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.
So with no further ado...
Kolby Allard — A-
Hey, nothing like starting out the exercise with a good grade! The 2015 first rounder came to the Rangers at the end of July from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for reliever Chris Martin and, after one minor league appearance, joined the major league rotation for the rest of the year. Allard made 9 starts, went 45.1 IP, and had a 4.96 ERA, a 4.01 FIP and a 5.08 xFIP.
The 21 year old lefthander had lost a lot of his prospect shine when the Rangers acquired him, in no small part due to a fastball that was generally seen as pretty fringy. That made the radar gun readings once he got to Texas particularly eye-opening...after averaging 89.4 mph on his fastball in 2018 with the Braves, Allard averaged 92.5 mph in the majors for the Rangers in 2019, and reports were that his velocity had ticked up in the minors for the Braves for a month or two prior to the deal.
A nice (if relatively low-ceiling) major league ready starting pitching prospect is a healthy return for a solid free-agent-to-be major league reliever, and the reviews for the deal were positive for Texas even before Allard held his own in the big leagues over the final two months. His K rate of 6.55 per 9 wasn’t great, and his xwOBA of .334 was in line with his actual wOBA of .325, so I don’t think we can just wave away the ERA/FIP spread and say his ERA being higher was due to fluctuations or luck. Nonetheless, a 21 year old pitcher putting up a 5 ERA in the current environment, and with TBiA as his home park (sidenote — he had an 8.66 ERA at home, a 2.60 ERA on the road, so he’s probably glad there’s a new park coming in 2020), is nothing to sneeze at.
Allard will likely be vying with a number of other internal options for either one or two rotation spots this spring (depending on how many external starters the Rangers bring in for 2020), and he would seem to have the inside track based on his 2019 performance.
Jesse Biddle — D
One of the guys who will stump people in the 2019 Texas Rangers Sporcle Quiz down the road. I barely remember him being a Ranger already. After a solid rookie season for the Braves in 2018, he was bad for Atlanta early in 2019, was sent to Seattle along with the injured Arodys Vizcaino in exchange for Anthony Swarzak, was awful in Seattle, was put on waivers, and was claimed by Texas in June, 2019.
Biddle had an adventurous, if short, stint in the bigs with the Rangers, facing 28 batters, striking out 7 of them, walking 5 of them, hitting 3 of them, and allowing 2 home runs in a Three True Outcome spectacular. He then was put on the injured list in mid-July and we forgot about him for the rest of the year.
I had forgotten about this, but Biddle was a top 100 prospect in baseball for several years in the early part of the decade, but needed Tommy John surgery after the 2015 season, and hasn’t been the same since.
He is out of options and will most likely be waived once the World Series is over, though I guess the Rangers could wait and keep him on the 40 man roster until they can try waiving him once the offseason has started, and they can try to waive him and outright him.
Kyle Bird — D
The third piece in the return Texas got in the Jurickson Profar trade, Bird was shipped to Texas from Tampa last offseason, impressed in spring training, and got some early opportunities in the Rangers pen. He gave up 5 homers and 15 walks while facing just 65 batters in the majors, however, striking out just 10, and ended up not even being called up when rosters expanded in September, which is an inauspicious sign.
Bird, a 26 year old lefty reliever, did put up a 2.86 ERA in 34.2 IP for Nashville, with 39 Ks against 15 walks, and the Rangers supposedly liked his stuff. I seem to recall there being a story or two about him having a hard time slowing things down in the majors. He’s a bubble 40 man roster guy, and could end up getting flipped to clear some roster space.
Brock Burke — C
The lead piece in the return Texas got in the Jurickson Profar trade, Burke was the prize of the Jurickson Profar trade, coming to Texas (along with the above-mentioned Bird) from Tampa. Burke was one of the big stories of spring training, where he was touted as being advanced and near major league ready, and it seemed like he would be one of the first guys up when the rotation needed reinforcements.
Burke only made three starts for Frisco this year, however, before going to the injured list with what was first described as a blister, and what then became a mystery ailment as everyone wondered why a blister was keeping him out so long, and then finally was revealed to be a shoulder impingement. Burke returned to action in mid-June, made it to the majors in mid-August, and had three really nice starts in the big leagues followed by three awful starts before he was shut down.
And continuing the intrigue, he was initially said to have been shut down for non-injury-related issues, then it was revealed his shoulder issue was bothering him again. The Rangers had planned on him pitching winter ball to make up for some of the innings he missed this year, but the shoulder issue means he’s going to skip winter ball.
It was kind of a disappointing year, mainly because of the injury issues, though Burke flashed signs that he could be a major league starter. He will (assuming he is healthy) be, along with Allard, one of the guys the Rangers will be considering for the rotation this spring. Most likely he will start the year in Nashville, and will get a chance at some point during the 2020 season.