Something is wrong in Arlignton, Texas. The Texas Rangers just can’t catch a break. The team spent last season in the cellar of the suddenly ultra-competitive American League West.
The Rangers finished 21 games behind the Oakland Athletics and 31 games behind the A.L. West Champion Los Angeles Angels. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of talent, well, it was in a way actually. The problem was that all their big-name talent, from slugger Prince Fielder to the number one prospect in all of baseball, Jurickson Profar to aces Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, were all injured.
It wasn’t suffering a few injuries here and there. No, these were season-ending or as in Holland’s case never even begining, injuries. Neck surgeries, broken legs, shoulder problems if you can name it, it occured in Texas last summer. They used more players in 2014 than any other team.
This season Fielder should be back and healthy and so should out-fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Holland, however, has already been scratched from at least one spring training start and Profar is gone for the season. Having tried to just rehab his injured shoulder, the 22-year-old had no choice but to opt for season-ending surgery already and it isn’t even April.
The team took another huge blow this week, announcing officially Friday that the ace of their pitching staff Yu Darvish is also out for the entire 2015 season. He’s to undergo Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. The procedure will be performed by famed Tommy John specialist Dr. James Andrews.
The 28-year-old right hander is a three-time All-Star in just three big-league seasons, having come to the United States from Japan in January 2012. He’s finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young Award voting twice and led the league in strikeouts in 2013 with 277.
Darvish is 39-25 in 83 starts for the Rangers and has a MLB career ERA of 3.27. He even threw a complete-game shutout last season between starting the season on the disabled list and being shut down in early August with elbow soreness.
An MRI last Friday confirmed that the soreness Darvish felt last season and while warming up for his first spring start is, infact, caused by a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Still Darvish went out and started the game throwing 12 pitches, 10 of which were strikes, before admitting that the pain had returned.
The Rangers have invested over $100 million in Darvish. He was purchased under the old posting system by the Rangers from the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League for $51,703,411. Darvish is owed $31.8 million over the next three seasons.
So this is a huge blow to Texas both talent-wise and financially. Their next mission lies in finding a new arm for their rotation.
They may still have Holland to lead the staff. He is scheduled to start on March 14, plus Yovani Gallardo who posted a 3.51 ERA with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and Colby Lewis who’s had an up and down career. Lewis went 10-14 with a 5.81 ERA for the Rangers in 2014.
Martin Perez, another Texas starter who underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2014, won’t likely be back until mid-season at the very least. There’s Ross Detweiler who’s started in 69 games in his seven seasons with the Washington Nationals and Nick Tepesch who’s started the majority of his games in his two big league seasons with the Rangers as potential candidates for the four and five spots in the rotation.
Technically that could be the Rangers’ starting five until – or if – Martin returns this season. Matt Harrison is another potential choice but only if he’s healthy. However, they have some minor league prospects that may now find themselves competing for a starting spot.
Their number three prospect, Luke Jackson excelled going 8-2 with a 3.02 ERA in Double-A last season but struggled mightily after being promoted to the Triple-A going 1-3 in 10 starts while posting an ERA over 10.00. He’s a back of the rotation starter at best according to MLB.com.
Alex Gonzalez is the Ranger’s number five prospect. He’s got enough to be a number two starter, but he was only drafted in 2014 and likely needs more experience. His numbers are stellar, however, and he was promoted to Double-A in his first season, posting a 2.70 ERA in 14 starts at the Double-A level.
Unfortunately, the Rangers are really only left with a starting rotation filled with back-end starters or kids who might just not be seasoned enough for the big leagues.
Also still on the mend from injuries are starting shortstop Elvis Andrus (knee), Fielder’s back-up at first base Mitch Moreland (ankle) and reliever Michael Kirkman (shoulder). With the luck the Rangers have been having they should really only hope for one of the three to be ready to go on Opening Day.
So, with everything that happened in 2014 and the way things are already beginning to slide out of control for the team in 2015, one has to wonder which one of the baseball gods they angered to get caught up in a curse of this magnitude?
It’s not a curse as extreme as the Boston Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino” and certainly nothing like the Chicago Cubs’ still on-going “Curse of the Billy Goat,” but something is happening down in Arlington and it isn’t something good.
For more on the Ranger’s potential curse check out this post: