Welcome to the Who Is series, which should bring attention to prospects that do not get as much attention as others in the organization. I do not know how long this series will last. This could be the last one.
So who is Jacob Faria?
Tampa Bay's 2011 draft was known for the 12 picks in the top 100. While two of those picks have been released, one will be serving a 50-game suspension to start the year, and four of the pitchers have had major surgery, the Rays' 10th-round pick from a California high school, Faria, is one of the organization's more interesting lower-level prospects.
Aside from both using their right arms to pitch in the Rays organization, Faria and Jaime Schultz, the first subject of this series, do not share many things in common.
At 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds, Faria has the more typical starter's body. He has been listed at 175 for seemingly his entire career, though, all the way back to 2010 in his amateur days at Perfect Game events.
Faria's fastball is an average pitch, sitting 89-91 MPH and touching 93 with some movement. With his frame, I would imagine he could bulk up a little bit and consistently reach 91-92, but if that has not happened in five years, maybe it never will.
Whatever happens with his fastball down the road, Faria complements it with a changeup (BA, $). In 2014, he was worse facing lefties than righties -- certainly not unusual -- but it was not a very pronounced split. The biggest problem was the increased walk rate, which was 10.3% against lefties and just 3.7% against fellow righties. I am not sure how this speaks to the effectiveness of his changeup, if it does at all.
Faria's third pitch is up for debate. The same note from Baseball America above says he throws a cutter. Its pre-draft scouting report for him said he had a promising slider. In 2012 during an interview with this very site, he said he threw a slider. In an interview last season, he said he threw a curveball. In this 2012 interview, he seemingly alternates between a curveball and a slider.
Putting aside semantics, what is clear is that Faria uses all of his pitches to throw a lot of strikes. His 6.4% walk rate in 2014 was a career worst, but it was still among the top 30 at Class A. His career rate of 5.2% may be harder to achieve as he advances through the organization, but he clearly does not have a problem finding the strike zone.
After opting to sign for $150,000 in 2011 instead of head to Cal State Fullerton on a scholarship, Faria got his pro career off to a nice start in 15 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League. After allowing a home run in his first at-bat to a gigantic first-round bust on a rehab assignment, he settled in and finished with 14 strikeouts and just one walk.
Making some adjustments to his arsenal and delivery, Faria struggled in his second season, this time in the Appalachian League with Princeton. He posted a 5.14 ERA in 42 innings, and he had to go back to Princeton in 2013. He dominated in his second try, striking out 28.6% of opponents and walking just 3.6%. That set the stage for his solid full-season debut with Bowling Green in 2014.
Faria will move up to Class A-Advanced Charlotte in 2015. Pitchers like him that fit the general "mediocre stuff but knows how to pitch" profile will probably be questioned every step of the way, but he should challenge for a spot in the Rays' top 30 with another good season.