The Tampa Bay Rays have set their Opening Day roster two days ahead of the first game, optioning offseason acquisition RHP Emilio Pagan in favor of LHP Adam Kolarek.
Kolarek was a dark horse once the roster decisions were narrowed to five names for three spots: LHP Jalen Beeks, RHP Wilmer Font, RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Hunter Wood, and LHP Adam Kolarek.
Beeks was the earliest winner among the competing arms, having added velocity and deception this offseason, while Font (who was out of options) showed enough to secure his place this week.
With the Rays set to face the right handed heavy Houston Astros in the opening series, the conventional wisdom was that Wood or Pagan would be the favorites for the final spot. Wood has high velocity stuff with aspirations of high leverage relief, while Pagan came to the Rays in a costly trade. And with Kolarek’s breaking ball still a work in progress, his selection is a mild surprise.
Kolarek had a near-4.00 ERA in 2018 with a 13.5% strikeout rate (10% K-BB) and stranded only 65.9 % of baserunners in 34.1 innings. Pagan was a year removed from a 3.22 ERA and has a career 26% strikeout rate (20.1% K-BB) and stranded 80% of runners in 2018 in 62 innings. Wood held a 3.70 ERA with a 23.5% strikeout rate (13.4% K-BB) with 79% LOB while functioning as an Opener along the way in 41.0 innings. Historical data adds ambiguity to the decision.
In Kolarek’s favor are his 2.58 FIP in 2018, his remarkably low walk rate in the majors (3.6% in 2018), his high strikeout rate in the minors (29.2% in Triple-A in 2018), a plus-plus groundball generating ability (as Adam noted yesterday), an expected wOBA trending well in the right direction...
... and his ability to do this to lefites.
As for the two pitchers who didn’t make the cut, the Rays will of course make use of both Wood (who can get high leverage reps in the meantime) and Pagan (who had an impressive Spring) eventually.
Cash said Pagan will “be a huge part” of the team this season, but likes the lefty Kolarek in some of the first couple series— Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) March 26, 2019
With the final decision determined, here’s a look at the Rays 25-man roster for Opening Day 2019 (* indicates left handed play; there are no switch hitters to be noted):
Jose De Leon