The Rays will call up top pitching prospect Blake Snell for a start on Thursday, manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times). Righty Matt Andriese, who has a 2.82 ERA over seven starts for the Rays this season, will be shifted into a fireman role in the bullpen.
This is the second time Snell has been promoted, as the 23-year-old southpaw was called upon for a spot start against the Yankees on April 23. Snell looked good in his MLB debut, holding New York to one run on two hits and a walk over five innings, recording six strikeouts along the way. He was returned to Triple-A Durham afterwards, where he has enjoyed an impressive season: 3.29 ERA, 12.9 K/9 and a 3.21 K/BB rate over 63 innings.
Cash gave no indication as to how long Snell’s latest stint the Tampa rotation could last, though as Mooney notes, Snell won’t amass enough service time to attain Super Two status should he remain on the Major League roster for the rest of the season. That being the case, there’s little reason the Rays wouldn’t keep the lefty around if he pitches well.
It may be unfair to solely attribute financial reasons to Snell’s minor league stay, of course, as he has exhibited some control issues over his pro career — 28 walks over his 63 Triple-A innings this season and a 4.4 BB/9 over his 485 frames in the minors. An extra bit of Triple-A seasoning also may have been warranted simply due to the fact that Snell (while picked 52nd overall in the 2011 draft) was somewhat of a middling prospect before his breakout 2015 campaign. That massive season saw Snell jump three levels in the Rays’ farm system and land himself a prominent spot on the preseason prospect rankings lists (ranked 12th by Baseball America and MLB.com, 14th by ESPN’s Keith Law, 21st by Baseball Prospectus).
Snell’s continued success this year, however, earned him that April start and now what could be a prolonged look in Tampa’s rotation. The Rays entered the season expecting to be led by their starters, though only Jake Odorizzi and Andriese have performed consistently well. Chris Archer (4.61 ERA), Drew Smyly (4.94) and Matt Moore (5.56) have all had their share of struggles, though advanced metrics indicate that all three are significantly outperforming their inflated ERAs.
Andriese’s 2.82 ERA, by contrast, has perhaps a bit fortunate, as ERA predictors (3.22 FIP, 4.25 xFIP, 4.42 SIERA) paint a less flattering view of his performance. Andriese doesn’t miss many bats (6.04 K/9) and relies on grounders and soft contract to rack up outs. It’s not a dissimilar arsenal to that of Erasmo Ramirez, who has also pitched quite well for Tampa in a fireman role this season. Having a pair of versatile, multi-inning relievers could provide a boost to a Rays bullpen that has been plagued with injuries, most notably closer Brad Boxberger spending almost the entire season on the DL.