Texas Rangers: A way-too-early look at the 2020 starting rotation

HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 09: Mike Minor #23 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 09, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 09: Mike Minor #23 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 09, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

With the trade deadline come and gone, the Texas Rangers now have a better picture of how their starting rotation could look come 2020 Opening Day.

Deadline day came and went without the Texas Rangers making any major moves. Rather, Texas opted to hold onto their controllable assets and continue to build the organization at all levels.

Rotation Locks

LHP Mike Minor (Competing to be: Ace)

Mike Minor was far and away the Rangers most tradeable/valuable asset with the lefty in the midst of an All-Star season and under contract through next season. He’s posted a 5.9 bWARWith him sticking around, it looks like he’s set to stay near the top of the Rangers rotation for 2020 with a better than not chance of being the Opening Day starter. Barring some offseason moves, Texas likely rolls with the southpaw as their #1 next season as they look to compete for a playoff spot in the new Globe Life Field.

RHP Lance Lynn (Competing to be: 2nd starter)

Lynn is not far off the pace set by Mike Minor this season and in some ways has been more valuable than the veteran lefty. Lynn, who signed a 3-year/$30 million deal with Texas this past offseason has been an absolute workhorse for Texas and has racked up a 13-6 record in 22 starts. His 141 innings have been crucial for the club and he’s put up 160 strikeouts that gives him a nice 10.2 K/9 rate. His He really had an argument to be an All-Star and will be a lock for Texas’ rotation next season unless something wild happens this winter.

Competing from Within

LHP Joe Palumbo (Competing to be: 3/4 starter)

Palumbo has really burst onto the Rangers scene over the past year and a half. He made his big league debut this year and looks like an effective starter for the future. He’s currently in Triple-A but he’s probably the leading candidate for a rotation spot among those not named Mike Minor or Lance Lynn.

RHP Ariel Jurado (Competing to be: 4/5 starter)

Jurado currently is in the big league rotation and is holding his own. He’s got a 4.92 ERA through 13 starts and 23 total appearances. He’s right up their with Palumbo as leading guys to get a shot at the 2020 rotation. Jurado’s ceiling isn’t super high but if he’s your 5th starter next season, that’s a pretty good option.

LHP Taylor Hearn (Competing to be: 4/5 starter)

Hearn, like Palumbo got his big league debut this season, however it was pretty disastrous. Hearn didn’t make it out of the first inning and quickly hit the IL with shoulder soreness. He’s back with Triple-A Nashville now and has a 4.05 ERA in 4 starts.

LHP Brock Burke (Competing to be: 4/5 starter)

Burke spent the beginning of the season injured after joining the organization in the Jurickson Profar trade last season. He’s pitched well in Double-A making 8 starts with a 3.43 ERA. MLB Pipeline has him as the 7th prospect in the organization and personally, I’m a big fan. I think we’ll get a look at Burke in Arlington before the end of the year.

LHP Kolby Allard (Competing to be: 4/5 starter)

Allard is the newest addition to the Rangers organization brought over from the Braves in the Chris Martin deal. Allard was with the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate and has made 20 starts this season with a 4.17 ERA. Two years ago he looked like a future ace, now he’s a back-end starter at best. But he’s near Major League ready and will have a shot in 2020.

RHP Pedro Payano (Competing to be: 4/5 starter)

Pedro Payano is a name that wouldn’t have been included in this list a couple of weeks ago. However, he’s gotten a few appearances in the big leagues and been impressive. In 11.1 innings for Texas, Payano has a 3.18 ERA and opponents are hitting just .234 against him. He’ll have an uphill battle but maybe he can give himself an edge with a good end to 2019.

LHP Yohander Mendez (Competing to be: 4/5 starter)

Mendez was a guy who had a real shot at being in the 2019 rotation but an injury has just furthered his fall from grace. However, he’s still talent and only 24-years old with more Major League experience than most of the guys he’ll compete with. He’s lost some luster but if he can get right, he’s a good guy to get back at the top of your system.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (Competing to be: 5th starter/reliever)

Hernandez is definitely on the outside looking in on this internal rotation battle. He’s got some of the best natural stuff in the system but has struggled nearly every step of the way. Currently in Double-A, Hernandez has made 15 starts and 18 total appearances this season with a  5.59 ERA. If he’s in Arlington to open up 2020, it’s probably in the bullpen.

RHP Adrian Sampson (Competing to be: 5th starter/reliever)

Sampson is currently in the rotation which should lock him in for the future. However, I have to wonder if his time is up in Texas pretty soon. He’s regressed from his good start and has also been at the center of too many negative headlines of late. I think Sampson is fighting for a roster spot at this point.

Free Agent Options

RHP Gerrit Cole (Role w/ Texas: Ace)

Cole headlines a fairly thin free agent class among starting pitchers. However, Cole is a heck of a headliner and would immediately provide a massive upgrade to Texas’ rotation. A 1-2-3 of Cole, Minor and Lynn would be among the better groups in baseball and really push the club to contending. He’ll cost a chunk of change and Texas will have to fight plenty of other teams but Cole is and should be the Rangers top priority this offseason.

LHP Madison Bumgarner (Role w/ Texas: Ace)

This is more unlikely than Cole but is still worth mentioning. Bumgarner has been excellent once again this season and would be incredible at the top of the rotation. However, it seems like he would like to stay in San Francisco and I wouldn’t be shocked for him to not actually make it to free agency.

RHP Zack Wheeler (Role w/ Texas: 2/3 starter)

Wheeler really could fall in slots 1-3 in the Rangers rotation but with the season Minor is having, I’d imagine he’d get the edge on Opening Day. The Mets righty is having a down year in terms of ERA, 4.71, but his FIP of 3.65 and WHIP of 1.271 suggest he’s actually been better than his ERA would suggest. He’d be a fine addition to the Rangers rotation and will be cheaper than Cole or Bumgarner.

RHP Rick Porcello (Role w/ Texas: 3rd starter)

Porcello has been pretty bad this season, posting a 5.55 ERA in 21 starts. However, he’s still a name and has been fairly consistent over the past few seasons. Porcello would be a nice addition if Texas brought in a couple of starting pitching options, but I doubt the Rangers entertain anything long-term for the 30-year old.

RHP Jake Odorizzi (Role w/ Texas: 2/3 starter)

Contrary to Porcello, Odorizzi has been excellent this season posting a 3.73 ERA in 21 starts. The right has been good in his 1-year deal with the Twins and will be looking to cash in this offseason. Odorizzi would be a really nice addition to the Rangers rotation and if you can’t nab one of the top 3 guys, Odorizzi is a really nice consolation prize.

Notable Other Options: Stephen Strasburg (opt-out)