Chris Archer will truly have a home field advantage when he takes the hill at the DBAP this season. Many players in the Rays system come to Durham to play for the Bulls excited about the prospect of being one step closer to the big leagues, but for RHP Chris Archer, his time in Durham means so much more. For Archer this is a homecoming, a place to show off in front of his home crowd.
Archer was born right here in Raleigh and attended Clayton High School. After four seasons as a member of the Comets, the right hander was noticed by scouts. Archer contemplated attending the University of Miami before he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th Round of the 2006 June Draft.
In an interview with former voice of the Bulls Neil Solondz, Archer talked about the Bulls and growing up in the Triangle. "I came to Bulls games quite often. Looking up at those guys, you're like WOW, if I could ever play on this field, it would be awesome. Now I will be able to play on the field and my family will be able to come see me every time I step on the mound in Durham. That is something that is important to me because family, they mean a lot, they've help me a lot so far and they are going to help get to where I want to be."
Archers story starts back in 2006, after he was drafted by the Indians. The right-hander made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Indians, but struggled in his first season in the Cleveland organization. Playing baseball professionally is certainly an adjustment from high school, especially the GCL, where games are typically played at high noon in the hot summer heat of Florida. The newly drafted pitcher went 0-3 with a 7.45 ERA in seven games and 19.1 IP for the club.
The following season Archer would continue with the GCL Indians. He improved, but still struggled going 1-7 with a 5.64 ERA in 12 games and 52.2 IP that season with the club. There were several major positives for him. Archer was striking out batters at a solid rate, averaging about a strikeout per inning in both seasons with the GCL Indians, 21 SO in 2006 and 48 SO in 2007.
In 2008, Archer would join the Lake County Captains of the Appalachian League. He improved greatly from his first two professional seasons. Archer would not start a single game for the Captains and only won four games in 2008, however he allowed 3 hits or less in 16 of his 27 starts and 1 ER or less 14 times. After a few bumps in rookie ball, Archer was once again on the path to the show.
Through his performance with the Captains, Archer had increased his value and was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for utility player, Mark DeRosa. This was the trade of the hard throwing pitcher's career, but not the last. After the December trade, Archer spent the entire 2009 season with the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League. The Tar Heel shined in his new organization. He lowered his ERA to a season best 2.81 in 27 games and 26 starts. He reached new career highs in strikeouts with 119, wins with six, starts, and ERA.
Archer would continue to rise in the Cubs system, entering the 2009 season as the #15 prospect in the organization by Baseball America. He would begin the season back in Florida, but this time with the High Class-A Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League. Archer breezed through hitters, striking out 82 batters in 72.2 IP and recording two 10 strikeout games. He recorded only one loss with the club and won seven games for the team. He was impressive, from 6/3 until the end of his time with the club, he won five straight victories, lowering his ERA from 3.47 to 2.86. The righty was rewarded with a promotion to Double-A Tennessee, making his debut for the Smokies on 7/2. In his first start beyond Class-A ball, Archer recorded the win tossing 5.2 IP without allowing a run and struck out six. Archer continued to blossom in the upper levels of the minor leagues. He matched his six game winning streak in Florida and was outstanding for the Smokies. He was awarded with player of the week honors for the Week of July 19 to 26, when he won two games in two starts, did not allow a run and struck out 11 in 11.1 IP. He continued to average around a strikeout per inning with 67 in 70.0 IP and went for a record of 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA.
The North Carolinian's hard work continued to pay dividends. Archer finished the season compiling a 15-3 record with a 2.34 ERA (142.1-IP, 37-ER) and 149 SO in 28 games (27starts) between the two teams. He ranked 3rd among all minor league pitchers in victories, 7th in ERA and 3rd in opponents average (.200, 102-for-509). He was named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year by the organization and the No. 1 prospect and Best Slider in the Cubs system by Baseball America. Archer was also selected to the Baseball America Minor League All-Star Team and to pitch for Team USA's Pan American Qualifying Team in October in 2010.
For the second time in his young career, Archer would be traded to a different organization. In January of last year, the Rays traded RHP Matt Garza to the Cubs for a bounty that included the North Carolinian. Despite the change, Archer would continue onwards. Last season, he spent the majority of the year with the Montgomery Biscuits at the Double-A level. He made 25 starts for the club and had an 8-7 record with a 4.42 ERA. Archer struggled in his transition back to an American League club. In his first 11 starts he went 1-3 with a 5.98 ERA (52.2-IP, 35-ER). He improved throughout the season, turning things around and going 8-4 with a 3.04 ERA (94.2-IP, 32-ER) over his final 16 starts between Montgomery and Durham. Archer was rewarded with a call-up to the Bulls, breaking through to Triple-A on 8/23. Playing in front of the home crowd for the first time, Archer made two quality starts to end the season, finishing with a 1-0 record 0.69 ERA (13-IP, 1-ER).
He would also start despite a higher ERA, Archer had several accomplishments throughout the 2011 season. The hurler was named a Southern League midseason All-Star and was awarded SL Pitcher of the Week honors during his final week with the Biscuits. His 130 SO placed 4th among Rays minor leaguers. To top it off, he started the third playoff game for Durham. Despite suffering a loss vs. Columbus (Indians), he struck out a career-high 11 batters.
There are high expectations for the Clayton graduate this season. He enters the season as the number three prospect in the Rays system according to Baseball America and as having the Best Slider in the farm system. Despite the accolades, perhaps his biggest pressure will be preforming in front of his home crowd. When Archer takes the hill at the DBAP, he will not just be representing the Bulls, or the Rays organization, but his home town.
"One of my coaches growing up, he played for the Knights against the Bulls at the DBAP. The whole experience of seeing professional baseball is something that every kid wants to see and wants to be a part of. Now that I've seen it and that I can be a part of it, it's awesome."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.