Mar 11, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Robbie Ray (70) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the Move and On the Verge: Robbie Ray to Start for the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday

Having had the honor of being Grading on the Curve’s first “Prospect on the Move,” Robbie Ray is moving up in the world very quickly.

Ray, 22, was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 draft out of high school and the Tennessee-born lefty really made his first impressions the following year, throwing 89 innings as a 19 year old in the South Atlantic League for the Hagerstown Suns. Despite being almost three years younger than the average pitcher in the league, Ray posted a 3.13 ERA and 1.23 WHIP with 95 strikeouts, earning a promotion in 2012 to the High-A Potomac Nationals where he struggled (6.56 ERA, 1.62 WHIP in 105 2/3 IP).

Ray really broke out in 2013, starting in Potomac and finishing the season with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, putting up a 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 160 strikeouts in 142 innings. This performance, in his Age-21 season, got the attention of the Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski. In a story by Anthony Fenech at the Detroit Free Press after the December 2 trade that brought Ray, Steve Lombardozzi and Ian Krol to the Tigers for Doug Fister, Dombrowski was quoted as saying:

“We think this guy is a premium, young, left-handed pitcher on the verge of pitching in the big leagues . . . They’re not easy to find.”

Ray was invited to big league spring training where he threw three and a third innings without allowing a run, giving up two hits and three walks without any strikeouts. Buoyed by his solid results, the Tigers assigned Ray to Triple-A Toledo where he has pitched extremely well, allowing only five earned runs in 28 1/3 innings, walking only five and striking out 21.

Ray has a solid arsenal but he isn’t necessarily a dominant lefty, throwing in the low 90s and producing an above average number of ground balls. His 21 strikeouts this season don’t show that he’s overpowering Triple-A hitters but with major league calibre defense, he could still be a solid arm for the Tigers while he’s replacing Anibal Sanchez who went on the DL on Saturday with a laceration on his finger.

Jason Beck of reports that Ray will start on Tuesday in Sanchez’s stead and will face a weak-hitting Houston Astros lineup.

Tags: Detroit Tigers

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