It’s easy for a team to considering rushing their top prospects to the big leagues, but the Tampa Bay Rays have traditionally been patient with their best young talent. Their recent run of success leaves little room for argument with that approach, as they attempt to stay competitive without the financial resources of other perennial playoff contenders and keep top talent in the fold as long as possible.
The Rays traded starting pitcher James Shields to the Kansas City Royals in December of 2012, and one of the young players they got in return was pitcher Jake Odorizzi. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Durham, going 9-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 22 starts (124.1 innings), and he had a 3.94 ERA in seven outings (four starts) for Tampa Bay.
Odorizzi was going to be in the mix for a spot in the Rays’ starting rotation during spring training no matter what, but his path got a little easier last week with the news that Jeremy Hellickson will be out until May after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in late January. Alex Colome and Enny Romero look like Odorizzi’s main remaining competition, along with the recently signed Erik Bedard, but the former first-round pick (32nd overall in 2008 by the Milwaukee Brewers) has to be considered the front runner at this point.
David Price and Matt Moore are locked into the top two spots in Tampa Bay’s rotation, but if Odorizzi pitches well this spring I think he could usurp Alex Cobb and Chris Archer and earn the No. 3 spot in the starting rotation behind the two left-handed aces.