TDG’S Triple Play: Texas Rangers!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by writer Phil Barrington. He joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Joe Barlow, Age: 26, Position: Closer
Analysis by: Ken Balderston
I would like to say it’s by design, and not procrastination that I waited until all games ended in the 2021 season to do this write-up. Honestly though, who could write with the way the final day went down? Several playoff spots were decided in the late innings and many of my colleagues’ leagues decided late as well. One thing that was decided earlier was the Texas Rangers losing over 100 games on the year! Despite playing home games in a home park favorable to pitchers, they also ended the year with the 3rd worst team ERA in the AL at 4.79. So there’s not a ton of great options here in the big leagues. No starter had a K/9 over 9.00, an ERA under 4.50 (unless you count Kyle Gibson who was traded to the Phillies at the deadline), and only Mike Foltynewicz had a WHIP under 1.39 of anyone making more than one start. So… let’s make a call to the bullpen and look at Joe Barlow.
Joe Barlow can tie his shoes with his feet
To say Joe Barlow came out of nowhere would ring true. I, for one, do not remember ever hearing of him, being a 26-year-old who MLB pipeline had never included as one of Texas’ top 30 prospects. He was drafted by the Rangers in the 11th round of the 2016 first-year player draft, and quickly moved to the bullpen after three starts that year, and is yet to make another start in his pro career. He had some solid seasons in the minors, especially in 2018, and netted a career minor league ERA of 2.64, with 12.83 K/9 but also had red flags in the control department, with a 5.79 BB/9. The Rangers clearly in a rebuild, as most 100 loss teams are, promoted Barlow in June of this year and he did quite well. In his first 12 2/3 innings, he struck out 17 batters, against only 5 walks, and put up mirroring ERA and WHIP figures of 0.71.
Joe Barlow can slam revolving doors
After the Texas Rangers traded their closer, Ian Kennedy, to the Phillies at the trade deadline, it was clear Barlow was the best arm in the pen despite his limited experience. On August 13th he was given his first save chance and shut the door on the Oakland A’s. Then, he did it again to the same team on August 15th. Mix in two shaky performances, but all in all, Joe converted 11 of 12 save chances for the Rangers those last 8 weeks, including 7 in September helping many a fantasy team towards a championship. On the year in the majors, he pitched 29 innings with 27 strikeouts, ‘only’ 12 walks, a 1.55 ERA, and 0.83 WHIP. Pretty incredible mid-season waiver wire claim for many fantasy players.
Joe Barlow makes onions cry
The statcast and analytical ‘expected’ stats are not as loving of Barlow’s season. His FIP was 3.44, xFIP 4.55, and xERA 3.39. I’m not entirely sure how you ‘beat’ your expected stats, but keeping the ball in the yard (6.1% HR/FB) helps, and allowing a barrel rate of 5.6% and hard-hit rate of 36.1% is a good way of keeping the ball in the yard. You could also say his 70.8% strand rate, and .143 BABIP are quite low as well, but he does have a history through the minors of low rates in both stats across several seasons.
Joe Barlow can dribble a bowling ball
Armed with a mid 90’s fastball he throws 45% of the time, and a mid 80’s slider he throws 40%, down and away to righties, but also uses it against lefties. Barlow has a third pitch, an 80 mph curveball he throws over 12% of the time, a bit unique for a reliever in this era. The fastball and slider are his predominant pitches, as throws the curve mostly out of the zone as a show-me pitch, hitting the corners with it occasionally. The fastball has good spin, averaging over 2,250 rpm, and all three pitches induced a sub 90 MPH EV for the season.
Joe Barlow’s tears can cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried
While it’s true Joe Barlow’s expected stats suggest some luck this season, and his scouting profile does not suggest he will ever end a season with a 1.55 ERA again, Joe has cemented himself as the closer in Texas. As mentioned in the intro, the Rangers do not have a ton of talent in the majors on the mound, and those who do have some recognizable arm talent did not perform well in 2021. Saves is a dark market in fantasy; you need them to win so you draft them, you can get them from the waiver wire but you can get burned from both. I have a feeling many will point to the luck, and inexperience of Barlow and underestimate him again going into 2022. He has gained some job security this year, and even a bad team can get 30 saves with a capable stopper. If your league is sleeping on him, don’t be afraid to take advantage.
Adolis García, Age: 28, Position: OF
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Going in the Right Direction
The first time All-Star and contender for American League Rookie of the Year, it is somewhat fair to say Adolis García came out of (relatively) nowhere to become the Rangers leading hitter in 2021. Many thought it would be Leody Tavares, some thought Nick Solak, but once Joey Gallo was traded, García became the Rangers offensive leader, for better or worse. After an uneven second half to say the least, Garcia is finishing the season strong, with five steals and a home run over the last week, with the Rangers having nothing to play for much longer than that.
I thought I was lost
El Bombi was signed by the St Louis Cardinals back in February 2017 out of Cuba, and made his debut the next season. In 21 games for the Cardinals in 2018, he hit a forgettable .118, and was eventually sold to the Rangers in December 2019. He appeared in only three games in 2020, so once 2021 came around, there were literally no expectations for him. Exceeding low expectations is the way to do it, and boy, has García exceeded his in 2021.
Now I’ve found, the road I need to travel down
His power is not in question, as even though he has had peaks and valleys over his first season as a MLB regular, García has still shown the ability to hit the ball very hard, earning an 82nd percentile exit velocity and 85th percentile max exit velocity with a top 76 hardhit%. He can hit the ball to all fields with have his home runs hit to left field and the rest to center-right field. The blemishes are the high strikeout and low walks, making him less suited for OBP leagues.
You better get right, Or you’re gonna get left
As of this writing, García has accumulated 166 Runs + RBI, stolen 16 bases and hit 31 home runs in 147 games. While his slash line could be better at .244/.287/.458, those home runs and steals helped a lot of fantasy teams this season. That stat line is awfully close to his 2019 stat line at Triple-A Memphis, where García hit 32 home runs, stole 14 bases, 192 Runs + RBI and a slash line of .253/.301/.517. If he can produce those numbers on a consistent basis entering his prime, he will help out a lot of fantasy teams in the coming years.
I don’t know what tomorrow brings
He also plays excellent defense in Right Field, after starting the season in Center Field, so job security will not be an issue; the Rangers know what they have, batting García in the third spot a majority of the season. It will be interesting to see where he is taken in re-draft leagues next season. While he battles it out with fellow ex-Cardinal outfielder Randy Arozarena for AL Rookie of the Year, look for García to be a forgotten man in drafts next year if he does not win the award. If your team can offset his low batting average, the steals and home runs can help any team to win a championship. In Dynasty leagues, he may only cost a draft pick to the manager who added him from the waiver wire and does not believe García can repeat.
Cole Winn, Age: 21, SP, Level: Triple-A
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
The Rangers made Cole Winn the 15th overall pick in the 2018 draft based on advanced control and a solid four pitch mix. Coming out of Orange Lutheran High School in California, the organization kept him shut down during his draft year. Starting 2019 after an extended break, he had lost some of his trademark command. He ended the year with just four walks in his final four appearances, though. A shut down in 2020 gave him the opportunity to work with the staff to tweak his repertoire and delivery. His new skills set him up to be promoted all the way to Triple-A by the end of 2021.
All I Do Is Winn, Winn, Winn, Get Batters Out
With expectations generated from his amateur career, Cole’s elevated walk rate was a notable and disappointing surprise. He finished his first full pro season still at the Single-A level, issuing 39 walks in just 68.2 innings. This uncharacteristically wild performance led to an inflated 4.46 ERA, a frustrating start for the highly regarded prospect’s career.
According to an interview with FanGraphs’ David Laurila, Winn spent the downtime in 2020 working with his pitching coach and other Rangers staff. He improved his spin rates and the consistency of his delivery. Their use of Rapsodo, TrackMan and Edgertronic systems demonstrates an operation that will tap into the pitcher’s maximum potential. And that potential is extremely high with his natural athletic ability. In fact, the righty may even have the ability to succeed as a lefty if he so chose.
The Truth, The Cole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth
Winn turned his hard work into results in 2021. Starting at Double-A, he posted a 32.8% K-rate against just a 8.8% BB-rate. He earned a promotion to Triple-A for two starts to round out the season, and ended with a 2.51 ERA across the two levels. This bounceback earned him the Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year award as the best minor league pitcher in the Texas organization.
Totaling just 86 innings this year, he will likely start at Triple-A next year and get just a taste of the big leagues later in the summer of 2022. With his abilities honed in, you can expect to see a couple dozen highly competent innings next year before being unleashed in 2023. His impressive mix featuring a mid-90s 4 seam fastball, a biting slider, a tight curve, and an improving changeup compares shockingly favorably to Max Scherzer’s pitch mix. While that may be a tough ceiling to hit, even mentioning that name has me endlessly interested in Cole Winn across all formats.
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