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Taylor Guerrieri's return to the spotlight.

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2015 saw a successful return from Tommy John Surgery for the highly touted prospect from the 2011 draft.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Guerrieri was the Rays top selection in their 2011 MLB Draft as the 24th overall selection out of Spring Valley High School (Columbia, SC). Going into the draft Baseball America had him rated as the 10th overall prospect just ahead of Vanderbilt RHP Sonny Gray.

Let's get this out of the way: Entering the draft there was some concern with maturity issues that caused him to fall to the Rays late in the first round. The only things to have surfaced from that was a suspension for marijuana while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and a 2014 twitter rant claiming he was now sober.

Since that time, by all accounts from those close to the team, Guerrieri has grown into a mature and respectable prospect. And he's a legit one at that.

Minor League Results

Season Level IP K% BB% ERA FIP
2012 A- 52.0 22.7% 2.5% 0.87 2.12
2013 A- 67.0 19.5% 4.6% 2.01 3.77
2014 R 9.1 26.3% 5.3% 0.00 2.01
2015 A+ 42.0 25.6% 6.4% 2.14 2.00
AA 36.0 18.8% 5.4% 1.50 3.39

Entering the 2013 Guerrieri was on everybody's radar as one of the elite pitching talents in the game in the low minors. He was ranked #62 by Baseball America, #48 by Baseball Prospectus, and #44 by MLB.com.

The 2013 season saw Guerrieri head under the knife having to undergo Tommy John Surgery. During the offseason he would fail a drug test for marijuana causing him to serve a 50 game suspension. Guerrieri would serve the suspension while recovering from surgery and wouldn't miss any games due to the suspension.

He throws a fastball that sits 92-95 with late sink and run that leads to his high groundball rates. He pairs it with a plus curveball and average changeup. He has excellent control as he has allowed roughly 2 BB/9 innings throughout his minor league career.

Overall his results have been very impressive and the only legitimate criticism has been his lack of innings he has been able to throw to this point as a 23 year old.

2015 Season

2015 was his first full season since returning from TJS and would post a career high of 78 innings pitched. He would be promoted AA after a good start to the season in limited innings for Port Charlotte (A+).

Port Charlotte (A+) Gamelog:

Date IP K BB H ER GB FB LD
18-May 3.0 2 0 1 0 5 2 1
23-May 2.2 4 1 5 1 6 3 1
29-May 3.0 5 0 0 0 3 1 0
3-Jun 2.2 3 1 5 1 6 4 4
9-Jun 3.0 7 1 5 5 4 3 2
14-Jun 4.0 1 0 6 1 9 8 5
22-Jun 4.0 1 1 1 0 8 3 0
28-Jun 4.0 5 1 4 0 7 4 2
4-Jul 3.0 7 1 3 1 4 1 1
9-Jul 4.0 6 1 0 0 5 1 0
15-Jul 3.2 0 4 5 1 9 7 3
20-Jul 5.0 3 0 2 0 6 7 2

Guerrieri's time at Port Charlotte was used building up his workload as he was able to throw 42 innings over 12 games (3.5 IP/Game). He posted strong results that saw him walk few batters while striking out over a batter per inning.

Montgomery (AA) Gamelog:

Date IP K BB H ER GB FB LD Pitches
28-Jul 3.0 4 2 6 4 7 5 4 74
3-Aug 5.0 3 1 2 0 9 5 2 57
9-Aug 5.0 3 2 2 0 11 4 3 77
15-Aug 5.0 4 1 4 1 5 7 2 61
20-Aug 5.0 4 0 3 1 9 5 1 62
26-Aug 5.0 5 0 6 0 12 4 3 63
31-Aug 5.0 2 1 5 0 10 6 3 66
6-Sep 3.0 3 1 0 0 5 0 0 33

When Guerrieri was promoted he was set to a fairly strict limit of 5 innings or 75 pitches per start. His first start at AA was a rough outing, but that would be the only time he would struggle.

The most impressive thing Guerrieri accomplished was becoming an efficient pitcher. He had a six start string where he was able to consistently get through 5 innings in 60-65 pitches. His last start he would only throw 3 strong innings with only using 33 pitches. Even with the strict limit he was able to throw 4.5 innings per start at the AA level.

The groundball rates are Guerrieri's strongest attribute as he has shown mid 60% rates (63% at A+ and 67% at AA in 2015) throughout his minor league career. He won't only have to rely on groundballs as he has the stuff to post strong strikeout rates, but they will certainly help.

The Future

This off-season has seen Guerrieri earn a 40 man roster spot and return some of the shine to his prospect status as he has been ranked #69 by Baseball Prospectus, #37 by John Sickles, and #35 by Keith Law.

The biggest question mark for Guerrieri is whether he's going to be able to put on the innings in order to stay a starter. If he fails to do so, he should be able to find a home in the back of the bullpen. I believe Guerrieri will be able to add to his inning totals and be able to go longer than 5 innings over 20+ starts and get to the 120-130 inning mark this season.

If the Rays chose to do so he could spend 15-20 starts in the minors building his workload and see time in the bullpen at the MLB level gaining some experience while limiting his innings. If the first time we see Guerrieri for an extended time as a starter should be in 2017.

This time next year I believe we'll be talking about Guerrieri as the top prospect in the Rays system and be a top 20 prospect in all of MLB, and may even see him spot-start in the majors as soon as this April or May.