The Rays are set to call up pitching prospect Anthony Banda, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin notes that it’s not yet clear whether the left-hander will merely be the 26th man for Saturday’s doubleheader or if he’ll be earning a longer look at the MLB level.
The centerpiece in the surprising trade in which Tampa Bay traded Steven Souza Jr. to the Diamondbacks, Banda has gotten off to a strong start in Triple-A Durham this season. Through 36 innings, the 24-year-old has posted a 44-to-16 K/BB ratio (11.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9) with a 42.1 percent ground-ball rate and just one homer allowed. The resulting 3.50 ERA is bloated to an extent by a .375 average on balls in play behind Banda, with metrics like FIP (2.72) and xFIP (3.25) providing a more bullish outlook on his performance.
It won’t be the first MLB look for Banda, who pitched in eight games for the Diamondbacks in 2018 but struggled to a near-6.00 ERA in that small sample of work. The former top 100 prospect — Baseball America ranked him 88th heading into 2017 — had a rough season in both Triple-A and the Majors last year, but he’s looked much more like the 2016 version of himself so far with his new club.
Whether this proves to be a spot start or a longer-term audition for Banda, it’s hard to argue that he won’t have a crack at stepping into the team’s rotation at some point this season. The Rays entered the year planning to utilize a four-man rotation (Chris Archer, Jake Faria, Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi) with the would-be fifth slot in the pitching order being a “bullpen day” each week. However, Eovaldi was hurt early on in the season and has yet to pitch at the big league level.
Meanwhile prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon were lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery, while right-hander Yonny Chirinos, who’d stepped up as the fourth starter in place of Eovaldi, is now out for a month himself. Whether in a traditional starting role or in a hybrid capacity on the team’s bullpen days, Banda should earn a chance to prove that he can be a fixture on the Tampa Bay pitching staff for years to come in the near future.