Who’s in line to be the Texas Rangers setup man?

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TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Pitcher Chris Martin #31 of the Texas Rangers throws in the bottom of 8th inning during the game three of Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 11, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Pitcher Chris Martin #31 of the Texas Rangers throws in the bottom of 8th inning during the game three of Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 11, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) /
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Deciding on a setup man is something the Texas Rangers need to do as the spring season winds down. The setup role fields three candidates at the moment.

The Texas Rangers have a lock at closer, but who will be responsible for setting up the closer in 2019? They have a few options, each of which comes with some setup experience. Here are the leading candidates…

Shawn Kelley

Career holds: 68

Career saves: 15

2018 stats: 54 appearances, 2.94 ERA, 0.898 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, .188 BAA (Batting Average Against)

Texas Rangers
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 14: Shawn Kelley #27 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the tenth inning during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on April 14, 2017 in Washington, D.C. The Nationals won 3-2 in ten innings. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Kelly is the most established setup man of the candidates. He had an outstanding 2018 season between the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics. Aside from one blip on the radar which saw a 7.20 ERA in 2017, the right-hander has been consistently good for much of the last four seasons.

A defined role heading into 2019 could do him some good. The Nationals could never figure out how to use him, spreading him out in the setup role, closer role, and middle relief role. As a result, Kelly could not always settle in. Texas can award him the setup role and make it his to lose to start the season.

Across the board, his statistics fit the setup role. He doesn’t allow many free passes and his slider poses as a legitimate out pitch. The Rangers would be in a comfortable position with him as the setup man to begin the season.

Chris Martin

Career holds: 22

Career saves: 1

2018 stats: 46 appearances, 4.54 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, .274 BAA

Martin posted 14 holds for the Texas Rangers in 2018. He was used on and off in the setup role; his performances seemed to be on and off as well. Command is the concern with the 32-year-old righty. His WHIP was way too high last year and he doesn’t have the swing-and-miss stuff that can get him out of trouble if runners reach base via walks.

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Hitters made contact with 80.1% of pitches thrown by Martin in 2018. The percentage is down from previous years, but still high for a late inning reliever. Additionally, he allowed a 68.6% contact rate on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone, which is also a high mark. The bottom-line is hitters are making contact against him at a high rate, meaning he’s not getting many cheap outs.

At 6’8”, he relies on an imposing down plane release to throw hitters off. If his stuff is on point, his fastball runs and sinks, his cutter hits its spots and his slider forces hitters off-balance.

Consistency is something he’ll need to prove in 2018. Until he proves it, he’ll likely settle for a role that is less pressure-packed than the setup role.

Zach McAllister

Career holds: 28

Career saves: 1

2018 stats: 44 appearances, 6.20 ERA, 1.489 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, .310 BAA

His 2018 numbers were poor, and that’s putting it kindly. But it’s important to realize how great McAllister pitched in 2017. He posted a 2.61 ERA over 50 appearances in 2017 with the Cleveland Indians. He averaged 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .235 batting average.

For whatever reason, or reasons, McAllister lost his way a season ago. He’s worked hard over the offseason and throughout the spring to rediscover his productive level of pitching. The signs are encouraging, as his ERA is 2.61 in 10.1 innings pitched this spring. His WHIP is below 1.000 and hitters are hitting below .200 against him.

McAllister also has a lot to prove this regular season. The Rangers will certainly have a role for him; however, they’ll likely use him somewhat tentatively at the start so they can get a feel for his effectiveness.

Next. How would losing Yohander Mendez affect the Rangers?. dark

Shawn Kelly should be the Rangers’ designated setup man on opening day. He is the most trustworthy source to get the ball to Jose Leclerc with a lead still intact.

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