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Rays vs Blue Jays Preview: Snell looks to keep Toronto’s bats tamed

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Blake Snell makes his 1st start of the season as the Rays look to take the opener of a four-game set against Toronto

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

After an impressive opening series win over the New York Yankees, the Rays look to grab the first game of a four-game set as they host the Toronto Blue Jays tonight.

Toronto comes into the Trop after dropping its first two games to the Orioles in Baltimore. The offense - spearheaded by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista - should be a force to reckon with for opposing pitchers in 2017. Blake Snell will have the duty of keeping them silent tonight after scoring a total of three runs in Baltimore.

What: Rays vs. Blue Jays

Where: Tropicana Field. St. Petersburg, Florida.

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where to watch: Fox Sports Sun

Where to listen: 620 WDAE

Starting Pitchers

Blake Snell vs Marcus Stroman

Can Blake Snell tap his full potential?

After tearing up the minors in 2015, Blake Snell spent all but two months with the Rays in 2016. The young southpaw possesses elite stuff but struggled with command for the majority of last season walking 5.16 batters per nine innings. If he can trust his stuff and stay inside the zone in 2017, the numbers will take care of themselves.

In two starts last season against Toronto, Snell went 1-1. In his first outing, he was roughed up in 1.2 innings giving up five runs (just two earned) while walking four. His second outing was much better, giving up just one run in six innings pitched while striking out seven.

Marcus Stroman Scouting Report

After a strong performance - winning the WBC MVP Award - in the WBC, this will be Stroman’s first start of the season.

Stroman pitched well against the Rays last season, allowing less than three earned runs or fewer in four out of five starts while going at least six innings in each.

With a ground ball rate approaching 60% in 2016, Stroman is an extreme ground ball pitcher. As stated by JT Morgan in our series preview:

The rays left-handed bats should have a better time against Stroman than their right-handed bats, as Stroman allows more fly balls and a higher ISO against lefties.

Stroman struggled for the majority of last season, finishing 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA while accruing 3.6 WAR in 204 innings pitched.

He will be looking to put his underwhelming 2017 performance in the past tonight.

Arsenal

Stroman will mainly attack hitters with four different pitches: Sinker, Fourseam fastball (94mph), Curveball (81mph) and Slider (84mph). He also rarely throws a changeup (86mph) and cutter (91mph).

Stroman relies primarily on his sinker, inducing an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers. His fastball generates a high number of swings and misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, but possesses average velocity. His curveball is rarely swing and missed at, while his slider generates more fly balls compared to other pitchers’ sliders.

He lives in the bottom of the zone, with his sinker often falling completely out of it. While he uses his slider to paint the inner corners on hitters.

His 2016 Splits

  • vs LHB: .266/.325/.416 - .321 wOBA - 11 HR - 19.0 K% - 7.3 BB% - 437 PA
  • vs RHB: .259/.301/.397 - .302 wOBA - 10 HR - 19.9 K% - 5.3 BB% - 418 PA
  • HOME: .258/.309/.404 - .308 wOBA - 8 HR - 18.0 K% - 6.2 BB% - 433 PA
  • AWAY: .267/.317/.409 - .315 wOBA - 13 HR - 20.9 K% - 6.4 BB% - 422 PA

Times Through the Order

  • 1st: .274/.321/.346 - .294 wOBA - 1 HR - 17.7 K% - 5.9 BB% - 288 PA
  • 2nd: .224/.290/.350 - .281 wOBA - 5 HR - 22.2 K% - 7.3 BB% - 288 PA
  • 3rd: .281/.321/.515 - .355 wOBA - 14 HR - 19.3 K% - 5.6 BB% - 249 PA

Starting Lineups

Today's Lineups

TORONTO BLUE JAYS TAMPA BAY RAYS
Steve Pearce - LF Corey Dickerson - DH
Josh Donaldson - 3B Kevin Kiermaier - CF
Jose Bautista - RF Evan Longoria - 3B
Kendrys Morales - DH Brad Miller - 2B
Troy Tulowitzki - SS Steven Souza - RF
Russell Martin - C Logan Morrison - 1B
Justin Smoak - 1B Tim Beckham - SS
Kevin Pillar - CF Mallex Smith - LF
Darwin Barney - 2B Jesus Sucre - C
Marcus Stroman - RHP Blake Snell - LHP