Jake McGee was a starter for 128 of his first 129 appearances as a minor leaguer, establishing himself as one of the top pitching prospects around, but he shifted to the bullpen at Triple-A in the second half of last season and then made his big-league debut as a reliever for the Rays in September.
And today manager Joe Maddon told reporters that McGee will be competing for a bullpen spot this spring, which makes sense given all the free agent relievers the Rays lost this offseason and the fact that fellow prospect Jeremy Hellickson is expected to claim the final rotation spot alongside David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis.
I still think McGee has a chance to be a very good starter, but his spotty control will likely be less of an issue in short appearances and his durability is still in some question after missing most of 2008 and 2009 following Tommy John elbow surgery. As a reliever he can let it rip with a mid-90s fastball and high-70s slider, and after racking up 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter in the minors McGee has a chance to be a shutdown late-inning option from the left side. Don’t be shocked if he’s in the mix for saves before long.