The Tampa Bay Rays are calling up highly regarded southpaw Blake Snell to make his major league debut, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 23-year-old is slated to face off against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A Seattle native, Snell was taken 52nd overall in the loaded 2011 draft, and has emerged as the gem of a Rays' draft class that featured a record-setting 10 of the first 60 picks. Snell's breakout came last season, when he jumped from Single-A to Triple-A, emerging as arguably the Rays' top prospect and one of the best left-handers in the minors. A cumulative 1.41 ERA, 10.9 K/9, and 3.6 BB/9 over 134 innings led to him being crowned 2015's Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America.
Heading into the season, Snell's acclaim was furthered by his ascent to the top of prospect lists. His consensus rankings ranged from 12 (Baseball America) to 21 (Baseball Prospectus). ESPN's Keith Law, who ranked Snell 14th overall, noted reservations over control issues, while praising his upside:
Even without any significant improvement in command or feel for pitching, he's probably a No. 3 starter in the long run, but given the improvements he has made to date, he has a chance to end up as one of the top 10 left-handed starters in MLB.
While Snell's start to the 2016 season at Durham hasn't been as prolific as his 46-inning scoreless streak to begin last year, in three starts, he has largely picked up where he left off, tossing 14.1 innings of 2.51 ERA ball with a 13.2 K/9.
Snell's initial stay with the big league club will seemingly not last long, as manager Kevin Cash has expressed this will be a one-start stint with the Rays before heading back to Durham. His promotion is largely necessitated by Erasmo Ramirez being used in relief on Thursday, and as Topkin writes, it's possible that the Rays may not need another start from their fifth starter until May 10th due to off-days, so there really is no need to keep Snell around and have his service time clock ticking. However, general attrition, and Snell's demonstration of dominance at the Triple-A level, makes it likely that he will find a permanent place in Tampa Bay by season's end.
.@snellzilla11 will be the first pitcher in #Rays history to wear a single-digit uniform number. pic.twitter.com/jJPr87OBLl— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 22, 2016