Before Monday’s spring training game against Oakland, Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News released his early predictions for who would fill out the Texas Rangers starting rotation to start the season. His starting five includes, in order, Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo, Ross Detwiler, Colby Lewis and Alex Gonzalez, and thus far there shouldn’t be any arguments on that starting five. Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez and Anthony Ranaudo were also mentioned by Grant as possible fifth starter candidates.
After Monday’s outing, the case for having “Chi Chi” in the rotation got a little bit stronger a week into camp. Gonzalez pitched three innings in the Rangers’ 4-1 win, allowing two hits and three walks, while striking out three. In their 2015 guide, Baseball Prospectus projects Alex Gonzalez as a player that “[has] a repeatable delivery and a body built to log innings…you’ve got the whole set for a valuable number three starter.”
The downside here is that Gonzalez has yet to pitch above Double-A, starting 14 games for the RoughRiders last season. The smart play could be to give Chi Chi a few starts in Triple-A to get his feet wet at a higher level, while also pushing the clock on his arbitration back another year. This would also allow the Texas Rangers to gauge how ready Gonzalez is for a call-up with more certainty.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the early spring stats for the remaining three pitchers that Grant mentioned.
Nick Tepesch had a rough first outing last week, going 1 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits, seven runs and a walk. Even World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner struggled in his first outing of the spring, so we’ll have to keep an eye on how well Tepesch responds moving forward.
Nick Martinez was much better, going the full two innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out one.
Newcomer Anthony Ranaudo has been the best of the bunch thus far, and is currently in a 22-way tie for the lowest ERA on the team this spring at 0.00. In his outing, Ranaudo went two innings, giving up a hit and a walk. The Baseball Prospectus guide says of Ranaudo, “[his] flat fastball and sporadic command issues give him a probable outcome as a reliever. There’s still a chance he survives at the back end of a rotation instead, but his changeup and command would both need to take steps forward.” They also mention that the Red Sox turning Ranuado into “major-league currency” is an achievement. None of this is what we’re looking to hear about a rotation candidate.
While it’s still early, my guess is that Alex Gonzlaez will start the season in Round Rock, while lefty Nick Martinez gets a shot in the rotation. With seven of the Texas Rangers first twenty-four games coming against the Oakland Athletics, having an extra southpaw in the rotation could give the team an added advantage. The A’s hit just .239 against LHP a season ago, good for 26th in baseball. With a four-game set to open the season in Oakland, Martinez could even start the series finale in an effort to start three lefties, and adjusting the rotation a week or two later, with four scheduled off-days in April.
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