We continue our series where we issue grades and review the 2017 seasons for each Texas Rangers player, having started with the positional players and going in alphabetical order, and now moving on to the pitchers...
Keone Kela -- B
It was a strange season for the 24 year old Keone Kela, who started the year in the minors as a disciplinary measure after an altercation between Kela and teammates in a spring game, got called back up fairly quickly, and then had two separate stints on the d.l.
When he was on the active roster, Kela was probably the team’s best non-Alex-Claudio reliever, putting up a 2.79 ERA and a 3.26 FIP in 38.2 IP. He was also among the best on the team at missing bats, with 51 Ks. His stuff is probably the best in the bullpen, and he has attitude and demeanor of a closer — the question, after two straight seasons with significant time missed on the disabled list, is whether he can stay on the field enough to seize that role.
Jose Leclerc — B
Jose Leclerc was one of the stories of the spring, breaking camp on the Opening Day roster despite being expected to begin the year in the minors. He was dominant the first month of the season, striking out out 16 hitters and walking just 1 in 10 innings of work in the month of April, and it appeared that the guy with the great stuff and questionable control had finally figured out how to throw strikes.
Alas, things were up and down after that...Leclerc had a finger issue that the Rangers tried to let him pitch through before, after a bad outing in Seattle in May, he was placed on the disabled list, where he stayed for almost a month. He had a strong month of June, though the control issues returned -- he struck out 19 and walked 8 in 11.1 IP that month — but after the All Star Break, things went south. In 19.1 second half innings, Leclerc walked more than he struck out (24 v. 20), and fell out of the Tree of Trust, and ended up hardly pitching in September.
Jose Leclerc is something of an enigma at this point, and I would assume, after the difficult second half, the Rangers likely have him penciled in at Round Rock to start the season. We saw flashes of how dominant Leclerc can be, however, and if he can get back to throwing strikes, he can combine with Kela, Matt Bush and Jake Diekman to give the Rangers an arsenal of flamethrowers in the late innings. The problem at this point, however, is that the Rangers are going to find it difficult to plan on going into 2018 trusting Leclerc.
Jhan Marinez — B
Hey, its another one of those guys we’ll forget when we do the 2017 Texas Rangers Sporcle Quiz! Jhan Marinez was claimed off of waivers from the Pirates by the Rangers in mid-August, when the Rangers were sifting through the various freely available pitchers looking for bullpen help.
Marinez made four appearances with the Rangers, with the closest game he ever came into involving a 6 run margin, so it wasn’t like he ever pitched in a meaningful situation. And after 7.2 decent innings of work over 4 games (2.35 ERA, 3.81 FIP), Marinez was designated for assignment on September 1 to clear a 40 man roster spot for a September callup, was outrighted, and is now a free agent.
So yeah...it wasn’t quite clear why they claimed him in the first place, or why they dropped him when they did, but he’s now on the market and will likely sign a minor league deal somewhere, and periodically resurface in the majors. And we can all nostalgically recall the Jhan Marinez days in Texas.