Chaz Roe is so hot right now.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here.
While impressed, I still wondered to myself, ‘Why is everyone going nuts about a hanging slider?’
Then, I saw this.
And read this. It has a few more GIFs for good measure.
Okay, I suppose I get it now. Fool me once, am I right?
But with a pitch like that, here he is at 31 years old, out of options, competing for a roster spot this spring with the Tampa Bay Rays. What went wrong? How has this ‘frisbee throwing slider machine’ become a journeyman, 4A pitcher? It seems like every year, a new team acquires him for depth, only to deem him expendable by year’s end?
Well, this is exactly how he landed in Tampa Bay last year, acquired from the Braves for the ominous ‘cash considerations.’
A former 1st round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2005, Roe was a starter until reaching AAA in 2011 when he was moved permanently to the bullpen. He was cut loose by the Mariners later that year after posting a 6.59 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, and has been a minor league contract guy ever since, even having a short stint in indie ball.
In the majors, he’s played in parts of the last 5 seasons. While he’s never pitched bad (He owns a 3.91 lifetime ERA), he’s found himself wearing a new uniform every year, often times two in the same year. Last year upon becoming a Ray, though, he seemed to turn a corner. He posted career bests in ERA and strikeout rate, and had a ridiculous 413 ERA+. For the first time in his career, he might allow himself to get comfortable.
So where does he fit in the Rays bullpen? It’s hard to day. His slider is great, we know that. The problem is that he throws it a lot. Like, 55% of the time a lot (For context, that’s more than Andrew Miller). He’s clearly not someone you want going through the order more than once, making him not ideal for a multi inning role. He could be a middle man, but to the same tune, you don’t want him facing the same guys on back to back nights.
With that said, though, 2017 was his best year in year in big league ball, even if it was in a small sample size. So maybe he, the Rays, or both, have figured something out.
What’s promising is that pitchers like this have found success in Tampa Bay. For proof, Steve Cishek and Sergio Romo combined to allow just 8 runs in almost 55 innings of work in ’17.
Unlike a non roster guy, Chaz Roe making the team will not be at the expense of removing a player from the 40 man roster, as he was added this year. But If there is value to be had here, the Rays will find it.