Cole Ragans, the Texas Rangers first round draft pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, has been listed as the Rangers likely starter for Thursday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. This will be Ragans’ major league debut.
This news makes me truly happy. Ragans, a 24 year old left hander, looked like an extremely promising pitching prospect after a strong season in the Northwest League in 2017. When the news broke in the spring of 2018 that Ragans would need Tommy John surgery, it was disappointing.
What happened the next season was even worse. Ragans was close to appearing in game action again when his surgically repaired UCL tore. After months of grueling rehab, Ragans needed a second Tommy John surgery, and would have to go through the whole process again.
I remember reading the news on Twitter, and I remember feeling sick to my stomach. I can’t imagine what it was like for Ragans, knowing that he was going to have to have a second surgery, a second rehab, in the hopes he could pitch again after missing three full seasons.
Ragans returned to the mound with Hickory to start 2021, and just the fact that he was pitching again seemed remarkable. He pitched well for Hickory, earning a second half promotion to AA Frisco, but then seemed to hit a wall, putting up a 5.70 ERA in 36 innings in AA. Just getting back and pitching all season was a win, though.
Ragans returned to Frisco to start the 2022 season and excelled, earning a promotion to AAA Round Rock, where he has more than held his own. Between the two levels he has a 3.08 ERA over 96 innings and 18 starts, with 113 Ks and 31 walks. He’s earned the opportunity he’s getting to step into the major league rotation while Jon Gray is out. I imagine the Rangers will be cautious with him, given his lack of innings and injury history, but he’s going to get a chance to start in the big leagues and show what he can do.
So I’m happy. I questioned whether Ragans would ever pitch again back in 2019, and certainly didn’t figure he was likely to end up in the big leagues. But he did it.
I’m not sure what Ragans will do in the majors, if he will succeed, if he will fail, if he will struggle. But just the fact he’s putting on a major league uniform at this point, that he will be starting a major league game, is one of the best stories of the baseball season, for me.