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Grading the 2017 Rays pitchers

There were a lot of them.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, we handed out grades for the 2017 Rays hitters. Today we’ll be looking at the pitchers. Pretty straightforward set-up, so let’s get to the action.

Sergio Romo: A Romo came to the Rays on July 22 and, over the final 13 weeks, posted a 1.47 ERA and was worth 0.6 fWAR. The only thing keeping this grade from being an A+ is that his underlying numbers weren’t quite as dominant (4.20 xFIP). What he actually did on the mound for Tampa was electric and came at a highly important time for the Rays.

Dan Jennings: B- Another midseason acquisition, Jennings ended up with a decent Rays ERA (3.44) thanks in large part to not giving up a single run in September. However, when he was first acquired, he struggled, including one four-run blowup. Given that the team was far more in contention when they first acquired him, the timing of his struggles ding his grade a bit here.

Alex Colome: B This is a grade many will disagree with. No fanbase actually likes their closer, and the Rays are no different [Editor’s note: Yankees fans from 1997-2013 would likely disagree, Jim]. Colome took a lot of heat this season, due to his six blown saves and several other shaky outings. Still, he led the league in saves (a product of his team, undoubtedly, but still impressive to hold the job and never miss time to injury), and he was one of only two Rays relievers worth over 1.0 fWAR. Seeing his strikeout rate drop and walk rate rise is never ideal, but he could be a nice trade chip at the deadline next season if the Rays don’t think they can afford to keep him around for the long haul.

Alex Cobb: B+ Cobb’s 2017 season seems like it was filled with more storylines than any other Rays pitcher. To start the season, the story was how Cobb would deal with a heavy workload after a season in which he only threw 22.0 innings due to injury. The story quickly turned to how Cobb would fare without the effectiveness of “The Thing.” Finally, the story became “Is this this the end of Cobb’s time in Tampa Bay?” Through all that, Cobb posted a 3.66 ERA and was the team leader in wins, for whatever that is worth (which is likely very little).

Steve Cishek: A Cishek really won me over in his post-acquisition time with the Rays. A 1.09 ERA was backed by a 2.14 FIP, and Cishek’s 9.49 K/9 rate was a sight for sore eyes in a bullpen that lacked an ability to create whiffs in the first half of the season. I’d love to see him back in the fold for 2018.

Jake Odorizzi: C+ Odo had a strange year. Despite seeing both his walk and home run rates jump, his ERA only moved up a half point, and his 4.14 ERA made him right around league average (ERA+ of 101). If we’re saying this grade is strictly about the results (which, I do tend to lean towards in this type of an article), his grade is decent. If you’re all about the process, his 3.83 BB/9 and 1.88 HR/9 bring him down into the “D” range. His FIP of 5.43 and xFIP of 5.10 are in line with that lower grade, as well. Next season will be interesting to say the least.

Chris Archer: C+ Another season, another bit of disappointment from the Rays ace. Archer seemed to have things figured out at times this season, but a 7.48 ERA in September ballooned his ERA over 4.00 for the second straight season. Archer’s strikeout rate (11.15 K/9) was a career-high, and his FIP and xFIP (3.40 and 3.35, respectively) suggest better results in the future, but given his inability to match those figures over the last three seasons, it’s fair to question whether there’s something that won’t allow Archer to post as strong numbers as he, quote-unquote, should. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with Cash leaving him in games too long. On several occasions this season, Archer gave up a chunk of runs in his final frame of the game, and that’s not Archer’s fault, at least unless he’s demanding to go back out there.

Jose Alvarado: B+ This is the young Rays pitcher (non-Blake Snell) about whom I am most excited looking forward. He flashed extreme velocity and even had a plus spin rate in his early outings. His overall production (3.64 ERA, 2.55 FIP) over 29.2 innings as a 22-year-old rookie was extremely tantalizing, and I think he could definitely be an option for a post-Colome closer.

Austin Pruitt: C+ Pruitt’s season in gif form:

Jake Faria: A- There was a stretch during the season when this grade looked like a lock for an A+. The Rays community was as high on Faria as could be, and his personality and quirks made it easy to picture him as a future Rays stud. The shine wore off just a bit down the stretch, but the end results (3.43 ERA in 86.2 innings) are still impressive, and the 24-year-old should have a definite shot at the rotation in 2018.

Blake Snell: B Recency bias wants me to sneak this grade into the low “A” range, but we’re looking at the season as a whole, so we can’t write off Snell’s struggles to start the year. That being said, Snell’s numbers after his latest return from Triple-A are the kind of numbers that can make a fanbase giddy. Snell had a 3.28 ERA over the final three months, and his 79:29 strikeouts to walk ratio was excellent. His final start (7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 13 K) is the type of ceiling that makes Snell so intriguing. He’ll be a popular breakout candidate in 2018 for the third year running.

Matt Andriese: C+ Just solid all around. Not much more to it than that.

Tommy Hunter: B+ Hunter was probably the best full-season Rays reliever. By the end of 2017, the Rays bullpen had basically been entirely overhauled, and it was Hunter and Colome who were the last of the old guard remaining. That’s no mistake, as Hunter’s 2.61 ERA and 1.2 WAR were both among the best in the Rays bullpen all season. The Rays may have whiffed on a few other pitcher acquisitions for 2017, but Hunter was a nice get.

Chase Whitley: C+ Whitley is basically the Peter Bourjos of pitchers.

Erasmo Ramirez: C+ It’s strange how much I miss a pitcher who threw only 323.1 innings in a Rays uniform, but Ramirez was one of my favorite Rays before he left town. Given the site-wide eulogy we had for him, I don’t think I’m the only one. I think there were about five “Erasmo was awesome” articles the week Tampa traded him back to Seattle. Nothing gold can stay.

Brad Boxberger: B+ Boxy did really well after making his midseason return from injury, racking up a 3.38 ERA in 29.1 innings this season. His strikeout rate was elite (12.27) and his walk rate was manageable (3.38). Don’t be shocked if he sneaks into the closer’s role at some point in 2018 due to either a trade or poor results from Colome.

Also pitched for the Rays in 2017: Chaz Roe (dat slider doe), Danny Farquhar (I miss making Lord Farquhar jokes), Diego Moreno, Carmen Yulin Cruz, Xavier Cedeño (two of the last three names were Rays pitchers who threw less than 10 innings combined, one is the Mayor of San Juan), Chih-Wei Hu (legends never die), Ryne Stanek (5.85 ERA, 4.10 xFIP, could be decent), Jose De Leon (saw his star fade aggressively in 2017), Hunter Wood (got on the board with exactly 0.1 innings for the Rays this season), Ryan Garton (a true train wreck at the MLB level in 2017), Andrew Kittredge (actually flashed some decent stuff), Adam Kolarek, Justin Marks (two pitchers who pitched in 2017).