The Rangers decided to make a splash in free agency and they signed closer Eric Gagne despite the fact that he’s only pitched 15.1 innings in the major leagues the last two seasons due to multiple injuries. Gagne only pitched in 2 games last season and he had a save while not giving up a run in 2 innings. When Gagne is healthy he’s one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. He has converted 161 of 167 (96.4%) save opportunites in his major league career. Batters have only hit .213 against him and he’s whiffed 629 batters in 545.1 innings over his career. If he’s healthy he will dominate for the Rangers in 2007.
The Rangers have a great fallback option if Gagne is hurting at any point next season in 35 year old Akinori Otsuka. Otsuka was 2-4 with 7 holds, 32 saves, a 2.11 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 63 games last season for the Rangers. Batters only hit .241 against Otsuka last season and he only walked 11 batters in 59.2 innings which is outstanding. Otsuka will dominate no matter whether he pitches in the 8th or 9th inning for the Rangers. Over his three year major league career, Otsuka is 11-14 with 63 holds, 35 saves, a 2.43 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 202 games.
35 year old lefty Ron Mahay will probably be the lefty specialist late for the Rangers this season. He was 1-3 with 9 holds, a 3.95 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 62 games for the Rangers. Batters hit .250 against Mahay last season and he gave up 7 homers and walked 28 batters in 57 innings last season. He will need to improve at keeping the ball in the park and cut down on his walks to be trusted late in games with the lead.
29 year old righty Joaquin Benoit did some good things and some bad things last season for the Rangers. He was 1-1 with 7 holds, a 4.86 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 56 games for the Rangers last season. Batters only hit .224 against Benoit last season and he whiffed 85 batters in 79.2 innings which shows that he still has good stuff. Look for him to pitch a little better this season if he can cut down on his walks (38) this year.
26 year old lefty C.J. Wilson finally pitched decent for the Rangers last season. He was 2-4 with 7 holds, 1 save, a 4.06 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 44 games for the Rangers. Batters only hit .234 against Wilson last season (lefties only hit .155) and he whiffed 43 batters in 44.1 innings. Wilson had a problem with the longball as he gave up 7 of them last season and that’s way too many. Wilson could turn into a really good lefty specialist soon if that’s the way the Rangers use him.
24 year old righty Scott Feldman pitched pretty well out of the bullpen for the Rangers last season. He was 0-2 with 7 holds, a 3.92 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 36 games for the Rangers in 2006. Look for Feldman to do another good job for the Rangers if he makes the team.
24 year old righty Wes Littleton exploded on the scene last year. He was 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 33 games for the Rangers last season. Batters only hit .189 against Littleton and he simply dominated righthanded batters who he held to a .157 batting average against him. Look for him to be an important pitcher in the Rangers bullpen this season.
27 year old righty fireballer Frank Francisco will be ready at some point after May as he’s still recovering from a serious injury. The Rangers could definately use his power arm to compliment a lot of their soft tossers in the bullpen. He was 0-1 with 2 holds, a 4.91 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 8 games last season for the Rangers. Look for Francisco to pitch in the 7th inning for the Rangers at some point in the season because his arm is too good to waste if he’s healthy.
Soon to be 27 year old righty Mike Wood could help the Rangers at some point of the season. He was 3-3 with 1 hold, a 5.71 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 23 games (7 starts) for the Kansas City Royals last season. Batters hit .314 with 10 homers in 64.2 innings last season and if he wants to pitch for the Rangers next season he better get better at missing bats.