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Finding Relief for the Bullpen

The Rangers need a fix for the AL's worst bullpen.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Before we begin I wanted to let you know that I have the opportunity to contribute to LSB officially, which is pretty cool. Just want to say thanks to both AJM and Tepid for the opportunity to share some of my experiences with you guys and hopefully keep learning about this fantastic game.

Now why we are really here; the Ranger's bullpen has been miserable to watch. Late game heroics by players like Desmond, Wilson, and Rougie are often blacked out by one of our relievers deciding to have the worst appearance of his career. The Rangers are tied with the Reds for the worst FIP at 5.69 and second to the Reds in ERA at 5.37.  Tolleson and Wilhelmsen are two of the three worst relievers in baseball to this point in the season by fWAR and Faulkner and Ranaudo have been disasters in their short time here. Wilhelmsen is of course down in AAA now and Tolleson has been pulled as the closer and won't have too many chances to succeed before the Rangers won't be able to keep him on the 25 man roster. Luckily the Rangers do have a very strong core with Dyson, Diekman, and Bush to go along with some solid middle/long relief options in Barnette, Ramos, and Claudio. This makes the big problem less severe as you can replace a couple of broken pieces instead of rebuilding the entire machine.

That being said, the parts they have tried to put in have failed this far minus Bush. It is approaching the point that some of the big relief arms in the minors are going to get their shots soon. The Rangers have some big arms down there and they are just waiting until they have the opportunity to show the MLB what they have. Certain players, like Chi-Chi, are unfortunately not going to get much consideration until certain requirements are met. Specifically, these are the guys who have shown solid stuff to go along with proximity and results.

Jose Leclerc - RHP

To start, the guy that I think has the best shot to come up and contribute immediately as a middle reliever, Jose Leclerc. Leclerc's stats don't immediately jump out as someone who is ready to make the jump to the big leagues, but that's largely in part due to his time as a starter this season where he struggled terribly. Since then he has calmed down and, after an adjustment period, been one of the best bullpen arms in the Ranger system.

Leclerc sits between 90-93 with the fastball with average command for a bullpen piece. He throws a 76 MPH curve which has late movement and good spin. His money pitch is his changeup, which is unlike anything I have ever seen. The first time I saw him I thought it was a slider it had such dramatic movement. He throws it with a very similar motion as his fastball only to have the ball drop off the radar about 2 feet in front of home plate. His changeup will get swings and misses no matter what talent level he is playing against.

Here is a great video from the Prospect Pipeline showing all three of Leclerc's offerings:

Jefri Hernandez - RHP

Jefri has a great arm out of the pen when he is able to control the zone. While it does not exactly happen often, extreme loss of control is not unheard of and nothing frustrates Banny more than a reliever coming into the game and walking the 7/8/9 guys. Hernandez misses bats often and has a respectable K/9 rate of 9.37. Until he irons out some more of his control issues, I would expect Hernandez to be a short term relief option who will not actually be used in too many games this season. Still, a guy like him is valuable to have in AAA and could provide much needed rest to an overused bullpen.

Michael Roth - LHP

Roth is a potential long man and spot starter for the Rangers this season and he's having himself a very nice year in Round Rock. Roth is primarily a sinkerball pitcher who works up and down and side to side to get hitters off balance. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, which probably limits him to spot starts and long relief. To go along with an 88-90 MPH sinker he has four other nice offerings: 4-seamer, changeup, slider, and curve. The biggest difference between Roth from last year to 2016 is his command. He's hitting locations and not giving up many free passes, although it doesn't hurt that he's striking out batters at a higher rate than he ever has in his career.

Adam Parks - RHP

Parks is a bit of an enigma to the scouts I've talked to do to the amount of swing and miss he generates from his curve and slider, which many have said are below average offerings. That being said the results have been fantastic in Frisco. He boasts a 20/3 K/BB ratio and has only given up 3 hits in 12.2 innings. He does has a great offering in his 4-seam fastball, which can sit at 95 and hit 96 from time to time. He commands the pitch well, although when he makes mistakes they do seem to leave the park. Parks can be overpowering and the deception with the changeup should get outs, although the verdict is still out on how well MLB hitters will be able to pick up the junk.

Connor Sadzeck - RHP

The dark horse candidate for the bullpen is Connor Sadzeck. It would really kill me to see Sadz convert to a reliever full time due to his potential to be a good starter, but it would not surprise me if the Rangers decided he could be a big help to the pen last this season as a reliever. I have had the opportunity to see Sadzeck start quite a bit in Frisco and he has been great. Out of the pen Sadzeck can give you a 3 digit fastball which he has commanded well this season. He throws a changeup and a curveball and both are considered to be solid offerings. He can drop his curve in for a strike and bury it in the dirt for whiffs as well. He is also working on a slider and it has the potential to be a plus offering with late break down and away from right handed hitters. If you don't see him in the pen for the Rangers this season, just wait as you will probably be watching him start in a season or two.

Here's a video from Tepid where Sadzeck pitches against a true legend:

Final Thoughts

There is nothing worse than watching your team lose game after game due to bullpen meltdowns. In the Ranger case, it might not be quite as bad as it appears. Due to the talented core who are actually performing well to go along with some talented young arms, the Ranger bullpen could potentially be one of the best in the business again in a month or two. Either way something has to change and the front office brass knows it. The first steps have already been taken to take the bullpen in a new direction and soon Bannister should have a few more options that can contribute to a good bullpen.

Lastly, rejoice! For the saviors from the east, Yu Darvish and Shin Soo Choo, will arrive soon.