Here's a Thought: Analyzing the Texas Rangers' Bullpen
I'm concluding my look at the four AL West bullpens with Texas. Inside are analyses of 13 relievers (there's a lot of competition for relief slots):
Francisco has dominant stuff, with a mid-90's fastball and improving splitter. He has struck out over 10 batters per nine innings in both 2008 and 2009.
A flyballer, Francisco isn't particularly well-suited for the Rangers' park, which allows lefty batters easy chances at home runs, but he's a very effective reliever regardless.
Supposedly, Feliz is being given a shot to start (and he should), but after seeing what happened with Joba Chamberlain, I wouldn't be surprised if Feliz winds up in relief again.
With a high-90's fastball and two effective offspeed pitches, Feliz was dominant right from the start last year, posting a 2.48 FIP. If left in relief, he'll quickly push Francisco aside and rival Andrew Bailey for the title of the best AL West closer.
The rare sidearmer who can retire opposite-side hitters, O'Day was a revelation in 2009, posting a 3.03 FIP.
Like most sidearmers, he works off a low-to-mid-80's sinker and a sweepy slider, but both pitches were extremely effective in 2009.
Unlike most sidearmers, O'Day doesn't get an extraordinary amount of grounders, so he has to be extremely precise to succeed. I'd expect some regression in 2010, but he's still a solid arm.
This is weird: Oliver, who turns 40 in October, has added 3.5 mph to his fastball in the last four years, and is now throwing harder than he has at any point in his career.
His 88-92 mph fastball is a very effective pitch, and Oliver has a sweeping breaking ball in the high 70's that is also solid.
Since moving to relief in 2006, Oliver has had four solid seasons, and figures to be a 3.00 ERA-ish pitcher again in 2010.
A rare five-pitch reliever (which is why there's talk of him being moved into the rotation), Wilson had a breakout in 2009, striking out over 10 per nine and posting a FIP under three.
The lefty works in the 91-96 mph range and also has a good slider, average cutter, and playable curve and changeup.
He may regress some in 2010, but he's yet another effective relief arm.
Ray's 7.27 ERA may look ugly, but he only deserved an ERA around 5.00. A .402 BABIP can do that.
Ray's control is just barely passable, but he throws a vicious mid-90's heater and mid-80's slider from a confounding delivery.
He was recovering from arm troubles that ruined his 2008, so give him a mulligan and expect a 4.00 ERA-quality pitcher in 2010.
Snyder is a soft-tossing lefty with a good breaking ball who Texas took from the Giants in the Rule 5 draft.
He posted a solid 3.23 FIP in Double-A last year.
In my opinion, Snyder was one of the better Rule 5 picks, but it's hard to know what a soft-tossing AA pitcher will do in the bigs.
If kept to a strict situational role, I imagine he'll be fine, but the Rangers shouldn't rush Snyder into high leverage.
Nippert doesn't throw as hard as he once did as a Diamondbacks prospect, but he has much better command and a much better changeup than he did back then.
Still armed with a 90-95 mph fastball and huge (if erratic) mid-70's curve, Nippert posted a 4.27 FIP as a swingman last year.
Now that he has a good third pitch, he might be best suited as a starter, but it appears that he'll open the year in relief.
There are plenty of better major league relievers, but Nippert is a solid back-end arm.
I was never a fan of McCarthy back when he was a hyped White Sox prospect, and it looks like I got this one right.
With a career 4.92 FIP (and a 4.70 mark last year), McCarthy is just good enough to not merit a demotion to AAA. His stuff isn't remarkable, as he throws a high-80's heater and two average-ish offspeed pitches.
If he makes the Rangers as a long reliever, expect a high-4's ERA.
Geary lost two mph last year that he couldn't afford to lose.
His fastball dropped from 89-94 mph to 87-92, and his performance cratered.
Given that he struggled with biceps tendinitis, and it was just a 20-inning sample, it could have been a fluke.
Still, Geary is going to need to push his fastball into the low 90's more consistently to achieve the form that made him a solid middle man from 2005-2008.
Don't write Geary off, but since he's an NRI to camp, he'll have to have a great spring to make the team.
Madrigal posted a 3.24 FIP in Triple-A, but fell to a horrific 7.44 in the majors last season.
He walked more batters in 12 2/3 innings in Texas (12) than in 49 innings in Oklahoma City (11).
Madrigal's calling card is his biting slider, which complements a low-90's fastball and playable split.
The 26-year-old has struck out tons of batters in the minors, but his K/9 is under 5.00 in the majors. He'll have to figure out how to get hitters to swing and miss more often to stick in the majors.
Eyre's bounced around for awhile as a long reliever. He threw 18 acceptable innings in Texas last year, showing no strikeout ability but also keeping the ball in the park.
Eyre works with a low 90's fastball and low 80's slider, and has a bunch of other pitches he throws once a week just to mess with hitters (which generally don't work).
Like McCarthy, Eyre (career 4.95 FIP) seems harmless, as he doesn't implode often enough to really look bad.
However, consistently below-average but never terrible isn't really a good thing to be.
Rapada will need to beat out Snyder and have Wilson make the starting rotation to have any shot at sticking. He's a sidearmer who has major control problems.
Rapada's half-decent against big league lefties, but he can't do anything with righties, as he lacks a changeup to complement his mid-80's fastball and frisbee slider.
If kept to a strict LOOGY role, Rapada could be acceptable, but Snyder could too, and he has more upside.
Feliz, Francisco, Wilson, OIiver, and O'Day are all locks for this relief corps, which looks to be much stronger than the Rangers' rotation.
Snyder doesn't make much sense to the team: there's no reason to carry a third lefty in the AL, particularly if you're hesitant to use him against righties.
He makes sense if Wilson moves to starting, but in this scenario, I'm assuming he doesn't.
The two best pitchers remaining are probably Ray and Nippert, who would fit in as long relievers.
Eyre, McCarthy, Geary, Rapada, and Madrigal would provide Triple-A depth.