The Rangers have 32 pitchers in major league camp. I did an analysis of all of the pitchers who were in big league camp, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and will predict the pitching roster next week. I’ve also included each player’s stats from last year.
Mike Adams (73.2 IP, 1.47 ERA, 74 K with Padres and Rangers in 2011)
Adams is one of the top relievers in all of baseball, with a 2.11 career ERA, and a 1.47 2011 ERA. Mike did a great job as the Rangers set-up man after the trade last year and will fill that role again. He has not posted an ERA above 2.50 in any of his past four seasons, or one above 2.00 in any of his last three, and I expect that trend to continue.
Percentage chance of making the Opening Day roster: 100%
Joe Beimel (25.1 IP, 5.33 ERA, 17 K with Pirates in 2011)
Beimel, despite being a non-roster invitee, has a great chance of making the big league roster out of Spring Training, as with Darren Oliver gone and Mike Gonzalez still a free agent, the Rangers have no lefty bullpen pitchers that were good contributors to last year’s team. Joe, Michael Kirkman, Kelvin De La Cruz, and Mitch Stetter are the most likely candidates to be the lefty specialist to start off the year. Before last year, Joe had been pitching very well, with ERAs of 3.27, 2.96, 3.88, 2.02, 3.58, and 3.40 from 2005-2010, but then had his ERA rise by almost 2 full runs in 2011. If Joe can get close to where he was before last year than he will most likely be on the Opening Day roster.
Jake Brigham (114.1 IP, 4.49 ERA, 114 K with Double-A Frisco in 2011)
Midway through last year the Rangers transitioned Jake into a reliever after being a starter his whole career, and the results were promising, as Jake’s 4.96 starters ERA was much higher than his 3.60 relievers ERA. This improvement led the Rangers to adding him to the 40-man roster in order to avoid having him be in the Rule 5 Draft. His 4.49 mark last season was his lowest ERA since the 2007 season when he was in Short-Season-A Spokane. However, despite his improvement since moving to the pen, he has almost no chance of making the Opening Day roster as he has never made it above Double-A.
Fabio Castillo (52.1 IP, 6.36 ERA, 37 K with Double-A Frisco in 2011)
Fabio has absolutely no chance of making the big league roster at any point this season, barring a plethora of injuries to Rangers relievers. Castillo’s numbers fell off a cliff last year, as his 2.11 2010 ERA changed to a 6.36 2011 ERA. His batting average against went from .219 to .282 in just one season. He is most likely going to be one of the first players sent down to minor league camp.
Yu Darvish (18-6, 1.44 ERA, 276 K with Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan in 2011)
Even though Yu has never thrown a major league pitch in America, there is no way that he won’t start off the season in the big leagues. Darvish is supposed to be the best pitcher to ever come out of Japan, and the Rangers bought in, giving both him and his former team a lot of dough. Yu is supposed to have up to seven pitches including a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. Darvish has the talent to be a true ace, and at age 25, is right in the prime of his career.
Kelvin De La Cruz (86 IP, 4.19 ERA, 95 K with Double-A Akron in 2011)
Though it’s a long shot, seeing as he has never played above Double-A, and has had three straight years with ERAs over 4.00, Kelvin De La Cruz has a chance at the major league roster. However, last year’s 4.19 ERA is misleading, as his defense did nothing to help him, and Kelvin has an FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.54. The Rangers traded for him right before Spring Training after the Indians had DFA’d him, and since De La Cruz is a lefty, he is thrown into the lefty specialist competition as the most unlikely option. He will most likely start the year off at Triple-A.
Miguel De Los Santos (94.2 IP, 5.04 ERA, 142 K with three different minor league teams in 2011)
Even though this is the second straight year that Miguel will be in big league camp, he still has no shot at making the team. De Los Santos has never made it above Double-A, where he struggled mightily last year, with a 8.04 ERA in 28 innings, and has a terrible groundout to flyout ratio at 0.46. While he has a high K per 9 ratio, Miguel still has a lot of work to do to make the major leagues anytime soon.
Cody Eppley (9 IP, 8.00 ERA, 6 K with Rangers in 2011)
Eppley pitched well enough in the big leagues last year, despite a misleading 8.00 ERA, to warrant a fighting chance at an Opening Day roster spot. He started off dominant when he was first called up to the big leagues last year, and even pitched well enough to be the top set-up man for a week or two in a struggling bullpen. Eppley allowed just one run in his first 6.2 big league innings pitched, before imploding in his sixth outing, allowing 6 runs, all earned, in just 0.1 innings, leading to his demotion to Triple-A Round Rock after a couple more appearances. Cody and Mark Hamburger will be the two most likely people to land the last righty bullpen spot in the case that Koji Uehara is traded, which I think will happen.
Scott Feldman (32 IP, 3.94 ERA, 22 K with Rangers in 2011)
After having his season delayed by a knee injury, Scott excelled once he finally got back to the majors in mid-July last year, working out of the bullpen and as a spot starter. Feldman also played a key role in the Rangers getting back to the World Series in 2011, as he had a 3.29 playoff ERA in 13.2 innings pitched, including 8.2 scoreless innings between the ALDS and ALCS. Scott should once again be a long reliever and a spot starter for the Rangers this season, and should have another good year.
Neftali Feliz (62.1 IP, 2.74 ERA, 54 K with Rangers in 2011)
While Neftali is obviously still a lock to make the team on Opening Day, he will be doing so in a very different role than he has been in each of the past two seasons. This year he will be on the team as a starter, after closing each of the past two years, in which he had a combined 72 saves, a Rookie of the Year Award, and ERAs of 2.73 and 2.74. Neftali, in each of his three big league seasons, has held opponents to a batting average of under .200, with a career mark of .173 and a career WHIP of 0.95. Despite these terrific stats, there are a lot of questions about how he will adjust to the starter’s role, especially with his tendency to have high-pitch innings.
Wilmer Font (0 IP in 2011)
Not only has font never been above High-A before in his career, but he also missed all of last season due to an injury. And even if he hadn’t been hurt last year, he still probably wouldn’t have a chance at this year’s team, as he hasn’t done all that great in the minors with ERAs of 4.53, 3.49, 4.35 in his three pro seasons with a reasonable amount of innings.
Sean Green (11.2 IP, 5.40 ERA, 7 K with Brewers in 2011)
While Sean has 269.2 innings of big league experience, chances are still against him being on the Opening Day roster, as not only is he a non-roster invitee, but he is also a righty, and the Rangers have an abundance of right-handed pitchers. After spending the majority of the 2007-2009 seasons in the majors with the Mariners and Mets, Green has thrown only 21 innings in the majors in the last two years combined. Green has a small chance at making the Opening Day team, but it will most likely take injuries. However, there is a very good chance he will be in the majors at some point this season.
Mark Hamburger (8 IP, 4.50 ERA, 6 K with Rangers in 2011)
Even though Mark has almost no big league experience (8 IP), he still has a great chance at making the Opening Day roster as an innings-eater, since he has the ability to be a long man and even make a few spot starts here and there. He did a solid job in his limited time with the Rangers in ’11, but did really well with the RoughRiders (1.83 ERA in 19.2 IP) and with the Express (3.88 ERA in 62.2 IP), making for a combined 3.39 minor league ERA last year. Mark is a valuable man to have coming out of the pen and him and Cody Eppley are going to fight it out for the last spot if/when Koji Uehara is traded, which I fully expect to happen.
Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39 ERA, 126 K with Rangers in 2011)
After struggling in each of his first three seasons in the majors with ERAs of 5.49, 6.11, and 4.71, Matt really broke through last year, posting a 3.39 ERA even with his 6.07 August ERA. After last season there is no way that he can be left off the team, and he would have to be really bad in Spring Training not to be in the rotation, but he at times seems weak mentally, so another good season out of him this year is not a given.
Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95 ERA, 162 K with Rangers in 2011)
Like Matt Harrison did, Derek also had a breakout year in 2011, winning 16 games and having his first year with an ERA under 4.00. But while they both had good years last year, Derek seems much more mentally tough and still is nowhere near his potential. His potential was reached in the playoffs last year, though, as he had a 3.38 postseason ERA, including a 0.87 World Series ERA. Holland is clutch and has ridiculous talent. I expect him to be an All-Star and an ace this year.
Michael Kirkman (27.1 IP, 6.59 ERA, 21 K with Rangers in 2011)
In an overall very weak lefty specialist battle for the Rangers this spring, Kirkman has a definitive advantage as the only one to both be on the 40-man roster and have big league experience. After a good season in his rookie year in 2010, in which he had a 1.65 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched, he followed that up with a 6.59 ERA. Despite the high ERA, he held lefties to a .214 batting average against, which also works to his advantage in the competition for the lefty specialist role coming out of the bullpen. Obviously, if the Rangers sign Mike Gonzalez, this all goes out the window and that spot in the bullpen goes to Gonzalez.
Come back next week for part 2 of my Spring Training Pitchers Analysis.