The Tampa Bay Rays continue to bolster their roster, announcing Monday they would call up Nick Ciuffo, their most advanced catching prospect. The team also announced that right-hander Jake Faria has been added to the taxi squad, while OF Mallex Smith has been reinstated from the 10-day DL.
Today we will select C Nick Ciuffo. from Triple-A @DurhamBulls. A corresponding 40-man move is TBA.
RH Jake Faria is added to the taxi squad and OF Mallex Smith has been reinstated from the 10-day DL.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 3, 2018
The Rays will need to make a corresponding 40-man move to create room for Ciuffo, and that corresponding move is expected later today.
Ciuffo was the 21st overall pick in 2013 and currently ranks as Tampa Bay’s 25th-best prospect according to MLB.com, which had been complimentary of his defense — among other metrics, the newest Ray has thrown out 43.2% of would be base stealers. Ciuffo, who has posted slightly below-average offensive numbers this season at Durham — slashing .262 BA/.301 OBP/.380 SLG/.681 OPS with a 90 wRC+ — with five homers in 236 plate appearances, represents a much better option behind the plate than Adam Moore, who was promoted for the second time this season when Michael Perez hit the DL with a hamstring strain.
Ciuffo does come with some negative off-field baggage, testing positive for the use of marijuana on two occasions, including the last offseason. The latest occurrence led to a 50-game suspension which kept Ciuffo out of action for the first several weeks of the 2018 campaign.
It’s been a long year, Ciuffo said. It’s been a really long year. Starting off February with the news (of the suspension) being released. I think as a person, I’ve grown a lot. As a player, I’ve grown a lot over the past however many months. A lot of that had to do with some of the stuff I was mandated to do by MLB as far as seeing people and talking about what was going on in the personal life. Learn how to handle off-the-field stress.
I’ve always been good at handling on-the-field stuff. But off the field, I kind of just pushed it aside. Addressing those issues has been really good, along with having a good group of guys in Durham accepting me, and me putting the past in the past.
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) writes the decision to promote Ciuffo is a bit curious:
Though most teams add a third catcher to have more flexibility for in-game moves in September, the Rays indicated when they called up Adam Moore last week to replace injured C Michael Perez they would initially stay with two.
Whether today’s move is a sign that Perez won’t be back as soon as expected, or that Jesus Sucre’s sore wrist is bothering him or that they just wanted to add Ciuffo’s defensive prowess is not yet known.
This was the second surprise move in the last two days as the Rays promoted INF/OF Andrew Velazquez to add depth, versatility and speed off the bench.
Should the team eke out a postseason berth, neither Ciuffo nor Valazquez will be available as neither were on the 40-man roster prior to the August 31 roster deadline.
The 25-year-old Smith had been dealing with a viral infection which required a short stay in a bay area hospital. He has otherwise enjoyed a breakout season, slashing .307 BA/.377 OBO/.433 SLG/.813 OPS with a 126 wRC+, 27 stolen bases and a 3.1 fWAR in a career-high 426 plate appearances.