During the 2018 season, Peter Fairbanks was recovering from a second Tommy John surgery and having serious doubts about his future as a professional baseball player.
He knew he had to make changes, even before tearing his UCL during the 2017 season.
Taken by the Texas Rangers in the ninth round of the 2015 draft, Fairbanks rise through the Rangers farm system was a slow ascent. Dealing with a lack of command as well a low strikeout rate, Fairbanks wasn’t bringing much to the table to make him standout. When he tore his UCL in 2017, he had a 5.79 ERA in High-A, and a walk rate a few points higher than his 11.8 K%.
However, during his rehab, Fairbanks joined the Rangers during their instruction fall league and constructed a new delivery that he learned as he watched catchers and infielders throw. The new change in his delivery led to a jump in velocity for Fairbanks.
“The rehab team was all on board with it,” Fairbanks said. “It’s happened really fast. It’s still baseball. It’s just in front of a lot more people who really care how you do. I knew if I sucked this year, I’d be released, probably.”
Prior to being drafted, Fairbanks pitched regularly in the low 90’s, to go along with a so-so slider that occasionally decided to not have any movement.
After his mechanical change, Fairbanks’ fastball started clocking in the upper 90’s. Along with the increased velocity, Fairbanks worked on improving his slider, by altering the grip. These changes led to him being a completely different pitcher on the mound.
When he made his return in 2019, Fairbanks was again placed in High-A and his strikeout percentage ballooned to 29.4%. He lasted only 11 games in High-A before being promoted to Double-A as the Rangers placed him on the fast track to the big leagues. After six games in Double-A, Fairbanks was on his way to Triple-A, and then after just four games, Fairbanks made it all the way to the majors.
Fairbanks strikeouts didn’t stop along the way as he continued to rack up the K’s, including in the Major Leagues. He has a 37.4 strikeout percentage overall in 2019 across the four levels he has played, with a 36.6 K% in the show.
With the addition of Fairbanks, the Rays add a reliever who could potentially turn into a dominant arm in the backend of their bullpen. For the time being, he will report to Triple-A Durham where he’ll continue to work to harness control of his newly acquired high octane.