Jacob Faria was drafted by the Rays in the 10th round of the 2011 draft, after going 8-1 with a 1.75 ERA his senior year at Gahr High School in California.
Since the draft, Faria has seen a great deal of success, making a steady progression through Tampa’s minor league system, and making big impressions along the way. Over that time, Faria has recorded a stellar career 3.13 ERA, moving all the way up to Triple-A for the second half of the 2016 season.
Between Faria’s time at Double-A and Triple-A in his most recent 2016 campaign, Faria saw his collective ERA jump from 1.92 the year before up over two full runs to 3.99 in 2016. But despite the numbers not seemingly showing it, Faria had another great season and made numerous strides in his path to the majors.
While he didn’t receive a big league call up in 2016, as some predicted he might towards the end of the year, many are anticipating that time to come at some point in 2017 if all continues to go as planned.
Jacob Faria — top prospect in the Rays’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
I became interested in baseball at the age of six, and my biggest baseball influence was my dad. He’s the reason I started getting into the game, and he sacrificed so much to help me get a shot at my dream.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
My favorite baseball player growing up was Vladimir Guerrero. I grew up an Angels fan and we had season tickets, so getting to watch him play right field was awesome. But once I started getting into pitching, Jered Weaver became my favorite player, and I modeled my game after him.
3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 10th round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
My draft day was very hectic. I actually had so many scouts calling me that my dad had to take me out of school early. We went to my mom’s house from school (my parents are divorced) and set up two computers to watch the draft. Once they called my name, I stood up. I remember not being able to feel my legs. It was such a huge accomplishment for me at the time, and it awesome that I got to share that moment with my dad, mom and step dad.
4.) Over the course of your career to this point, you’ve had many great outings. Is there any one start of your career so far that stands out in your mind as the most memorable?
My most memorable performance came in my second Double-A outing in Montgomery on the Fourth of July last season in 2015. It was against Biloxi, the Brewers Double-A affiliate, and I went seven no-hit innings with 14 K’s.
5.) This season, you saw your combined season ERA jump from 1.92 in 2015 up to 3.99 in 2016. Do you attribute any specific thing to the two-run jump in ERA, or do you feel it was simply a result of you spending time in Triple-A and having to face more experienced hitters and tougher at-bats?
When I returned back to Montgomery this season a lot of things just didn’t go my way on the mound or on the field, and that just happens. But it kind of did affect me mentally. It was great to be able to face adversity, though, because it did help me become a mentally stronger pitcher, as well as taught me how to be on the mound and pitch when things don’t go my way or when I don’t have my best stuff. It’s easy to go out there when you have everything going for you, but you learn the most from the games when you don’t have your best stuff and still have to find a way to get out of the inning. Baseball isn’t a perfect game, and that’s what makes it so fun. Everyone expects players to be perfect all the time, but if baseball was perfect the game would be predictable. I’m just thankful for the adversity I went through, because I feel it helped me once I got to Durham, and helped me become a better pitcher overall.
6.) The Rays finished last in the American League East division in 2016. How do you feel about the Rays’ chances of once again becoming a contending team moving forward in 2017 and beyond with the talent you’ve witnessed in their minor league system?
The Rays have a lot of talent throughout the minor leagues, and that’s at every position. It’s really exciting to see guys do so well, too, during the year, because these guys are the Rays’ future. With that being said, I think the Rays have a great group of upcoming guys who will contribute to help them become contenders again.
7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
The most difficult thing of being on the road is just finding a routine. Every place we go is so different. The hotels are different; the surroundings are different; even the small things down to how to get to the field or the places to eat. You have to adjust quickly to whatever place you’re in, and by the time you actually do adjust you’re back on the bus or plane traveling to the next place. While I’m on the road, I mostly watch TV or movies, and I try to FaceTime my girlfriend as much as possible. I just try to rest overall and enjoy the downtime since I don’t get much of it.
8.) What do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?
I was healthy all year and made all my starts, which is something I strive to do every season. I also got stronger mentally, which helped me learn how to battle through certain situations. I did feel like my time in Triple-A taught me a lot about being an actual pitcher as well. My goals for 2017 are to get stronger and learn more about the game. I’m always trying to build off the previous season and apply what I learned from the year before to my current season.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
My favorite TV show is ‘The Office’. I watch the entire series on Netflix every season. My favorite food is anything Cuban. I’m Cuban and finding Cuban food is tough during season, but thankfully I’m able to find a couple places to hold me over until I get home.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
A piece of advice I would give to kids is to just have fun; that’s the biggest and most important thing. This game is meant to be fun. Also, to keep working hard and don’t let anyone tell you no. I had so many people doubt me and tell me no, but all I did was use it as motivation to work hard.
Big thanks to Jacob Faria for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @JDFaria36