When the Rays traded Blake Snell to the Padres, they were able to turn a couple years of Blake Snell into a couple of prospects, adding to the system a potential everyday catcher in Blake Hunt, but importantly adding Snell’s successor.
And the first taste of the future is here in the promotion of Luis Patiño.
Luis Patiño, @MLBPipeline’s No. 23 overall prospect and part of the reported haul for the Rays, is one of the best young arms in the game. pic.twitter.com/xFf6Xby1eS— MLB (@MLB) December 28, 2020
Promoted to the Rays five years and two days after the date Snell himself was promoted, Luis Patiño is a different pitcher but has the potential to reach that same Cy Young ceiling, and I write that knowing exactly how crazy those words look on the page when it remains a question in the prospect blogosphere whether he will stick in the rotation or move to the bullpen.
The San Diego Padres were not ready to bet on Patiño as a member of the rotation, having used him in relief during the playoffs, and having had a very quick ascent through the minors. The Rays have stretched him back out this off season, following his acquisition, with his most recent outing in 2021 lasting four innings on the alternate fields, per reports.
Today, he’s technically an Opener for Josh Fleming, allowing the Rays to simply see how far he can go. With the pandemic shortened season last year messing with workloads and increasing the risk of injury to all players, Patiño will get the kid gloves to start his Rays career, but that’s not a reflection of his very real maybe-just-a-reliever risk.
When you navigate to his profile on FanGraphs, the Prospects TLDR sums him up well: “Patiño dishes premium stuff out of a smallish frame. His critics see a future reliever, but the majority sees a plus big-league starter.” That question — starter or reliever — does not need answered today. And that’s best for everyone involved.
In terms of stuff, El Electrico’s best comp is Sixto Sánchez, but where Patiño has a better fastball/slider combo (and therefore a higher overall ceiling), he cannot compare to Sánchez’s lights out change up, at least in his current form at age-21.
We saw very little of Patiño in Spring Training — just 3.0 innings over three appearances, and just one single strikeout. It came on a high fastball, you know the Rays way:
First Luis Patiño action in a #Rays uniform! MLB's No. 18 overall prospect striking out one batter in a scoreless frame. pic.twitter.com/cO2AMnA8qW— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 4, 2021
Without much of a look we don’t know what the Rays coaching staff has been able to unlock, but even if he’s the same as he was it’s surely going to be fun to watch.