Currently, Derek Holland's future is to be determined as he won't return until midseason due to the rehabilitation process from surgery on an injured knee, per multiple sources. His projections will be omitted. With several free-agent pitchers left on the market, do the Rangers make a move or depend on a new candidate to help fill the void?
Free-agent names like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana remain unsigned. With the loss of Holland and the uncertainty of who will replace him, we'll hold off on making any projected rotations. However, a good guide to go by when looking at the possible rotation is the Rangers' depth chart, per team website.
Going off the standard five-man rotation, Nick Tepesch looks to now gain the last spot in the rotation with Holland out. At times during the 2013 season, Tepesch flashed brilliance but ended the season with a losing record. Again, we'll hold off on making a projected rotation, but we'll use the depth chart as a guide.
As for the other part of the battery, there should be two primary catchers for the Rangers this season. One of those catchers that could emerge as an every day starter is J.P. Arencibia. The former Toronto Blue Jay signed an offseason deal with the Rangers and replaces A.J. Pierzynski from 2013. Arencibia hit 21 home runs last season but struggled elsewhere with a .194 batting average. However, don't expect him to make too much noise this year as Soto is the expected starting catcher by Daniels, per Evan Grant of SportsDay DFW in a November 2013 article.
Let's look at theses players and others as we review scouting reports and make projections for the Rangers pitchers and catchers in the 2014 MLB season.
Geovany Soto is a 6'1", 235-pound catcher at the age of 31 with a contact hitter's mentality. On occasion, Soto is able to drive the ball out of the park. In 2013, he was a clutch hitter for the Rangers, driving in many key runs during crucial times.
Behind the plate, Soto is Yu Darvish's primary catcher. Soto is a great receiver but is average at throwing out runners trying to swipe a bag. His .294 caught stealing percentage would have ranked outside the top 10 among all catchers in the 2013 MLB season.
Soto looks to be the primary catcher in 2014. He should be guaranteed more at-bats, which will really give him a chance to get in a groove as a veteran. Soto only played in 54 games in 2013, which was down about 50 percent from his recent days with the Chicago Cubs. Expect Soto to capitalize on more playing time like he did with the Cubs.
.255 batting average, 12 home runs, 50 RBIs.
J.P. Arencibia is a 6'0", 200-pound catcher at the age of 28 with the ability to drive the long ball. In the minor leagues, Arencibia has hit for a .300 batting average, notably in 2010 but has struggled to get near this feat in the MLB. Arencibia is very capable of hitting towering home runs much like Mike Napoli did with the Rangers. (See above video.)
Behind the plate, Arencibia ranked No. 12 in caught-stealing percentage as he threw out 21 of 83 runners in 2013. Arencibia is a very durable catcher as he's caught 347 games in the last three years. One area Arencibia will need to work on going forward is his ability to stop passed balls and limit errors. He ranked last in both in 2013 as a qualified catcher.
With Soto projected to get extended playing time in 2014, Arencibia is left as the backup. This role should suit Arencibia well, as he'll need to tune his swing with the Rangers hitting coaches—a process that will take a full season to work on.
.235 batting average, 15 home runs, 45 RBIs.
Yu Darvish is a 6'5", 225-pound starting pitcher at the age of 27. Coming from Japan in 2012, Darvish has an incredible pitch arsenal that meshes right in with his arm slot on delivery. He's extremely athletic and can even throw 82 mph left-handed, per SB Nation. And speaking on velocities, check out his speeds from 2012 to 2013, via B/R's Adam Wells in his December 2013 article.
|Season||4-Seam FB||2-Seam FB||Cutter||Splitter||Slider||Curve|
Going from a 94 mph fastball to a 70 mph curveball is tough to deal with. No wonder Darvish led the MLB with 277 strikeouts in 2013.
This season should be huge for Darvish, as the Rangers finally have a productive lineup at hand. If he just repeats what he did in 2013, Darvish will be a 20-game winner. He's in his prime and should get plenty of run support in 2014. That run support should give Darvish a lesser pitch count and innings pitched, which will lead to less strikeouts. Not a big deal when the wins are piling up.
22 wins, five losses, 2.59 ERA, 260 strikeouts.
Martin Perez is a 6'0", 165-pound starting pitcher at the age of 22. Perez exploded onto the scene in 2013, getting his chance to start thanks to injuries. He won 10 games, including five consecutive victories in August and one more to that streak in early September. Perez gets both ground-ball and fly-ball outs, but he often has a high pitch count.
Coming into the big leagues and starting while many young adults his age are still in college is quite impressive. With Holland now out until midseason, Perez is one player who will need to step up in place of the left-handed starter. A lefty himself, Perez should start strong but might slip up in the middle of the season due to inexperience. However, Perez will finish the season strong and give the Rangers pitching staff momentum going into the postseason.
14 wins, eight losses, 3.40 ERA, 100 strikeouts.
Alexi Ogando is a 6'4", 200-pound starting pitcher at the age of 30. Ogando can really run his fastball up to the mid-90s, but his durability has been the question recently. In the minor leagues, Ogando started off as an outfielder, so he's come along way since making the switch. When healthy, Ogando can compete with the rest of them.
I don't expect Ogando to remain a starting pitcher for the Rangers all throughout 2014. While he's listed as the third starting pitcher on the Rangers depth chart sans Holland, Ogando fits better in the bullpen.
Five wins, three losses, 2.90 ERA, 90 strikeouts, 49 games played, 10 starts.
Matt Harrison is a 6'4", 250-pound starting pitcher at the age of 28. After coming off an 18-win season, Harrison got injured in the second game of 2013. Per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com in a January article, Harrison is ramping up his rehab. The work ethic is clearly a strength and will help him compete throughout this season.
Harrison should return close to his form from 2012. While it's not guaranteed that he returns to form, Harrison still feeds off competition as seen in both 2011 and 2012, which will ultimately help him remain in the rotation. He's still relatively young and has plenty of experience that could help him emerge as the leader of the pitching rotation, especially with Holland out at the beginning of the season.
15 wins, 10 losses, 3.30 ERA, 115 strikeouts.
Nick Tepesch is a 6'4", 225-pound starting pitcher at the age of 25. Tepesch had a subpar 2013 record, as it was just his first time in the major leagues, but he did compete in almost every start. Tepesch can be used as both a starter and bullpen pitcher. With Holland out, Tepesch should go into spring training as the No. 5 starter. Here's a little more on Tepesch from Adam J. Morris of SB Nation in an April 2013 article.
Tepesch has a four pitch mix of fastball, cutter/slider, curveball and changeup, and while he's not an overpowering pitcher, he's got a shot at having a solid major league career because he can throw his pitches for strikes and battle hitters even when he's not got his best stuff. He's not the type of high ceiling guy who gets prospectphiles' pulses racing, but he's a solid under-the-radar prospect who is likely going to get five or six starts at the major league level to show that he belongs.
Last season Tepesch had 141 ground-ball outs to 156 fly-ball outs. If he wants to turn the corner as a big league pitcher, he's going to have to work on raising the ground-ball outs above the fly-ball outs.
Tepesch pitched in some excellent games early on in 2013, notably winning and only giving up a run to the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros in April and May. Once again, Tepesch should start off strong as he'll be fighting to keep a spot in the rotation. However, he might be the odd man out once Holland comes back.
7 wins, 7 losses, 3.90 ERA, 80 strikeouts.
Other possible starters include Robbie Ross and Colby Lewis. Ross is a left-handed pitcher who's "always wanted to be a starter," per Todd Willis of MLB.com in a January article. Lewis has not pitched since 2012 but can certainly be a veteran leader in 2014 at the age of 34.
Neftali Feliz should get the nod as the closer and return to his All-Star form. Tanner Scheppers, who was close to making the All-Star Game in 2013, should once again thrive in a bullpen role. Although he has said he wants to be the closer, Scheppers is preparing to be a starter for spring training, per Bill Baer of NBC Sports in a January article.
Travis Blackley, Joakim Soria, Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor all round out the rest of the pitching staff. These players should see valuable innings in 2014 and possibly late-inning work if the Rangers lineup can put games out of reach. Each of the above mentioned pitchers has excellent stuff that's kept them in the big leagues for many years.