Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Pick: Robbie Ray
Most of you will probably look at the name, Robbie Ray, and think to yourself, "Who is that?' While many of you most likely have never heard of him before or even seen his name mentioned on MLB Network or ESPN, he is one to keep an eye on this season and a definite sleeper pick for your fantasy baseball starting rotation.
Ray, a 25-year old, southpaw, is going into his third season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ray came over to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers as part of a three-team trade that also netted Arizona young middle infield prospect, Domingo Leyba. Didi Gregorious was shipped to the Yankees and Shane Greene went from New York to Detroit to finish the trade.
In addition, Ray is a native of Brentwood, Tennessee and was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 Amateur Draft. He spent three years with the Nationals organization before being shipped to the Tigers.
With all of that being said, Robbie Ray was expected to be a breakout pitcher going into last season, but like everything with the Diamondbacks, he ended up having a below average season and things didn't go as planned.
Since joining the Diamondbacks prior to the 2015 season, Ray has posted a 4.32 ERA in 302.0 IP in which he recorded 337 strikeouts and surrendered 33 home runs along with 120 walks. Furthermore, his cumulative WHIP over those two years was 1.41 and he recorded a strikeout-per-9 ratio of 10.0.
One of the biggest accomplishments for Robbie Ray occurred last season when he threw his fastball on average, 95 MPH all season long, which gave him the third hardest fastball for any left-handed starting pitcher in the league according to Fangraphs. Furthermore, Ray ranked in the top 10 in the league for getting ground outs with 57% of balls put into play and top 10 in swings-and-misses with 44%. All of those accomplishments allowed him to strikeout 218 batters total last season which put him 9th in the league, tied with Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets.
On the other side of the coin, one thing that has plagued Ray since joining the Diamondbacks is the fact that he issues walks at a higher rate compared to other starters. However, he started to improve in that department at the end of last year as he finished the final 20 games of 2016 with a walks-per-nine ratio of 3.2 which put him above Jake Arrieta of the Cubs, Cole Hamels of the Rangers, and Marco Estrada of the Blue Jays according to CBS Sports.
Despite having mixed results with the Diamondbacks over his first two seasons, Robbie Ray is expected to do big things and turn into a nice middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher option for Arizona sooner than later. In addition, scouts have always raved about his ability to throw strikes and believe that will benefit him tremendously moving forward.
Heading into 2017, Ray will have another year of MLB experience under his belt, but is still at an age where he is only beginning to reach his peak. Many believe that he would ultimately be better suited as a reliever instead of a starter, which has yet to be determined, but either way he is an asset to the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching staff and would make a terrific addition to any fantasy baseball team rotation especially for someone looking for a pitcher to rack up strikeouts.