In the past week, the Rangers have subtracted Kevin Millwood and Willie Eyre and added Rich Harden, Chris Ray, Joe Inglett, Clay Rapada and Ben Snyder to bring their major league roster to 40 players. Twenty-three of the 40 players are pitchers, and only five appear to be guaranteed to begin 2010 in the minors (Omar Poveda, Michael Kirkman, Eric Hurley, Zach Phillips and Luis Mendoza).
The other 18 pitchers will battle in spring training for what will likely be 12 available roster spots on Opening Day. The Rangers also appear to be in good shape in the outfield, with five players having proven that they can compete at the major league level. The team is thin in the infield and will be thin at catcher if Max Ramirez is traded.
Although they are unlikely to make the team out of spring training, several players who are not currently on the 40-man roster seem likely to be added at some point in 2010:
41. Justin Smoak (1B)
42. Kasey Kiker (bullpen)
43. Mitch Moreland (1B/RF/DH)
44. Willie Eyre (bullpen)
45. A.J. Murray (bullpen)
If the Rangers decide to add another major league player or two either in the coming months or during 2010, it is worth noting that there are several players who could be dropped from the 40-man roster without affecting the 2010 team. The most likely candidates to be removed from the Rangers' roster are:
1. Esteban German and/or Joe Inglett
2. Clay Rapada and/or Ben Snyder
3. Joaquin Arias
4. Luis Mendoza
5. Greg Golson, Craig Gentry and/or Brandon Boggs
KEY ADDITIONS TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER
Rich Harden, 28-year-old RHP: The Rangers have a new No. 1 starter for their starting rotation, and Harden brings strikeouts to a group that could use them. Harden has averaged 9.4 K/9 in his career and he averaged 11.0 K/9 in 2008 and 2009 combined! In 2009, the Rangers' starting pitchers racked up 5.7 K/9 and Kevin Millwood, the pitcher whom Harden will replace, had a strikeout rate (5.6 K/9) that was just a hair over half of what Harden posted in 2009. Harden is a bit more prone to walks than you would like to see (4.3 BB/9 in 2009), but he has been remarkably consistent in his seven major league seasons, posting expected fielding-independent ERAs that ranged between 3.31 and 4.08.
Harden features a 92 mph fastball and an 84 mph change-up that he mixes at a ratio of 60:40. His fastball rates as above average, and his change-up rates as plus. In his first three major league seasons, Harden also threw a slider that rated as plus. He stopped using the pitch during his injury-marred seasons in 2006 and 2007, which might explain why he has averaged more than 25 starts for each of the past two seasons.
With the slider, Harden's ground ball rates were solid (1.36 GB/FB). Pitching without the benefit of his slider in 2008 and 2009, Harden's ground-to-fly ball ratios have been 0.61 and 0.86, respectively. Harden's home run rate in 2009 (1.47 HR/9) was a career high due to his high fly ball rate and a 15.1 percent HR/FB rate that was well above league average. If he can stay healthy and his HR/FB rate falls back to league average, Harden figures to post an ERA in the 3.50-4.00 range and provide a fine role model for the Rangers' aspiring TORPs, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz.
Chris Ray, 27-year-old RHP: Ray was a fine young pitcher in his first two major league seasons (2005-2006), chalking up 7.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, a .207 BAA and a 2.70 ERA in 106 major league innings. Ray pitched well again in 2007 (4.43 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, .225 BAA) despite elbow problems that ultimately led to Tommy John surgery in August. After returning from surgery and rehab, Ray tossed 24 minor league innings in 2008 and then posted disappointing results in 2009 (7.27 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 and a .344 BAA in 43 major league innings).
Ray is a two-pitch reliever, throwing his 94-95 mph fastball roughly 70 percent of the time and his 85-86 mph slider the other 30 percent of the time. Both pitches appear to have lost around one mile per hour in 2009 relative to where they were before his surgery; however, Ray's disappointing 2009 results appear to have more to do with poor control (nearly 5.0 BB/9 in 2009 vs. fewer than 4.0 BB/9 in his three previous seasons) and a .402 BABIP than any significant loss in stuff. His BABIP in 2009 was nearly 150 points higher than his prior career rate, despite a line drive rate (21.1 percent) that was only slightly above the 18.8 percent that he had given up in prior seasons.
In 2010 spring training, Ray will be competing with Dustin Nippert, Pedro Strop, Warner Madrigal, Guillermo Moscoso and perhaps Neftali Feliz for the opportunity to pitch in the Rangers' bullpen. Improved control and better luck should be enough for him to win a spot. It appears that Ray has one minor league option remaining, so it is possible that he could spend time in the minors if he struggles in the majors.
Joe Inglett, 31-year-old UTIL: In four major league seasons, Inglett has posted a .293/.349/.396 batting line in 639 at-bats that is largely indistinguishable from the .278/.358/.383 batting line that the Rangers' other 31-year-old utility player, Esteban German, has posted in 992 career at-bats. Neither player appears capable of playing more than a few games per season at shortstop, nor producing above replacement level on offense.
The only distinguishing factors between the two players are that Inglett bats left-handed and German bats right-handed, and Inglett's career year (.297/.355/.407 in 2008) happened more recently than German's (.326/.422/.459 in 2006). If they are still on the Rangers' 40-man roster when spring training rolls around, Inglett and German will likely battle Joaquin Arias and perhaps an as-yet unsigned player for the team's utility infielder position. Hopefully, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young will have healthy and productive seasons in 2010.
Clay Rapada, 27-year-old LHP: Rapada was acquired from the Detroit Tigers for cash. His outstanding minor league numbers (2.91 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9 in 396 IP) are somewhat misleading, given that fact that they were generated while pitching almost exclusively as a reliever in leagues where he was older than most of the players against whom he was competing. As would be expected, his numbers against major leaguers have been much more modest (4.94 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 5.9 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 in 27 IP).
Rapada is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, throwing his 86-87 mph fastball 65 percent of the time and his 77 mph slider the other 35 percent. Both pitches have really nice downward movement, which helps explain his excellent ground ball rates (1.68 GB/FB in the minor leagues and 1.48 GB/FB in the major leagues). Rapada has been very good against left-handed batters (.199 BAA, 120 strikeouts in 93 IP in the minors and .235 BAA, 14 strikeouts in 10 IP in the majors), so he might have a chance to be productive in the majors if he is used appropriately. Rapada is out of options, so the Rangers will need to expose him to waivers if he fails to remain on the team's active roster.
Benjamin Snyder, 24-year-old LHP: Snyder was acquired in the 2009 Rule 5 draft after posting a 2.88 ERA, 8.0 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9 primarily as a reliever in AA-ball. Snyder apparently complements a mid- to upper-80's fastball with an above-average slider, a change-up and a curveball. Like Rapada, he has posted solid numbers as a minor leaguer (2.98 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9) and has been extremely good against left-handed hitters (167/146 K/9, 31/146 BB/9, .191 BAA in 146 IP). Snyder's minor league numbers are more impressive than Rapada's because they were produced primarily as a starter in leagues where he was age-appropriate. Unlike Rapada, Snyder allows his fair share of fly balls (0.97 GB/FB).
The Rapada/Snyder moves reveal that the Rangers are clearly looking for a pitcher who can produce as a LOOGY in 2010, after going without the benefit of such a pitcher in 2009. Neither pitcher is likely to perform much above replacement level in 2010 and neither is likely to be good enough against right-handers to be more than a situational pitcher. There's not a lot of upside here, but one of Snyder and Rapada seem likely to be on the Rangers' Opening Day 2010 roster.
If you haven't already, you should do yourself a favor and read Jason Cole's interview of Snyder here.
OTHER RULE 5 ADDITIONS
The Rangers also selected three players in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. James Tomlin (27-year-old outfielder who has never played above AA-ball) and Andrew Jenkins (25-year-old catcher with a minor league career batting line of .274/.324/.375) appear to be little more than organizational fodder.
Unlike the other two picks, Winston Marquez (22-year-old LHP) looks like he could develop into a major leaguer if things break right. Marquez has missed time due to injuries and has pitched in only 143 innings across three professional seasons. His career numbers are modest (4.32 ERA, 9.3 K/9, and 5.8 BB/9). Marquez's most impressive run occurred in late 2009 when, after missing 2008 due to injury, the left-handed Venezuelan struck out 30 Midwest League hitters in just 19 innings.
The scouting report on Marquez reveal why the Rangers selected him. From Frankie Piliere, in-house professional scout for FanHouse.com and former scout for the Texas Rangers: "He's 90-93 [mph] with the fastball, up to 94 [mph] and has a potential plus curveball at 72-75 [mph]. Command and control comes and goes. Very erratic. Straight up and down delivery, gets a little mechanical. Serious, lively stuff but the command will have to come a long way."