Ryan Yarbrough, a 26-year-old left handed pitcher, finally got to make his major league debut as part of the Tampa Bay Rays’ “bullpen day” on March 31, 2018. After spending the past four seasons at the minor league level, this season will be his first real taste of the major league.
Yarbrough, a former fourth-round Seattle Mariners draft pick, was acquired by the Rays on January 11, 2017, along with Mallex Smith and Carlos Vargas for left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly. Yarbrough won Southern League pitcher of the year in 2016 as part of the Jackson Generals, the Mariners’ Double-A affiliate. Prior to his MLB debut, he was considered one of the Rays’ top 30 prospects. Last season, he played in 26 games with the Durham Bulls, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate, and he is credited with 13 wins and a 3.43 ERA.
However, he has constantly had to work to prove his doubters wrong as many are skeptical about his overall effectiveness, especially regarding the lack of consistent speed with his fastball. Yarbrough continues to show that he is better than what has been projected, and his strong showing during this year’s spring training gave him the opportunity to crack the opening day roster.
This season, Yarbrough will most likely spend most of his time as a reliever, with manager Kevin Cash using Yarbrough and a multitude of other players like Andrew Kittredge and Yonny Chirinos as a collective fifth “starter” in the rotation during their “bullpen days.”
In his major league debut, Yarbrough struck out three batters, allowed one earned run on four hits, and walked three, over four innings. While this may not have been as strong of a performance as he had in mind, his ability to succeed at this level, when given the opportunity, cannot be denied.
While altogether, the Rays have been a mess and have lost eight out of their nine games to start off the season, Yarbrough’s appearances have shown that he has plenty of potential to eventually become a dependable starter for the team. At 6’5 and 205 pounds, his size is an additional benefit that the team values. The Rays’ organization seems to like what they have seen of Yarbrough so far as he continues to prove his capability with each appearance on the field. Yarbrough will definitely improve and has plenty of opportunity to fix some of his minor control issues as he gets more playing time and his confidence grows.
While overall the Rays have an assortment of issues to figure out, Yarbrough continues to show that he knows what to do to keep the Rays in the game when things are not going their way. If he can keep this up, Cash should be able to use Yarbrough more often as a starter during the Rays’ “bullpen days” this season.