We’re continuing our top 10 current Texas Rangers player rankings as the lockout drags on. Left-hander Taylor Hearn was last to be featured on our rankings, placing 9th. So to recap so far:
9. Taylor Hearn
Coming in at No. 8 is yet another pitcher, this time out of the bullpen. In the second half of the 2021 season, he was arguably the Texas Rangers’ most important reliever. It’s Joe Barlow!
Top 10 Texas Rangers players
#8: Joe Barlow
Barlow made his MLB debut last June, starting out as a bridge reliever to then-closer Ian Kennedy. The latter was, of course, traded at the deadline to the Philadelphia Phillies with Kyle Gibson and Hans Crouse for Spencer Howard and two other pitching prospects. That temporarily left the Texas Rangers without a closer option, a role which would soon be occupied by Barlow.
A hard-thrower with a diving slider, the 26-year-old right-hander seized the closer’s job with relative ease by August. And he thrived in that role, notching 11 saves in 12 chances. Barlow finished the 2021 season with a 1.55 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 29 innings as he firmly entrenched himself as Chris Woodward’s most dependable reliever by season’s end.
Heading into the 2022 season, Barlow currently stands as the favorite to close once again, though how long he will remain in that role is unknown. The closer position is inherently volatile, but also, the Texas Rangers expect injured relievers Jonathan Hernandez and Jose Leclerc both to return at some point in 2022.
Hernandez, when healthy, is easily the team’s most dynamic reliever, while Leclerc has prior closing experience. Therefore, expect there to be some competition once both return to the mound. For now, though, Joe Barlow is well-positioned to begin the season as the Texas Rangers’ closer after having earned that honor late last season.
Plus, it’s not like it’s a bad problem to have too many dominant bullpen options…