Texas Rangers Spring Training Update: New relievers making case for Opening Day roster

The Rangers signed a large number of pitchers to minor league deals with a Spring Training invite.

They also have a few guys they will be looking to promote to the big club this year from the farm.

Between these two groups, a few guys have emerged as possible bullpen pieces for the 2024 season early on in Spring Training.

Texas Rangers Photo Day
Texas Rangers Photo Day / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

It's no secret that the Texas Rangers had one of the worst bullpens in baseball during the 2023 regular season. There is real hope that this group can be transformed into a possible strength for the 2024 season. The emergence of Jose Leclerc and Josh Sborz as reliable, high-leverage arms last postseason gave the Rangers something to build on coming into spring training this year. Between some of the pitchers signed on minor-league deals this offseason and guys who have been in the Rangers farm system, there's a nice group forming that is making their case to be on the big club this season.

The Rangers signed a lot of veterans on minor league deals this offseason. Most have struggled recently in their careers, but obviously the Rangers think these guys have something left to offer in spite of that. Improving veteran relievers is an area the Rangers have had some success with in the past, even through some of worst overall seasons of the last 10 years.

One guy that has proven true for so far this spring training is Diego Castillo. Castillo was previously with the Mariners the last three seasons, so the Rangers were already familiar with him, having watched him routinely on a division rival. Castillo struggled last season and spent most of it in the minor leagues. Despite a 6.23 ERA last season before being demoted, Castillo still has a 3.22 career ERA, and before last season went six straight seasons with an ERA in the threes or below. He has appeared in three games this spring training, tossing an inning in each appearance. He hasn't given up a run and has struck out four, while giving up two hits and two walks.

Rangers Bullpen: Diego Castillo, Jesus Tinoco emerging

Jesus Tinoco is another veteran (and former Ranger), imported on a minor-league deal, who has had success in relief this spring training. Tinoco spent last season playing in the highest Japanese league for the Saitama Seibu Lions. He has only appeared in one inning, but in that appearance, he struck out the side. The results represent a small sample size, but part of his appeal is his stuff. He throws a hard fastball and slider, a combination often seen among the most elite relievers in baseball. He has also had some success at the major league level. He had a 2.18 ERA in 17 appearances in his previous stint with the Rangers in 2022.

From the farm system, Marc Church is a name that is emerging as a real option for the big club in 2024. He has appeared in more games than any other pitcher for the Rangers during spring training. Through four games, Church has yet to give up a run and has only allowed one hit. He also has three strikeouts and has allowed a walk through his four one-inning appearances. Velocity is also a strength for Church, who has touched 98 with his fastball already this spring. Church spent most of 2023 in Triple-A with the Round Rock Express, where he had a 3.48 ERA and 48 strikeouts through 44 innings pitched.

Jake Latz is another pitcher from the farm system who has had a great start to spring training. Through three appearances this spring, he has also yet to give up a run. In three innings of work, he has two strikeouts, a walk, and has allowed two hits. Latz hasn't exactly been stellar over the last few years in the minors, but it's possible this spring training has represented a big step forward as a pitcher for him. If he continues to perform the way he has, he could certainly see himself in the conversation to help out the Rangers bullpen this season.

It's also important to realize the sample size for all players this spring training is pretty small. Ultimately, there's still a lot to be seen this spring training, and this is far from a prediction of who will actually make the big club come Opening Day. However, these four guys have been making their cases early, and the organization and fans alike would love to see them continue to perform and possibly bolster the Rangers bullpen for the 2024 season.