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Rays Top 50 prospects No 24, Ryne Stanek

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Next on our list is the most powerful arm in the system and a right-hander that sees his last season being ranked as a prospect. He’s expected to be a large part of the Rays pen this season.

No.24, RHP Ryne Thomas Stanek, 26 years old

Born: July 26, 1991 in St. Louis, MO

Height/Weight: 6’4” 215 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: By the Rays for $1,755,800 after being selected 29th overall in 2013

Twitter handle: @rstanek_55

Twitter profile statement:Pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays Organization | University of Arkansas alum | #WPS”

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 11th best Rays prospect after 2013
  • Ranked as the 24th best Rays prospect after 2014
  • Ranked as the 13th best Rays prospect after 2016
  • Was NOT ranked among the top 30 Rays prospects after 2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 24th
  • Low: 25th

Ryne Stanek: Abilities

  • Fastball few others can match in velocity, exceeds 100 MPH
  • Fastball averaged 98.5 MPH in 2017 while in MLB
  • Slider that works at 89-90 MPH (has a hard time locating consistently)
  • Splitter that was adopted as complementary to FB in 2017
  • Change up that’s rarely thrown but works in the 88 MPH to 90 MPH range

Grades for ‘17 (Pipeline): FB: 70 | SL: 55 | CH: 45 | Ctl: 45 | Overall: 45

  • Abilities notes: As electric as a 98+ MPH fastball can be, Stanek’s got hit well in 2017, with hitters managing an average of 0.313 or better on it in 2017. In some way shape or form, he’ll need to resolve that to be effective in The Show.

Joined the Rays by way of....

The 2013 draft, three selections before the Yankees selected Aaron Judge and four selections after the Giants selected Christian Arroyo. The Rays had the selection as compensation for losing Melvin Upton in free agency.

Latest Transaction: recalled from Durham Bulls September 1st, 2017

Note Although he still has options remaining, we fully expect Stanek to spend the majority of his time in the majors this season.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • Ryne was named after former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg.
  • Sent down to work on mechanics early on in 2017, it wound up leading to the splitter becoming Stanek’s leading secondary pitch, as noted by Marc Topkin:

“They made the splitter Stanek’s primary secondary pitch to go with his high-octane fastball that clocks 100 mph, rather than his slider.”

Something that Rays Manager Kevin Cash supported afterwards:

“Once he got down there, maybe there was some more comfort with (using his splitter) to put guys away, and he chose to attempt that over the slider for a couple weeks,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “His success is going really in a good direction.’’

  • Stanek is participating in his 3rd spring training with the Rays this year.
  • He was ranked 42nd overall for the 2010 draft by Baseball America and wound up being drafted in the 3rd round by the Seattle Mariners but did not sign. Instead, Stanek chose to attend the University of Arkansas where he managed a 22-and-8 record, a 2.55 ERA, and kept hitters to a .216 average.
  • Had surgery on his right acetabular labrum in 2013, causing him to miss the beginning of 2014.
  • Was named to the 2016 All-Star Futures Game.
  • Ranked 16th by FanGraphs among Rays prospects pre-2017, where Eric Longenhagen noted:

He has late-inning stuff, yet needs to refine his command to get there.

  • If you’d like to know what Ryne does on his spare time:

Stats

Ryne Stanek 2017

GP 58
GP 58
GS 0
IP 64.2
W 3
L 0
Sv (SvO) 8 (8)
H 52
BB 28
SO 89
HR 6
AvgA (AAA) 0.67
Whip (AAA) 0.940
BAbip (AAA) 0..268
LOB% (AAA) 86.1%
GB% (AAA) 38.5%
FB% (AAA) 42.6%

Stats Notes: The 2017 season was really one where Stanek needed to refine his arsenal and refocus his abilities on what works best to get guys out in the majors. Hopefully the focus on the splitter gets him to where he needs to be.

Interesting Comparison: Blake Wood

At 6’5” and 235 lbs, Wood is of similar size as Stanek and works with some good velocity as well — albeit not as high as Stanek’s. Both worked as starters to the Double-A level before switching to relief, and both struggled with control (Wood has a career 4.37 BB/9 rate, Stanek 5.40 BB/9 in 2017 but below that prior).

It took a really long time for Wood to figure things out and get the best out of his abilities, and the same may hold true for Stanek, but they broke into the league at the same age (25). Blake has dialed it up to over 97 mph in his career but has worked mostly in the 96 mph range. Like Ryne, he has a splitter which he has learned to use more often as his career has gone on (just over 10% in 2017), but the slider continues to be his most used secondary pitch (over 34%).

The main difference between the two is the use of a sinker in Wood’s case (over 39% of the time), something Stanek may want to consider adopting if possible. That’s allowed Wood to limit the HR rate to 0.91 over his career and achieve impressive GB rates at 52.2%.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Blake overall and it’s possible Stanek figures it out more decisively and/or sooner, or it’s possible he takes fans on a similar ride.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

To kick off Stanek’s outlook, I’d like to point to an outstanding quote from Alex Cobb,

“We’re so focused on stuff nowadays. Unless you stand out in one category, whether it’s velocity or up or down movement, a lot of people don’t consider you a good pitcher. But if you talk to the guys in baseball who do pitch, they would disagree with that. They would disagree with what the term ‘pitcher’ has become.

“To me, the art of pitching is a huge part of what makes for a good pitcher. That’s what I want to be out there. I want to be a pitcher.”

This applies directly to Stanek who is trying to learn to better use his abilities to pitch and to depend less on his stuff. The latter played very well in the minors, but in the majors things change.

Adding a splitter to his repertoire should, in theory, increase his pitchability and put more question marks in the batter’s head. Of course that depends a lot on how well, when, and where it’s thrown.

The outcomes early in spring training are too few to tell whether or not the changes made by Stanek in 2017 will produce better outcomes. While it’s great to have some of the best velocity in baseball on your fastball, it needs to be effective.

When considering his role in relief and being able to find his way out of jams, and the health issues that often arise from using the split finger — and why it went out of preference for many pitchers and teams — it seems like an odd choice to go with as a main secondary pitch. But if that’s what he’s most comfortable with and confident in, it’s worth a shot.

Danny Russell explained the thought process here when the decision was made.

Before going through some quotes and numbers, this take from a decent article on the topic is important to note:

Pitch classifications are tricky. Some four-seamers look like cutters. Some curveballs look like sliders. Some changeups look like splitters. Some changeups are splitters (spoiler: keep this in mind).

Here are Joe Maddon’s thoughts on the split fingers while with the Rays:

“I always thought that if thrown properly with the fingers really split like a forkball, that’s when you can get hurt because there’s no resistance against the ball being thrown and it really put a lot of pressure on the elbow,” Rays Manager Joe Maddon said. “But it’s not just about them getting hurt. They’ll never develop their other pitches because they’ll always get guys out with that pitch.”

In 2017, only 6 starters in baseball threw the pitch more than 20% of the time and half of those have had serious health issues. Going to the relief side, more applicable to Stanek’s role, there were 12 relief pitchers with over 50 IP that threw the pitch more than 10% of the time. Hector Neris, Blake Parker, Sam Freeman, and Matt Bowman are most notable among that group.

On the positive side of the pitch, if not abused:

“There’s a fairly strong feeling that we’re not going to teach anybody the split-finger at the early stage,” the Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. “It’s more for a guy that’s less-defined at the higher levels that hasn’t had as much success and we think that maybe has some intangibles to pitch in the big leagues and it’s a good addition pitch to maybe get them over the hump to be a big league pitcher. But in early development, no.”

And that’s exactly what Stanek and the Rays have done here by having him adopt it later on in his progression.

All of this points to more work being required on the part of Stanek it order to get the results he’s looking for. With no doubts about his ability to bring the heat, the Rays and Stanek are now in the late stages of getting him primed for a late innings role. It’s also interesting to note that the Triple-A pitching coach from 2017, Kyle Snyder, has been promoted this season and knows Stanek’s progression very well and is someone Stanek has enjoyed working with.

Stanek said of Snyder:

“He’s very good at relaying information, and knowing when somebody needs to be left alone. He has a very good feel how to help.’’

If they can work together to get Stanek to become the dominating presence he has the potential to be in the back end of the pen, the Rays will be forced to make room for him. It’s fairly clear that he has little left to prove in Triple-A and now needs to gain experience in the majors.

Ryne Stanek: Spotlight Videos

When he’s on, Stanek can strike out the very best, as you can see here:

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list