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Austin Pruitt earns spot in Tampa Bay Rays bullpen

Strike-throwing right-hander will be used in long relief

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today we profiled 27-year-old Philadelphia Phillies rookie Brock Stassi. Here’s another 27-year-old: Austin Pruitt of the Tampa Bay Rays. Not ranked highly on prospect lists before spring training, Pruitt has earned a spot in the Rays bullpen thanks to a strong camp. Let’s take a look at what to expect.

Pruitt was drafted by the Rays in the ninth round in 2013 from the University of Houston. He’s been a solid performer at every level, posting a 3.09 ERA with a 122/38 K/BB in 160 innings in Double-A in 2015, then a 3.76 ERA in 163 innings with a 149/27 K/BB in Triple-A in 2016. He continued performing well this spring, pitching 16.2 innings for the Rays with an 18/2 K/BB.

Pruitt is undersized for a right-hander at 5-11, 170, part of the reason he hasn’t ranked highly on prospect lists despite his track record. He does have decent stuff, with a fastball in the 89-93 range and a quality curveball, the entire package playing up due to his ability to locate his pitches. He has proven very durable, holding up under a heavy minor league workload, and has simple, repeatable mechanics.

He’ll open in the bullpen as a long reliever. Fantasy-wise, he could be a source of quality filler innings. In real baseball terms, he should provide consistent strike-throwing, good makeup and clubhouse presence, and the ability to move back to starting if a spot opens up somehow.