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The Starting Rotation Part 2
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Welcome to the second edition of the Rangers Road to Relevance!
Today’s edition will be a follow-up to my first article, in which we discussed the current Rangers starting rotation. While I will be the first to admit that rotation does not promise much, our farm system provides a lot of hope to a struggling Rangers franchise. In previous years, we have often either drafted poorly or mismanaged our farm system, which resulted in our minor league teams always being below average. That is no longer the case, as the Rangers farm system is now ranked 11th-best in the MLB, a huge jump from years prior. A large portion of that jump comes from our up-and-coming pitching prospects:
- Jack Leiter
- Cole Winn
- Randy Vanasco
- Glenn Otto
- Others to watch: Yerry Rodriguez, Tekoah Roby, Cody Bradford, Ronny Henriquez
If you have read my previous article, you remember when I mentioned that while the current starting rotation may not be great, it has promise. While I may be biased, this is what promise looks like.
I remember watching the MLB draft in July, praying that the Rangers would pick my favorite prospect, Jack Leiter. This has been rare in the past decade, but I really believe that GM Jon Daniels has made the right decision. Leiter, like his father Al, has an incredible baseball IQ and showed incredible poise during his 2020-2021 season with the Vanderbilt Commodores. Leiter is the complete package, with a dominant fastball in the high 90’s with late 2-seam run, a wipeout 12-6 curveball, and a disgusting slider with a swing-and-miss rate of what feels like 100%. While all of those tangibles are great, his heart and passion are what lead me to believe he will be great. He combines an incredible fire to win with an incredible mind for the game, and I see a long career ahead for Leiter. We should expect to see him in 2023 after a season in the minors.
While it may be obvious that I love Jack Leiter, Cole Winn, our #2 pitching prospect, is an absolute stud. While I could waste words and describe him, just watch this video. His best trait is his command, averaging less than 3 BB/9, and is no slouch in the strikeout department, snagging 97 K’s in 78 innings. As you can see in the video, his stuff is very deceiving, his changeup and slider have a very late break, and given his .82 WHIP (that’s REALLY REALLY GOOD), he uses them very well. Winn will begin the season in AAA, but do not be surprised to see him in the majors sooner rather than later.
You often hear about the infamous “Tommy John Surgery” ending careers, but have you ever heard of it boosting one? While I am obviously exaggerating, Randy Vanasco is doing something quite unheard of. After a 2-year absence from TJ, Vanasco returned to Rangers Camp with 40 pounds of added muscle and now sports a 99 mph fastball, 3 mph up from his previous max velocity. Vanasco’s upside is unbelievable, posting 75 strikeouts in less than 50 innings in 2019 prior to surgery (WHAT!?). If Vanasco can even return to the part of his 2019 form, the Rangers may have a third exciting homegrown prospect. I would expect to see him with Leiter in 2023.
The name Glenn Otto may be a familiar name to Rangers fans, as he came to us in the Joey Gallo trade to the Yankees. Otto sports a fastball-slider combo while sprinkling in a knuckle-curve and changeup. Otto’s fastball is not dominant like Leiter’s lacking swings and misses, but his slider is his best pitch, throwing it 40% of the time, and getting swings and misses nearly half the time. Otto had an amazing outing against Astros in his debut, throwing 5 scoreless innings with 7 K’s, but struggling after that, posting a 9.26 ERA during his time in the majors. I expect to see Otto again in 2022, and he will likely improve on his 2021 performance.
I cannot wait to see these guys in 2022 and beyond, as the future of the Rangers franchise may rest on their shoulders. Check back for the next edition of Rangers Road to Relevance, as we will be discussing the bullpen and the return of Jose Leclerc.
Note: Thank you for the support on my first article! I was excited to have 100 views never mind 10,000! It is much appreciated, and this series is just getting started.