It's 2013 in the International League in Triple-A baseball. It also marks the 15th year since the IL expanded from 10 teams to 14 with the addition of the Buffalo Bison, Durham Bulls, Indianapolis Indians, and Louisville Bats. But in more recent years, the Durham Bulls (the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays) have enjoyed the most success out of the four teams.
There are factors that play into the Bulls' success. One is the smart drafting of Tampa Bay, another is the successful coaching job done by Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo. But what it boils down to is the same reason why the Tampa Bay Rays have been having much success at the MLB level: pitching.
Since 2008, the Durham Bulls have had at least 1 pitcher in Baseball America's Top 20 IL Prospects. This includes a current 3-year streak where the Bulls touted a pitcher in the Top 3 IL Prospects. (Jeremy Helickson (2010) at #2, Matt Moore (2011) at #1, and Chris Archer (2012) at #3). Both Helickson and Matt Moore are now in the Tampa Bay starting rotation.
Now with close to a quarter of the IL season gone by, the Durham Bulls have a trio of pitchers on their staff right now that could replicate their predecessor's success.
First you have LHP Alex Torres. He has a 2-1 record in 32.0 innings of work with an ERA of 1.69 and 41 Ks (leading the Durham Bulls in both categories) while opponents are batting .165 against him. Next you have RHP Chris Archer, looking to have repeated success from his 2012 campaign. The stat line for him is an impressive 4-1 record in 31.0 innings of work with an era of 4.06 and has 35 Ks while opponents are batting .262 against him. Finally you got newcomer RHP Jake Odorizzi, who came over during a trade in the off season from the Kansas City Royal. Right now, he's a perfect 4-0 in 39.0 innings of work with a 2.97 ERA and 41Ks while opponents are batting a .203 average against him. His 4 wins ties him with Archer and his 41Ks ties him with Torres for team highs.
If any of those pitchers continue on with their high-level of play, you can bet you'll be seeing them not just in Baseball America's Top 20 IL prospects of 2013 but maybe in the starting rotation of the Tampa Bay Rays. This is Scoop Fox, signing out.
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