Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Jacob Faria has been truly outstanding in 2015. In 25 games (23 starts) between High-A Charlotte in the Florida State League and Double-A Montgomery in the Southern League, Faria went 17-4, 1.92 ERA, with a 159/52 K/BB in 150 innings, allowing a mere 103 hits. He led all minor league pitchers in wins while ranking third in ERA and third in strikeouts.
You're excused for not knowing much about Jacob Faria. He didn't rank highly on most prospect lists entering 2015. Baseball America didn't have him in their list of Top 30 Rays prospects. Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs didn't have him in his Rays Top 30, but did rate him as an "arm to monitor." I did not list Faria on my pre-season Rays Top 20, though he did rate a Grade C+ along with several others who "could be slotted at 14-20."
Faria first came to my attention in 2013 after a strong campaign in the Appalachian League (2.02 ERA, 71/9 K/BB in 62), prompting this report in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book:
SLEEPER ALERT!!! Jacob Faria was a 10th round pick in 2011 from high school in Cerritos, California. Raw but projectable when drafted, he’s seen his velocity pick up from the 80s into the lower-90s thanks to some mechanical adjustments and physical maturity. He’s added some polish to his slider and changeup and his stats last year in the Appalachian League were excellent in all respects. He is under-the-radar at this point and not receiving much national attention, but the Rays have had good success with similar projects and Faria could very well break through this year. Grade C+.
His 2014 season was decent enough (3.46, 107/32 K/BB in 120 innings), resulting in this report in the 2015 edition:
The blip on the radar is showing up now after a solid campaign in the Midwest League and smooth full-season debut. Faria has a four-pitch mix and steady fastball velocity in the 88-93 range. I think there could be more in there velocity-wise, but if his command holds what he has now is enough in combination with the secondary pitches to be a back-end starter. The Rays have a lot of guys like this around. Grade C+.
Obviously the 2015 season represents the big breakthrough and Faria will certainly receive a lot more attention heading into 2016.
The basics of the scouting reports haven't changed much: Faria still doesn't throw extremely hard although he's more steadily in the low 90s now. He mixes his pitches extremely effectively which helps everything play up. Faria himself credits "getting stronger" in general and further development of his change-up in particular as the key reasons for his success.
The only nitpicky negative in Faria's profile is an increase in his walk rate after he moved up to Double-A (30 in 75 innings compared to 22 in 74 in High-A), though he maintained an impressive strikeout pace with 96 whiffs at the higher level.
At this point Faria is at least a Grade B prospect and certainly worthy of your attention.