Texas Rangers Rotation 2015 and Beyond
It has been a lost season for the Texas Rangers. After the torrent of activity this past winter, their plans went awry when injuries decimated the roster. While the offense has struggled to cope with the absence of Jurickson Profar and Prince Fielder, the Texas Rangers rotation has been hit hardest; collectively, they have posted the second worst ERA and FIP in baseball.
Heading into 2015, the Rangers have four bona fide starting pitchers under contract: Yu Darvish (signed through 2017), Matt Harrison (2017 with a club option), Derek Holland (2016 with two club options), and Martin Perez (2017 with three club options). All have had their 2014 season shortened by injury. Matt Harrison’s outlook is the murkiest after continued back problems led to spinal fusion surgery in June. It’s difficult to expect any tangible contribution from him in the near future. The Darvish/Holland/Perez triumvirate has the raw talent to form a strong top three, but that is evaluating in ideals. Derek Holland is the only one currently active after recovering from a severe left knee injury that sidelined him for the first five months of the season. Martin Perez underwent Tommy John surgery in late May and will not be a factor until the middle of 2015. Most recently, Yu Darvish was shut down with right elbow inflammation. How Darvish’s elbow responds to rest will be the most important thing to monitor during the offseason and throughout next spring. As one of the elite pitchers in baseball, it is vital to the Texas Rangers’s success for him to return healthy and ready to throw 200+ innings.
With at least three rotation spots open heading into the 2015 season, it’s important to assess existing options who’ve been filling in at the MLB level. Colby Lewis and Scott Baker are two veteran options on expiring contracts capable of eating innings. Both have storied injury histories of their own and are on the wrong side of 30. Lewis has been in the Rangers organization since 2010 and is the more appealing option; he remains an average back end starter (despite an inflated 2014 ERA), posting a 4.32 FIP to date. Nick Tepesch, Robbie Ross, Miles Mikolas, and Nick Martinez picked up the remaining starts but are better suited for spot starts and bullpen work. Tepesch is the best option of the bunch and would be a reasonable fifth starter if necessary.
In the minor leagues, the outlook becomes brighter. The Rangers are known for aggressively pursuing international free agents, but pitching prospects on the immediate horizon are American made. Former first round picks Luke Jackson (ROTOscouting Report) and Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez (ROTOscouting Report) are home grown options, while Jake Thompson (ROTOscouting Report) was acquired in the Joakim Soria trade. And while the three aren’t likely to start the year in the rotation, but their clocks will quicken if the Rangers continue to lack answers at the major league level.
Jackson split the year between Double and Triple-A but struggled in his 40 innings at Round Rock. He stands out for his pure arm strength, sitting in the mid-90’s and touching even higher than that. The fastball overshadows the average curve ball and change. While it remains a problem area, Jackson has made progress improving his command and could emerge as a mid rotation starter once he fully matures.
Alex Gonzalez is a bit more refined and could leap frog Jackson in his ascent to the majors. While his plus fastball is a tick lower, the array of off-speed pitches gives him a better chance to start long term. Gonzalez has a power repertoire with the slider being the most refined offering.
The Texas Rangers’ Rotation Beyond 2015
Expanding our scope beyond next season, the concerns over Darvish’s elbow and Martin Perez’s recovery lessen. Tommy John surgery has a high enough success rate where we can be reasonably assured that Perez will recapture his pre-surgery form. Derek Holland is a legitimate number two starter, so Perez finding his 2013 spark would give the Texas Rangers rotation a formidable top three.
Jake Thompson is mentioned in the above section alongside Gonzalez and Jackson, but is the youngest of the bunch and least likely to see time in 2015. Coming from Detroit via the Joakim Soria trade, Thompson excelled in the Texas League. He, too, works with a power fastball, complimenting it with a wipe out slider and a developing change up.
Also worth mentioning is 30th overall draft pick (2014 class), Luis Ortiz. Falling because of forearm tightness in the spring, Ortiz is another power pitcher with #2 to #3 starter upside. He’s a fairly polished product for a high school arm and could move more quickly than the typical prep.
The 2014 season has been a bleak one. Simply having players return to health should vastly improve the Texas Rangers rotation. Still, openings exist for internal (or external) starters to step into. Alex Gonzalez is best situated of the upper level prospects to open 2015 with the big club. His ground ball tendencies and strong power arsenal are well suited for Globe Life Park and give him a puncher’s chance to lock down a rotation spot for years to come.
10 Sep 2014 / Jeff Reese /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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