On the Fringe: Best and Worst Last Impressions for Rangers Postseason Roster

One-hundred and sixty-two games have been played. Now, what? Now it’s time to play more, of course, but the question remains: Who gets to play? Who gets to be a part of the Rangers postseason roster?

No doubt you know that Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Mitch Moreland, Jonathan Lucroy, Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomezand Shin-Soo Choo are going to be playing in the American League Division Series. You’re also aware that Cole Hamels, Yu Darvishand Colby Lewis will be starting games in some order. On the back end, Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Tony Barnette, Jeremy Jeffressand Keone Kela will likely be locked into the relief corps. Robinson Chirinos is going to be the backup catcher. That still leaves seven spots for Jeff Banister to fill going into Thursday.

He’ll take a lot of things into consideration, especially once the world finds out who the Rangers will be playing at Globe Life Park.

But, two sayings apply here: “Ride the hot hand,” and “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” Some players stepped up their game down the stretch, while others were admittedly given far fewer opportunities. However, there are some that made the most of their chances when they materialized.

Who showed up and who fizzled out?

Bad Impressions
  1. Joey Gallo – The potential is there. It’s always going to be there. As long as Gallo can break windshields of cars parked beyond batter’s eye backdrops in batting practice, people are going to clamor for Joey Gallo to be a part of the winning formula of this team. But posting nine strikeouts in 12 plate appearances with just three walks and ZERO hits in September isn’t going to earn “Potential” a spot on a playoff roster.
  2. A.J. Griffin – The one thing that Griffin has going for him is that the Rangers have won four of his five starts in September. Sadly, that’s about all he has going for him. Nine home runs, twenty earned runs, thirteen walks, with just twenty-four strikeouts is a hard sell for being a starter in the post-season.
  3. Jake Diekman – To say it’s been a rough month of September would be an understatement. In nine games, Diekman only managed to get through five innings. Battling extreme control issues, and trying to make some adjustments to his mechanics, the once-feared lefty out of the bullpen gave up seven walks, seven hits, five earned runs and also the confidence of his manager. Lefties are invaluable in the post-season, but lefties that don’t know where the ball is going and can’t finish innings are hard pressed to find a spot on a playoff roster.
  4. Delino Deshields – Deshields is only going to be useful as a pinch runner, but having a flexible option as a lead-off hitter or even a bunting threat would have been an excellent option for Banister to use. There’s also the issue of confidence. Whereas sending Rougned Odor down in 2015 lit a fire underneath him that made him invaluable, sending Deshields down earlier this year didn’t have that type of effect. It was with each at-bat in the final game of the season that Deshields looked progressively more beat down and frustrated.
  5. Derek Holland – The writing on the wall for starting pitcher Derek Holland became very apparent after his start Sept. 21 against the Los Angeles Angels. Not being able to go longer than six innings in four September starts and giving up sixteen runs on twenty-nine hits with nine walks and five home runs should have made things even more evident. Holland, with all of the pressure he puts on himself to live up to a one-game performance, has written himself out of the post-season starting rotation…and maybe out of a guaranteed contract for next year.
Good Impressions
  1. Ryan Rua – As Matt Hicks so eloquently put it on the last day of the season, Rua played “with his hair on fire.” Already with a chip on his shoulder from last year, Rua was only given a brief opportunity after the team clinched home field advantage. He used that opportunity to audition for a spot he did not have last year, going a spirited 2-for-3 with two stolen bases — key for a team that values an extra 90 feet — and showing, over the course of the season, that he’s a valuable bench bat that has outfield and first base versatility. His .277 batting average against lefties helps his cause, too.
  2. Jeremy Jeffress – A potentially overlooked piece in a deal that also brought Jonathan Lucroy to Texas, Jeffress’ season was on the verge of being derailed after a DWI arrest at the end of August. A relatively short rehab stint later, and Jeffress was given three games to show that he could still contribute to a record-setting shutdown bullpen. Over those three games, he pitched 4.1 innings, surrendered two walks, three hits, and zero runs. Maybe it’s not the ideal situation, but Jeffress is undoubtedly a key for the Rangers bullpen in the next month.
  3. Shin-Soo Choo – If Jeffress didn’t have a lot of time to show what he had, Choo had even less time. Restricted to a paltry 48 games this season due to three DL stints, Choo returned to the lineup to take part in the final series of the season. His return was already impressive, given that he had to have a plate inserted into his forearm after being hit by a pitch, but Choo managed to rack up a couple of hits against decent Tampa Bay Ray pitching. Flexibility and depth are going to be huge, game-changing factors for Jeff Banister’s club and having Choo back on the roster will lengthen the lineup, increases baserunning possibilities, and provides depth in the outfield.
  4. Tanner Scheppers – There is a stigma attached to the name “Tanner Scheppers,” given his last two disastrous seasons with the team. “No Trust,” “No Control,” and “Very Hittable” could have been used to describe the one-time Opening Day starter. Make no mistake — Scheppers has actually had a superb September. Throw out the last day of the season for Scheppers: an extra inning appearance that was entirely unseen in a game that had zero meaning in which he gave up two runs on three hits (but finished out the inning, including two strikeouts). Scheppers had one other bad outing against Houston in the middle of September but hasn’t given up a run in his other eight appearances, including a masterful 2.1 innings against some hearty Los Angeles Angels’ hitters. He may be left off of the ALDS simply because of manager’s desire to carry an extra bench player, but in my book, Scheppers could be on the roster to strengthen a deep bullpen.
  5. Derek Holland – What? Did Holland leave both a bad taste and good taste in your mouth? You’re not alone. Holland as a starter was sub-par, to say the least. Holland as a reliever had two solid outings once he was moved to the ‘pen permanently. Even though Holland’s post-season experience is brief and skewed, as is his bullpen experience, it is there. On a pitching staff rife with very green-to-the-playoffs pitchers, being able to use Holland in relief might be a secret weapon for Banister. With potential short leashes on both Colby Lewis and Martin Perez, another multi-inning option wouldn’t be a terrible thing to have around on the club.

Who impressed you down the stretch? Is there someone that was with the team all year that you’d leave off of the 25-man playoff roster? Is there someone that just came up that captured your attention? We’ll tackle the 25-man roster as a whole before the playoffs start. Until then, though, who makes you stop and think, “Maybe this is someone the Rangers need for a specific situation?”

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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