Christopher Alan Archer
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Clayton (NC) High School
- Debut June 20, 2012
Chris Archer made the majors in 2012.
He was signed by the Cleveland Indians and scout Bob Mayer as the 5th-round pick in the 2006 amateur draft. The next three picks were all fellow pitchers who wound up in the majors: David Herndon, Dustin Richardson and George Kontos. In his first summer as a pro, he was with the GCL Indians (0-3, 7.45, 17 BB in 19 1/3 IP) and Burlington Indians (2 R in 1 2/3 IP). In 2007, he was roughed up with the GCL Indians (1-7, 5.64) and Lake County Captains (4 R in 4 IP). He tied for 7th in the Gulf Coast League with nine wild pitches and tied Aaron Furhman and Gregorio Rosario for the GCL loss lead.
In 2008, the teenager was 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA for Lake County, with 84 walks and 18 wild pitches in 115 1/3 innings. He led the South Atlantic League in walks and was third in wild pitches behind Maikel Cleto and Michael Felix. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs with John Gaub and Jeff Stevens following the 2008 season in the Mark DeRosa deal.
Cubs and Team USA
Archer showed good progress with the 2009 Peoria Chiefs, going 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA. He still walked 66 and threw 10 wild pitches in 109 innings but fanned 119 and allowed a .202 opponent average. He did not give up a home run all year. He tied Tyler Chatwood for second in the Midwest League in free passes, behind Evan Frederickson. Baseball America rated him as the #16 MWL prospect, between James Darnell and Kyle Russell. In 2010, he was lights-out for the Daytona Cubs (7-1, 2.86, 82 K in 72 1/3 IP, .202 opponent average) and Tennessee Smokies (8-2, 1.80, 67 K, 39 BB, .198 opponent average in 70 IP). He did not allow an earned run in his first 31 1/3 innings in AA. For the season, he was third in the affiliated minors in wins (after Eric Hacker and Tom Koehler), third in opponent average (behind Matt Magill and Joseph Gardner) and 7th in ERA. He led Cubs farmhands in all three pitching Triple Crown departments. Baseball America rated him as the #1 Cubs prospect and as having the best slider in the Chicago minors. They also listed him as the #2 FSL prospect (after Matt Moore) and #9 in the Southern League (between Brett Jackson and Matt Dominguez). In the 2010 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament, he was 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA for Team USA. He led the US staff with 15 whiffs as they qualified for both the 2011 Baseball World Cup and 2011 Pan American Games. He struck out 10 in a 2-hit, no-run, 6-inning gem to beat Cuba.
He was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays with Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Hak-ju Lee in return for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup on January 8, 2011. He had mediocre numbers with the Montgomery Biscuits (8-7, 4.42, 80 BB in 134 1/3 IP) and excelled in two late-season starts for the Durham Bulls (1-0, 0.69) before losing one playoff game for Durham. Baseball America rated him as being the Rays' #3 prospect after Matt Moore and Lee and as having the best slider in their organization. He led the Southern League with 16 wild pitches, was 3rd in walks and ranked 6th in strikeouts (between Chris Withrow and Wily Peralta.
Archer began 2012 with Durham and had a 4-8, 4.81 record, albeit with 90 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings, after 14 starts. He was among the International League top five in both losses and walks (45) but was leading in strikeouts at the time. He was then called up to replace the injured Jeremy Hellickson. Chris was charged with the loss in his major league debut with the Rays on June 20, 2012. Facing the Washington Nationals, he gave up three runs on as many hits in 6 innings, but as the Rays were facing Stephen Strasburg, that was enough to give him a 3-2 loss. Still, only one of the runs was earned, and he struck out 7 while walking only one. He ended up pitching 6 games, four of them starts, with a record of 1-3, 4.60 in 29 1/3 innings. At Durham, he finished the season 7-9, 3.66 in 25 starts, pitching 128 innings and racking up an impressive 139 strikeouts. He led the 2012 IL in strikeouts, one ahead of Justin Wilson, and K/9. Baseball America ranked him as the league's third-best prospect after Matt Harvey and Starling Marte.
There was speculation that Archer would be in the Rays' starting rotation in 2013, especially after the Rays had traded two starters, James Shields and Wade Davis in the off-season. However, he began the year back at Durham, with veteran Roberto Hernandez signed to fill in the empty slot in the rotation. He was 5-3, 3.96 in 10 starts in AAA when he got the call to Tampa at the beginning of June. He went 1-3, 5.03 in his first four starts before reeling off the sort of performance that had been expected of him for a while when he defeated the New York Yankees, 3-1, at New Yankee Stadium on June 23rd. He gave up a 1st-inning run, then kept the Yankees from scoring for the next five innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen in the bottom of the 7th, after his teammates had scored a pair of runs in the top of the frame to take the lead. He recorded his first career shutout on July 14th against the Houston Astros, a 5-0 five-hitter that improved his record to 4-3. Two starts later, on July 27th, he pitched a two-hitter over the Yankees at New Yankee Stadium for a 1-0 win and his second career shutout. He was named the American League's Pitcher of the Month and Rookie of the Month for July after going 4-0, 0.73 during the month. Overall, he made 23 starts during the season, going 9-7, 3.22. His two shutouts were tied for third in the league, one behind Bartolo Colon and Justin Masterson. Had he qualified, he would have been 9th in ERA, between James Shields and Ervin Santana. However, he was in the bullpen during the ALDS and it was Jeremy Hellickson, who had struggled during the year, who started Game 4 against the Boston Red Sox. Chris, for his part, was used twice in relief in the series, giving up no runs in 1 2/3 innings.
At the start of the 2014 season, the Rays confirmed their confidence in Archer over the long term as they signed him to a six-year extension with options for two other seasons; he was guaranteed $25.5 million until 2019, with the deal worth up to $43.75 million if extended for the other two years. In his first start of the year on April 3rd he defeated the Blue Jays, 7-2, allowing 2 runs while striking out 7 in 6 innings. He had another good season, going 10-9, 3.33, in 32 starts and pitching 194 2/3 innings during which he struck out 173.
After the 2014 season, he visited South Africa as a Major League Baseball ambassador. He started the 2015 season on a roll as he went four consecutive starts without giving up an earned run from April 11-26. His ERA stood at 0.84 after the streak, but his record was only 3-2, the result of losing his first start, before the streak started, and losing to the Boston Red Sox, 1-0, on April 21st in a game in which he only allowed an unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. On June 2nd, he tied a Rays team record set by James Shields in 2012 by striking out 15 batters in 8 innings in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; he also walked none in a dominating performance. On June 7th, he became the first pitcher to record at least 10 strikeouts and no walks in three consecutive starts; the feat may have been accomplished before 1914, but game-by-game data was only available dating back to that year. He improved to 7-4 with a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners that day. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time. On August 20th, he pitched a one-hitter in which he struck out 11 opponents in shutting out the Houston Astros, 1-0. The only hit was a 5th-inning single by Colby Rasmus. It was the first complete game by a Rays pitcher in almost a year, the last one having come from Drew Smyly on August 22, 2014. He finished the season with a record of 12-13, 3.23, leading the major leagues with 34 starts and striking out 252 batters in 212 innings.
Archer worked as a guest analyst on ESPN's pre-game show before the 2015 American League Wild Card Game and impressed everyone with his natural ability behind a microphone as well. Just as he was emerging as one of baseball's rising young stars, he had a tough season in 2016. It was not that he pitched poorly, but he seemed to always end up on the wrong side of the decision in tight games. On September 23rd, after another good start, he was charged with a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, his only mistake having been to give up a monster home run to David Ortiz in the 1st inning. It was his 19th loss of the year, setting a new franchise record for the Rays, passing Tanyon Sturtze who had lost 18 in 2002 when the team was still known as the Devil Rays. He took the mound one final time on September 29th with the risk that he could become the first twenty-game loser in the majors since Mike Maroth in 2003, but he pitched well, giving up 3 runs in 6 2/3 innings and for once his offense backed him up to give him a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. He thus finished the year at 9-19 and once again topped the 200-innings mark, with 201 1/3. While his ERA was 4.02, his highest since his debut season, he did strike out 233 batters, second-most in the AL.
Archer is of mixed race, as his father was an African-American firefighter and his mother was white. Both were only teenagers when he was born and their relationship did not last, so he was adopted by his maternal grandmother and her husband and grew up in a mostly white environment thinking his mother was his older sister. While he stopped his formal studies after high school, he has never stopped learning and is an enthusiastic reader, seeing any book he takes up as an educational opportunity. He has been very active in the community, especially in working with children in foster homes, with whom he relates particularly well given his own background, and as a regular visitor in children's hospitals. He also regularly conducts clinics for "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities" (R.B.I.) which teaches baseball - and incidentally life skills - to children in underprivileged neighborhoods.
He was very active in the Rays' tour of Cuba during President Barack Obama's historic visit to the island in March of 2016. He wanted to have a chance to meet real Cubans, and managed to get in a game of catch with a youngster while the Rays were preparing to play an exhibition game against the Cuban national team. He explained that wherever he travels, he tries to find a pick-up baseball game or another opportunity to interact with the local population through baseball, as he is not into souvenirs.
Archer also has a lighter side and a well-developed sense of humor, as witnessed by his feud with Houston Astros mascot Orbit in 2017. He read an official "Declaration of Unfriendliness" that officialized the "state of discord" between the two parties and promised to engage in a campaign of pranks using water balloons, silly string, bubblegum and any other items abundantly found in major league clubhouses. A couple of days later, he presented Orbit with a Diploma signed by Rays mascot Raymond supposedly confirming Orbit's status as a junior mascot, something which did not go over well with the furry space alien, the diploma presentation dissolving into a full-on water balloon fight.
- 2-time AL All-Star (2015 & 2017)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (2015-2017)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2015-2017)
- Bill Chastain: "Archer inspired, humbled by visit to South Africa: Rays pitcher went on trip in December as a Major League Baseball ambassador", mlb.com, January 22, 2015. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Rays ace Chris Archer moving past 19-loss 2016: 'I'm capable of so much more'", USA Today Sports, February 16, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Rays ace Chris Archer embraces it all: 'I couldn't ask for a better life'", USA Today Sports, February 25, 2016. 
- Mike Petriello: "Archer restores value with strong second half: Righty's 28.2 percent whiff rate over 2015-16 is fifth best among starters", mlb.com, November 9, 2016. 
- Jesse Sanchez: "Rays have day they'll 'never forget' in Cuba", mlb.com, March 22, 2016. 
- Mark Whicker: "Rays' Chris Archer emerges and goes on historic run", USA Today Sports, June 12, 2015.