Double-A.

The same trio of division rivals could provide some lefties.  Boston's Henry Owens and Toronto's Daniel Norris are coming off Futures Game appearances, and Baltimore's Eduardo Rodriguez has been there in the past.  Boston and Toronto also offer some depth, with the Red Sox boasting former first rounder and Florida Gator Brian Johnson on the fast track to the majors, and Toronto owns a couple lottery tickets in Jairo Labourt and Matt Smoral.

Right-handed relievers

Kirby Yates
Brad Boxberger
Joel Peralta
Juan Carlos Oviedo
Grant Balfour

(NR) Gerardo Reyes
(NR) Jake Thompson

The veterans in this group are the ones not performing, and Yates and Boxberger have provided a little bit of help since they were added to the roster.  Oviedo's contract ends after this year, and Peralta isn't owed any more guaranteed money.  The Rays could use some help here, preferably a player that does not give up so many home runs.

The Rays don't have many true relief prospects sitting around, but since they're so fungible, that's not a huge concern.  Reyes is pretty far away in the New York-Penn League, but his fastball/slider combo has some nice potential.  Thompson is in his first year in the bullpen, and he could throw in middle relief.

Starters with weaknesses such as poor durability or lacking a third pitch could also transition to relief roles.  From the top of the Rays' rankings, Colome and Karns could fit the bill.  Colome has a lengthening injury history, and his changeup is inconsistent.  Karns has to locate his pitches and has to improve his changeup too.

The Angels have very little to offer from their farm, but they do have some young right-handed relievers.  Cam Bedrosian struggled up in the majors, but he throws gas and is striking out 44.3% of opponents in Double-A.  R.J. Alvarez is in the same minor league bullpen and has late inning potential with a big fastball and hard slider.  His ERA is a comically low 0.35.

Their Southern California rival has a bit to offer too.  Dodgers minor league reliever Jose Dominguez can reach triple digits with movement, but he's struggling this year in Triple-A.

Left-handed relievers

Jake McGee
Cesar Ramos
Erik Bedard

25. C.J. Riefenhauser

(NR) Jeff Beliveau
(NR) Adam Liberatore

McGee is clearly performing at an All-Star level, and he's established himself as one of the league's top relievers.  He can get lefties and righties out, and he's under team control for several more seasons.  Ramos does a decent job, but he's not an irreplaceable player.

Triple-A Durham presents a few options if the Rays need another lefty soon.  Riefenhauser made his debut this year and has the ability to be more than a lefty specialists, and Beliveau and Liberatore give them some depth.  Both of them are striking out over 30% of batters they're facing, and Beliveau's strikeout rate against lefties alone is closer to 50%.

Like Colome and Karns, a relief role could be in the future for Romero.  He's really struggling this season, and his stuff would be absolutely dominant in relief.  For now though, there's no reason to not continue starting him and hope he can regain the ability he's shown in previous years.

Teams aren't exactly stockpiling lefty relief prospects, but one potential contender that could throw in a lefty reliever is Cleveland.  Kyle Crockett was just drafted last year, but he's already having success in the big leagues.  He doesn't have late inning stuff, but his deception and location help him get outs.  Scott Barnes is only a little younger than Brandon Guyer, but he has success getting lefties out in Triple-A Columbus.

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