Something that was announced earlier this week, but which may have been lost in all the discussion about the trades the Texas Rangers made, and the trades the Texas Rangers didn’t make, is that Kyle Cody has been announced as the team’s starting pitcher on Friday, September 4, in Seattle against the Mariners.
The 26 year old Cody was added to the 40 man roster this past offseason, a move that some found surprisingly, given that Cody missed virtually all of 2018 and 2019 due to a damaged UCL that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Prior to 2020 he had a total of just 178.8 professional innings over 37 games, with only 5 appearances above low-A. Those sorts of players aren’t usually deemed 40 man roster worthy.
Cody, however, had been named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017 for the Rangers, and having been drafted and signed in 2016 out of the University of Kentucky as a senior, he was a year older than most of the college pitchers who were taken in that draft and seen as legitimate prospects. He had been seen prior to his injury as someone who could move quickly, and his making to the big leagues this year, albeit in the unusual circumstances of the 2020 MLB season, seem to indicate that view was warranted.
Cody has made three brief relief appearances since being called up, and in his limited time he has impressed. Facing a total of 16 batters, he has fanned 6 of them, walked 3 and allowed just a single hit. Per Fangraphs, his fastball has been 95-96 mph on average, with his slider coming in around 84 mph and his changeup at 88 mph. The sample sizes here are miniscule, of course — he’s thrown a total of 62 pitches — but it gives a sense for his repertoire.
Cody is stepping into the rotation spot that was vacated when Mike Minor was dealt to Oakland, and while I expected Jerad Eickhoff, just signed to a minor league deal (and part of the team’s taxi squad that traveled to Houston), to be added to fill that spot, Cody is getting the first crack at it. Cody and Kolby Allard will presumably be taking regular turns the rest of the way.
The Rangers have 26 games remaining over the final 26 days of the season — they have just one off day, on Monday, September 14, and will be playing a doubleheader on September 12 against Oakland. That should give Cody and Allard 5 starts apiece the rest of the season, and give the Rangers a chance to get a look at them and see how comfortable with the idea of one or both of them being in the rotation to start 2021.
The Rangers have three starting pitchers under contract for 2021 right now, along with Corey Kluber, who has a team option for 2021. Jon Daniels’ post-trade-deadline comments acknowledged that the team’s contention window has been bumped back, and the payroll is expected to be lower in 2021, which would seem to suggest that the team may opt to reserve at least one spot in the Opening Day rotation to be filled with one of the young internal options.
The Rangers currently have Joe Palumbo and Tyler Phillips on the 40 man roster as starting pitching prospects, as well as Jason Bahr, John King and Yerry Rodriguez, who seem likely to be protected this offseason (and King could be added to the 40 man roster and activated before the end of the year). Cody and Allard, however, are the pitchers getting the close look over the remainder of the season, and if they hold their own, they would seem to be the guys atop of the pecking order for a rotation spot next spring.