With the 2019 Texas Rangers season now over, I’m going to do a series of posts handing out grades to every player who appeared for the Rangers this year. I’m starting with pitchers, will go in alphabetical order, and then will do position players in alphabetical order.
Grades will be based on a combination of performance, expectations, and my own whims at the moment I happen to be typing this up. They aren’t to be taken too seriously.
And today, Part VII...
BRETT MARTIN — B
One of the more interesting, and really, overlooked (at least, after spring training) stories of 2019 for the Rangers was the emergence of Brett Martin. A big lefthander who was a 4th round pick out of Walters State Community College as a 19 year old in 2014, Martin was someone who Tepid said early on was a dude but would be a “slow burn,” and at times it looked like “slow” would turn into “stationary.” Martin had a nice first full pro season with Hickory in 2015, but put up disappointing numbers in both 2016 and 2017 while battling injuries.
After being added to the 40 man roster after the 2017 season, Martin had a disastrous 2018 campaign, as he logged a 7.28 ERA in 89 innings for Frisco. His peripherals were solid — 96 Ks against 29 walks and 7 home runs allowed in 89 IP — but his command was so erratic that he too frequently missed in the zone, resulting in him giving up tons of hits. He moved to the bullpen late in 2018, and reports then were better, but he nonetheless seemed like someone whose 40 man roster spot could be in jeopardy.
That all changed in spring training of this year. Martin was one of the big stories of camp, as he was in the mix for a bullpen job on Opening Day until the end of camp, and earned praise for the strides he had made. He started the year in AAA, was called up for a month, went back to AAA for a brief stint in May, returned to the majors at the start of June, and was in the big leagues the rest of the way.
Martin didn’t have lights-out numbers, but he was pretty solid overall, putting up a 4.76 ERA and a 3.65 FIP. He had a couple of disaster outings, including one as an opener against Seattle in September, that inflated his ERA, but he was good for a 0.7 bWAR on the year.
Martin had a .340 BABIP on the year in the majors, but his wOBA of .318 was basically the same as his xwOBA of .320, so the elevated BABIP likely was the result of spotty command rather than bad luck. As with many pitchers of his ilk, he will ultimately succeed or fail based on his command, but the stuff is legit, and his 2019 season seems to indicate Martin can be a nice bullpen guy going forward.
CHRIS MARTIN — A+
In the second year of his two year deal with the Rangers, signed after the 2017 season after he spent several years pitching in Japan, the Arlington native did good work for Texas out of the bullpen (3.08 ERA/4.00 FIP) and then at the deadline brought back Kolby Allard, who appears to have an inside track to a rotation spot in 2020.
Its hard for things to have worked out better for the Rangers vis-a-vis Chris Martin in 2019. And while the Rangers are swimming in righty relief arms, I suspect there would be interest in bringing Martin, who is a free agent, back for 2020.
YOHANDER MENDEZ — D
Do you remember that Mendez was once a top 100 prospect? Well, not a consensus top 100 guy, but MLB Pipeline had Mendez at #56 after the 2016 season, when Mendez put up a 2.19 ERA in 111 IP over three levels in the minors and got a cup of coffee in September for the American League West champion Texas Rangers. It seemed like the Rangers’ investment in Mendez (he got $1.5 million to sign as part of the big 2011 J-2 class) and patience with Mendez (he struggled to stay healthy and had thrown only 136 IP in three seasons stateside before 2016) was finally paying off.
2017 saw Mendez have some success at Frisco. 2018 saw him struggle at Round Rock, get called up to the majors anyway, make one start, get sent back to the minors after an altercation with some Royals players in a Kansas City bar that also resulted in Rougned Odor being benched and Carlos Tocci and Martin Perez getting fined, have to work his way back up from high-A, and not pitch well in the majors. And then in 2019, when he was expected to be rotation depth while toiling in the minors on his fourth option, Mendez was sidelined before the season started with an elbow injury, and didn’t return to action until late July.
Mendez should still have his fourth option for 2020, given that he was active for less than 90 days in 2019 and was on an optional assignment for less than 20 days (the remainder of his time in the minors was on a rehab assignment), and he still has the terrific changeup that makes him so enticing. Texas moved him to a bullpen role after his injury, and his stuff played up there, so I would expect him to continue to work in a relief role. He could be a 40 man roster casualty this offseason, particularly given the Rangers’ wealth of relief arms on the 40 man roster and overall 40 man crunch.
SHELBY MILLER — F
The best that can be said about Miller’s time with the Rangers is that he only cost them $2 million. The Brownwood native, who the Rangers passed over in the first round in 2009 so they could pick Matt Purke, was signed as a reclamation project after Tommy John surgery limited him to 38 innings in 2017-18.
It didn’t pan out. Miller was bad, lost his rotation spot, went to the bullpen, wasn’t good there either, and was released. An 8.59 ERA and -1.0 bWAR in 44 innings will generally do that.
Miller signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in July, was released in August, and at this point, it would seem that, at the age of 29, his career is in jeopardy.