With the 2013 season ending in disappointing fashion for the Detroit Tigers with a 4-2 series defeat to the Boston Red Sox, Tigers fans have been patiently waiting for the team to start over again in the spring. Today marks a new beginning for the team as the 2014 baseball season officially opens with pitchers and catchers reporting to the team’s spring home in Lakeland, Florida.
The offseason saw a huge overhaul for the Tigers. The major headline was that the team shipped off Prince Fielder and his massive contract to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Jhonny Peralta also walked away, leaving the shortstop position in the gifted hands of Jose Iglesias. Finally, the team traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed relief pitcher Ian Krol and minor league prospect Robbie Ray.
Ray was considered the “gem” in the Fister deal and is currently ranked as the 10th best left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. He is currently 22-years old and grew up in Brentwood, TN, which is where he played his high school ball. Ray was drafted in the 12th round (No. 356 overall) in the 2010 draft by the Nationals.
During his time in the Nationals’ farm system in 2013, he struck out 160 batters in 142 innings of work between class-A Potomac and double-A Harrisburg. Over that time period, he had a record of 15-17 with an ERA of 4.73. While his win-loss record and ERA don’t jump off the page, his 10.1 K/9 and K/BB ratio of 2.58 are rather impressive. His fastball also ranked 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is second among left-handed pitchers in the top 10.
Ray is likely to start the season in triple-A Toledo, but is getting a chance to show his stuff during spring training. While it is unlikely that he will make the team’s Opening Day roster, the Tigers are excited about his future. He highlights the list of non-roster invitees that also includes Duane Below, Blaine Hardy, Jhan Martinez, Luis Marte, Eduardo Sanchez and Drew VerHagen. We’ll see what Ray brings to the table as Spring Training officially kicks off for the Tigers today.