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November 25, 2008

Homegrown Starting Pitchers, Updated

A list of starting pitchers developed by AL West teams during the Wild Card era. Criteria for listing: Player originally drafted or signed by the respective team, pitched 162 innings (or one inning per team game in strike years), and not yet eligible for free agency.

Year Texas Los Angeles Oakland Seattle
- John Lackey,
Ervin Santana,
Joe Saunders,
Jered Weaver
- Felix Hernandez
- John Lackey Joe Blanton Felix Hernandez
- John Lackey,
Ervin Santana
Joe Blanton,
Barry Zito
Felix Hernandez,
Gil Meche,
Joel Pineiro
- John Lackey Joe Blanton,
Barry Zito
Ryan Franklin,
Joel Pineiro
- John Lackey Rich Harden,
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
Ryan Franklin,
Joel Pineiro
- John Lackey,
Ramon Ortiz,
Jarrod Washburn
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
Ryan Franklin,
Gil Meche,
Joel Pineiro
- Ramon Ortiz,
Jarrod Washburn
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
Doug Davis Ramon Ortiz,
Scott Schoeneweis,
Jarrod Washburn
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
- Scott Schoeneweis Tim Hudson -
- - - -
- - - -
Darren Oliver Jason Dickson - -
Darren Oliver,
Roger Pavlik
- - -
Roger Pavlik - - -
Kevin Brown,
Kenny Rogers
- Todd Van Poppel Dave Fleming

Texas has developed only one homegrown starter during the last 11 seasons. Eighteen months after Davis qualified for the ERA title, Texas waived him.

Posted by Lucas at 01:11 PM

November 21, 2008

40-Man Roster Additions, And A Trade

Texas added pitchers JOHN BANNISTER, WILLIE EYRE, and OMAR POVEDA and infielder JOSE VALLEJO to the 40-man roster. Texas also designated pitchers WES LITTLETON and KAMERON LOE for assignment.

Read here for my largely incorrect predictions of who would be added.

Texas has to be pleased that Vallejo made the decision to add him so easy. An absurdly fast and deft baserunner (131 steals vs. 21 caught in four seasons), Vallejo also made substantial progress at the plate in 2008. Yes, he played in better environments (Bakersfield and Frisco versus Clinton), but his 11 homers and 44 extra-base hits obliterated his previous bests of two and 23, respectively. He’s a fine 2B and might see action at short in the future.

I am pleased that Poveda made the cut, though the likelihood of him using all three options is pretty high. Arm soreness sidelined him for nearly two months after just his third start in 2008. He endured a rough summer, then finished the season with five terrific starts: 30 innings, 1.50 ERA, 15 walks, 33 strikeouts. Okay, the walks aren’t so hot. Still, performing at that level as a 20-year-old in the Cal League deserves praise. He’ll rank among the Texas League’s youngest in 2009.

The 24-year-old Bannister is the wild card. After missing 2007 with injury, he couldn’t find the plate as a starter (16% walk rate!), then showed improved control as a reliever (6.5%) even as his velocity ratcheted into the mid 90s. A respectable performance in the absurdly hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League (.268/.342/.451 against, 10% BB, 24% SO) perhaps clinched his addition. In my opinion, Bannister lacks Poveda’s ceiling but was more likely to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Eyre is 30 years old. In 127 MLB innings has a 5.23 ERA, an opposing line of .299/.372/.472, and an 11.7% strikeout rate. Texas signed Eyre to a minor-league deal in 2008 knowing he’d miss the entire year after Tommy John surgery, made him the oldest player in the Arizona Fall League by nearly three years, and added him to the 40 essentially at Littleton’s expense. I don’t know why. With Loe and Littleton gone and the 40-man roster full, he strikes me as the first choice for dismissal if a spot is needed for a free agent. Eyre can declare free agency if outrighted again.

Littleton never made an Opening Day roster and is out of options. Nevertheless, who looks more appealing to you?

MLB Career
Batters Faced
Opposing Line
Littleton 26 423 4.67
2.1% 8.7% 13.0% 60%
Eyre 30 582 5.13
2.7% 9.3% 11.7% 45%
FIP = Fielding-Independent Pitching

Littleton has a crazy-low BABIP that won’t last, but all the other peripherals point in his favor. While he had a 6.00 ERA for Texas this season, stripping just one of his 12 outings (an 0.2-inning, six-run debacle) drops it 3.12. It's no big deal, I suppose, but I think Littleton’s more likely than Eyre to be on an MLB roster in 2010. If not, hopefully I'll have learned something.

Loe wanted to start and was arbitration-eligible. Texas properly saw him as a reliever and probably wasn’t overjoyed at the impending salary increase, small thought it would be in the grand scheme of things. A Japanese team offered him a starting role, bought his rights from Texas, and everyone is happy. Unless he’s claimed on waivers. Loe doesn’t possess amazing stuff but is a determined competitor, and I wish him the best.

Texas traded outfielder JOHN MAYBERRY JR. to Philadelphia for outfielder GREG GOLSON.

One disappointment for another, as Texas relinquished the nearly assured blandness of Mayberry for the potential of Golson. Mayberry (19th overall, 2005) showed impressive power but otherwise failed to improve during his steady ascent through the minors. He’s never hit for average or drawn many walks, and at 25, his upside is limited. Philadelphia added him to its 40-man roster.

Golson (21st overall, 2004) likewise hasn’t advanced as hoped. Though a fine baserunner with moderate home-run prowess, his production is sabotaged by an atrocious batting eye that hasn’t improved an ounce in four years. Chris Davis might survive with a 5:1 ratio of strikeouts to walks. Golson won’t. He’s two years younger than Mayberry, can play center field, and is far toolsier. The Rangers win if they can instill in him some selectivity at the plate. A tall order.

Posted by Lucas at 01:20 PM

November 19, 2008

40 Man Roster Thoughts

The Rangers have three open spots on their 40-man roster, which is not to say that they can’t add four players or more. That would require clearing space via trade or waivers. Here’s my probabilities and thoughts on who Texas might add:

100%: Jose Vallejo. Book it. No thoughts necessary.

90%: John Mayberry. A year ago, I wrote that 2008 would be a watershed year for Mayberry, but little was actually resolved. Instead, he provided another year of good power offset by a vanilla batting average and walk rate. Mayberry has a 313 OBP above A-ball and turns 25 next month. Still, he’s shown enough to make the 40, and he’ll be nabbed in the Rule 5 draft if left off.

50%: Pedro Strop. Ironically, his stress fracture could make him more likely to be a Rule 5 selection, as the drafting team could stash him on the 15-day or 60-day disabled list next spring and buy some free evaluation time. Texas revealed its high opinion of Strop with a $90,000 contract, far above standard minor-league pay (mostly store-brand bologna and Diet Slice).

50%: Omar Poveda. The toughest decision, in my opinion, in terms of estimating the risk of him being swiped in the Rule 5 draft. Poveda just turned 22 and has yet to pitch in AA, not exactly a prime candidate for a Major League staff. On the other hand, he’s a legitimate prospect (albeit not in Texas’s top ten) and posted a 2.73 ERA and 24% strikeout rate in his last nine starts. A team that selected him in the Rule 5 draft would be doing so in the understanding that he’s essentially dead weight on the 2009 active roster. Texas could also leave him off the 40 and trade him before the Rule 5 draft, thus making the decision someone else’s problem.

10%: John Bannister. Bannister is throwing harder than ever and showed improved control after a move to the bullpen. Frankly, I’m having difficulty assessing the likelihood of him being added to Texas’s 40 or being a Rule 5 selection. My gut tells me neither is likely. Given the players I’ve already mentioned, Bannister’s addition could spell waivers for someone like Kam Loe, Wes Littleton, or perhaps Dustin Nippert. Is Bannister more likely to help a Major League roster than any of them?

5%: Willie Eyre. Since he’s in the AFL, I assume he’s already signed a 2009 minor-league contract with Texas. The Rangers thought enough of Eyre to sign him to a contract after 2007 despite an injury that shelved him for most of this year, so I suppose they would prefer not to lose him. That said, losing him would be only a mild aggravation, not a disaster. Pass.

5%: Ben Harrison. Harrison rebounded nicely from an injury-plagued 2007 and is raking in Venezuela. He’s already 27, which dims his long-term outlook greatly but wouldn’t terribly bother a team needing outfield depth.

5%: Michael Schlact. I can’t see Texas or any other team reserving a 40-man roster spot for him right now. In terms of his potential to establish a Major League career, I think he’s better off if this whole process bypasses him.

Some other Rule 5-eligibles: C/IF Emerson Frostad, 1B Ian Gac, RP Kea Kometani, OF Steve Murphy, C Kevin Richardson.

My call: Vallejo, Mayberry, and Strop. We’ll see how that compares to Jamey’s 40-Man Roster Conundrum when his book drops.

Posted by Lucas at 02:36 PM