7/27 to 7/30 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

Adrian Beltre Elvis Andrus

The road trip continues with a four-game series in Texas. The Yankees and Rangers have a lot of recent history (2010 ALCS) and not-so-recent history (1996, 1998, 1999 ALDS), which of course means nada this week. The Rangers swept three games from the Yankees in Yankee Stadium back in May in dominating fashion — they outscored them 30-15 in the three games. Yikes!

What Have The Rangers Done Lately?

The Rangers got clobbered by the Angels yesterday but did win two of three in the series. They’ve won four of their last five overall and are 5-4 since the All-Star break. Texas is 47-50 overall with a -28 run differential. They are 7.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West and 4.5 games of the Twins for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

The Rangers have a bit of an offensive disconnect — they average 4.36 runs per game, which is above the 4.21 AL average, by they also have a 95 wRC+ as a team. Weird. They’re without several players because of injury, including IF Jurickson Profar (shoulder), 1B Kyle Blanks (Achilles), C Carlos Corporan (thumb), and ex-Yankee OF Antoan Richardson (back). Corporan (45 wRC+) could return this series but the other guys are out long-term.

Odor. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Odor. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Rookie skipper Jeff Banister builds his lineup around three left-handed hitters: 1B Prince Fielder (150 wRC+), 1B/DH Mitch Moreland (129 wRC+), and 2B Rougned Odor (124 wRC+). Odor had a miserable start to the season (35 wRC+), got sent to the minors in early-May, returned in mid-June, and has raked since (146 wRC+). Those are the club’s three big bats, and the speedy OF Delino DeShields Jr. (110 wRC+) has done a nice job setting the table.

OF Shin-Soo Choo (95 wRC+) and OF Josh Hamilton (89 wRC+) aren’t having much impact and 3B Adrian Beltre (83 wRC+) is having his worst season since leaving the Mariners. Getting old sucks. SS Elvis Andrus (69 wRC+) and OF Leonys Martin (54 wRC+) offer little at the dish, ditto UTIL Adam Rosales (77 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Rua (61 wRC+). C Robinson Chirinos (104 wRC+) and C Tomas Telis (48 wRC+) are the catching tandem.

The Rangers have a surprisingly weak defense. Martin is outstanding in center and Beltre is still very good at third, though he’s no longer the elite gloveman he was for most of his career. Odor is very good as well. Andrus has a reputation for strong defense but has slowed down the last year or two. Fielder, Choo, Hamilton, and Moreland are liabilities in the field. Chirinos won’t shut down the running game (24.3% caught stealing rate) and he’s a below-average pitch framer, so says StatCorner.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (vs. NYY)
It’s pretty remarkable the 29-year-old Harrison has made it back to the big leagues. He made just six starts the last two years due to ongoing back trouble, including spinal fusion surgery last June that could have ended his career. Harrison has been able to work his way back and this will be his third start off the DL. He threw six scoreless innings last time out after allowing six runs in four innings in his first start. At his peak, Harrison was a big time ground ball pitcher who didn’t walk or strike out many. Now? Who knows. PitchFX says he was sitting in the 85-88 mph range with his sinker in his first two starts after living in the low-90s before his injury. Harrison also throws mid-70s curveballs and changeups right around 80 mph. Previous stats and scouting reports don’t mean too much after an injury like that.

Tuesday (8pm): TBA vs. LHP Martin Perez (vs. NYY)
Like Harrison, Perez returned from major injury not too long ago, though he was out with regular ol’ Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old will also be making his third start since coming off the DL — Perez allowed three runs in five innings first time out and four runs in six innings last time out. Before getting hurt last year, he had a 4.38 ERA (3.70 FIP) with a great ground ball rate (52.7%) but below-average strikeout (16.9%) and walk (9.2%) rates. Perez has sat in the low-90s with both his two and four-seam fastballs in his first two starts, and in the mid-80s with both his slider and changeup.

As for the Yankees, they’re using a spot sixth starter tomorrow to give the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest. Luis Severino (started Friday) and Bryan Mitchell (started Saturday) are not candidates for this game because they recently started for Triple-A Scranton. Diego Moreno is tomorrow’s scheduled starter for the RailRiders, though he hasn’t been stretched out yet. Chances are we’ll see a bullpen game with Adam Warren and Chris Capuano each throwing 50 pitches or so. I bet Nick Goody will then get sent down Wednesday in favor of a fresh long man, maybe Mitchell, who only threw 65 pitches Saturday. Shouldn’t be a huge deal to bring him back on short rest.

Lewis. (Tom Pennington/Getty)
Lewis. (Tom Pennington/Getty)

Wednesday (8pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (vs. NYY)
Lewis, 35, made his big injury comeback two years ago. He has a 4.49 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 20 starts and 126.1 innings so far this year. The only thing he does exceptionally well is limit walks (4.8%). His strikeout (18.3%), grounder (35.4%), and homer (1.07 HR/9) rates are all worse than the league average. Lefties (.320 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than righties (.293 wOBA) this year. An upper-80s fastball is what Lewis uses to set up his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. He uses the slider more than the changeup and curveball combined, hence the platoon split. The Yankees scored five runs in 6.2 innings against Lewis when these teams met in May.

Thursday (8pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
The trade deadline is this coming Friday and Gallardo, an impending free agent, is a candidate to be moved, so I guess that means he may not actually start this game. We’ll just have to wait and see. Gallardo, 29, has a 3.19 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 21 starts and 121.1 innings this year with below-average strikeout (16.1%) and walk (8.9%) rates but above-average ground ball (50.1%) and homer (0.59 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.304 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.282 wOBA). Gallardo uses his two and four-seamers equally and both sit in the 90-92 mph range. A hard upper-80s slider — it’s almost like a cutter, but the break is bigger — is his main secondary pitch. He’ll also mix in a few mid-70s curveballs and very rarely throws his mid-80s changeup. The Yankees pushed two runs across in six innings against Gallardo a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure who would start Thursday should Gallardo get traded, but LHP Wandy Rodriguez seems like a safe bet, unless, of course, he gets traded as well. Rodriguez was bumped to the bullpen recently when Harrison and Perez returned from the DL.

Tolleson. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Tolleson. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Rangers have baseball’s worst bullpen with a 4.59 ERA (4.47 FIP), so the old “wait out the starter then go to town on the relievers” strategy will work against this club. Closer RHP Shawn Tolleson (3.19 ERA/3.32 FIP) has been solid and these days RHP Tanner Scheppers (5.45/5.58) and RHP Keone Kela (3.24/2.94) are setting him up. Scheppers has the job out of reputation, Kela out of production.

RHP Anthony Bass (4.35/3.66) is the long man and LHP Sam Freeman (3.32/3.52) is the matchup lefty. RHP Spencer Patton (6.46/6.19) and Wandy (4.22/4.08) round out the bullpen. Ex-Yankee RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3.52/5.67) is out with a groin strain and is expected to be activated this week. Patton figures to go down to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Rock ‘n Rohlendorf. Bass, Freeman, Patton, Kela, and Wandy all pitched yesterday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen and then check out Lone Star Ball for updates on the Rangers.

(GIF via Buzzfeed)

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Scouting The Trade Market: Texas Rangers

Gallardo. (Presswire)
Gallardo. (Presswire)

As the trade deadline draws closer and closer, the Rangers are falling further and further back in the race. They won last night but have lost three of five since the All-Star break and 18 of their last 25 games overall. Yikes. That’s dropped Texas to nine games back in the AL West and six games back of the wildcard spot. FanGraphs gives them the lowest postseason odds in the AL at 3.0%. (The projection systems hate their roster, I guess.)

The Rangers are in neither buy nor sell mode — Evan Grant writes they are in “opportunist” mode, looking for ways to improve the roster. I’m pretty sure that’s a nice way of saying they’re selling. Texas has some awful contracts on the books — it’s a stars and scrubs roster, though several of the stars are playing like scrubs — and not a ton of trade chips, but they do have some rental arms to peddle. Do any make sense for the Yankees? Maybe! Let’s look.

RHP Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo is easily the most marketable rental player on the Rangers, and he’s having quite the walk year: 2.91 ERA (3.68 FIP) with career best ground ball (50.8%) and home run (0.61 HR/9) rates. His walk rate (8.7%) is identical to his career average and his strikeout rate (16.2%) is a career worst. As I noted in the mailbag last week, Gallardo has gradually been trading strikeouts for ground balls over the years (graph doesn’t include his most recent start over the weekend):

Yovani Gallardo K GB

The strikeouts for grounders things is the kind of adjustment you usually see an older pitcher make, not a guy yet to turn 30. It’s weird. Usually a decline in strikeouts is a red flag, but this has been going on so long I have to think it is at least somewhat intentional. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have the strikeouts than ground outs, but Gallardo has found a way to make it work.

Beyond his performance this year, Gallardo has also been very durable the last few seasons, throwing at least 180 innings each year since 2009. He’s also had a minimal platoon split because of his five-pitch repertoire. There’s a little something for everyone:

% Thrown Avg Velocity Whiff % GB%
Four-Seamer 31.5% 91.7 5.4% (6.9% MLB AVG) 42.4% (37.9% MLB AVG)
Sinker 22.2% 91.7 4.6% (5.4%) 60.2% (49.5%)
Slider 29.0% 88.6 10.3% (15.2%) 48.2% (43.9%)
Curveball 12.6% 80.0 10.6% (11.1%) 61.1% (48.7%)
Changeup 3.9% 86.1 6.8% (14.9%) 54.6% (47.8%)

The swing-and-miss rates are comfortably below-average across the board while the ground ball rates are well-above-average. That fits into the whole “trading strikeouts for grounders” thing. Gallardo’s probably not going to get you a swing-and-miss at key moments — runner on third with less than two outs, etc. — which is an issue and limits him to a mid-rotation guy.

Gallardo played a half-season with CC Sabathia back in 2008, so the Yankees have some access to firsthand knowledge of him as a teammate and a clubhouse guy, though it was a long time ago. People change. At the end of the day, Gallardo is a rental starter pitching well in his walk year because he gets grounders and can neutralize lefties. His durability and affordability ($6.5M through the end of the season) are pluses as well. He’s not Johnny Cueto or David Price, but Gallardo belongs in the second tier of rental starters alongside Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija.

What Would It Take?: Ken Rosenthal says the Rangers are currently listening to offers for Gallardo, for what it’s worth. Considering recent trades involving similar rental pitchers, it appears it will take a package of three pretty good prospects to land Gallardo, or perhaps two prospects with one being a high-end guy. Matt Garza was traded for four prospects two years ago, including Mike Olt, who Baseball America ranked as the 22nd best prospect in the game before the 2013 season. I do think Gallardo is a qualifying offer candidate, so the Rangers have no reason to take back something worth less than a supplemental first round pick. Gallardo’s not going to come as cheap as, say, Mike Leake or Ian Kennedy.

Magic Wandy. (Presswire)
Magic Wandy. (Presswire)

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

The 36-year-old Rodriguez is at the tail end of his career and it’s hard to think he has much trade value. He was released at the end of Spring Training, remember. So far Wandy has a 4.07 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 84 innings with Texas, though both his strikeout (18.3%) and ground ball (41.9%) rates are below-average. Not a good combination! Especially when your walk (8.9%) and homer (0.96 HR/9) rates aren’t great either.

The Yankees already have a version of Wandy Rodriguez on the roster in Chris Capuano. They’re extremely similar as finesse lefties who can soak up some innings and pitch at a slightly below league average rate. Do they really need two guys like that? Nah. Rodriguez doesn’t have much appeal beyond being a warm body who can take a rotation spot in case of injury. I’m sure the Rangers are open to trading him. There’s just not much of a reason for the Yankees to bring Wandy in.

What Would It Take?: Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, was traded for two players to be named later last summer. The two players were ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 (2B Jesmuel Valentin) and No. 29 (RHP Victor Arano) prospects in the Dodgers’ system before the trade, and both were down in rookie ball at the time of the deal. Wandy shouldn’t cost more.

Rua. (Presswire)
Rua. (Presswire)

UTIL Ryan Rua

Off the board? Yep. Fill a need? Potentially! Rua, 25, is a right-handed hitting utility guy with experience at the three non-shortstop infield positions as well as left field. (He came up as a third baseman, primarily.) Most of that experience is in the minors — Rua has only 47 games and 172 plate appearances of big league experience, during which he’s hit .251/.273/.401 (82 wRC+). That includes a 43 wRC+ in 63 plate appearances this year. (He missed two months with a broken bone in his heel.)

The Rangers came into the season expecting to use Rua as the right-handed half of a left field platoon, but his injury threw a wrench into things, and now he is a seldom-used bench player. In fact, he has only 18 plate appearances this month. Rua is a career .291/.368/.476 (121 wRC+) hitter in Triple-A, including .327/.364/.558 (.374 wOBA) against lefties. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the eighth best prospect in Texas’ system before the season. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

Rua is an offensive-oriented prospect who has plus power and can take the ball out of the park to all fields. He starts his swing with a leg kick, keeps his weight back and his head still. Rua can get long to the ball, with some concerns about his ability to hit good offspeed pitches, but his swing is fluid, and he squares up the ball frequently … He’s surprisingly athletic for his body type, though he’s a below-average runner and adequate-at-best defender wherever he goes, making the routine plays at third base with an average arm.

The Yankees are said to be looking for a right-handed bat, which Rua is, though there’s no guarantee he’ll actually hit Major League pitching. He has good minor league numbers, the scouting report is decent enough, and he offers some versatility. As an added bonus, Rua has at least two and possibly all three minor league options remaining. He seems like a potentially useful depth player. Not a star, probably not even a starter, but maybe a platoon bat or a guy off the bench.

Thanks to those minor league options, the Yankees would be able to stick Rua in Triple-A until rosters expand on September 1st, then use him as an extra platoon bat in the final month of the season. He still has five years of team control remaining, though that’s not a huge deal with players like this. What are the odds Rua hangs around long enough to play all five of those years with one team? I dunno, Rua just seems like a possible fit given the team’s positional needs and interest in adding a righty bat.

What Would It Take?: I’m not sure there’s a good way to approximate this. Players like Rua are often traded as part of packages for MLB players — they’re the guys who go to the team that is selling, not the other way around. Juan Francisco was traded for an MLB ready reliever (J.J. Hoover) a few years ago. That’s the best reference trade I can come up with.

Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

Yankeemetrics: May 22-24 (Rangers)

Garrett Jones: Yankees new sixth starter? (Elsa/Getty Images)
Garrett Jones: Yankees new sixth starter? (Elsa/Getty Images)

Bad Mike
Nine runs? Check.
Three home runs? Check.
You’d think that would be enough offense to win a game, right? Wrong.

The Yankees descent towards mediocrity picked up steam on Friday night in a 10-9 loss to the Rangers. It was the first time the Yankees lost a game at home when they scored at least nine runs and hit three-or-more homers since Sept. 19, 1996 vs Orioles. (At this point, it’s hard to see this season ending the same way that season did.)

Most of the damage was done against Michael Pineda in a seven-run third inning. He is the first Yankees pitcher to allow at least seven runs in an inning against the Rangers since David Wells on May 6, 1998 in Texas, and first to do it at Yankee Stadium since Andy Hawkins on May 8, 1989.

The Rangers are quickly becoming Pineda’s kryptonite. He is now 0-3 with a 5.04 ERA in four starts vs. the Rangers, his worst record against any team and also his second-highest ERA against any team he’s faced more than twice.

Garrett Jones did his best to spark a Yankees rally, hitting a three-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning to cut the deficit to two runs. It was the first time a Yankee hit a pinch-hit homer against the Rangers since Don Baylor on July 11, 1985.

Rock bottom
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse … Saturday afternoon happened.

An embarrassing 15-4 loss, punctuated by another third-inning implosion, and the Yankees had their fifth straight loss. This time the Yankees gave up a whopping 10 runs in the third inning, their most allowed in a single frame since April 18, 2009 against the Indians.

Combined with Friday’s seven-run third inning, it’s the first time the Yankees had back-to-back games allowing at least seven runs in an inning since playing an interleague series in Colorado in June 2002. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, before this weekend, the Yankees had never given up seven-or-more runs in an inning in consecutive games at Yankee Stadium — the old or new version.

CC Sabathia didn’t make it out of that third frame, giving up nearly as many runs (6) as outs recorded (7). He’s now lost his last six starts at Yankee Stadium, matching the longest such losing streak by any Yankee in the last 100 seasons. Four other Yankees in that span dropped six starts in a row in the Bronx: Red Ruffing (1931), Sam McDowell (1973-74), Orlando Hernandez (2000) and Phil Hughes (2013).

It gets worse, though. Sabathia’s ERA is 9.42 during the six-start losing streak, and he is the only pitcher in the group listed above to have also allowed at least four runs in each of the six starts. Welp.

Garrett Jones came in to get the final two outs of the ninth inning (and didn’t allow a hit or a run!), sparing another wasted bullpen arm in this pointless game. The only other Yankee position player to pitch in a game against the Rangers was Rick Cerone on July 19, 1987 in a 20-3 loss at Texas.

It’s not what you want
The slide continues, and where it ends, nobody knows.

The Yankees lost the Sunday night series finale, extending their season-high losing streak to six games, their longest in a single season since May 11-16, 2011. They’ve won just once in their past 11 games, their worst 11-game stretch in nearly 20 years — since they went 1-10 in an 11-game span from May 23-June 3, 1995.

The Rangers completed a rare sweep in the Bronx, winning every game in a series of three-or-more games at Yankee Stadium for just the second time since the team moved to Texas in 1972 (it also happened May 16-18, 2003).

The Yankees simply couldn’t stop giving up hits (and runs) against the Rangers, surrendering a total of 40 hits in the series. It’s the first time they’ve ever been swept in a series of three-or-more games at Yankee Stadium, allowing at least 12 hits in each game.

5/22 to 5/24 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are finally back home. The last month felt like one big road trip. I guess that happens when you play at home four times in the span of 19 games. (The Yankees went 9-10 in those 19 games, by the way.) The Rangers are in the Bronx this weekend for a three-game series.

What Have The Rangers Done Lately?

The Rangers just wrapped up a three-game series in Fenway Park, where they took two of three from the Red Sox. They’ve won just four of their last nine games overall though. Texas is currently 18-23 with a -18 run differential, which has them sitting a distant fourth in the Astros-dominated AL West.

Offense & Defense

With a team 90 wRC+ and an average of 4.05 runs per game, the Rangers have a below league average offense. They’re a little banged up too, with IF Jurickson Profar and OF Ryan Rua down with long-term injuries. Profar’s going to miss the entire season due to shoulder surgery after missing all of last season trying to rehab the injury. Brutal. OF Josh Hamilton is drawing closer to a return but is not expected to be activated for this series. Maybe next series.

Prince. (Presswire)
Prince. (Presswire)

Rookie skipper Jeff Banister’s lineup is anchored by his corner infielders — 1B Prince Fielder (151 wRC+) and 3B Adrian Beltre (89 wRC+) — who are off to opposite starts. Fielder is mashing after missing most of last season following neck surgery and Beltre really hasn’t gotten going yet. 1B/DH Mitch Moreland (124 wRC+) has been productive despite missing time with an elbow issue, and OF Shin-Soo Choo (110 wRC+) has been great in May (162 wRC+) after a dreadful April (28 wRC+).

SS Elvis Andrus (58 wRC+) has been terrible, even worse than the last two years, and others like OF Leonys Martin (45 wRC+) and IF Adam Rosales (13 wRC+) haven’t been good either. C Robinson Chirinos (99 wRC+) has taken over as the every day catcher and Rule 5 Draft pick Delino DeShields Jr. (118 wRC+) has been good in limited playing time. C Carlos Corporan (67 wRC+), 1B Kyle Blanks (149 wRC+), and IF Tommy Fields (104 wRC+) round out the bench and have played sparingly.

Defensively, the Rangers aren’t all that good. Martin is great in center field and Beltre is still very good at third, though no longer the best at the position like he was in his prime. Andrus has a reputation for being a great defender but he’s slowed down the last two or three years and is closer to average now. Fielder and Choo are a nightmare in the field and DeShields is a recently converted infielder who is rough around the edges. Chirinos is really good behind the plate. Pretty shaky aside from Martin, Beltre, and Chirinos.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. TEX) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (Career vs. NYY)
After dealing with a bunch of arm injuries from 2012-14, the 35-year-old Lewis has finally gotten back on track this season, pitching to a 3.06 ERA (3.16 FIP) in eight starts and 50 innings. He’s enjoying some home run luck — 0.54 HR/9 thanks to an ultra-low 4.4 HR/FB% (career 10.9%) despite a 36.6 GB% — so his ERA could climb as the weather heats up, especially in Texas. Lewis’ strikeout (20.7%) and walk (7.1%) rates are about average, and lefties (.331 wOBA) have hit him a lot harder than righties (.219 wOBA), both this year and throughout his career. An upper-80s fastball is what Colby uses to set up his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. He uses the slider almost twice as often as the changeup and curveball combined, hence the platoon split.

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. TEX) vs. RHP Nick Martinez (Career vs. NYY)
Martinez, 24, has a 1.88 ERA (3.67 FIP) in eight starts and 48 innings this season, but it seems like that is an unsustainable pace. First of all, he doesn’t strike anyone out (12.3%). Secondly, his home run rate is microscopic (0.19 HR/9 and 1.9 HR/FB%!) despite a middling ground ball rate (43.0%) and the 14th highest hard contact rate (33.5%) in baseball out of 111 qualified pitchers. Something’s gotta give. Martinez’s walk rate is okay (7.4%) and righties (.325 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.258 wOBA), unlike his rookie season a year ago. That’ll probably change once his .239 BABIP allowed to lefties corrects. Anyway, Martinez has five pitches, including upper-80s two and four-seamers, low-80s sliders and changeups, and mid-70s curves. The slider is his go-to secondary offering.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sunday: LHP Chris Capuano (Career vs. TEX) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (Career vs. NYY)
The Rangers acquired Gallardo from the Brewers in the offseason and he’s continued his trend of replacing strikeouts (K% from 2010-15: 24.9%, 23.9%, 23.7%, 18.6%, 17.9%, 15.5%) with ground balls (GB% from 2010-15: 43.0%, 46.6%, 47.7%, 49.2%, 50.8%, 52.4%) this season. The 29-year-old has a 4.26 ERA (4.47 FIP) in nine starts and 50.2 innings while giving out few walks (6.8%) and lots of homers (1.24 HR/9). Lefties (.345 wOBA) have better numbers again him than righties (.308 wOBA), which has been true pretty much his entire career. Gallardo uses his two and four-seamers equally and both sit in the 90-92 mph range. A hard upper-80s slider — it’s almost like a cutter, but the break is bigger — is his main secondary pitch. He’ll also mix in a few mid-70s curveballs and very rarely throws his mid-80s changeup.

Pitching Matchups
Banister is currently running a role free bullpen. Ex-closer RHP Neftali Feliz (4.43 FIP) blew some saves a few weeks ago and lost the job, but rather than promote someone else to the ninth inning, they’re basically going bullpen by committee. RHP Shawn Tolleson (2.40 FIP) got the save the last two nights, with ex-Yankee RHP Ross Ohlendorf (1.12 FIP in very limited time) and his old-timey windup setting him up one night and RHP Keone Kela (2.92 FIP) the other.

The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Anthony Bass (4.10 FIP), who had been working as the long man earlier this season, and southpaws LHP Sam Freeman (7.79 FIP) and LHP Alex Claudio (7.49 FIP). They’re the matchup guys. RHP Tanner Scheppers (4.49 FIP) rounds out the eight-man staff. Tolleson has pitched the last two nights and four times in the last six days. No one else in the ‘pen has been worked particularly hard recently. The Yankees were off yesterday, so their bullpen is in good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway. Then check out Lone Star Ball for updates on the Rangers.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

Yankees send Gonzalez Germen to Rangers for cash

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

The Yankees have traded right-hander Gonzalez Germen to the Rangers for cash, the club announced. He was designated for assignment last week when the team acquired Chris Martin for the Rockies. I’m guessing the amount of cash they’re getting from Texas is equal to whatever they sent to Colorado for Martin.

Germen, 27, was picked up from the Mets (for cash!) last month. The Yankees acquired him because they felt he was an upgrade over Preston Claiborne, who was designated for assignment and lost on waivers to the Marlins. They acquired Martin last week because they felt he was an upgrade over Germen. The circle of fringe reliever life.

Over the last two seasons, Germen had a 4.31 ERA (4.15 FIP) with good strikeout (8.91 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and meh walk (4.18 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%) rates in 64.2 relief innings for the Mets. As friend of RAB Eno Sarris likes to point out, Gonzalez’s changeup has the best swing-and-miss rate of any changeup in all of baseball last season (32.7%).

Germen joins fellow right-hander Dan Otero and Brian Schlitter as relievers who were both acquired and let go by the Yankees in one offseason in recent years. None of those three guys ever pitched in pinstripes. Not even in Spring Training. So long, Gonzalez.