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Columnist: Koby Schellenger
Devil Ray Pitching
April 22, 2007
Over the last few years the news in Tampa has been about the position player prospects coming through the system. From guys like Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff and Rocco Baldelli to the more recent flood including Elijah Dukes, Delmon Young, B.J. Upton and Johnny Gomes, the Devil Rays have always been a system of position players with little to no pitching talent in the big leagues, or the minors. Although the system is still stocked with some position player talent like Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria, the pitchers are starting to rally. Every time the Rays send out a guy who couldn't cut it for the Toledo Mud Hens, these guys are licking their chops to prove what they can do in the Big Show.
Triple-A, Durham Bulls
Jason Hammel-20 2/3 innings pitched. 15 hits, 8 walks, 6 earned runs. 21 strikeouts. 1.11 WHIP, 2.61 ERA.
Though he's repeating Triple-A, Hammel is putting up good numbers. He works the ball well all over the strikezone. He's got a good low-90s fastball with some good movement. He's got a good curve ball but needs to throw it for strikes in order to be truly effective. He's really only got the two pitches at the moment but has been working on refining his changeup. He's a back of the rotation guy at the major league level in an average rotation.
J.P. Howell-20 2/3 innings pitched. 25 hits, 9 walks, 14 earned runs. 20 stikeouts. 1.65 WHIP, 6.10 ERA.
Howell was acquired in the Joey Gathright trade last season from the Royals and thus far, has not done nay better with the DRays. I doubt we ever see him in the big leagues but he does provide some hope as he is still displaying some degree of talent.
Seth McClung-9 1/3 innings pitched. 11 hits, 7 walks, 3 earned runs. 10 strikeouts. 1.93 WHIP, 2.89 ERA.
McClung was ultimately supposed to be a closer. Things changed. Nonetheless, like Howell, he does display some talent. He throws hard, reaching the upper 90s in most of his outings and compliments it with a nice curve ball. Control and pitching smarts seem to be his big downfall.
Jeff Niemann-15 innings pitched. 11 hits, 5 walks, 5 earned runs. 17 strikeouts. 1.07 WHIP, 3.00 ERA.
Niemann is perhaps the most talented Tampa pitcher. Though injury concerns loom large, Niemann is a real talented pitcher. He throws in the mid 90s with a hard slider. Additionally, he's been working on improving his change and curve. If he can develop these pitches into even average pitches, he'll be a very good addition to the Devil Rays major league team. He needs a full-season of healthy pitching to develop into the pitcher he can become.
Chad Orvella-9 innings pitched. 7 hits, 3 walks, 5 earned runs. 11 strikeouts. 1.11 WHIP, 5.00 ERA.
Orvella was, like McClung, earmarked for the closer role at some point. Things changed. After a rocky couple outings in the major leagues, Orvella finds himself in Durham working on his stuff. His best pitch is his changeup which makes his average fastball look better. He might not have the makeup to become a closer but he is destined to provide some much needed relief for the Devil Rays bullpen.
Andy Sonnastine-16 innings pitched. 13 hits, 4 walks, 7 earned runs. 19 strikeouts. 1.06 WHIP, 3.94 ERA.
Sonnastine isn't a very traditional pitcher. His fastball is relatively slow sitting in the mid- to upper-80s. He throws a slurvy type pitch as well. He does a great job of controlling and locating his pitches. Sonnastine needs some work yet before he's ready but he's certainly on pace to be a contributor in 2008.
Mitch Talbot-14 innings pitched. 15 hits, 7 walks, 9 earned runs. 10 strikeouts. 1.57 WHIP, 5.79 ERA.
Talbot was acquired in the Aubrey Huff deal in 2006 from the Houston Astros. Talbot doesn't offer anything incredible or hope-inspiring. By most accounts he's an average pitcher who could develop into a serviceable major league pitcher. But the good news is that he could be ready soon.
Wade Davis-15 1/3 innings pitched. 16 hits, 5 walks, 6 earned runs. 11 strikeouts. 1.37 WHIP, 3.52 ERA.
Davis works in the mid-90s on his fastball but without good movement. He throws a good hard-breaking 11-5 curve ball with a good slider. All of his breaking pitches move sharply. Davis needs to work on being more consistent with his pitches and locate them better. But he has experienced success throughout his professional career. He's a very good strikeout pitcher.
Jacob McGee-14 2/3 innings pitched. 8 hits, 5 walks, 1 earned run. 19 strikeouts. 0.89 WHIP, 0.61 ERA.
Fastball sits in the low-90s with very good movement. He also throws a good curve and change. Both have good, deceptive movement with good velocity. His control is a little off at times and he's walked more batters than he'd like. He has very good potential.
Wade Townsend-19 innings pitched. 13 hits, 7 walks, 5 earned runs. 25 strikeouts. 1.05 WHIP, 2.37 ERA.
Townsend has already had Tommy John surgery and although that isn't the worst thing that could happen to a pitcher anymore, it isn't good when a pitcher isn't above A-ball and has had a major injury. His fastball works in the low 90s. He's got a good curveball and a good changeup. Injuries are a big concern for him and making a real assessment of him is tough as much of it is off what he did before a major surgery and still in college.
It's amazing the talent that the D-Rays have in their system....it's just too bad their in the AL BEAST.
I think it's fairly likely that in 2008 and 2009 they challenge for 3rd in the division. Their offense is loaded with talent and if some of their minor league pitchers pan out and they can potentially get one or two relievers via FA or trade, they'll be a force for a few years before their players are eligible for free agency.
Niemann is easily the pride of the rays pitching system right now... there's a chance that he comes up this year but I seriously doubt that they would rush him.
Sonnastine is a fan favorite because of his unique pitching style, you should see him next year.
Orvella and McClung are both frustrating stories. McClung of course used to be in the rotation but after his lack of performance they sent him down to groom him as a closer. After putting forth nothing but ugly saves or blown saves, it looked like it wasn't gonna work out and he didn't make the 25-man this year. Orvella has been being groomed for the spot for years but whenever he comes up he just gets blown up. With every game it gets more obvious that SOMETHING has to be done in the rays pen though. Ruddy Lugo, Shawn Camp, and Brian Stokes have been absolutely torn into pieces. I'd post their stats up here but I might punch a wall in a fit of rage, and I'm sitting in an english class right now so that might be considered inappropriate.
Why don't Tampa just deal one of their many OFs (Rocco, Dukes, or Upton?) for a established reliever?
Because you don't trade young superstud hitters for journeymen middle relievers.
Dee dee dee.
Established relievers falter all the time and tend to be older.
I think that they should trade Dukes for some starting pitching. They have a pretty good #1 an ok #2 but there #3,4,5 should be in the minors
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