Tampa Bay entered the winter with several holes to fill and one giant question at the top of the rotation. To address these questions and stabilize the rotation, the Rays solidified their lineup this offseason and resigned staff ace David Price. While Tampa Bay made it known they would consider trade proposals for Price, the Rays ultimately resigned the 2012 AL Cy Young winner to a one-year $14 Million contract. With Price at the helm, the Rays rotation can be dominant in 2014. Behind him are young arms Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer. Each has excellent potential and has shown flashes of brilliance at the MLB level. Rounding out the group are Jeremy Hellickson and Jeff Niemann. Tampa Bay is hoping Hellickson can remain a reliable back of the rotation innings eater, while Jeff Niemann is coming off a lost season in 2013 after having shoulder surgery. Making cameo appearances that could turn into part-time roles are pitching prospects Enny Romero and Jake Odorizzi.
2014 Tampa Bay Rays - Pitching Staff Preview
2013 Stats: 186.2 IP, 16 HR, 5.59 K/BB, 7.28 K/9, 10 W, 8 L, 1.10 WHIP, 3.33 ERA
Resigning Price this winter could be the most important offseason move in all of MLB. Though other signings may generate more publicity, there is no doubt Price is the Rays' best pitcher, and one of the most dominant throughout MLB. Having Price at the top of the rotation could be the critical piece to propel Tampa Bay past AL East rivals, and into the franchise's second World Series appearance.
Since he was resigned to a team-record $14 Million contract, Price is unlikely to be traded in 2014. Though Tampa’s payroll has risen to “unsustainable” levels, in GM Andrew Friedman’s words, the Rays have committed to winning this season and feel comfortable letting Price play out the remainder of his contract.
After struggling early, then missing starts due to injury, Price rejoined the rotation late in the year and was dominant. Though Price struggled to equal his past production in 2013, mostly due to missing 44 games with a left triceps strain, and threw a career low 186.2 innings, when he returned he was excellent. Down the stretch Price was 9-4 and led MLB in innings pitched and complete games. Price’s ERA rose slightly in 2013, (3.29) compared to (2.56) in 2012, but his WHIP remained a rock solid (1.10) in 2013, his exact mark in 2012. Price is a workhorse, throwing 200+ IP from 2010 through 2012 and set a career best K/BB (5.59) in 2013. Price is also working smarter by throwing less pitches per start, with a 100.3 /GS, his best mark since 2009. He ended 2013 with (151) SO and a (7.28) K/9 rate. Price is not trending down. His career WHIP is actually higher, (1.16) than each of the last two seasons (1.10). He will remain the Rays' staff ace and should have an excellent 2014 season for Tampa Bay.
2013 Stats: 150.1 IP, 14 HR, 143 SO, 1.88 K/BB, 8.56 K/9, 17 W, 4 L, 1.30 WHIP, 3.29 ERA
Moore is coming into his third full MLB season and will turn twenty-five in June. He was a top pitching prospect in the Minors and has shown flashes of brilliance for the Rays, but has yet to prove he can dominate consistently at the Major League level. While no one doubts the potential of his stuff, Moore has struggled with consistency and control issues. After recording an impressive 175 K while tossing 177.1 IP in his first full MLB season in 2012, Moore regressed to 143 SO and 150.1 IP in 2013.
Moore has top-of-the-rotation talent and the Rays are hoping he will become a consistent 200+ IP, 200+ SO performer in coming years. Though he did struggle with his command at times last season with 76 BB, he still turned in a 17-4 record. Moore did show signs of maturing on the mound in 2013 as he lowered both his WHIP (from 1.35 in 2012 to 1.30 in 2013) and ERA (from 3.81 in 2012 to 3.29 in 2013). His control issues may remain an issue however, evidenced by 1.88 K/BB rate in 2013. Moore did record a Rays' high 8.56 K/9 among in 2013. Look for Moore to put up close to a K per IP while struggling with his command. If he shows improved control, he'll be an early season trade target as he has the potential to become a staff ace.
2013 Stats: 143.1 IP, 13 HR, 134 SO, 2.98 K/BB, 8.41 K/9, 11 W, 3 L, 1.15 WHIP, 2.76 ERA
In 2013 Cobb delivered his best season yet. Now Cobb is entering his fourth MLB season and will be twenty-seven in October. Heading into 2014 Cobb will look to build on a breakout season in 2013 where he set career highs with 143.1 IP and 134 SO. His WHIP also dropped to a career low 1.15, while he cut more than a run from his ERA, finishing with an impressive 2.76 mark. After Price, Cobb may be the Rays' most consistent pitcher. He may not exhibit the swing-and-miss stuff of the others, but he's showing improving command and control. He ended the season with impressive 8.41 K/9 and 2.98 K/BB. Cobb’s numbers are trending upward and he should have another impressive season in 2014. Draft him with confidence as a middle-round pitcher who can easily out perform his draft slot.
2013 Stats: 128.2 IP, 15 HR, 101 SO, 2.66 K/BB, 7.07 K/9, 9 W, 7 L, 1.13 WHIP, 3.22 ERA
Another impressive young arm in the Rays rotation is the right-handed Chris Archer. Archer is twenty-five, entering his third MLB season and only his second full season as a consistent contributor. Archer stayed healthy last season and threw 128.2 IP, a number he can surely eclipse as he becomes a mainstay in the rotation in 2014. His K/BB numbers were unimpressive in 2013, so he'll look to better that in 2014. He is vulnerable to the big inning however, not uncommon for a young arm, and surrendered 15 HR on 107 H to a 3.22 ERA in 2013. Archer should be a solid contributor in 2014 and will be a good late round pick and back of the fantasy rotation starter.
2013 Stats: 174 IP, 24 HR, 135 SO, 2.70 K/BB, 6.98 K/9, 12 W, 10 L, 1.35 WHIP, 5.17 ERA
Putting the cap on Tampa Bay’s five-man rotation is right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson is only twenty-six, though along with Price seems a veteran on this young Rays' staff. He's been a consistent innings-eater for Tampa, recording 170+ IP the last three seasons. Alarmingly though his ERA is tending upward, from a career-best 2.97 in 2011 to a distressing 5.07 last season. Since the beginning of 2012 Hellickson’s ERA has jumped almost two runs from a respectable 3.10 in 2012. t goes to show that his 2011 number was the result of BABIP luck, and that he's not actually a sub-3 ERA pitcher. Troubling trends also include his WHIP, which has increased from 1.15 in 2011 to 1.35 in 2013. On the positive side, while Hellickson’s ERA and WHIP have gone up, his control has improved. He is throwing slightly fewer pitchers per start 91.8 and has upped his K/9 and K/BB rates the last two seasons. He ended 2013 with 6.98 K/9 compared to 6.31 in 2012, and (2.70) K/BB in 2013 compared to 2.10 in 2012. Hellickson is a gamble because of his inconsistent numbers and shouldn't be relied upon as anything more than the final pitcher in your fantasy rotation.