JULY 30: Poche has indeed undergone Tommy John surgery, the Rays announced.
JULY 21: Rays lefty Colin Poche has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and will miss the 2020 season, the team announced. Tommy John surgery has been recommended for the 26-year-old Poche, who has been placed on the 45-day injured list. Tampa Bay selected veteran catcher Kevan Smith to the big league roster in a corresponding move.
The loss of Poche is a tough blow for the Tampa Bay bullpen. While last season’s 4.70 ERA doesn’t exactly stand out as an impressive mark. Poche’s secondary numbers were all considerably better. The southpaw averaged 12.5 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings pitched with a 4.08 FIP in 51 2/3 frames.
In spite of that unsightly ERA, Poche overwhelmed both left- and right-handed hitters, yielding just a .167/.276/.348 slash to lefties and a .190/.277/.388 line to righties. A 67.6 percent strand rate that was vastly worse than his career mark in the minors, and Statcast pegged Poche in the 91st percentile or better in terms of swinging-strike rate and his opponents’ expected batting average, slugging percentage and weight on-base average. A breakout season for the talented lefty seemed eminently possible, but he could now be sidelined into late 2021 — if not all the way into the 2022 season.
Poche will get a year of service time in 2020 as he rehabs on the 45-day IL, and he’ll need to be placed on the 60-day IL to open the 2021 season as well. If he is indeed out until 2022, he may be arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player by the time he’s able to return to the mound, although with 114 days under his belt at the moment, he’d be a very borderline case for Super Two status.
As for the 32-year-old Smith, he’ll likely make the club’s roster as a backup catcher. Smith has seen time in each of the past four seasons — 2016-18 with the White Sox and 2019 with the Angels — hitting a combined .272/.318/.381 along the way. That’s pretty solid production from behind the plate, but Smith also owns a woeful 14 percent caught stealing rate and has posted sub-par framing numbers as well.