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Rays Series Preview: Pirates, prospects sail into town

Pittsburgh series offer the Rays a chance to get back on track.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Oneil Cruz
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have continued a tough stretch when it comes to injuries and that has begun to catch up to the Rays in the standings.

Manuel Margot going down with an injury that could potentially see him miss the season is just the latest in a long list of impactful players on the Injured List. Fortunately Wander Franco could be returning as early as this weekend, but there’s still a lot of players that the Rays need to return.

The Rays have fallen to fourth place in the American League East, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Two games separate the Rays from the second place Toronto Blue Jays and the Rays. The Yankees lead is 12.5 games over the Blue Jays, 13.0 games over the Boston Red Sox, 14.5 games over the Rays, and 20.5 games over the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays still hold a 37-32 record and are in the middle of the Wild Card race.


Friday 7:10 PM: Mitch Keller vs Jeffrey Springs
Saturday 1:10 PM: JT Brubaker vs Corey Kluber
Sunday 1:40 PM: Roansy Contreras vs Shane McClanahan

Mitch Keller has been one of the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects since he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft. His transition to the majors started in 2019 and has been lackluster to date. Over 231.1 innings he has put up a 5.68 ERA/4.29 FIP/4.65 xFIP. His FIP and xFIP are solid, but the ERA is rough. He’s put up a 21.2% strikeout rate and 10.4% walk rate. Keller brings a high octane four-seam fastball that has averaged 96.0 mph. His fastball has returned to 2019 form after averaged below 94 mph the last two seasons. He adds a 86.5 mph slider and 79.7 mph curveball. Against left handed batters he adds a 91.8 mph changeup. The slider is his only pitch that he can reliably get a swing and miss.

JT Brubaker has been a pleasant surprise out of a mid level prospect. He’s put up a 4.11 ERA/4.30 FIP/4.36 xFIP over 70.0 innings this year. He has put up a 22.0% strikeout rate and 9.7% walk rate. Brubaker is primarily a two-pitch pitcher. He uses a 93.2 mph sinker and 87.1 mph slider most of the time. He’ll add a 80.3 mph curveball and a 87.4 mph changeup mostly to left handed batters. Brubaker has posted a 40.8% whiff rate on the slider. It’s his go to putaway pitch.

Roansy Contreras was the primary return the Pirates received from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade. Contreras made his MLB debut last year, but this year is the first time he’s gotten a prolonged run. He has posted a 2.89 ERA/4.12 FIP/4.04 xFIP over 37.1 innings. Contreras throws a 96.4 mph four-seam fastball half the time and adds a 85.1 mph slider and 79.6 mph curveball ass his breaking balls of choice. He will infrequently throw a 90.0 mph changeup to left handed batters. The slider is by far his best pitch.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week the Pirates called up their top prospect.

The Pirates have struggled offensively putting up a .221/.290/.362 line and 84 wRC+. The production is third worst in the league and coincides with the third fewest runs.

The Pirates have called up Oneil Cruz. Cruz is unique for a being a shortstop that has the height of Aaron Judge (6’7”). He had a mediocre start in AAA hitting .232/.336/.422 and putting up a 104 wRC+. In 18 plate appearances he’s hit .222/.222/.333 line and has put up a 51 wRC+.

Bryan Reynold continues to be the best offensive player for the Pirates. He’s hit .259/.335/.462 and put up a 121 wRC+. He leads the team with 12 homers.

Ke’Bryan Hayes is an elite defensive third baseman and has put up a solid .264/.340/.381 line and 106 wRC+. He’s already amassed 2.0 fWAR and looks to be on his way to a 4+ win season.