The Rangers Road to Relevance #1

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The Starting Rotation Part 1

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Welcome to the first edition of the Rangers Road to Relevance! This will be a series during the MLB’s lockdown period, examining the Texas Rangers and how they can re-kindle that 2011 World Series magic. Today, I am evaluating and discussing how the Rangers can improve their rotation that was the third-worst rotation in the Majors. While it is not easy, especially since we traded our ace in Kyle Gibson at the deadline, the Rangers have already made a couple of moves, along with some promising prospects that should contribute immediately to this team. As it stands now, here is the projected 2022 Rangers Starting Rotation:

  • Jon Gray (recently acquired in free agency)
  • Dane Dunning
  • Taylor Hearn
  • Spencer Howard
  • AJ Alexy
  • Others to watch: Cole Winn, Ricky Vanasco, Glenn Otto

Now at first glance, this rotation looks pretty bad, I can admit that. We are very young, lack experience, and are very reliant on prospects who are yet to throw an inning in the majors to be the back end of our rotation. However, there is a lot of promise.

Outside of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, Jon Gray was the biggest free agency signee for the Rangers and is probably my personal favorite. We desperately needed to add to the rotation, and while we are likely asking too much of Gray to be our staff ace, he is a consistent starter that has stayed healthy. Nothing pops out in his stats, but we will be hoping for him to continue to reduce his BB/9, as he regressed in that area last year, and is very effective if he keeps it under 3.0 BB/9.

Dane Dunning is a SP we acquired in trading Lance Lynn to the White Sox last year. Dunning performed well for the Rangers, given the circumstances. He struggled with walks as the year went on, however still posted a respectable 2.65 BB/9 over his 117 innings pitched. One elite trait Dunning showed was his ability to limit the long ball, as he only allowed 1.0 HR/9, which puts him in the company of Marquee pitchers like Jose Berrios and Julio Urias. His biggest area to improve this upcoming season will be his command and efficiency, as he failed to go deep in games in 2021 due to his pitch count. While he will likely not be an ace given his lack of a dominating fastball or offspeed pitch, he is a solid piece to this rotation for the coming future.

Taylor Hearn. Sigh. Hearn is one of the reasons that I believe we need prospects like Winn, Leiter, Vanasco, and Otto to perform so badly. Taylor Hearn is not a starter, he just isn’t. He does not have the stuff to see a Major League lineup three times, and also consistently struggles with walks and efficiency. He had a BB/9 of 3.5, which was an improvement from his 5.7 in 2020, but that is still not very good in the MLB, and since he does not have dominating strikeout numbers, it becomes hard to advocate for him as a starter. He is better suited as a 2-4 inning long reliever for our #3-5 starters.

This brings us to another member of the “Starter or Reliever” club. Spencer Howard was the centerpiece of the Kyle Gibson Trade, coming to us from the Philadelphia Phillies. While I could mention his stats (which are admittedly worse than Hearn’s), I believe that is useless, as he was treated unfairly by the Phillies. The Phillies were attempting to transition him into a reliever, he was not happy and wanted to be a starter. Anyone who has been around baseball, especially the majors knows that the difference between a starter and a reliever is huge. From the routine, pitch counts, training, to post-game recovery, they really are two different positions. I believe a full offseason training as a starter with Texas will benefit Howard, but I am going to keep my expectations low and hope he rounds into form in 2022.

AJ Alexy had an elite season in 2021 in AA and AAA, posting a 1.66 ERA and gaining the attention of Rangers coaches. However, I wonder if that will transfer to major league success, as I have doubts that his secondary pitches (curveball and changeup) are polished enough to put away hitters. These struggles along with command issues, and a dominant fastball will likely limit him to the bullpen.

Check back in for part 2 of the starting rotation, where I evaluate our best prospects and hopeful contributors in 2022 and beyond!

About Post Author

Garrett Larson

What's up, everybody! I am an avid Texas Rangers fan and huge sports fan overall from Dallas, Texas. Thank you so much for reading/listening!
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  • What's up, everybody! I am an avid Texas Rangers fan and huge sports fan overall from Dallas, Texas. Thank you so much for reading/listening!

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