Rangers Considering Michael Kirkman For Final Rotation Spot


As I was expecting (and hoping for), the Rangers’ 5th starter is apparently down to two names: rookie RHP Nick Tepesch and LHP Michael Kirkman.

The idea is, if Tepesch wins the job, Kirkman will go to the bullpen and join Robbie Ross as the 2nd left-hander; should Kirkman take it, Tepesch would subsequently be sent down to AAA to join Justin Grimm and Randy Wells (and presumably Martin Perez once he’s healthy), and the Rangers would carry either Joe Ortiz or Nate Robertson as the 2nd lefty in the ‘pen.

If for no other reason than as a reference point, here are how the pitchers break down in their most recent seasons starting in the Minors:

Tepesch (2012) –

  • Single-A Myrtle Beach: 71.2 IP / 2.89 ERA / 7.41 K’s per 9 IP / 2.26 BB’s per 9 IP
  • Double-A Frisco: 90.1 IP / 4.28 ERA / 6.77 K’s per 9 IP / 2.59 BB’s per 9 IP

Kirkman (2010) –

  • Triple-A Round Rock: 131.0 IP / 3.02 ERA / 8.93 K’s per 9 IP / 4.67 BB’s per 9 IP

As you can probably tell, Tepesch presents the safer, less volatile option in comparison to Michael Kirkman, mainly with respect to their strikeout and walk rates. Tepesch walks far fewer, but doesn’t possess the strikeout potential. According to the data, Kirkman has the better stuff, but gives quite a bit to Nick Tepesch in the command department — which is typically what separates starting pitchers from relief pitchers.

Kirkman has had a near-flawless spring thus far, allowing 3 hits in 9 scoreless innings, with a K:BB ratio of 8:0, which is excellent. The questions with him have always revolved around his command of the strike zone, which has been suspect — at best — even going back to his days at High-A Bakersfield. If he somehow figured “it” out, which happens with a certain percentage of pitchers his age, then we’re looking at a sleeper with the potential to be much better than a typical #5, as he possesses a true wipeout slider to go with a plus fastball. He has the ceiling to generate above- replacement-level production in wake of Colby Lewis‘s return, which is something I’m not as confident saying vis a vis his competitor, Nick Tepesch.

I don’t read much into spring training results, but I did see that Tepesch got plastered last night against the Rockies, which is sort of a microcosm of how I’d expect him to perform in the big leagues right now. Yes, he could reel off a nice start here and there, but due to his lack of put-away secondary pitches, he’s bound to throw up clunkers, too. My expectation for him this year is reminiscent of how Justin Grimm performed in limited 2012 action.

Regardless who claims the 5th spot, we know the commitment will be transient. Colby Lewis is on track to return in mid-May, which will signal either (a) Tepesch being optioned to Triple-A or (b) Kirkman being moved from the rotation back to the bullpen.

Part of me wants to see how Tepesch handles a Major League lineup, but the more rational side understands that the games in April and May actually mean something, and that Kirkman probably provides the better chance of winning baseball games.

 

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  • Toad

    Why not let Tepesch start two or three games, and then Kirkman take the rest? That way the other clubs don’t get too much time to look at Tepesch, like they did Grimm last year. Grimm was rock solid in the beginning, then just got rocked after the teams got a second look.
    OR! If we were to get away from traditional baseball, why not have 6 starting pitchers, allowing Tepesch to throw 3 innings and Kirkman to come in for the next 3. If both could throw 3 successful innings it would save their arms, as well as the bullpen. And that is a day when you are worried that your bullpen will be spent, so what is it that prevents this from happening? As mother always said, sharing is caring.

    • delashmit

      The sharing like this has always been said to be hard for pitchers arms and would weaken the bullpen.

      • Eric Reining

        This, but also the fact that Tepesch probably needs an extra year in the Minor Leagues, and that Robbie Ross needs a year to develop his change up.

        That essentially leaves us with Michael Kirkman as the de facto favorite, as he has the most advanced array of pitches of the group. He’s the only clear-cut Major League-ready pitcher in the group.

    • Eric Reining

      … why not have 6 starting pitchers …

      Because we want Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison starting as many games as possible this season. The 5th starter is not as significant as, say, Yu Darvish’s slot, but it’s worth more to the team than anyone in the bullpen.

      If the argument to use Tepesch in the rotation and Kirkman in the bullpen is that the “bullpen will be weaker without Kirkman,” then that’s true. But it’s also the wrong way to look at the situation. You should be asking, “Who has the ability to give a stronger 5-6 innings every fifth day?”

      Because those 5-6 innings per start are more important than 2-3 innings a week out of the bullpen.

  • delashmit

    Tepesch’s last start was awful. I like Kirkman or Robbie Ross who has already been relegated to the bullpen.