“Other teams might kick themselves for trading away their top pitching prospects only to see them succeed, to varying degrees, elsewhere. Yet the Rangers have one of the deepest pitching systems in the game. In fact, of their top 10 prospects, per Baseball America, they feature seven pitchers, three of them left-handed. The future certainly looks good for the Rangers.”
This huge dose of sunshine comes from FanGraphs, the well-respected baseball statistics and analysis blog. After so much disappointment and this franchise’s history of failure when it comes to developing pitching, it’s always encouraging to read such optimism about the Rangers.
This was written in August.
It was lamenting the demise of the Rangers can’t-miss, franchise-changing pitching prospects John Danks, Edinson Volquez, and Thomas Diamonds. But even though those three didn’t pitch (at the time) a single inning for the Rangers, FanGraphs was excited about the next group of franchise transforming prospects the Rangers had on the way: Martin Perez, Kasey Kiker, Tanner Schepper, Blake Beavans, and Matthew Purke.
It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was commenting on some of the more notable developments thus far this season: The Cubs sudden realization they have a “bloated payroll and an inadequate farm system.” Why Craig Kimbrel is still available. The fact that Christian Yelich hasn’t missed a beat from last season. Oh, and who will pitch for the Rangers in the future?
The Rangers have two starters worthy of a rotation—Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. Fortunately, those are the only two starters under control after this season. That’s the good news.
The challenge is building the rotation going forward. The Rangers have never been able to develop pitching, so they have always had to go out and buy it.
But even that avenue is closing, Rosenthal points out. More and more quality starters are coming off the potential free agent board by signing extensions. So, gone are the Rangers opportunities to buy a quality rotation. Justin Verlander is off the market. So are Jacob deGrom, Chris Sale, Sonny Gray and even Miles Mikolas.
Right now, the quality starters expected to hit the open market, unless they, too sign extensions, are Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Rick Porcello, and Zack Wheeler.
Demand far exceeds supply. There will be a lot of competition for the top-level guys. What chance does Texas have of outbidding?
The Rangers will have three slots to fill next year. And that’s assuming they don’t trade Minor or Lynn at the deadline. They will certainly get tempting offers.
Rosenthal writes: “Five pitchers at the upper levels — Triple-A lefty Taylor Hearn and righty Ariel Jurado, Double-A lefties Joe Palumbo and Brock Burke and righty Jonathan Hernandez — all could get big-league time this season, then compete for possibly two spots in the 2020 rotation next spring.”
But he asks, where are they going to fill a rotation that is major league worthy?
Another crop of game-changing Rangers pitchers is on the way. Just like it was fifteen years ago. And like it was nine years ago. And five years ago. And—always.
The Rangers are masters at developing optimism. Now, all they have to do is transfer that skill to developing actual quality major league pitching.
Mike Minor (1-1, 4.63) vs. Zack Greinke (1-1, 9.31)
Game time: 8:40