Tag: Alexi Ogando

Baltimore Orioles’ 4 Biggest Missed Opportunities of the Offseason

The Baltimore Orioles had a fantastic 2014 season, as they won their division and went to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1997.

After experiencing success and entering the offseason with just a few players hitting the free-agent market, fans hoped to see the O’s jump on their window of opportunity and build their roster for an even deeper postseason run in 2015.

Unfortunately, the offseason was probably the opposite of what Birdland was hoping to see. The team lost veterans Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller, and the biggest name it added was Travis Snider.

That, coupled with the ugly rumors that surrounded Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette from the beginning of December through the end of January (that were ultimately silenced), made for quite a disappointing offseason for the O’s.

There wasn’t much available on the market that made sense for the Orioles, but there were some moves that the team could have made this winter.

Let’s take a look at a few opportunities the team missed this offseason.

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Under-the-Radar Red Sox Players to Watch in Spring Training

Look alive, people, look alive! The Boston Red Sox have pitchers and catchers reporting on February 20, a mere week away. 

The spring training intrigue starts with pivotal players like Xander Bogaerts, Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz trying to rebound from disappointing campaigns. It continues on with the unknown of Rusney Castillo and the shiny gleam of new toys Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

Then we get to Davis Ortiz, dissecting if there is any hint of decreased bat speed as he enters his age-39 season. We’d reach Dustin Pedroia next, keeping a keen eye on if he shows the renewed pop to match his offseason bluster. 

That’s when our gaze wanders to the critical injury question marks of Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Mike Napoli. Bypass Mookie Betts and Rick Porcello, because barring truly horrific performances I’m not sure much can be gleaned from their pre-April play, and we finally get to our under-the-radar bunch. 

They may not be the biggest brand-name entities, but they’re in the well-respected Little Caesars division compared to the Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s groups that the aforementioned players fall under. 

So with the successful pizza integration check mark complete, let’s delve into lower-profile Red Sox with a lot to prove this spring. 

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Texas Rangers: Projecting the 2014 Starting Rotation

There is only one spot left undecided in the Texas Rangers starting rotation for 2014.

It is presumably for the fourth or fifth spot. The team has three lefties in Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, and Yu Darvish is the lone righty.

Last season, Harrison started the year at the top of the rotation and was followed by Darvish. It will be different when next season starts, but not much. Texas fans will get to see what the rotation would have looked like last season if it weren’t plagued with injuries.

So without further ado, here is the Rangers’ projected starting rotation for next season.


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Texas Rangers: Which Starting Rotation Candidates Will Make the Cut?

The Texas Rangers were long-regarded as an offensive-minded ball-club, built upon the strength of their lineup, with pitching generally seeming like an afterthought. 

Since Nolan Ryan took control of the franchise however, the emphasis on building a deep, talented pitching staff has become a priority.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Rangers have experienced more success in the last two seasons than they had throughout their entire history up to 2010. Beginning in 1961 as the Washington Senators, the franchise had only experienced three playoff series, losing in the first round in 1996, ’98 and ’99, before their two-consecutive AL pennants over the last two seasons.

Still an offensive powerhouse, Texas has taken a more balanced approach to building their roster, focusing as much on pitching and defense as on the strength of their lineup. There are few one-dimensional players on the squad these days, a welcome change from seasons past.

After two straight years of incredible success, the pitching staff finds itself in a state of transition, though many of the primary contributors remain the same.

They signed Joe Nathan to bolster the rear of their bullpen, in hope that one-time uber-prospect Neftali Feliz can become the ace they have long envisioned. Their ace of the last two years, reliever-turned-starter C.J. Wilson, has moved on to their fierce rivals in Anaheim, preferring to move home to Orange County once he became a free agent.

Texas will gamble again on transitioning a reliever to the starting rotation, something which they’ve had great success with over the last few years, first with Wilson, then with Alexi Ogando last season.

Also, their dramatic leap into the international player market was one of potential great reward, as they signed perhaps the most-touted Japanese pitcher ever in Yu Darvish. His professional resume in Japan is stellar and they’re gambling big that he can replicate his success in Major League Baseball.

Alongside Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the Rangers’ principal owner, Texas has established a formidable brain trust with an intimate knowledge of pitching. Their pitching coach Mike Maddux is one of the more respected at his profession in the league, able to impart a vast array of knowledge and experience upon his staff.

His brother, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, one of the greatest pitchers in recent decades, will now serve as a front office consultant to GM Jon Daniels.

With such an impressive group of pitching minds involved in the construction and management of their staff, the Texas Rangers are in good hands when it comes to matters of the mound. 

As they prepare to decide upon their starting staff for the 2012 season, faced with an excess of talented arms, let’s look at the primary contenders who will be vying for the five slots in their rotation.

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Texas Rangers: How to Fix the Bullpen Without Trades

It’s that time of year again. With the draft firmly in the rear view mirror, the Texas Rangers now turn their attention to players that can help them win now via trades. Last year it was Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina who were acquired before the deadline and helped the Rangers reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Who will it be this year?

The general consensus is that they will look to acquire some bullpen help and have been linked to names like Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Joakim Soria. If they could acquire one of these three there is no doubt that it would greatly improve the pen—but what if they can’t?

Do they acquire another old, journeyman reliever to add to their growing stable of old, journeyman relievers?

Or what about a reliever with a good history who is just having an off year?

Or what about staying put?

Not the most popular choice, but staying put could be the best alternative to not landing the big names. Look at these credentials of players currently in the minor league system:

  • Cy Young winner
  • Former 17-game winner and opening day starter
  • .647 winning percentage
  • No. 2 prospect in Rangers system with 97 mph fastball

The Cy Young winner of course is Brandon Webb who signed with the Rangers in the offseason to help make up for the loss of Cliff Lee. He has not pitched since 2009 because of injuries and is more suited for the bullpen to help relieve stress on his arm. His velocity is down but Yoshinori Tateyama has proved you don’t need to hit 95 on the radar gun to be effective.

The 17-game winner is Scott Feldman who had microfracture surgery on his right knee after the end of the last season. He has the stuff to be a reliable bullpen guy and actually has the experience of being a closer early in his career. He is fresh off of a 5-inning, no-hit game at Triple-A Round Rock.

The .647 winning percentage is property of Tommy Hunter. The team’s No. 4 starter in the playoffs last year has been recovering from a groin strain that propelled Alexi Ogando in the starting rotation. Hunter has probably lost his starting job and is a proven arm that could be a long reliever for the stretch run.

The prospect is Tanner Scheppers. The oft-injured Scheppers has just been activated off of the DL and has the power arm that you want shutting down batters in the eighth inning. The Rangers’ organization can’t make up its mind if Scheppers will start or pitch in relief in the future, but he could be this year’s Alexi Ogando in the pen.

There’s also Darren O’Day who has been injured the majority of the season and Neil Ramirez who is pitching well at Triple-A.

If the Rangers have an opportunity to land a Bell, Soria or Adams they should jump on it. But if not, they have proven arms in their systems that can help them regain their playoff form once they become healthy.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando’s Impressive Starts to the Season

Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando had two terrific performances which have helped propel the Rangers to a 9-1 record and an early lead in the AL West. The Rangers toyed with the idea of starting Neftali Feliz this spring training, and there was considerable support to put him in the depleted rotation. However, the Ogando switch has taken pressure off of Jon Danlels and Nolan Ryan off the hook for not making the move, and Tommy Hunter’s injury has allowed both Harrison and Ogando to flourish while Feliz remains in the closer’s role.     

Harrison has shown improved velocity in his two starts against the Red Sox and Orioles. Harrison’s four and two seam fastballs have shown a lot of life and movement this season. He has averaged 90-91 mph on his fastball as a full time starters and 92.2 mph as mostly a reliever last season. However, he has averaged 93 mph in his first two starts, and he has topped out at 97.6 mph in his last start. All of his pitches, which include both fastballs, a cutter, curveball, change and slider have shown more movement in 2011. With the increased velocity and movement on his pitches, Harrison has been getting more swinging strikes (9.2 percent), and he has struck out seven per nine innings up from his career mark of five per nine.  

Harrison has shown better control so far, averaging 1.93 BB/9, better than his career 3.61 rate, and has induced groundballs at a 50 percent rate. His xFIP is impressive at 3.42 and if Harrison is able to keep his home run rate lower than in previous seasons, he could stick in the rotation for the rest of the season.   

Ogando’s starts against the Mariners and Tigers have been just as impressive. Ogando does not throw as hard as a starter, but his 93.8 mph is still above average (96 mph in 2010 as a reliever). Some scouts worry about his ability to retire left-handed batters, but he did not allow a hit to one in today’s start and he struck out two. 

Ogando’s xFIP of 3.89 indicates that he might be relying on too much contact, but he had similar numbers during his stellar 2010 season. I am a little concerned about his groundball percentage at 29.5 percent along with his reoccurring blister problem. However, Ogando’s slider has been excellent with increased usage to both types of hitters. I don’t think he will be as successful later in the season, but he is a better alternative than the lucky Tommy Hunter.

With these impressive starts, the Rangers have shown depth in a rotation that some considered average. No one believes that this group will be as a good as they have been during the first week and a half, but with this offense they don’t need to be. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB: Texas Rangers: Nelson Cruz on Cruise Control as Rangers Win Fouth Straight

Monday night at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers handed the Mariners a 6-4 loss to remain undefeated in this young 2011 MLB season.

A decent outing for Derek Holland, as he pitched six innings en route to his first win of the season. He allowed three runs and seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Neftali Feliz who has been getting used, but in his first save opportunity, pitched a three up-three down, to retire the side, and receive his first of what could be many saves this season.

Ex-Ranger Justin Smoak ripped an RBI double to bring the score to 3-2.

But before the Mariners could celebrate, Nelson Cruz remained hot at the plate hitting his fourth home run in as many games to make the score 4-2.

Nelson Cruz joins an elite group, with Willie Mays and Mark McGwire as being the only two other players to start the first four games off with a homer. Who hit five you may ask? No one. So tonight, Cruz has a chance to own a record.

Next up—Alexi Ogando is scheduled to make his major league starting debut tonight against the Mariners. Ogando went 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA, in mostly stretch relief work, for the Rangers in 2010 setting up Neftali Feliz in the closing role.


Some Meat To Marinate On

There are now only four teams in the MLB that are undefeated.

The Rangers and the Orioles are 4-0 while the Red and Phillies are 3-0.

There hasn’t been a start like this for the Rangers sense 1996 when they went 7-0 to start the season.

Obviously, Arlington has been a place where the Rangers are enjoying the success this season. The road will be vital for this team, as home has been their safe haven to this point.

The Rangers will be on the road for the next three series (nine games) after this series with Seattle.

The Rangers start off with a three game series with the Orioles who are also undefeated, as stated earlier. Then it’s off to Detroit for a three game warm-up series, before moving on to the Bronx, and the N.Y. Yankees.

In those nine road games, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers will be able to remain as hot as they have been in the first four games.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Rangers Preview: Projecting the 5 Most Improved Rangers in 2011

Blessed with a solid core of dynamic hitters, talented pitchers and skilled defenders, the Texas Rangers possess an exciting, well-rounded team that will endeavor to defend their 2010 American League Championship. 

Stars like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Adrian Beltre have track records to give an idea of what to expect from them in 2011. If health permits, the Rangers know what type of production they will likely receive from well-established players as they seek to return to the World Series.

To do so, they will need the production from the stars, as well as players stepping up their game throughout the squad. With loads of emerging talent throughout their roster, there is any number of players who could turn a corner in 2011 to make valuable contributions to the Rangers efforts to once again reach the playoffs.

As we steadily progress towards Opening Day, let’s check out some of the Rangers poised to make a leap in their development and become significant players for Texas in 2011. 

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