With the 2021 season having come to a close, we are looking back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers.
Today we are looking at pitcher Demarcus Evans.
Years ago, I created a “Texas Rangers Transactions” category for LSB posts. Since doing that, every 40 man roster move, no matter how great or small, ends up being in a post on LSB, and that posted is tagged “Texas Rangers Transactions” and is included in that special section. The very first post was Chris Snyder being added as depth on a minor league deal on March 25, 2014 — ironically, a non-40-man deal, but I was still figuring out what to do with this category back then.
The first 40 man roster move to get the “Texas Rangers Transactions” tag was also on March 25, 2014. It was titled “Rangers Option Neftali Feliz to Round Rock.” That, in March, 2014, evokes a whole lot of feelings, and, as it turns out, foreshadowed the overall zeitgeist of the 2014 Texas Rangers season.
The transactions section has a permanent spot on the front page. It allows everyone to see recent moves, and also acts as a failsafe for me, since if I see the articles on the transaction widget and it doesn’t have a move made, like, yesterday that I know happened before whatever i.l. move or waiver claim is showing up at the bottom of the widget, then I know that I need to go back and either make that post or tag the post that I made that I inadvertently forgot to tag.
The most recent transaction in the Texas Rangers Transactions archive as I type this — on Sunday morning, because look at me, I’m doing things in advance, writing posts and scheduling them before the day they are supposed to run — is that Demarcus Evans and Yerry Rodriguez were optioned to AAA. They were the first players optioned this spring by the Rangers, I’m pretty sure — the first guys on the 40 man roster sent to the minors, the first to be shipped out of the major league camp.
Yerry Rodriguez had visa issues that delayed his arrival at camp until March 23 — the day of the post announcing Yerry and Demarcus had been optioned (and the day they were optioned, for what it is worth). Yerry Rodriguez’s chances of making the Opening Day roster were about as good as mine were when camp opened anyway — well, with the 28 man rosters, I guess his chances were a little better than mine, because there’s two more roster spots and only so many guys you can sort through to stick in the bullpen as the 28th man whose role is to give you seven innings of long relief if someone pulls a Kyle Gibson Opening Day 2021 or an Aaron Myette September 3 2002 — and that was before he wasn’t able to report until 17 days before the season opener due to visa issues.
Demarcus Evans got sent down at the same time Yerry did.
Which probably says something about where Evans stands in the Rangers’ bullpen pecking order right now.
The scouting report on Demarcus Evans has always been that he was a big, hard throwing righty with command issues and a high spin fastball. A 25th round pick in that weird Rangers 2015 draft where it looks like a pretty decent draft as long as you ignore the first six picks, Evans finally saw things click when he moved to the bullpen in 2018, where he put up a 1.77 ERA in 56 relief innings with 103(!) Ks against 27 walks. Yeah, that’s a lot of walks, but its a hell of a lot of strikeouts. Evans faced only 220 batters in 2018 for Hickory, and struck out almost half of them.
The 2019 season was the year when the Rangers farm saw a bunch of relievers start the year in A ball and shoot up the ladder. The 2019 Down East Wood Ducks — then a high-A affiliate — started the year with Evans, Joe Barlow, Emmanuel Clase and Peter Fairbanks all on the roster. Clase ended the year in the majors with the Rangers, Fairbanks ended the year in the majors with the Rays, Barlow ended the year in AAA Nashville, and Evans ended the year in AA Frisco. A.J. Alexy, John King and Jake Latz were also part of that DEWDs squad, as were Tyler Phillips, Scott Engler, Jason Bahr and Cole Uvila. There were a lot of good arms that went through Kinston that year — no surprise Down East had a team ERA of 3.00 in 2019.
Evans split the year between Down East and Frisco, putting up video game numbers. He had a 0.90 ERA in 60 innings. He faced 235 batters and struck out 100 of them. He allowed 7 runs all year. He walked 36 batters unintentionally. Incredibly, he only allowed 23 hits all year — just two home runs.
2020 was, well, you know. Evans spent much of the summer at the Alternate Training Site, with the team wanting to see improvement in his command, and ended up making four appearances in the majors in 2020, logging four innings.
Per Statcast, in 2020, he averaged 93.9 mph on his four seamer, 87.5 mph on his cutter, and 83.3 mph on his curveball. Remember those numbers — they will be relevant again later.
So 2021 rolled around. In a year expected to be about development and growth and figuring out what guys could do and who could contribute over the next few years, it seemed to be a great opportunity for Demarcus Evans to stake claim to a position in the Rangers’ bullpen, show that he could be an arm to be relied upon over the next few years.
That is not what happened.
Remember the Texas Rangers Transactions section I talked about earlier? Demarcus Evans regularly appeared in that section during the 2021 season. That’s usually not a good thing.
Evans started the year on the injured list. He was activated in late April and optioned to AA Frisco, though he really went to the Alternate Training Site. When the AAA season started, he was assigned to Round Rock.
After five games at Round Rock, Evans was brought up and joined the major league pen. A few weeks into this stint, he got tagged with four runs (three earned) in the 10th inning of a walkoff loss to the Astros, where he started with the Zombie Runner on second, then went walk, walk, Altuve grand slam. A week later, at home against Oakland, he allowed four runs while retiring just in a pair of batters in the top of the ninth of a game the Rangers were losing anyway, and thus ended up losing by more in.
The next day, Evans was optioned, Brett de Geus was DFA’d, and Joe Barlow and Wes Benjamin were brought up. Here’s what I wrote about Evans at the time:
Demarcus Evans showed flashes but struggled to throw strikes and command his pitches in the strike zone
Written on June 23, that, in retrospect, pretty much summed up Demarcus Evans’ entire 2021 season.
Evans returned to the majors a month later when the Rangers sent Jason Martin down to get an extra arm. He was optioned two weeks later, replaced by Jimmy Herget, with David Dahl having been designated for assignment to open up a roster spot for Herget. Its weird, in retrospect, to realize Dahl wasn’t DFA’d until early August...it felt like he was gone well before then.
And man, did the David Dahl experiment really not work.
I don’t think Evans even left for Round Rock that time, though, as he was recalled a couple of days later when Dane Dunning went on the injured list. Evans went back down to AAA Round Rock in early September, and finished out the year with the Express.
Evans had a weird season in 2021. He wasn’t terrible in the majors — he had a 5.13 ERA and a 4.58 FIP, facing 120 batters, striking out 33 of them, walking 16 and allowing 4 home runs. In Round Rock he had a 3.74 ERA, with 31 Ks and 12 walks in 21.2 IP. Statcast had his xERA at 3.55, and his xwOBA at .291, which is pretty good.
That said...remember the discussion of Evans’ velocity numbers in 2020? In 2021, his four seamer dropped from 93.9 mph to 91 mph. His cutter dropped from 87.5 mph to 85.9 mph. And his curveball went from 83.3 mph to 79.6 mph.
Evans’ four seam velocity by month:
May — 91.7
June — 92.3
July — 90.9
August — 90.2
September — 89.1
I have no idea what happened. You can point to the sticky stuff being outlawed, but Evans had a high spin rate both before and after that, although his spin rate did drop some after June as well. Maybe that was an issue.
But, per Statcast, in 2021 Evans’ fastball was in the bottom 10% in velocity and in the top 10% in spin rate. That’s weird. His four seamer has little horizontal movement, even relative to other four seamers, but a ton of vertical movement. His cutter has a bunch of movement, both horizontally and vertically. His curveball doesn’t break much at all, for whatever reason.
So Evans ended the year as a guy who didn’t throw hard or command his pitches well, but who had a ton of movement, and who was able to be somewhat successful, and not give up a lot of hard contact, as a result.
That’s a pretty fine line for Evans to be walking, though — particularly if he’s not commanding the ball well. Which is why he was sent out relatively early in camp.
I tweeted out over the weekend that, in regards to opening up 40 man roster spots, the Rangers shouldn’t have that difficult of a time. Even if they don’t want to put Jose Leclerc on the 60 day injured list — and it sounds like he is expected to be back before he would eligible to be activated, should the Rangers do so — they could, I suggested, waive Zach Reks or Yonny Hernandez, with little risk.
I got a DM from someone who mentioned a third guy who probably goes in that category of potential 40 man roster casualties with Reks and Yonny, that third guy being Demarcus Evans.
And when I went through the Rangers 40 man roster, Evans was the name that came to mind, along with Reks and Hernandez. I didn’t mention Evans in my tweet, in part because I thought he was probably a little safer than the other two, and in part because I have a soft spot for Evans and find him a real interesting pitcher and am hoping he doesn’t go anywhere.
But if there’s one thing the Rangers have a ton of in their system, it is righthanded pitchers who profile as guys who could be useful major league relievers. That’s an area of depth for the Rangers. And so Evans could end up getting caught up in a numbers game, if the Rangers need to open up a few roster spots for guys on minor league deals who have to be added come Opening Day.