Prior to 2011, Chris Archer was ranked the 27th best prospect by Baseball America, before a mediocre season set him back to the 89th spot. The right-hander was acquired by the Rays in the Matt Garza trade from the Chicago Cubs and was considered the biggest piece of the deal. Although Hak-Ju Lee has now taken that title, Archer may be the biggest pitching prospect in the Rays minor league system this upcoming season.
After posting a 2.34 ERA with a 9.4 K/9 and a 2.29 SO/BB ratio in Class A+ and AA ball during 2010, Archer dropped down to a 4.09 ERA with a 7.9 K/9 and a 1.51 SO/BB ratio in 2011. Although his inning total remained similar, his record dropped from 15-3 to 9-7 while allowing almost three more hits per nine innings.
Archer’s best performance in 2010 came in the 70 innings he pitched in AA, where he posted a 1.80 ERA and an 8-2 record. His drop-off is puzzling, as the 2006 fifth-round draftee spent the majority of his 2011 season in the same league playing against mostly the same teams, despite switching clubs.
Fans should expect a bounce back year for Archer, as he establishes himself in AAA. The 23-year-old has solid pitches and can strike batters out, but will need to improve his control drastically. Walking 5.3 batters per nine innings combined in AA and AAA won’t do the trick once the Rays deem him ready for the Major Leagues.