The Rays are bringing up highly touted right-hander Jose De Leon prior to tonight’s game, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. ESPN’s Buster Olney first reported that De Leon “appeared” to be on his way to the Majors (Twitter link). Per Topkin, De Leon won’t immediately be placed into the rotation, as Erasmo Ramirez is still lined up to make tonight’s start even after pitching the final inning of yesterday’s 15-inning game with the Twins.
Acquired from the Dodgers in a straight-up swap for Logan Forsythe this offseason, De Leon has frequented top prospect rankings for the better part of the past three years. He entered the 2017 campaign rated No. 29 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list and rated 33rd, 38th and 73rd on the respective lists of MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law. A flexor injury has limited De Leon to just 8 1/3 innings in 2017, but he turned in a brilliant 2.61 ERA with 11.6 K/9 with 2.1 BB/9 in 86 Triple-A innings last year. De Leon also made four starts for the Dodgers in 2016, though he limped to a 6.35 ERA in 17 frames.
It could prove to be a short stay for De Leon this time around, as his promotion appears to be somewhat out of necessity. (Topkin notes that in addition to Ramirez starting one day after recording a save, the Rays also had three relievers throw more than 30 pitches yesterday.) The Rays, after all, don’t have a lot of room in the rotation thanks to strong starts to the season from Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Ramirez and Matt Andriese — each of whom carries an ERA of 3.67 or better.
That said, it may not be long before a spot for De Leon materializes. Even with a 27-26 record, the Rays are still often suggested as a candidate to field offers their starting pitchers this summer. That, of course, wouldn’t necessarily be akin to waving a white flag on the 2017 season; rather, the Rays have the pitching depth to be able to deal from their big league rotation in order to acquire controllable help in other areas without necessarily hampering their chances in 2017. In addition to De Leon, the Rays have Jacob Faria and Ryan Yarbrough pitching well in the Triple-A rotation, while lefty Blake Snell has struck out 21 batters in 11 2/3 innings since being optioned earlier this month. Cobb, in particular, is an oft-mentioned trade candidate, given his status as an impending free agent.