Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' next generation of star pitchers on cusp of majors

PORT CHARLOTTE — Before Chris Archer envisions the same bright future everyone else does in glancing down the row of lockers in the Rays clubhouse that includes promising pitching prospects Blake Snell, Taylor Guerrieri and Jake Faria, he first sees the past.

"It's so weird," Archer said. "I feel like I'm looking at it from the same perspective (David) Price was my first camp. I feel like it's the exact same thing. And they are going to be so much better two-three years from now, it's unreal."

Whether Snell, Guerrieri and/or Faria turn out to be anywhere near as a good a pitcher as Archer did under Price's tutelage, they represent the crest of the next wave of Rays starters.

And just in time.

As grand of a legacy and as great of a reputation as the Rays have for developing starting pitchers, only one member of their projected starting rotation is homegrown: Matt Moore.

And since Moore debuted at the end of the 2011 season, the only two pitchers to emerge from their system and start a game are Alex Colome (19) and Enny Romero (one), who have both since been converted to relievers.

Though the Rays have been able to build a strong rotation with starters acquired in trade (Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Matt Andriese), it is vital that they grow their own.

That's where Guerrieri, Snell and Faria come in. (And Jaime Schultz, Brent Honeywell and others behind them.)

All three were part of the 2011 draft, the year the Rays were supposed to be restocked for a baseball generation with 10 of the first 60 picks. The overall results have been mixed, but it would have to be considered quite a success if they one day field a rotation that features Guerrieri (their first choice, 24th overall), Snell (seventh, 52nd) and Faria (20th, 330th).

Each has had issues. Guerrieri lost 1½ seasons to Tommy John elbow surgery and a suspension for marijuana use. Snell didn't take the game seriously enough until last season. Faria needed to learn how to pitch and get bigger and stronger.

But now all are on the cusp of breaking through. Snell, 23, has gotten the furthest, reaching Triple-A Durham during his tremendous 15-4, 1.41 season that earned him minor-league player of the year honors, and he should be in the majors at some point this season, perhaps sooner than later. Guerrieri, 23, and Faria, 22, seem likely to start at Double-A Montgomery, where both finished last season, with the potential to provide the Rays with late-season help.

"It's exciting," wily Rays pitching coordinator Dick Bosman said. "I don't want to say at long last, but some of these kids that we signed, nurtured, brought along have had setbacks — Tommy John and so forth, underachieving and all that.

"And pretty soon it's starting to come to fruition. That's what we do, obviously. To see this group come along as they have and as they are — the camaraderie, the friendly competition, which you really, really love — it's all there.

"Who's going to be good and who's not, obviously I couldn't tell you that one. But it's going to be fun watching to find out."

The three share a bond and a kinship, going back to that 2011 summer, and the different paths they took to end up in the clubhouse together this spring.

Guerrieri and Snell talked about it on the ride up to the Trop for the team's Fan Fest a couple of weeks ago.

"Where we were then versus where we are now and everything that has come along with it," Guerrieri said. "And we're really excited for everything that's going to come our way. As long as we stay healthy, I think we're all going to do really well."

Though paired as teammates in just about all the possible combinations, the three have never pitched together on the same team. It could happen this summer at Durham. What would be even better, they all acknowledge, would be to eventually be in the Rays rotation at the same time.

"That," Guerrieri said, "would be like the coolest thing."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

 
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