2013 Ranger Bullpen Candidates

This is early January, so the Rangers options to continue adding to their bullpen arms (via signings or trades) remains wide open. But, as of now, here are the candidates for the Opening Day Assignments as Relievers.

After the list is a description of each pitcher along with my own, highly UNeducated guess as to their probability of making that Opening Day Trip to Houston with the Big Boys.

Those on The 40-Man Roster

LHP .... Jeff Beliveau
RHP .... Cory Burns
RHP 30 Neftali Feliz [out]
RHP 53 Wilmer Font
RHP .... Jason Frasor
RHP 51 Justin Grimm
LHP .... Tommy Hottovy
LHP 50 Michael Kirkman
RHP .... Josh Lindblom
RHP 55 Roman Mendez
RHP .... Justin Miller
RHP 36 Joe Nathan (Closer)
LHP .... Joe Ortiz
LHP 33 Martin Perez
RHP 35 Neil Ramirez
LHP 28 Robbie Ross
RHP 52 Tanner Scheppers
RHP .... Joakim Soria [out]
RHP .... Matthew West [out]
RHP .... Coty Woods

Non-Roster Invitees

RHP .... Collin Balester
RHP 49 Jacob Brigham
LHP .... Neal Cotts
RHP .... Evan Meek
RHP .... Yonata Ortega
RHP 22 Yoshinori Tateyama
RHP .... Randy Wells
RHP .... Johan Yan

Descriptions: 40-Man Roster Candidates

(*)Jeff Beliveau (25 later this month): Lefty. Just claimed off waivers from ChiCubs. Still has plenty of options left. Fastball has "some velocity" and he has a good slider and change-up so he's not limited to just lefty matchups.

1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 22 appearances as a rookie for teh Cubs last season. He allowed 10.7 hits / 6.1 walks (both too high) / 8.7 Ks per 9 IP.

Possibility? 15%

Cory Burns (25): Acquired from the Padres in December for Wilfredo Boscan. Only just added to the Pads 40-man this past off season to keep him away from the Rule-5 Draft. Raw. Gets lots of Ks.

Burns, 25, appeared in 17 games last season, compiling a 5.50 ERA in 18 innings with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks. He spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Tucson, going 1-2 with a 3.14 ERA over 54 appearances with 78 strikeouts in 66 innings.

Possibility? 10%

Neftali Feliz (24): Out until July/August with Tommy John surgery.

Possibility? 0% (Lock when he returns)

Wilmer Font (22): Flame thrower who debuted with the Rangers last fall. Moved to the pen after he had Tommy John surgery while in the minors. Still early in his development and will likely start the season at AAA unless he busts out in Surprise.

Possibility? 45%

Jason Frasor (35): Just signed as a free agent. Served in Toronto for years as the primary setup man and occasional closer. In 50 games with the Jays last year, he appeared in 50 games (43.2 IP) allowing 42 H, 20 ER, 22 BB and 53 Ks. Excellent numbers for those late innings. Missed 2 months last year (first time ever missed any time) with forearm stiffness.

Possibility? 99%

Justin Grimm (24): Debuted with Texas in 2012 as a starter-then-reliever. Had more success in the relief role. Will compete with lefties Martin Perez & Robbie Ross for that 5th Rotation Spot. Could (60% chance?) start the season at AAA (Round Rock) to stay in line for a future rotation spot.

Possibility? 35% (5% chance of making rotation)

(*)Tommy Hottovy (31): Lefty. Just acquired from Royals for a PTBNL and cash as a side-arming lefty who is tough on left-handed hitters. Fastball sits at 86-90 mph with a good slider. May not provide the flexibility as a LOOGY for a manager who thrives on flexibility from his players.

Hottovy, 31, has pitched in 17 games for the Royals and Red Sox over the past two seasons, posting a 4.05 ERA. Left-handed batters have hit .259 off him while right-handers batted .333. In 13 1/3 innings, he walked eight and struck out eight.

Hottovy pitched in 41 games at Triple-A Omaha this past season, going 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA and seven saves. Opponents hit .221 off him with 16 walks and 61 strikeouts in 50 innings. He was selected to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team at midseason.

Possibility? 30%

(*)Michael Kirkman (26): Lefty. Pitched in the World Series with the Rangers in 2011 then failed to make the roster to start 2012. Kirkman was finally called up last year to take the place of Alexi Ogando when Alexi went on the DL with his groin strain and managed to hang around the rest of the year.

Kirkman, who continues to undergo treatment for skin cancer, was 5-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 15 games at Round Rock. He was 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last five starts and two relief appearances since May 6 while opponents hit .191 off him. He walked 19 and struck out 33 in 32 innings during that stretch.

Possibility? 90%

Josh Lindblom (25): Just acquired from Philly (along with young RHP Lisalberto Bonilla) for Michael PADMY Young. Expected to serve in high-leverage situation with the Phillies last year and that just didn't pan out. But, with another season behind him and, apparently, some really good stuff, he has a chance to rise to those lofty expectations with his new club.

"Lindblom is 90-94 [mph] with a good slider, and our scouts like the way his stuff plays in the bullpen," Rangers scouting director Josh Boyd said. "Bonilla has a live arm we've seen in the low-to-mid 90s range with good feel for his changeup."

Possibility? 75%

Matthew McConaughy (43): Just to see if you were paying attention.

Possibility? 0% (but, could play a Big Leaguer in the movies!)

Roman Mendez (22): Pitched in Rookie, High-A (Myrtle Beach) and AA (Frisco) last year for the Rangers. In 26 games (91.1 IP) logged a cumulative 4.43 ERA/1.25 WHIP across 5 levels (skipping 2) in the minors last year. His best numbers were actually at Frisco where he logged a 1.46 ERA/0.97 WHIP with the Rough Riders.

Possibility? 2% (ya never know with talent like this)

Justin Miller (25): Spent 2012 with Frisco where he posted a 9-1 record with a sterling 1.81 ERA/1.00 WHIP in 48 games (69.2 IP) striking out 77 while walking 24 in his first year at that level.

Possibility? 1%

Joe Nathan (38): Closer. Case Closed.

Possibility? 99.9999%

(*)Joe Ortiz (22): Lefty. Smallish (5'7"/175). Started at AAA (Round Rock) in 2012 and was bounced back to Frisco. Not sure why - his ERA was 1.97 and WHIP was 1.06 at RR and still a solid 2.35 / 1.04 at Frisco. Maybe the Rangers wanted him close in case he was needed? Maybe something else... Someone out there knows as I sure don't. Jamey Newberg probably has it all documented in his 2013 Bound Edition, but I didn't get my copy of it, yet.

Possibility? 7% (just 'cuz)

(*)Martin Perez (21): Lefty. Most likely of the 3 candidates (Robbie Ross and Justin Grimm are the others) to make the starting rotation in that #5 slot. Had a rough debut when his manager threw him, unprepared, into his first Big League game as a reliever, but followed that up with a solid start a few days later. Groomed as a starter, he reminds me a lot of a more focused Derek Holland without the experience.

Possibility? 30% (70% chance of making the rotation)

Neil Ramirez (23): Challenged to start 2012 at AAA (Round Rock), Neil didn't answer the bell well and was packed back to Frisco where he had a sterling 2011. He still couldn't dupilcate that effort until late when he seemed to finally be pulling himself back together. Groomed as a starter, he will likely, again, begin the season at RR to see if he can continue the track started last August for the RR's.

Possibility? 1%

(*)Robbie Ross (23): Lefty. Outstanding 2012 rookie season as a surprise Big Leaguer coming out of spring training. If he can weather that sophomore jinx, he should continue to thrive in Arlington - the question is whether it will be as a quality Big League Reliever, or in the rotation leap-frogging Martin Perez and Justin Grimm for that #5 slot.

Possibility? 75% (25% chance of making the rotation)

Tanner Scheppers (25): Arrived in Arlington mid-season having been the closer at AAA (Round Rock). His job was to fill out the bullpen after Feliz and Lewis were lost for the season moving Scott Feldman into the rotation (if memory serves).

"Because he throws 97, 98 miles an hour, if he can get his changeup and breaking ball over, it makes him quite effective," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

His pain threshold is practically zero, though, after he allowed an extra run to score while he was whimpering about his bumped knee on a play at the plate in September. Needs to put on big boy pants - a bruise should never end your participation in a play.

Possibility? 90%

Joakim Soria (28): Former elite closer for the Royals. Coming off Tommy John surgery and won't be available until June at the earliest. Recently signed as a free agent.

Possibility? 0% (Lock when he returns)

Matthew West (24): Converted to pitcher in spring of 2011 after being drafted as a SS with the Rangers' Second Round Pick in 2007. Robert O'Neil (his middle names) missed 6 weeks in spring training in 2012 with a mild strain of his UCL in his throwing elbow. Appeared in 17 games (20.1 IP) with High-A (Myrtle Beach) posting a 6.64 ERA / 1.67 WHIP with 16 BB and 14 Ks.

Matt is out until August having had Tommy John surgery on that balky right elbow.

Possibility? 0%

Coty Woods (24): Picked up from the Rockies in this year's Rule 5 Draft.

Woods is a sidearmer who was 3-2 with a 0.76 ERA and 16 saves in 38 games for Tulsa and 1-2 with a 7.40 ERA in 23 games for Colorado Springs. He was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 games in the Arizona Fall League. Right-handed hitters were 4-for-24 off him in Arizona.

"Woods has plus life on his fastball and throws from a deceptive angle," said Josh Boyd, Rangers director of pro scouting.

Possibility? 80% (or must be offered back to Rox)

Descriptions: Non-Roster Invitee Candidates

Collin Balester (26): Just signed as a free agent from the Tigers. Split last season between Detroit and AAA (Toledo).

Pitched in 11 games for the Tigers this past season and was 2-0 with a 6.50 ERA. In 18 innings he allowed 14 hits and 11 walks while striking out 12. Prior to that he pitched in parts of four seasons for the Nationals with a record of 5-16 with a 5.30 ERA before being traded for pitcher Ryan Perry.

He was a fourth-round pick out of high school by the Nationals in 2004. The Rangers tried to acquire him in 2005 in the trade that sent infielder Alfonso Soriano to Washington but the Nationals wouldn't include him in the trade.

Possibility? 20%

Jacob Brigham (24): Traded to the Cubs for Geovanny Soto then reacquired in November as "damaged goods" (right elbow strain) for RHP Barret Loux to satisfy Theo (Cubbie GM Epstein) and stay on his "good side", I guess. Word is the elbow issues are behind and Jake will be good to go for spring training.

Apparently, he is considered superior to Loux in that Loux was accompanied by a PTBNL in the transaction to rectify the original deal. Possibly to further compensate Chicago in the even Loux breaks as he has had elbow issues of his own.

Possibility? 5%

(*)Neal Cotts (32 - 33 when season starts): Lefty. Just re-signed as a free agent after spending 2012 at AAA (Round Rock). He has 7 years in the Bigs with the two Chicago teams (his bio shows a Pittsburgh hat, though). He missed 2010 and 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery; although, he did sign on with the Pirates with an invite to spring training in 2010, but was released at the end of that season having failed to ever take the field. He was also signed by the Yankees shortly after that with an invite to spring training but was released in January 2011 as he failed his physical going into spring training that year.

Cotts, 32, was in big league camp for the Rangers last spring and was close to making the team before suffering a strained muscle in his shoulder. He ended up pitching in 25 games for Triple-A Round Rock and was 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA and three saves in 25 appearances.

Possibility? 50% (veteran who MAY finally be healthy again)

Evan Meek (29): Recently signed as a free agent.

Wikipedia: Meek's four-seam fastball normally sits around 95 mph, although he is capable of reaching 97–98 mph on occasion. It is his primary pitch, throwing it slightly over half the time. Despite missing the final two months of the 2009 Major League Baseball season, he added 8 pounds of muscle during the off-season and promised that he would be able to hit 100 mph in 2010. Since his command has improved throughout his career – 5.55 walks per 9 innings in 2009 to around 2.10 in 2010 – opposing batters have shown more willingness to chase the pitch, even out of the strike zone to due his ability throw his other pitches for strikes.

However, after several injuries in 2011, Meek saw his fastball velocity decrease into the low to mid 90s, ranging from 90-95 mph.

Meek's curveball is his primary off-speed pitch, with the velocity sitting around 79–82 mph.

Meek throws a cutter that was rated in August 2009 as the 3rd most effective cutter in Major League Baseball because of its runs above the MLB average.[14] The pitch has "unfair biting" movement, even against left-handed batters, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Average velocity is 92–93 mph and he normally likes to use it when he gets ahead in a count as a strikeout pitch. It is normally a very difficult pitch to hit well, helping him limit the number of extra base hits he allows.

Meek also throws a fourth pitch, an off-speed slider that is seldom used in pressure situations. The pitch normally sits around 80–82 mph, mainly incorporated to keep hitters out of a rhythm. His ability to throw four pitches well however, makes him rare as a relief pitcher as the normal reliever only possesses a three-pitch arsenal.

Possibility? 50% (health-dependent)

Yonata Ortega (26): Recently signed as a free agent from the D-Backs. Spent 2012 at AA (Mobile) posting a 2-2 record with a 6.88 ERA / 1.85 WHIP in 48 games (52.1 IP). His 51 Ks were offset by a crash-and-burn 40 BBs - by far the highest of his career.

Wikipedia Ortega began his professional career in 2006, playing for the DSL Diamondbacks. That season, he went 2-7 with a 3.43 ERA in 14 games (11 starts). In 2007, he pitched for the Missoula Osprey, going 0-2 with a 6.40 ERA in 19 relief appearances. He did not play in 2008. In 2009, Ortega pitched for the South Bend Silver Hawks, going 0-2 with a 6.87 ERA in 30 relief appearances. He split 2010 between the Silver Hawks and Visalia Rawhide, going a combined 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 48 relief appearances.

Possibility? 5%

Yoshinori Tateyama (37): Just re-signed as a free agent. Spent the past 2 seasons as a Ranger after his Japanese team posted him and Texas won that bid to get him. Had some success his first year then ran into a buzz saw when his manager misused him against tough lefty hitters and he failed miserably. Sidewinders just don't fare well against hitters hitting from the other side.

Wikipedia: A sidearm pitcher, Tateyama relies chiefly on a sinking fastball that averages 87–88 mph and a curveball in the low 70s. He also features two other off-speed pitches, a changeup (74–78 mph) and a screwball (68–71 mph), that are used mostly against lefties. The screwball is thrown with a "Vulcan" grip. He is one of only two relief pitchers to have thrown even a single screwball in the 2012 MLB season.

While his strikeout totals were average, he got hitters out with his control (career 2.12 BB/9 in NPB).

On November 30, 2010 Tateyama signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. After starting 2011 in the minor leagues, he was called up to the Rangers on May 23, 2011 and made his major league debut on May 24, 2011.

Koji Uehara was his teammate in high school. In that time, Tateyama was an ace pitcher and Uehara was an outfielder. They [were also] teammates in Texas. In the 2011–2012 offseason, the Rangers signed Japan's best starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, to a 5-year deal. Tateyama and Darvish were previously teammates for 5 seasons on the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Possibility? 25% (if his control returns)

Randy Wells (30): Recently signed as a free agent by the Rangers from the Cubs. Does JD realize the more ex-Cubs you have on your team the higher the liklihood you'll fail (historically speaking)?

Wikipedia Wells was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 38th Round (1143rd overall) of the 2002 amateur entry draft as a catcher. He spent his career in the Chicago Cubs farm system from 2003 to 2007 before being claimed in the Rule 5 Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2008 season.

Wells made the opening day roster and made his debut on April 5, 2008, against the Boston Red Sox and pitched a scoreless inning. It was his only appearance for the Blue Jays because he was designated for assignment on April 10, 2008.

Wells was returned to the Cubs organization on April 16, and was assigned to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. On September 9, 2008, the Cubs placed Jon Lieber on the 60-day DL and called up Wells to replace him on the roster.

After spring training in 2009, he was returned to the Iowa Cubs. Wells was called up to the Cubs active roster on May 5, 2009 in place of the injured Carlos Zambrano. He made his first start on May 8 against the Milwaukee Brewers and struck out five batters in five scoreless innings, but despite leaving the game with a 2-0 lead, the Cubs' bullpen gave up three runs and eventually lost 3-2. Randy got his first Major League win on June 21, 2009 in a 6-2 win over a struggling and injury plagued Cleveland Indians.

On July 29, Randy became the first Cub rookie pitcher to win 7 games since Kerry Wood did it in 1998, when he threw 8 shutout innings in a 12-0 Cubs win over the last place Astros.

Possibility? 35%

Johan Yan (24): Just re-signed by the Rangers. This slinging side-winder was having a stellar playoff run in the winter leagues until his outing on Jan 2 when he put on 3 hitters and failed to get an out (the three now runners all scored before the inning was over giving Yan the loss).

Yan was 1-1 with 11 saves and a 3.98 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Frisco and Round Rock last year. He originally signed with Texas as an infielder in 2005 and didn't begin pitching until '09.

Possibility? 2%

My guess, if Wash goes with a 7-man bullpen, lines them up:

RHP .... Coty Woods [Rule 5 pick]
RHP .... Josh Lindblom
RHP 52 Tanner Scheppers
LHP 50 Michael Kirkman
LHP 28 Robbie Ross (7th)
RHP .... Jason Frasor (8th)
RHP 36 Joe Nathan (Closer)

And, if they go with an 8th reliever and go one short on the bench, one of:

LHP .... Neal Cotts
RHP .... Evan Meek
RHP .... Randy Wells

...Whichever one can prove to be healthy.

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