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Eagerly awaiting Shane McClanahan

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He made his debut in the playoffs, a rare feat. When is he here to stay?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Shane McClanahan made history last season when he was the first pitcher to make his major league debut in the playoffs. He is a top Rays prospect, and has been dominant in his limited spring appearances. In three innings pitched, he’s struck out seven and only given up one hit.

It’s amazing how quickly that has come about. 2019 was his first full season in the minor leagues, finishing the year in Double-A. In 53 innings at that level, McClanahan yielded a high strike out rate and low home run rate, but gave up quite a few walks.

Shane McClanahan Double-A Stats

Level IP K/9 HR/9 BB/9
Level IP K/9 HR/9 BB/9
Double-A 53 12.6 0.5 5.3

He spent last season with the Rays at their alternate training camp before being called up in the ALDS, which provided great experience even if it did not provide service time.

Since he was trusted in such a big spot in the playoffs, it might have come as a surprise that McClanahan was officially cut from the Opening Day roster. But that doesn’t mean he still won’t make an impact this season and beyond.

Why Didn’t McClanahan Make the Opening Day Roster?

Shane McClanahan pitched in the World Series and has been even better thus far in Spring Training, so why won’t he be starting the year at the major league level?

This isn’t controversial: He’s not ready yet.

Despite his brief appearance in the playoffs last season, McClanahan is not ready for the majors quite yet. He started 2019 in Low A ball, and advanced to Double-A by the end of the year, where he played four games at the Double-A level. McClanahan made the leap to the majors as a reliever out of necessity following injuries to lefties Jose Alvarado and Cody Reed, but needs to spend some more time in the minors as a stretched out starter, especially at Triple-A, before he makes a permanent leap into the majors.

Generally speaking, the Rays don’t rush their prospects. They tend to move them along slowly to ensure their preparedness. They view McClanahan as a high-ceiling pitcher, and want to ensure he is ready when he assumes his role on the 26 man roster.

McClanahan is a starter

Shane McClanahan is being developed in the Rays’ organization as a starting pitcher. Given the Rays’ full rotation for this season, there is not currently a role for him on the major league team.

The Rays have indicated that this year is a transitional year for them, which helps explain why they signed pitchers like Archer, Wacha, and Hill all to one year deals. In 2022, several of the Rays’ top prospects will be ready, including Luis Patiño, Brent Honeywell, Josh Fleming, Wander Franco, Vidal Bruján, and others. At that point, we are more likely to see McClanahan assume his role in the starting rotation alongside his peers, likely by design.

One exciting thing to keep an eye on for when McClanahan does make an appearance in the majors is a new pitch, another thing he’ll be working on in Triple-A this season. Rays GM Erik Neander told Draysbay that McClanahan tested out a slider grip prior to spring training. He threw it for pitching coach Kyle Snyder and is in the process of developing it further.

Adding a new pitch to his repertoire will make McClanahan an even greater weapon, and helps his case of becoming a member of the Rays’ starting rotation.

What Impact will Shane McClanahan Make this Season?

Even though McClanahan is not on the 26-man roster for Opening Day, he can still make an appearance this year. There are three circumstances in particular that I can see McClanahan making an impact:

1. If there’s an injury

McClanahan is a strong candidate to be called up if one of the members of the rotation get injured. He could also fill in as bulk or bullpen as needed, if necessary, if things get dire.

2. If the Rays are in Playoff Contention

If the Rays are fighting for a playoff spot and feel they have a shot, I could see them calling up McClanahan to help get them over the hump, capitalizing on his quality of stuff like they did during the playoffs.

3. If the Rays are way out of the Playoffs

McClanahan can be a September call-up if the Rays have no chance at the postseason at that point. He would benefit by getting some experience against major league hitters once the Rays have shifted their focus to 2022.

While we are excited for McClanahan to join the team permanently, and we will have to wait a little longer, but when he is called up this season, we can certainly expect great things from him.