When the Tampa Bay Rays designated veteran reliever Jumbo Diaz for assignment this weekend, they decided to take a chance on Andrew Kittredge as he was called up to the big leagues on Monday.
2017 is Kittredge’s first season in the Rays organization. This past winter, Tampa Bay acquired him from the Seattle Mariners along with two other players for third baseman Richie Shaffer and shortstop Taylor Motter.
You won’t find Kittredge on John’s Top 20 Rays prospects from earlier this year, but the 27-year-old right-hander had a great first half for Triple-A Durham that got him to the International League All-Star Game. Ironically, this year’s game was in Tacoma, Washington, where Kittredge played each of the last two seasons.
During his time with Durham, Kittredge went 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in 30 games (one save in three chances). He had 54 strikeouts to 12 walks in 52 innings and only gave up two home runs.
One of the things that have helped Kittredge get this call-up is that he isn’t walking as many hitters this year at Triple-A. He has 2.1 walks per nine innings, which is the lowest total of his career. Also, he has 9+ strikeouts per nine in each of the last two seasons (10.3 last year).
Another factor in his success with the Rays organization is that he is getting more groundball outs. According to Fangraphs, his groundball percentage this season is at 52%. Last year, in Tacoma, that number was less than 40% (39.8).
As a reliever, Kittridge has four pitches in his arsenal. He has a fastball, a slider, and curveball, and has added a changeup into his pitch mix. His fastball gets into the mid 90’s in terms of velocity and he did get a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League last year before being traded. Here is some video of him courtesy of 2080 baseball:
Back in 2008, the Mariners selected Kittredge in the 45th round out of Washington University. He did not make his professional baseball debut until 2011 because he pitched the 2009 and 2010 seasons with Washington instead of signing.
It’s rare that you see a 45th round pick make the major leagues, but when that round actually existed, there have been good pitchers selected in that portion of the draft. Some of those major leaguers include Pat Neshek, Brandon Finnegan, Chris Capuano, and Bob Howry.
While the Rays currently look for that next bullpen piece to help their push for a playoff spot, Kittredge will get a chance to show why he belongs on the major league level.
Regardless of how this pans out, Kittredge’s story of reaching the majors after being drafted in that low of a round is something he should be very proud of.