Rays undecided about rookie Jake McGee’s role for 2011

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After sitting out most of 2009 following elbow surgery Jake McGee returned to the mound last season as a starter with great success and then shifted to the bullpen in the second half before debuting with the Rays in September as a reliever.

However, now that McGee is two years removed from going under the knife pitching coach Jim Hickey told Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times that the Rays “still like McGee as a possible starting pitcher” because “you can’t have too much starting pitching and with that big body he’s got I just see a guy who’s capable of eating a lot of innings for a lot of years.”

Even after trading Matt Garza to the Cubs the Rays still have a full rotation, with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson expected to replace Garza alongside holdovers David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann. And they also still have Andy Sonnanstine, who started 72 games from 2007-2009 before spending most of 2010 in the bullpen.

Hickey called McGee “a really good candidate” to step into the bullpen following the free agent departures of Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, and Randy Choate. It may be similar to Chris Sale in Chicago, where the White Sox believe he’ll eventually be a top-of-the-rotation starter but may end up keeping him in the bullpen for the short term simply because there’s a bigger immediate need there.

Baseball America ranked McGee as the game’s 37th-best prospect in 2007 and 15th-best prospect in 2008, and in 20 starts and 10 relief appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season he posted a 3.07 ERA and 127/36 K/BB ratio in 106 innings while allowing just three homers.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.