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Tampa Bay Rays Season Preview: Jake Faria looks to return to form

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He has 2018 totally in the rear view

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2018 was a disaster for Jake Faria.

Faria was a 10th round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2011 draft. After some struggles in 2012, Faria rebounded strongly and established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the Rays system. In the years that followed, Faria gained more attention, landing as high as eighth on the Rays prospect rankings by Baseball America.

Faria produced one of the loudest pitcher seasons in the minors in 2015, going 17-4, 1.92 with a 1.04 WHIP and strikeout rate of 9.6 batters per nine innings, all of which ranked among the best in full-season ball. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, which gives him tremendous plane on all of his pitches. His fastball has touched 95 mph but routinely sits at 90-92. He also generates late sink on the pitch, making him difficult for hitters to square up. Faria’s delivery has some hesitation, but he does an excellent job of repeating his mechanics. He developed outstanding feel for his changeup in 2015, and most evaluators see it as at least a plus pitch. He shows the ability to throw his curveball for strikes down in the zone, though he has yet to master consistency of the pitch.

Faria’s consistency in the minors would eventually lead to him making his major league debut during the 2017 season. During his stint with the Rays in 2017, Faria dazzled, allowing just three runs over his first 20 innings on a big league mound. He would eventually wind up on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, spending just over a month on the shelf with the injury.

At the onset of the Rays 2018 season, their starting rotation was in shambles, but Jake Faria was one of the pitchers locked into the rotation, along with Blake Snell. Unfortunately, Faria ended up causing even more turmoil with the Rays pitching staff, as he struggled mightily at times. Faria did show glimpses of his dominance, but that ugly outing would often rear its head.

Faria eventually went onto the disabled list with an oblique strain towards the end of May. That injury would sideline him from the majors, until August when he made his return. After three outings, the Rays optioned him to Triple-A Durham for a month. He returned in September, but again he struggled with consistency.

Overall, Faria finished the year registering only 65 innings pitched at the major league level, allowing a total of 39 runs (5.40 ERA / 5.08 FIP). His walk and strikeout percentages were among the worst of his professional career, as well (17.8 K% / 11.7 BB%).

Following his performance in 2017, Faria assumed he’d have a spot on the Rays big league roster in 2018 and he’d be the first to admit that he didn’t properly prepare for the season.

“I think last offseason, I didn’t go into it with the best mental state. Kind of already thinking that I had a job and that I’ll be fine. That kind of stuck in the back of my mind all year.”

Physically and mentally, Faria was not where he wanted or should have been during the 2018 season.

“I was huge. Last year, I just didn’t feel good at any point. I wasn’t in pain, but I didn’t feel good physically. This year it was all about getting to a point where I just feel good physically.”

However, Faria is out to put that behind him.

During the offseason, Faria moved to Las Vegas and began a new workout regimen and showed up to spring training, weighing about 15 pounds less than he did at the start of spring last year.

“Last year wasn’t who I really am,” Faria said. “A lot of articles have pretty much given up on me as a player and I just want to go out there and prove people wrong.”

Early on this spring, Faria has impressed the Rays brass with his bullpen sessions and during his spring debut this past weekend where he pitched a perfect 1 23 innings, picking up three strikeouts, throwing exclusively out of the stretch.

As the spring progresses, the Rays roster will begin to take shape. The starting rotation will feature Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, and Blake Snell. The next two spots will be ‘Opener’ days with bulk guys filling the large gaps. Faria is competing for one of those roles; it will be an exciting few weeks to see if he is able to snag a spot on the Opening Day roster.

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UPDATE - March 11, 2019: Jake Faria to be stretched out as starter

Jake Faria has been impressive this spring. Nonetheless his name appeared on a list of players assigned or optioned to minor league camp. While this must feel discouraging for the player, it is likely a sign that the Rays see Faria as more than an afterthought in their pitching plans.