The Situation: Faria has pushed his way up the 40-man depth chart, earning this chance by carving up the International League. He’ll start Wednesday against the White Sox after the Rays lost Matt Andriese to injury and played a weekend doubleheader, leaving them in need of a starter this week.
The Background: Faria was the Rays 10th-round pick in 2011 out of the California prep ranks. Since joining full-season ball in 2014, he has steadily moved up the latter, being named to the 40-man roster after the 2015 season. In 2017 he is missing scads of bats in Triple-A to the tune of a 12.89 K/9 across 11 starts and 58.2 innings.
Scouting Report: I saw Faria in Durham in May against a light-hitting Gwinnett Braves lineup (no, I don’t mean Albies). The tall righty whiffed nine, walked two and allowed only one hit in 6 1/3 shutout innings. Faria is a strong 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and showed a low-effort delivery that he repeated well from an overhead slot. He features a four-pitch mix led by 92-94 heater with average run that hitters were late on, aided by how well he hides the ball from the high slot. He did better hitting spots with it than his career walk numbers suggest, working ahead throughout and throwing 74 of his 102 pitches for strikes. His top secondary is a low-80s change-up with excellent arm speed and tumble that features as an outpitch. His mid-70s curveball is average, playing up because he mixed it and located it well enough for called and swinging strikes. But in that velo band, I am not confident the pitch is sharp enough to fool MLB batters and play better than average. He mixed his very short mid-80s slider in well the third time through the lineup; it is fringe-average with inconsistent command. The arm action is clean, and if he repeats his delivery this well moving forward, I project above-average command.
(Guest appearance by “Person in Front of Me #1” who got up on a 1-2 pitch to Albies)
Immediate Impact: This could only be a spot start for Faria, but he is ready to test his stuff against big-league lineups. It’s a starter’s toolkit with a plus fastball/change combo and two breakers that provide different looks and should play just well enough for him to have a realistic no. 4 starter future role. I have a seventh-inning fallback, but he will have rotation opportunities, particularly if the Rays move any starters at the deadline. —John Eshleman
Fantasy Impact: The 23-year-old right-hander owns a truly sublime 0.84 Deserved Run Average (DRA) in 11 starts at Triple-A Durham this season. It’s critical to put that number in the proper context: Faria’s DRA represents the lowest single-season mark of any starting pitcher (minimum 50 innings) since Steven Matz posted a 0.95 DRA over 90 1/3 innings in the Pacific Coast League back in 2015.
You don’t have to be a DRA disciple to endorse Faria’s status as one of the most underrated pitching prospects in fantasy baseball. He’s got the strikeouts to back up that claim. Sure, his raw stuff isn’t overpowering, but a dynamic fastball/changeup combination has enabled the California native to rack up prodigious strikeout totals throughout his minor-league career. In addition to an International League leading 84 strikeouts (12.9 K/9) in 58 2/3 innings so far this season, Faria ranked eight among all minor-league pitchers with 157 strikeouts over 151 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
I’m not ready to advocate fantasy owners in shallow mixers add Faria to their flock just yet. It’s a legitimate question whether he can replicate this type of success, especially from a run prevention standpoint, against major-league hitters. There’s a massive amount of risk in this profile, especially if the strides he’s made in the control department (slashing his walk rate from 4.3 BB/9 a season ago to 3.4 BB/9 this year) vanish. The ability to consistently induce weak contact (limiting opponents to a paltry .233 TAv this season) juxtaposed by an elite strikeout rate is a recipe for success long-term. Still, the margin for error is razor thin if he’s unable to get opposing hitters to chase his changeup at the highest level.
Finally, there’s the issue of competition in Tampa Bay. It’s hard to envision him ousting veterans like Erasmo Ramirez or Matt Andriese from the rotation in the short term, while also holding off fellow youngsters like Blake Snell and Jose De Leon, but it’s within the realm of possibility. Fantasy owners in deeper mixed leagues should target Faria as a temporary streaming option at home against weaker lineups. The strikeout upside is tantalizing, but it’s tethered to a profile (and arsenal) with a wide range of potential outcomes. —George Bissell
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