May 27: The Rays will select the contract of left-hander Joe LaSorsa prior to Sunday’s game with the Dodgers, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). LaSorsa was scratched from his scheduled start tonight with Triple-A Durham and now looks to be on the verge of his MLB debut.
Since LaSorsa isn’t on the 40-man roster, the Rays will have to make at least one corresponding move to fit the southpaw onto the active 26-man roster. Topkin speculates that Trevor Kelley might be optioned to Triple-A after throwing two innings in today’s game with Los Angeles, so LaSorsa would represent a fresh arm for Tampa’s bullpen.
An 18th-round pick for the Rays in the 2019 draft, LaSorsa has a 2.87 ERA over 203 2/3 career innings in the minors. That includes a 3.86 ERA over 21 innings with Durham this season, with LaSorsa starting three of his nine games in his first taste of Triple-A ball. His 8.4% walk rate and especially his low 13.7% strikeout rate don’t stand out, and neither Baseball America or MLB Pipeline rank the left-hander amongst Tampa Bay’s top 30 prospects.
That said, LaSorsa has better peripheral numbers in past minor league seasons, and his ability to eat multiple innings and dominate left-handed batters has clearly caught the Rays’ attention. As Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen put it in a preseason look at Tampa Bay’s farm system, LaSorsa’s fastball “only sits 84-86 but [he] commands the hell out of a plus slider and is nice LOOGY depth.”
The Rays have been rolling this season despite a relatively underwhelming performance from their bullpen, which sits in the bottom half of the league in several major statistical categories. While LaSorsa may not be the absolute answer to the Rays’ bullpen needs, the team’s enviable amount of minor league pitching depth gives them plenty of options as they shuffle arms and try to find the right reliever mix.