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An injury may solidify Kevin Gadea’s future with the Rays

The Rays get more time to decide on Rule 5 selection Kevin Gadea

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bad news out of Rays’ camp today. Or is it good news?

Recent rule 5 draft pick Kevin Gadea has been sidelined for at least 4 weeks due to elbow tendinitis. According to a report from Marc Topkin (and through what can be inferred by Gadea’s lack of appearances this Spring), the Rays were planning on sending Gadea back to the Mariners in the near future.

The decision was a consequence of time. With Spring coming to a close, the Rays were not able to give Gadea a long enough leash to prove himself. Now, this injury makes things interesting.

I still think Gadea is a promising pitcher. Last year as a 21 year old in A-ball, Gadea was a little young for his level but absolutely dominated. Fairly, the Rays just realized Gadea is not ready for Major League hitters quite yet, and the last bullpen spot would be better off going to someone more experienced.

Since the 2000 season, only 7 pitchers have made the jump straight from A ball to the Majors and pitched at least 30 major league innings. With the exception of Roberto Osuna, they all struggled.

Johan Santana walked 5 per nine and had a FIP over 5 in his first Major League season. Of the seven who have made the jump, the average k/9 went from over ten in A ball to just over six in the majors. It is a sizable leap, and the Rays must have felt that Gadea was not ready. Or, it could be the Rays sensed something else was wrong.

What I find interesting is how quick the Rays were ready to pull the plug on Gadea. They were very high on him upon drafting him, and he seems to have the size and stuff to become a very impactful Major League Pitcher. Here is an expert from Baseball America:

“Our scouts saw him really well this year, he missed a lot of bats,” Rays director of baseball development Peter Bendix said. “Really it was the strike-throwing and the stuff. You never know the guys confidence, what he’s actually going to be like in a major league game until you actually do it, but his success, his strike throwing, the reports we have on his makeup, if somebody is going to be able to make that jump (from Low-A to the majors), we feel fairly confident that he has a chance.”

If Gadea had the potential to really become an impact pitcher down the road, I would have expected the Rays to keep him onboard and ‘hide’ him in the bullpen, only pitching in a mop-up role.

The Rays swiftness in getting rid of him means one of two things. The Rays thought Gadea spending a whole Major League season in the bullpen at this stage in his development would have been a huge liability for the team. Or, they saw some huge red flags in the short time Gadea has been a Ray. This injury, however, is a blessing for the Rays.

If the Rays like the promise of Gadea, but believe him spending a whole season in the bullpen would be too costly, this injury could be beneficial to the team.

Elbow tendinitis may very well turn into something more. And as written today by Adam Sanford, the injury could reportedly land Gadea on the 60 day DL. If this happens, Gadea would not even be eligible to return until mid May, and it is likely that the injury could last longer. Let’s say he comes back in early June.

According to Rule 5 draft rules, Gadea is then eligible to spend 30 days in the minor leagues rehabbing. These thirty days, while brief, give the Rays more time to evaluate. Additionally, it gives Gadea much needed minor league experience.

After those thirty days, it would be July, and the Rays could reassess how Gadea fits with the big league bullpen. If they still feel like Gadea will be a liability, but love his promise, they can take solace in the fact that Gadea will only be a liability for two months, until September call ups arrive. Plus, if he comes back in July, Gadea will be able to meet the 90 day active requirement for rule 5 draft picks, thus solidifying him as a Ray at the end of the season.

On the other hand, if the Rays see red flags with Gadea now, the thirty day rehab assignment will give them more time to either confirm or deny their originally assessment. Either way, it can’t hurt to let Gadea pitch in the minor leagues for 30 days. This injury, while unfortunate for Gadea, gives the Rays time to examine Gadea further and discuss his future with the team.

It is extremely difficult to accurately predict how an A-ball pitcher will perform against Major Leaguers, but with this added minor league time, the Rays will be able to make a more accurate prediction.

Whichever way it is sliced, this injury works in the Rays favor.