So, who he is Stanek?
Stanek has had a mixed minor league career when it comes to results, but he seems to have some pretty solid stuff. The Rays were able to sang him out of Arkansas with the 29th pick of the first round in the 2013 MLB Draft. Injury concerns allowed the Rays to snag him so late as he was projected higher.
Unfortunately those injury concerns came to fruition.
Stanek had hip surgery and didn’t pitch at all in 2013. In fact he didn’t make his professional debut until May of 2014. Since then he has flashed a promising arsenal behind some command issues and pretty high ERAs.
Last season the Rays converted Stanek to a reliever to maximize his biggest strength - his fastball. The move seems to be effective as he now strikes out people by the bunches. He also still walks too many, and due to a minuscule ground ball rate, most of the contact seems to find its way into the holes, exhibited by his unlucky .359 BABIP.
I saw Stanek come on for a save recently in Gwinnett. I really liked what he saw, a night in which he flirted with 100 miles-per-hour on several occasions.
It was typical Stanek. With the Durham Bulls up 5-4, Stanek came in the game and let up consecutive singles. A poor throw by Jake Bauers would allow both runners to advance, leaving runners on second and third with no outs. Stanek reached back, focused and struck out the side, as Rio Ruiz chased a questionable pitch and tipped right into Curt Casali’s glove.
Stanek is big, standing at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. The righty stands in the middle of the rubber and comes right at the plate, but sometimes seems to come across his body, pushing the ball out of the strike zone.
Stanek threw 25 pitches that night, primarily hard stuff, and 19 landed for strikes. He has that 70-grade fastball that sits in the mid-90s with ease and can get to triple-digits. His breaking ball, a slider, definitely moves and he mixes in a much more sparingly used changeup now that he is in the bullpen.
Throw out the fact that Stanek is 25. He essentially didn’t start pitching professionally until he was 24 and made a career switch from rotation to bullpen when he turned 25. Stanek’s 2017 numbers in Durham have been impressive thus far: 1-0 with two saves, striking out 25 over 18 (12.50 per nine) while walking six (three-per-nine). Stanek posted a 2.00 ERA, but his 1.52 FIP shows that BABIP may be more of the reason behind his ERA.
Stanek should have every chance to be effective in small doses out of the Rays pen. While he could be a future closer, he will likely be back and forth between Tampa and Durham for the near future.