Spring Training Roundup: Faria Could Be Next In Line For Rays

Baseball is back and at Baseball America, that means it’s time again to track the progress of prospects. We’ll update you each day on how some of the game’s most prominent prospects fared at spring training.

Righthander Jacob Faria, so dominant a year ago across two levels (17-4, 1.92), has no chance to make the Rays out of spring training, but he is impressing them nonetheless with poise and pitchability.

Armed with a fastball that can touch 95 mph but sits 90-92 and a changeup that is now a true out pitch, Faria generates tremendous downward plane from a high, three-quarters arm slot. Faria also has a curveball that he can throw for strikes, but he hasn’t mastered the consistency.

One evaluator who has seen Faria said the arm slot is different but not necessarily problematic and that Faria projects as a starter long-term, even with a breaking ball that’s still in development.

On Tuesday, Faria pitched two innings in relief and gave up one hit—a homer to John Mayberry Jr.—while striking out three.

Faria could help the Rays out of the bullpen now but the organization wants him to continue to develop as a starter. Also, Faria has yet to reach Triple-A, so he’s likely to begin the season back at Double-A Montgomery, where he went 7-3, 2.51 a year ago. If the Rays are in the pennant chase in September, Faria could be called up to work as a reliever as David Price did in 2008.

Faria was part of the Rays’ vaunted 2011 draft, when they had 10 of the first 60 picks. While results to this point have been mixed, the 2015 seasons of Mikie Mahtook, Taylor Guerrieri, Blake Snell and Faria give the Rays hope that it could be a bonanza after all, with Mahtook a big league contributor a year ago and Snell on the doorstep after being named Minor League Player of the Year.

“It’s exciting,” Rays pitching coordinator Dick Bosman told BA contributor Marc Topkin. “I don’t want to say at long last, but some of these kids that we signed, nurtured, brought along have had setbacks … And pretty soon it’s starting to come to fruition.”


Nine newsmakers from Monday’s action.

  1. Socrates Brito, lf, Diamondbacks: Brito, Arizona’s No. 6 prospect following trades of Dansby Swanson and Isan Diaz, raised expectations with a solid 2015 season. He was the organization’s minor league player of the year and ended the season in Arizona. Brito doesn’t have great bat speed, so he might not hit for much power, but he has double-plus speed, a good approach and is an above average defender with a plus throwing arm. He had three hits Tuesday and could overtake Yasmany Tomas for the starting left field job.
  1. Dillon Overton, lhp, Athletics: Overton, a second-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2013, doesn’t have the mid-90s heat he had before Tommy John surgery, but compensates with pinpoint command and feel. The lefthander pitched well in the homer-suppressing environment at Double-A Midland in 2015 and will be tested at Triple-A Nashville this season. On Tuesday, he struck out five in two scoreless frames, using deception and a fading changeup.
  1. Brian Johnson, lhp, Red Sox: Johnson reached the majors in 2015 but nerve irritation in his pitching elbow ended his season. Healthy again, Johnson features a swing-and-miss curveball and fastball that reaches the high 80s, with most evaluators pinning him with a Mark Buerhle comparison. Johnson pitched three innings Tuesday, allowing three hits and a run with two strikeouts.
  1. Luis Cessa rhp, Yankees: Cessa, acquired along with righthander Chad Green from the Tigers for lefty reliever Justin Wilson, is seen as a sixth or seventh starter for a brittle Yankees rotation. Cessa, a converted position player who was traded by the Mets for Yoenis Cespedes, is a strike-thrower with a fastball that can reach 95, but the rest of his repertoire is fringy, meaning reliever is probably his future role. He pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday, striking out one.

  1. Byung Ho Park, 1b, Twins: The Korean strongman belted his second spring homer, this one off Blue Jays righthander Gavin Floyd. Park won’t hit 50 homers in the majors, but his power gives the Twins another lively righthanded bat to go with young slugger Miguel Sano.
  1. Peter O’Brien, dh, Diamondbacks: O’Brien’s power potential is unquestionable, and he clubbed his first spring homer on Tuesday. Where he’ll play, however, remains a question. The Diamondbacks have said they want to see him slide back behind the plate and are willing to be patient with him as a catcher, seeing the obvious offensive potential. He reported to camp with the pitchers and catchers, but through six games he’s played left field and DH and has yet to catch. Manager Chip Hale told reporters, “He’s learning how to play the outfield now.”
  1. Aldemys Diaz, ss, Cardinals: Not content to wait for the shortstop job to come to him—incumbent Jhonny Peralta has a thumb injury that could cost him two to three months—Diaz is showcasing his talent. The Cuban had four more hits Tuesday and played shortstop while challenger Greg Garcia played second base. While most scouts believe Diaz fits a utility profile, especially for a first-division club, if he can step in and hold the job it allows the Cardinals to utilize Jedd Gyorko in the role they see for him as a versatile reserve. “We’re just happy for him that he had a big day today when there is obvious more attention put on him and the position right now,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters.
  1. Michael Kopech, rhp, Red Sox: Michael Kopech, trying to regain his footing following a 50-game suspension, instead had another setback Tuesday, again of his own making. The hard-throwing righthander fractured his right hand in an altercation with a teammate, the Red Sox confirmed. “It’s very disappointing. It was stupid,” general manager Mike Hazen told reporters. “He’s going to have to grow up, obviously, with the things that have happened so far. He’s got a long road to go to get to the big leagues.”
  1. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Braves: Part of the Braves’ stockpiling of pitching prospects—perhaps the most coveted of that group—Newcomb came from the Angels in the blockbuster trade for Andrelton Simmons. The big lefthander has overpowering stuff—a tight curveball and fastball that touched 99 mph—but control was an issue in 2015 (five walks per nine innings). So far this spring, he’s faced 15 batters and 11 have reached, including Tuesday when he got just two outs and allowed three hits and three runs with two walks.

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