Strength In Numbers

The Texas Rangers finished 2013 with the 4th  lowest bullpen ERA in the majors, 2nd  in the American League behind only Kansas City. Most of last years core bullpen pieces will remain in Texas this season, but there were a few departures. Players that pitched out of the bullpen in 2013 that will not be Rangers this year include Joe Nathan, Ross Wolf, Travis Blackley, Josh Lindblom, Derek Lowe and Kyle McClellan. And who could forget the dominant performance from David Murphy out of the bullpen. The only real notable player from this list is Joe Nathan, and while Joe had a great season (1.39 ERA and 43/46 in save opps), I think the Rangers can withstand that loss. Texas has done a fantastic job lately of building bullpen depth within the organization. There are many players ready to step up and contribute in a bullpen role. In addition, the front office made strong moves to bolster and improve the depth of the bullpen this offseason. Let’s go through the individuals that are or could be a part of the 2014 Texas Rangers bullpen and possible future bullpens. 
2014 Bullpen Options for the Rangers:

LEFT HANDERS:

Robbie Ross: The possibility of the 24 year old left hander starting the season as
a member of the rotation is very strong. He will reportedly be stretched out as a starter in Spring Training and will compete to earn a spot in the rotation. He was a
starter in the minor leagues and faired well there, as he had a 2.88 ERA and struck
out 7.6 per nine innings (68 starts).
2013: 62.1 IP    3.03 ERA    136 ERA+    8.4 K/9    2.7 BB/9

Neal Cotts: REAL DEAL NEAL 
2013: 57.0 IP    1.11 ERA    375 ERA+    10.3 K/9    2.8 BB/9

Joseph Ortiz: He was apparently hit by a motorcycle in Venezuela and had surgery to repair a broken foot. He will likely miss 3 months.
2013: 44.2 IP    4.23 ERA    98 ERA+    5.4 K/9    2.0 BB/9

Michael Kirkman: His season was cut short in 2013 because of a recurring battle
with skin cancer. His 2014 is also one that people are unsure about because he is out
of minor league options so if he does not make the team out of spring training, he
will but put on waivers and will probably not clear them.
2013: 22.0 IP    8.18 ERA    51 ERA+    10.2 K/9    6.1 BB/9

Pedro Figueroa: The Rangers claimed the 28 year old from the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday (1/29/14)
2013(AAA): 59.1 IP    4.10 ERA    7.4 K/9    5.0 BB/9

Aaron Poreda: Texas signed the former first round pick to a minor league deal in 
October
2013: did not pitch
2012 (AA): 16.0 IP    2.25 ERA    6.2 K/9    6.2 BB/9

RIGHT HANDERS:

Joakim Soria: He is one of three relievers that have a good chance of winning the closers role out of spring training, the other two, being Neftali Feliz and Tanner 
Scheppers. Soria had Tommy John surgery in the April of 2012 and was signed by 
the Rangers after that season, earning 2 year, $8 million deal. 

2013: 23.2 IP    3.80 ERA    101 ERA+    10.6 K/9    5.3 BB/9

Neftali Feliz: In 10 appearances (9.2 IP), Feliz pitched well in the Dominican 
Winter League. He carried an ERA of 2.79, while striking out 11 batters. According 
to reports from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, he was clocked at 98 mph during 
his time pitching in the Dominican. He did make a few appearances in 2013 after 
coming back from Tommy John surgery.
2013: 4.2 IP    0.00 ERA    7.7 K/9    3.9 BB/9
MILB (Rk, AAA): 10.2 IP    0.00 ERA    11.0 K/9    3.4 BB/9

Tanner Scheppers: He is expected to be stretched out as a starter in Spring 
Training and compete for a rotation spot. His 2013 season came out of nowhere in 
a sense, but he is a candidate for regression in 2014, considering his strikeout rates 
and his 3.74 FIP.
2013: 76.2 IP    1.88 ERA    220 ERA+    6.9 K/9    2.8 BB/9

Jason Frasor: Texas signed Frasor to a 1 year/ $1.75 million deal very early in 
the offseason, which appears to be an extreme bargain. His 2013 was a pleasant 
surprise for Texas, and his second half was even better, holding batters to a slash 
line of .167/.270/.244.
2013: 49.0 IP    2.57 ERA    161 ERA+    8.8 K/9     3.7 BB/9

Cory Burns: Burns was traded from San Diego to Texas for a PTBNL (Wilfredo 
Boscan) in 2012. A lot of Burns’ success can be attributed to his plus circle change. 
2013: 11.1 IP    3.18 ERA    134 ERA+    4.0 K/9    5.6 BB/9
AAA: 37.2 IP    2.15 ERA    11.5 K/9       3.6 BB/9

Ben Rowen: He was 2012 Rangers minor league reliever of the year. 
2013 (AA, AAA): 65.2 IP    0.69 ERA    7.9 K/9    2.3 BB/9

Shawn Tolleson: The former Allen Eagle and Baylor Bear was claimed off waivers 
by the Rangers from the Los Angeles Dodgers in November. He was out for most of 
2013 due to hip and back surgeries. 
Career in MILB: 127.2 IP    1.34 ERA    13.0 K/9    2.2 BB/9

Wilmer Font: Power. Power. Power. Font has an electric and incredibly effective 
fastball… if he can control it. If I remember correctly, he has one minor league option
left.
2013 (AA, AAA): 52.0 IP    1.04 ERA    12.3 K/9    5.9 BB/9

Miles Mikolas: He was traded from Pittsburgh to Texas for first baseman Chris 
McGuiness.
2013 (AAA): 61 IP    3.25 ERA    5.9 K/9    2.5 BB/9

Future Bullpen Options for the Rangers:


LEFT HANDERS: 

Jimmy Reyes: A personal favorite, Reyes (age 24) has had a steady walk rate for his career at 2.0 BB/9. His dominance of left handed batters in 2013 is what really has me intrigued (LHB opp. slash line; .176/.255/.235)
2013 (AA): 67.0 IP    2.69 ERA    7.7 K/9    2.7 BB/9

Alex Claudio: He won the 2013 Rangers minor league reliever of the year award. 
He is said to have the best changeup in the minor league system by the people at 
Baseball America. That changeup can be seen here at 1:10 in a video from Lone Star Ball’s, Tepid Participation; 


2013 (lowA/AA):78.2 IP    1.83 ERA    10.4 K/9    2.1 BB/9

Cody Ege: 2013 15th round draft pick
2013 (Rk, LoA, HiA): 30.0 IP .90 ERA 11.7 K/9 1.5 BB/9

RIGHT HANDERS:

Lisalverto Bonilla: He was traded from Philadelphia in the Michael Young trade. 
Many have been intrigued by the potential of Bonilla due to his plus changeup.
2013 (AA, AAA): 73.1 IP    4.79 ERA    13.0 K/9    4.0 BB/9

Ryan Harvey: The 2012 draftee looked great in his opening season in Spokane, but 
struggled a bit in the jump to Hi-A ball in Myrtle Beach. He saw his walk rate more 
than double and strikeout rate drop considerably. Alas, The potential for Harvey is 
still there because of his mid 90’s fastball and slider combination.
2013 (A+): 58.0 IP    3.41 ERA   8.4 K/9    5.6 BB/9

Phil Klein: The 24 year old right hander has always had a high walk rate (career – 
5.2 BB/9) but we saw that number go up by more than a full batter per nine innings 
in 2013. Standing 6’7, he looks like a power pitcher but his fastball sits around 91-
93 mph. Despite the speed of his fastball, his fastball/slider combination has gotten
great results through the minors
2013 (A+, AA): 67.1 IP    2.41 ERA    11.5 K/9    6.3 BB/9

Keone Kela: The 20 year old pitched in the Arizona Fall League and in the Venezuela Winter League. This workload may have led to his eventual elbow soreness, resulting in him being shut down for the rest of the winter. Despite that, the future is bright for the young right-hander. The great minds at Baseball America think that Kela’s fastball is the best in the Rangers farm system.
2013 (Rk, A-, A): 39.0 IP    3.46 ERA    12.0 K/9    3.5 BB/9

Randy Henry: Henry was traded from Baltimore to Texas for Taylor Teagarden. His success has been steady, including 2013 in Frisco, where he continued to progress (0.770 WHIP). 
2013 (AA): 50.2 IP    1.07 ERA    7.1 K/9    1.2 BB/9

Sam Wolff: 2013 6th round draft pick
2013 (A-, A): 30.0 IP    0.60 ERA    13.2 K/9    2.7 BB/9

Daniel Bard: News broke on Friday that Daniel Bard had an agreement with the 
Rangers. The 28 year old right-hander had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery early in January. I’m assuming that they are not looking for him to be a starter but a reliever. 
2013 (Rk, A-, AA): 15.1 IP    6.46 ERA    5.3 K/9    15.8 BB/

Predictions: Just for fun, I thought I’d throw my 2014 bullpen predictions out there


2014 closer: Neftali Feliz
2014 minor league reliever of the year: Cody Ege
Lowest ERA in the Texas bullpen with 25+ innings: Ben Rowen

I expect the bullpen for the 2014 Texas Rangers to be a definite strength. I also think that the future is bright. Considering the depth that the ownership group has loaded into our farm system, I think that the minor league bullpen arms are the second biggest strength in the organization behind of course, the depth at middle infield (Sardinas, Odor, Bostick, etc.). As we’ve seen in the past (2011 World Series), bullpen depth can make or break a playoff run. Based on the current depth of the bullpen, the Rangers seem well prepared in that aspect.

Chris Morgan

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