Texas Rangers 2012: Ranking the Texas Pitching Staff
“The Rangers can definitely pitch.”
There's a statement most baseball fans would have never uttered a few years ago.
But thanks to a well-developed farm system and good big league management by the Rangers front office, Texas now boasts one of the better pitching staffs in the American League.
But how do they stack up against each other?
12. Mark Lowe
Admittedly, my opinion of Mark Lowe is probably skewed by the home run he gave up in the game that shall not be mentioned.
Lowe has above average stuff with his fastball and slider. The fastball will hit the upper 90s, but inconsistency with location has allowed hitters in the past to sit and wait for good pitches to hit. He doesn't issue a ton of walks, but he does give up a lot of hits because he tends to get behind in the count.
He still has potential to become a very good reliever for the Rangers, and at 28 there is still time. But he will have to improve his command to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball.
11. Robbie Ross
Robbie Ross is a wild card for the Rangers solely for the fact that we haven’t seen what he can do at the big league level just yet.
But in the minors Ross was known as a pitcher with good placement of his pitches. In the spring we saw his ability to throw strikes, and we also saw that he isn’t going to strike out a lot of batters. He pitches to contact and does an excellent job of getting ground balls, much like Matt Harrison does, which is a perfect fit for Texas.
We will have to see how he handles being in the majors, but if he can command his pitches as he has shown he can, he will be fine.
10. Koji Uehara
Koji Uehara is a mixed bag when it comes to his potential. He doesn’t overpower hitters, but he has excellent movement on his pitches and can change speeds effectively with his curveball that usually stays below 70.
The reason he isn’t higher on this list is because he could not show that stuff after his trade to Texas. After he arrived Uehara struggled to have the same command of his pitches and left too many up in the zone, which led to lots of problems, including his four home runs allowed in just 9.2 innings with Texas the first month after he was traded.
If Uehara can regain his command, he has a chance to be the pitcher Texas traded for.
9. Scott Feldman
Feldman put together a very good 2009 with the Rangers before injuries nagged him beginning in 2010 all the way through the early part of last year.
His stuff is good, not great, but he does get good movement on his fastball, which touches 94 at times, and he has a cutter and a slider that are solid pitches for him.
His cutter has actually become one of his better pitches, and he mixes it effectively with a two-seam fastball and a good 12-6 curveball that he likes to throw to right-handed batters.
Feldman knows how to pitch and uses his height and his high arm delivery to his advantage.
8. Joe Nathan
If we were talking about Joe Nathan before his Tommy John surgery, he would be sitting in the top three or four on this list.
His fastball hits the mid 90s and when he commands it is pretty close to unhittable. He throws a slider that has excellent late break on it and will miss a lot of bats.
The problem for Nathan is he has not been able to put it together consistently since surgery derailed his 2010 season.
He used to be untouchable, but now he has to work his way back to being the All-Star we all saw in Minnesota.
7. Colby Lewis
I know this seems low for the opening day starter, and this is in no way an indictment of his ability to pitch at the big league level.
However, when you look at Lewis’s stuff, he doesn’t dominate opposing batters. His fastball touches 90 mph most of the time, and his slider hovers at the mid 80s.
But what Lewis lacks in speed, he more than makes up for in command.
He commands his slider better than just about anyone else in the league. He can throw the pitch in any count to get an out or get a ball in play.
The downside to Lewis is that having a slower fastball, when he does not locate that pitch, leaves him subject to getting burned deep. Lewis gave up 35 homers in 2011, second most in the majors behind Bronson Arroyo.
Lewis is a good pitcher, but his understanding of how to pitch, not his stuff, has given him his success.
6. Mike Adams
You would think that, being a setup man, Adams is defined by his fastball. Not so for this right-hander.
While he does get it into the mid 90s, he does most of his damage with his slider. He is one of the few pitchers in baseball that actually throws his secondary pitches more than he throws his fastball, about 57 percent for the off-speed pitches to 43 percent for the fastball.
His slider hits the upper 80s, and he will throw it to any hitter at anytime in the count without hesitation.
Of the trades Texas made at the deadline last season, Adams is by far the better of the two.
Adams has the ability to be a closer, and if Joe Nathan cannot regain his pre-surgery form, look for Adams to start handling some of the ninth inning duties.
5. Matt Harrison
Matt Harrison is a pitcher that was built to pitch at the Ballpark in Arlington.
He is a sinkerball pitcher that gets more ground balls than just about anyone in the league. He was one of the top double-play inducing pitchers in the majors in 2011.
While the sinkerball is his out pitch, he does throw a fastball that hovers around 92 and a changeup that he will throw to either side of the plate.
Harrison has been solid through his first two outings, allowing just one run in his first two starts of 2012.
He won’t blow you away, but with the defense he has playing behind him and his ability to get ground balls, he can get out of jams quicker than anyone on this staff.
4. Alexi Ogando
This guy was an All-Star last year, right?
Ogando had a spectacular first half out of the blue last year, but he started to tail off after the All-Star break, presumably due to arm fatigue. He had only pitched 41 innings in his first major league season in 2010.
He uses his scorching fastball and a good slider that provides enough of a change in speed to strike out hitters at a rate of 6.7/9 innings.
His hard changeup is a good third pitch, but all he really needs is that fastball.
He has been moved back to the bullpen to make room for Neftali Feliz and could find himself back in the rotation if Colby Lewis is not re-signed after this season.
3. Neftali Feliz
Feliz is an interesting case because he finds himself in a new role as a starter. When you look at his pitches, you are blown away by his 100 mph fastball, but he had a tendency as a closer last year to be inconsistent with his location at times.
However, in his first outing as a starter, Feliz walked the first two batters but no one else after that reached base due to a walk.
His off-speed pitches are devastating enough but are helped out by the speed of his fastball. He can change speeds from his 100 mph fastball to a killer curve that hovers around the low 80s.
If Feliz can prove that his first start wasn’t a fluke, he will be a nightmare for opposing batters.
2. Yu Darvish
When you have seven different pitches you can throw for strikes, you are going to be around the top of this list. But what keeps him from the No. 1 spot is his lack of MLB experience.
While he has struggled with his fastball command some in the spring and in his first outing against Seattle, Darvish has such a vast assortment of pitches he can throw in virtually any count that once he figures out how to pitch in the major leagues, he has the potential to be nearly untouchable.
His two-seam fastball is what pitching coach Mike Maddux has called one of the best variations of the pitch he has ever seen. Add that to a cutter that can strike out right- and left-handed hitters and a few other off-speed pitches and you could have one of the most electric pitchers in baseball.
If Darvish can prove he can pitch in the majors, he will be at the top of this list next season.
1. Derek Holland
Having the right talent has never been Holland’s problem. His inconsistency has hindered him in previous years as he learned how to be a pitcher in the big leagues.
Last year in Game 4 of the World Series, he showed two big things.
First, he proved that he has the stuff to be a No. 1 pitcher. His mid-upper 90s fastball coupled with an above average slider and solid changeup has allowed him to keep hitters guessing. The improvement of his curveball allows Holland a fourth pitch he can use early in the count to set up his other secondary pitches and his overpowering fastball.
Secondly, he helped to shed the label of inconsistency, proving he can do it on the biggest stage. If you remember correctly, this is the same pitcher who threw 12 straight balls against the Giants in the 2010 World Series.
Holland will now have to show consistency for a full season, but his potential is top-notch. He will also have to ditch the mullet and the weird mustache if he wants to stay at the top of this list.