We have finally reached the end of this series. The last player to reach the DRaysBay All-Star team will be a relief pitcher.
There was no objective standard to choose which relievers would make the poll. I made a list of pitchers who had good seasons and did the best I could to cut the field down to a manageable 10. I think there are some pretty good choices here.
Let’s close out the voting by doing so just once and not encouraging Facebook friends who have never viewed the website and never will again to come and vote.
Tyler Brashears (1 save, 1.93 earned-run average, .80 WHIP, 6.3 hits allowed per nine innings, 20% strikeout rate, 2.7% walk rate in 18 2/3 innings for the GCL Rays and Short-season Hudson Valley)
The last time the Rays drafted a pitcher from Hawaii, it didn’t go so well. After signing right at the deadline, Brashears, 21, got some work in with the GCL Rays before finishing strong with Hudson Valley. At Hawaii, the 14th-round pick threw a lot of strikes, and his punchout rate increased with his move to the bullpen.
Mike Franco (5 saves, 1.47 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, 26.1 K%, 8.1 BB% in 67 1/3 IP for Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Franco, 23, was dispatched to the Arizona Fall League this offseason despite not yet reaching the upper minors. After a nondescript pro debut in 2014, he was very effective across two levels in 2015. His walk rate increased quite a bit, but he maintained a high strikeout rate throughout the season.
Ian Gibaut (1 save, 2.12 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, 31.7 K%, 6.7 BB% in 29 2/3 IP for Rookie-level Princeton)
The 21-year-old Gibaut could be a find for a Rays after 11th-round pick pitched better in his professional debut than he did at Tulane. In 98 innings with the Green Wave, he owned a 9.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9. Both improved significantly with the Princeton Rays.
Reece Karalus (3 saves, 1.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.5 H/9, 25.3 K%, 5.3 BB% in 37 IP for Short-season Hudson Valley)
Karalus, another 2015 pick, has always relied on throwing strikes. In addition to his high strikeout rate, he also used his sinker to post a groundball rate over 50 percent. Like Gibaut, Karalus’ strikeout and walk rates were both better in his pro debut than his collegiate career.
Josh Kimborowicz (2 saves, 2.01 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 24.4 K%, 7.4 BB% in 44 2/3 IP with Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Kimborowicz, 23, has moved slowly through the system, but the Rays’ patience may be paying off with his second consecutive good season. He was their 19th-round pick in 2013, and his strikeout rate in 2015 was a career best. Being a flyball pitcher didn’t hurt him in the Florida State League.
Brandon Koch (6 saves, 3.06 ERA, .90 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, 36.4 K%, 3.9 BB% in 32 1/3 IP with Short-season Hudson Valley)
The first pitcher teams take in a draft is usually a high-school arm with upside or a college starter with a high ceiling. Koch is neither. The 21-year-old was Dallas Baptist’s closer, and he quickly transitioned to that role with Hudson Valley. He allowed two earned runs in his debut and six in his fifth appearance, but he allowed just three in his final 13 appearances.
C.J. Riefenhauser (1 save, 2.86 ERA, .92 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, 24.5 K%, 5.0 BB% in 34 2/3 IP for Triple-A Durham)
After recovering from shoulder inflammation, Riefenhauser was quietly effective for the Bulls when he wasn’t making spot appearances in the big league bullpen. The 25-year-old was especially good at the end of the minor league season before September call-ups, rattling off 13 straight scoreless appearances.
Brad Schreiber (30 saves, 2.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 5.5 H/9, 22.5 K%, 9.5 BB% in 62 1/3 IP for Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)
Designated closers are not common in the minors, but Schreiber excelled in that role at two levels. His 30 saves were second in the organization, behind just Brad Boxberger. No one else reached double digits. In addition to his healthy strikeout rate, Schreiber can generate grounders too.
Hunter Wood (4 saves, 2.20 ERA, .88 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 27.6 K%, 6.1 BB% in 106 1/3 IP for Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Wood, 22, may have been the most prominent swingman in the organization in 2015. He made 10 starts among his 29 appearances, including starting seven of his nine games with Charlotte after being promoted. With Bowling Green, he often piggybacked Brent Honeywell starts, making life difficult for Midwest League hitters.
Robert Zarate (2 saves, 3.57 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, 29.3 K%, 9.0 BB% in 40 1/3 IP with Triple-A Durham)
Prior to 2015, Zarate had just one season pitching in the U.S. That was in 2008 for the GCL Blue Jays. After a number of seasons bouncing around Japan, the Rays brought him back to the states. He missed the first two months on the DL, but the 28-year-old proved he belonged in affiliated baseball.