The Tampa Bay Rays are acquiring RHP Shawn Armstrong from the Baltimore Orioles ahead of this afternoon’s trade deadline, sending cash considerations to get the deal done.
A veteran of seven seasons in the majors, the 30-year old Armstrong was outrighted from the 40-man roster in June after putting up an 8.55 ERA this season, and therefore does not take up a roster spot at this time, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for the Rays to unlock.
Armstrong features a four seam fastball that sits in the mid 90’s an ranks in the 99th percentile in spin rate. It gets a solid amount of swings and misses, with a 30.4 percent Whiff rate.
Here are a few videos of it in action, first getting Rays outfielder Manuel Margot to swing and miss up in the zone. He leans on the pitch quite a bit, throwing it more than 50 percent of the time.
And here is Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres swinging and missing on virtually the same pitch.
There is a lot to like here, but there is also some room for improvement. While Armstrong’s fastball has spin to spare, at just 85 percent spin efficiency, his 10.07 inches of rise on average is good, but could be better. In 2020, his four seamer had 75 percent spin efficiency, so it is something he has already worked on.
Armstrong features two breaking balls, but the one he throws the most if the cutter, going to it about 40 percent of the time. As far as spin, it is also in the 99th percentile, as only four pitchers in baseball have more spin on pitches classified as cutters.
The pitch tunnels wall off of his fastball thanks to great horizontal movement. It also gets a swings and misses at a solid clip, coming in at a 32.6 percent whiff rate. Here it is doing just that against former Rays outfielder Rob Refsnyder.
Finally, Armstong features a slider, but he seldom goes to it. By swing and miss and batted ball metrics, it is his worst pitch, but it is still an intriguing one.
As you might have guessed, it’s another 99th percentile pitch in terms of spin rate, and gets very good two plane movement. So long as Armstrong can command the pitch below the zone as a chase pitch, it can be quite good, as seen here:
But it can also lead to some bad outcomes if left in the zone, as seen here:
In addition to an interesting repertoire, Armstrong also gets great extension on his pitches.
At six feet, two inches tall, he is able to release the ball over six and a half feet from the rubber. This helps the fastball play a little faster, while helping the breaking balls break a little later, which of course is advantageous to pitchers.
This is clearly something the Rays value, as the pitching staff on average has the best extension in baseball.
Given all of these factors, and that a roster spot is not required to bring him into the fold, acquiring Shawn Armstrong for cash considerations was an easy yes for the Rays front office.