Ray was sent to Detroit as part of the trade that brought starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Nationals this offseason.
After the season and prior to the trade, Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt placed Ray at No. 5 on the list, but thought the trade of Ray and Steve Lombardozzi to the Tigers was a win for Washington.
“I thought it was a great trade for the Nationals to get an impact starter like Doug Fister, a guy who has been a proven pitcher in any year,” Fitt said. “He is established.
“You are hoping Robbie Ray becomes something like that. That is a best-case scenario. There is a lot of risk involved. Ray has got arm strength and he is left-handed. He can run the fastball up there in the mid-90s mph now and then.”
Ray went 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA in 27 starts between two affiliates last season for the Nationals. He racked up 160 strikeouts with 62 walks. He also had four complete games and one shutout.
I have heard the key to the deal was Ray, and the Nats did not want to give him up. But to get Fister, they had to pay a price.
Fitt said Ray has the tools, but there is still a big question left to be answered.
“The real question is about whether he will ever have a legitimate breaking ball,” Fitt said. “To me that is a significant concern. His changeup I think is fine. He is going to pitch off his fastball kind of like A.J. Cole. But a lot of the breaking balls he throws are well below average and you got to have a breaking ball to succeed in the big leagues, especially as a starter.
“You don’t see a lot of fastball-changeup guys in the big leagues with a well below average breaking ball. It has got to come. You don’t know if it is going to happen or not. There is upside, but there is risk with this guy. I think it is a great trade for Washington.”
Plus, the Nationals did not have to part with top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Sammy Solis, Matt Purke or Jake Johansen to make this deal.
Trades are always part of the process of building a quality major league team. In that process, you must sometimes give up top talent. Fitt believes the scale tips towards the Nationals in this trade that involved a top Nats prospect because of the value an “established” pitcher like Fister brings to the rotation without having to part with one of their top four pitching prospects.