As the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitchers report for training camp, it starts with a simple question.
Who’s the ace?
And if there isn’t one, who’s, say, the Jack of Clubs?
The Rays want to believe they have a good staff, a staff that will keep them in the AL East race. For that to happen, however, a lot of guys are going to have to have a lot better seasons than they did last year.
Chris Archer led the major leagues in losses last season with 19. Oh, his era (4.02) wasn’t bad enough to support all of those defeats, but he did give up 30 home run balls. That’s too many. Archer is only 41-51 in his career despite his strikeout totals, which suggests focus might be an issue. But if Archer can even go 14-14 this season, it’ll help.
Alex Cobb was the Rays’ starting pitcher the year he injured his rotator cuff. He struggled last year with a 1-2 record and an 8.59 ERA. But he’s talking like the wing has healed, and he expects to be a pitcher again this year. That would help if the Rays are looking for arm help.
Jake Odorizzi is the Rays’ new four million dollar man, which makes it easy to wonder how long he’ll be here. Odorizzi had the best season last year of anyone on the staff, going 10-6 with a 3.69 ERA.
Blake Snell, the baby of the rotation, was 6-8 last year but with a 3.54 ERA. He struck out 98 batters in 89 innings, showing there is more there once he learns the league. He’s only 24, so the future looks good.
Jose De Leon came over in the Logan Forsythe trade. He was 2-0 with the Dodgers in a late call-up, but his ERA was only 6.35. Still, De Leon had good enough statistics to merit consideration for the big league team early in the season.
Matt Andriese was 8-8 last year, which isn’t a bad record for a team that won only 68 times. He had an ERA of 4.37. He can pitch in the pen and out of it. He isn’t likely to be an ace, but he could be a good back-of-rotation pitcher.
Chase Whitley is the forgotten man of the Rays’ staff. He’s more of a contender for the team’s No. 5 starter than its No. 1 after one one start due to Tommy John surgery a year ago. Still, he ‘s worth keeping an eye on.
Is there enough there to build a staff? How about a good staff?
If the Rays are going to be a player in the upcoming season, it’ll have to be.