With Joe Nathan now gone, the Texas Rangers will be seeking to fill the role of closer. Nathan, who made $9 million in 2013, did an excellent job filling the role as the closer. Nathan recorded his 300th save with the Texas Rangers, although that game had a bit of controversy around it. He recorded 43 saves, ranks 5th overall, and only had 3 blown saves.
Who will replace Joe Nathan? According to Jon Daniels, the Texas Rangers will more than likely be looking within to replace Nathan. One reason the Rangers will be promoting from within, is because the Daniels is focusing his effort on bringing in more offense to the club.
Tanner Scheppers has a contract with the Texas Rangers through 2019 and made $493,600 last season. Scheppers mainly pitched in the 8th inning to help setup Joe Nathan. Over the 2013 season, Nathan helped Scheppers with his setup role which could lead him into the closing role in 2014 season. Scheppers did pitch well in the 2013 season in his setup role. He had an ERA of 1.88 after 76 games over 76.2 innings. Also, he recorded 89 strikeouts, allowed 33 walks and 32 earned runs. Scheppers did have issues during some games, but found his stride in the last 10 games of the season. For his last 10 games of the season, he had an ERA of 0.84 over 10.2 innings. Overall, Scheppers was solid and reliable. The main question is, will he be able to close? Scheppers can pitch his fastball mid to high 90’s and once hit 100 MPH in college. Also, he combines his fastball with a slider, changeup and a curveball. Out of his 3 additional pitches, his curveball is his best go to pitch. Scheppers will need to keep his confidence and control to earn the role of closer next season.
Joakim Soria made $2 million last year, which is cheap, because in 2014 he will make $5.5 million and $7 million in 2015. Soria also has great potential to be the closer for the Texas Rangers. Soria was the closer for the Kansas City Royals since 2008. Soria is another pitcher that is coming off Tommy John surgery. Now that Soria has a year under his belt after the surgery, it is now time for him to bounce back to his previous self. Joe Nathan was able to bounce back and became a stellar closer, the Texas Rangers hope he is able to do the same. Soria didn’t have a great year in 2013 with his 3.80 ERA over 26 games and 23.2 innings. When Soria was pitching well previous to Tommy John surgery he was able to keep his ERA under 2.50. Soria has 4 pitches, fastball, slider, change-up and a slow curveball. His fastball averages in the low to mid 90s. His curveball isn’t the best, and he has issues with it at times. If he can work out the post-surgery issues, he could be an excellent candidate for the closer.
Neftali Feliz made $2.9 million last year and is signed through 2016. Feliz didn’t pitch much in 2013 due to coming off of Tommy John surgery. In the 6 game Feliz did pitch in, he allowed 5 hits, 0 runs and struck out 4. Feliz is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League trying to get some extra playing time to get ready for spring training. Feliz is another pitcher with closing experience. He had the closing role before Joe Nathan arrived 2 years ago. Feliz pitched well as a closer. In 2011 he recorded 32 saves out of 38 opportunities with an ERA of 2.74. He features a four seam fastball at 95-99 MPH, curve ball and a change up. If Feliz is able to recover and pitch well in the Dominican Winter League, he’ll be competing for the closing role in spring training.
My opinion is that the Rangers will consider them in that order, Scheppers, Soria and Feliz. Feliz with the extra playing time might be able to help him get back the role he had just a few years ago. Either way, Soria or Feliz are both excellent choices. Scheppers is also a good choice, but he needs to get more experience and confidence.