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Series Preview: Rays vs Rangers

Does it pay to spend half a billion dollars on free agents?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays salvaged the final two games of a four-game series against the New York Yankees to ensure a split and not fall further behind in the American League East standings. The matchup was one you would expect from teams that focused on run prevention.

The Yankees remain 4.5 games ahead of the Rays. The Toronto Blue Jays have climbed to 5.5 games back while the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles bring up the rear sitting at 10.0 and 13.5 games back respectively.

Schedule

Monday 8:05 PM: Drew Rasmussen vs Glenn Otto
Tuesday 8:05 PM: Ryan Yarbrough vs Martin Perez
Wednesday 8:05 PM: Jeffrey Springs vs Jon Gray
Thursday 2:05 PM: Corey Kluber vs Taylor Hearn

Glenn Otto had an interesting start to his major league career. In 23.1 innings he posted a horrific 9.26 ERA but his 3.17 FIP and 3.49 xFIP were excellent. This year the numbers have met in the middle with a 4.91 ERA/4.94 FIP/4.41 xFIP. His strikeout rate has fallen to 19.7% while his walk rate has ballooned to 11.8%. Otto throws two fastballs. He mixes in a 92.4 mph four-seam fastball and 92.7 mph sinker. His breaking ball of choice is an 80.2 mph slider that is his put-away pitch. He will add an 87.8 mph changeup mostly to left-handed batters. He will drop in the occasional 80.3 mph curveball typically early in the count.

Martin Perez returned to the Texas Rangers this winter where he spent his first seven major league seasons and was one of the game's best pitching prospects. He has gotten off to the best start of his career with a 1.60 ERA/2.43 FIP/3.62 xFIP over 56.1 innings. He’s never been a strikeout pitcher, but his strikeout rate is up to 20.2% in 2022 compared to his 15.6% career strikeout rate. He throws a 92.4 mph sinker, 84.2 mph changeup, and 89.4 mph cutter. He will occasionally throw a 78.8 mph curveball or 92.9 mph four-seam fastball. His changeup is the only pitch that is a swing and miss pitch.

Jon Gray was the third overall pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 draft. His ERA has always been elevated, but he has long been a target of many to see what he can do outside of Coors Field. He got his opportunity this year and the results have been similar to the past. The ERA is much higher than his FIP/xFIP. He’s posted a 5.56 ERA/4.02 FIP/3.89 xFIP. His strikeout rate has fallen a couple of ticks to 22.2% while his walk rate has climbed a tick to 9.0%. Gray throws a 95.2 mph four-seam fastball just over half the time. His go-to secondary pitch is an 85.0 mph slider. Against left-handed batters, he will add an 88.5 mph changeup. He will very rarely throw a 78.0 mph curveball.

Taylor Hearn hasn’t thrown the ball well this year. He’s put up a 5.36 ERA/5.07 FIP/4.31 xFIP over 40.1 innings. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts with a 20.3% strikeout rate but he’s walked too many with a 10.2% walk rate. Hearn throws a 94.1 mph four-seam fastball, 83.6 mph slider, 93.5 mph sinker, and 87.5 mph changeup. The changeup is the only pitch that has gotten many swings and misses and he has only thrown one to a left-handed batter this season.

The Rangers' big off-season has been a dud.

The Rangers made two high-profile additions this winter. They signed Corey Seager to a ten-year contract totaling $325MM and Marcus Semien to a seven-year deal worth $175MM. Seager (114 wRC+) has been fine, but not what you hope for out of the gate when signing a player to that kind of contract. Semien (55 wRC+) has been one of the worst hitters in baseball. As a team, the Rangers have hit .231/.292/.372 and put up a 95 wRC+.

Former Rays prospect Jonah Heim has been a pleasant surprise. The Rays traded him as the Player To Be Named Later for Joey Wendle from the Oakland Athletics. Heim has hit .267/.345/.465 and put up a 139 wRC+ in 113 plate appearances.

Kole Calhoun (127 wRC+) has been very good.

Nate Lowe (104 wRC+), Mitch Garver (104 wRC+), Brad Miller (100 wRC+), and Adolis Garcia (94 wRC+) have been solid.

The bottom of the lineup has been a letdown. Nick Solak (83 wRC+) and Willie Calhoun (73 wRC+) have been optioned after their early season struggles as the Rangers look for answers at the bottom of the lineup.