With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time where we go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this past season.
Today, we look at relief pitcher Josh Sborz.
It was an up-and-down season for Josh Sborz. Not necessarily in regards to his performance, which was, at least in the majors, not good throughout. But in regards to his rostering, he had six different stints with the Rangers, by my count, and was optioned five different times.
Josh Sborz started the season in the majors, appeared in four games, and was sent down. His next time up he appeared in four games and was sent down. Each of his next three times in the bigs, he made one appearance before being sent back down.
Finally, in early August, he returned to the big leagues and made eight appearances without pitching for Round Rock in between. Sadly, he landed on the injured list, his season being cut short due to elbow soreness.
Here is a weird fact about Josh Sborz’s 2022 season: he had the same number of apperances (19) for the Rangers as he did for the Express. He had the same number of innings pitched (22.1) for the Rangers and the Express. He even started one game for the Rangers and one game for the Express. He walked 11 batters for the Express and 11 batters for the Rangers. Crazy stuff, right?
However. Sborz had a 1.61 ERA at AAA, and a 6.45 ERA in the majors. His K rate was pretty much the same — he struck out 30 batters at AAA, 32 in the majors — so missing bats wasn’t the problem. Instead, it was that Sborz gave up 11 hits, including two home runs, in those 22.1 IP in the minors, and 25 hits, including four home runs, in his 22.1 IP in the majors.
Sborz had a weird collection of numbers in his limited time in the majors. His .396 BABIP and 17.4% HR/FB ratio could lead one to believe that he was more unlucky than bad, as evidenced by his 3.25 xFIP. His xERA was 4.97, however, indicating that hitters were pounding him — that the home runs and hits were the result of him getting hammered, not just bad fortune.
Of course, Sborz spent most of the year as the guy who got bounced up and down as needed, who, until his final, shortened stint in the bigs, never got a chance to get into a groove or get consistent major league innings. That, combined with the limited sample size, might lead one to shrug off the disappointing 2022 season, particularly in light of a more respectable 2021 campaign, where he got many more major league innings.
Sborz’s stuff is legit — he averaged 97 mph on his fastball in 2022, which even in this turbocharged era of velocity is upper echelon, and has a high spin rate to go with it. Per Statcast, he throws both a slider and a curveball, with his slider being used almost exclusively against righties, while the curve is his primary breaker to lefty hitters. Both of the breaking balls are fine.
Where Sborz struggled last year was in his command, particularly of his four seamer. If/when Sborz locates the fastball up in the zone, he can have success. If he can’t locate it up in the zone, he’s going to be hammered.
Sborz is out of options for 2023, and he is perhaps the guy most on the bubble currently among those on the 40 man roster. The stuff is good enough that you can understand why the Rangers want to be patient with him, want to see if he can show consistent enough command to make him a reliable bullpen piece. But the amount of rope he has is pretty short, at this point.