There were already questions out there as to whether or not the Rangers should be looking into everyone's favorite purgatory pioneer Kyle Lohse, and with the injury to rotation candidate Martin Perez, the chorus of questioners has only grown louder. Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball handled that topic yesterday:
Now, if the sentiment among the Rangers' front office was leaning towards going after Lohse, this injury could, I guess, be what proves to be the tipping point on this issue and forces the Rangers to go after him.
But let's remember...Colby Lewis is due back in late May. Whoever ended up winning the #5 starter job with the Rangers was expected to get bumped from the rotation once Lewis was ready anyway. If Perez is going to be back back the end of April, you're talking about someone other than Perez picking up four starts, then Perez getting three or four starts, then Lewis supplanting Perez.
With the idea in mind that Perez would only miss the first month of the season, let's take a look at the possible internal options for the back end of the Texas rotation, bolstered by the remarks of Rangers GM Jon Daniels per Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News:
"We'll look around at external options," general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday night. "But I expect to go internally at this point."
I know 3-4 starts of one pitcher might not be enough to draft someone, but ask your local Carl Crawford owner if setbacks happen. There might yet be value afoot!
Robbie Ross - LHP - The leader in the clubhouse per MLB Depth Charts Ross burst onto the scene last year earning 4 wins in March/April despite only throwing 9.1 innings. The young southpaw is tough on hitters from both sides of the plate, but it's worth noting that he saw a jump in the quality of his stuff when he transitioned to the bullpen. I wouldn't expect the results he got in relief to be the results he gets as a starter. Also worth noting is that with Neftali Feliz injured, Mike Adams in Philadelphia and Alexi Ogando in the rotation, the Rangers might prefer to work with someone else as a fifth starter and leave Ross well enough alone in the re-designed bullpen.
Justin Grimm - RHP - A personal favorite of mine, I don't think Grimm is spectacular, but he's also not as bad as his major league (or Spring Training 2013) numbers would indicate. From a scouting report standpoint, Grimm offers three above-average pitches and has the size and frame to log innings. He's not anything special in a fantasy context, and he'll need to perform during the remainder of Spring Training, but he will have value if and when he does start for Texas. If I was in the Texas FO, I'd be hoping Grimm puts it together.
Neil Ramirez - RHP - Ramirez was a bit of a pop-up prospect in 2011, pitching across three levels and reaching as high as Triple-A. He struggled there but since he started in Hi-A, people were forgiving. 2012 wasn't very kind to Ramirez, as he posted a 7.16 ERA in Triple-A Round Rock before being demoted to Double-A Frisco where he was marginally better. Something went wrong between 2011 and now, and if he can prove that he's fixed it, he could easily pitch at the major league level. I'm not optimistic he has and I don't see him as a better option than Grimm for the Rangers. Even if Ramirez does win the job (unlikely), he isn't going to be worth a pick up.
Cody Buckel - RHP - Armed with the advantage of spelling his first name correctly (here's looking at you Coty Woods) but suffering the disadvantage of pronouncing his last name oddly (pronounced Byoo-kell) Buckel enters the fray as the longest of long shots. He and Ramirez ended up on the same level to end 2012, but I still consider Buckel behind Ramirez for the 5th start job, if only because Ramirez is on the 40-man roster and Buckel is not. Not to mention that just yesterday Jason Cole of LoneStarDugout had this to say on Buckel's outing:
Buckel showing fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup. Wasn't able to get out of his inning and wasn't really commanding any of it.— Jason Cole (@LoneStarDugout) March 4, 2013
Buckel threw more strikes than his first outing but still not much command. A couple good sliders, but lots were mid-plate and squared.— Jason Cole (@LoneStarDugout) March 4, 2013
#Rangers prospect Cody Buckel once again struggled w/ command; stuff wasn't bad, but his delivery was inconsistent. It's not very sharp— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) March 4, 2013
For a guy whose strength is pitchability more than stuff, that's not necessarily what you want to hear. It's early on in Spring Training, so don't write anyone off yet, but I think not being on the 40-man is what will ultimately remove Buckel from this conversation, performance aside.
It's far too early to be making any bold predictions when it comes to this race and the Rangers may well sign a veteran free agent to compete for this spot, but these are the names currently within the organization that I'd be watching for.
MLB Depth Charts