The Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly signed left-handed pitcher, Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal. It was first reported by Gerry Fraley and later picked up by Marc Topkin.
Scratch Celina LHP Ryan Merritt from the list of minor-league free agents who could fit with the Rangers. He signed today with Tampa Bay.— Gerry Fraley (@gfraley) November 14, 2018
It’s a minor-league deal with #Rays big-league camp invite for former #Indians LHP Ryan Merritt, who made memorable ‘16 ALCS start vs. #BlueJays. Considered healthy after missing time in 2018. Team has not yet announced. https://t.co/Yn2ToER6fb— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) November 15, 2018
A change-up extraordinaire, Merritt was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 16th round of the 2011 draft. A mainstay in the back-end of their top-30 prospect list, Merritt made his MLB debut in 2016 and pitched pretty well in extremely small sample sizes during a couple of stints with Cleveland.
You may remember Merritt for his flash in the pan performance from the 2016 postseson.
The Indians shocked the baseball world when they pegged him as the game 5 starting pitcher in the ALCS. Merritt rewarded Cleveland by delivering 4 1⁄3 scoreless innings as they advanced to the World Series.
Following the 2017 season, Merritt was ranked 27th in the Cleveland system and Baseball America had this to say about him.
His fastball sits in the upper 80s, occasionally touching 91 mph, and he knows how to add or subtract velocity as necessary. His above-average changeup is his best pitch, and he also has both a curveball and a cutter that can be effective offerings. All of his stuff plays up thanks to his plus control. Merritt’s ceiling is as a back-end starter, and he will always have to be fine with his command to succeed.
He missed the majority of the 2018 season thanks to a knee sprain, but is expected to be healthy for next year. When healthy, he doesn’t miss the zone. In Triple-A, he walked just 2 of the 291 hitters he faced (0.7%).
Merritt will be with the Rays in spring training, likely competing for one of the ‘Opener’ or ‘Bulk’ spots in the bullpen as Tampa Bay continues to mix and match. He is just the type of pitcher to benefit from the Rays strategy and as Kevin Cash mentioned yesterday, the Opener will be back in 2019.