The offseason for the Rangers has been dominated by the talk of whose going and who’s staying. Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar are the two names that come up the most when it comes to potential trades. We all know that both of these young men could be the face of the franchise soon. Elvis has already shown he is an elite shortstop and Profar homered in his first ever big league at bat showing why he is the Rangers and all of baseballs #1 prospect.
But I don’t want to talk about them right now. I want to talk about what I feel will be the most intriguing matchup and competition in spring training.
The 5th spot in the Rangers rotation.
It’s a foregone conclusion that the Rangers top four pitchers will be right handed starters Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando and left handers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. That leaves the fifth spot open for competition. The candidates are said to be lefties Robbie Ross and Marin Perez and right hander Justin Grimm among others.
Ross spent the entire 2012 campaign in the big leagues as a reliever and quickly became a fan favorite. The Rangers even named some nachos after him, calling them the “Totally Rossome Nachos”. He even signed an autograph for my cousin as he was leaving the stadium in his truck one night. (My cousin is a creeper for waiting at the players exit for him but that’s neither here nor there). He made 69 starts in the minors before surprising everyone, including the Rangers, and making the big league club out of spring training. The knock on Ross is that he only has two pitches but so did Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz. Ogando was an all-star as a starter in 2011 and Feliz was having a great first half in 2012 before blowing out his elbow.
Justin Grimm was called up in June of 2012 to make his debut against the now division rival Houston Astros. He got the win in his debut going six innings allowing six hits, three runs and recording seven strikeouts. Considering he had never pitched above the AA level, most considered his debut a huge success despite it being against one the worst teams in all of baseball. He split the rest of the year between AAA Round Rock and the big leagues. Grimm went on to make one more start and three relief appearances and compiled a 9.00 era over 14 IP at the big league level. He has above average velocity with a fastball that routinely touches 95 and a sharp curve. According to Rangers scouts, he lacks command in his mechanics that would allow him to repeat his delivery the same each time which could ultimately be what holds him back.
Martin Perez was another guy who split time between the Rangers and the minors. Perez has plus stuff across the board with his fastball, curve and changeup. The biggest issue with Perez, just like Grimm, is his command. He walked 15 big leaguers in just 38 IP which comes out to just a little over four per nine innings. Any baseball fan will tell you, walks equal runs and that’s not a good thing. The bright side? He’s only 21.
So who will take the 5th spot in the rotation? Robbie Ross clearly has the most big league experience and Martin Perez has the most starting experience. Without boring you to death with stats and who pitches better within the division, I believe that Martin Perez will win the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
WHAT? MARTIN PEREZ??
Yup. I’m just as surprised as you are. When I originally started writing this article I was going to go with Robbie Ross as winning the spot but the more I thought about it, the more I believe that Perez will win it. The Rangers only have one left handed reliever out of the bullpen right now in Michael Kirkman and I wouldn’t consider him a lefty specialist. You are going to need more than one lefty to battle the likes of Josh Hamilton, Josh Reddick and Raul Ibanez and that’s just in your division! Ross fits that reliever role much better than Perez does. He’s used to it, he’s accustomed to it and he thrived in it last season. Perez, despite being owned by the Oakland Athletics, has so much more room to grow and excel. It’s almost as if I’m saying Perez will win the spot by default over Ross and maybe I am but I believe that Martin Perez will come out on top.
Robbie Ross was nothing short of brilliant in his rookie season and much like Neftali Feliz, I think the Rangers see his assets being utilized the best out of the bullpen. Perez doesn’t fit the bullpen mantra like Ross does. As long as the 5th spot avoids the Oakland A’s all season, Perez will do fine! Remember, whoever wins this final spot in the rotation will likely be replaced mid-season when Colby Lewis returns from his elbow injury. The battle will certainly be an intriguing one to watch. If Ross pitches in spring training like he did last year, he will push Perez either to the bullpen or back to AAA. It would not surprise me to see Ross win in but I’m sticking with Perez as my winner.
My sleeper pick to surprise everyone is Cody Buckel. Even deeper sleeper, Neil Ramirez. Write it down.
I’ve been wrong before.
And I will probably be wrong again.
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