We start 2021 with hopes that everything starts on time. Five weeks from now, pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to their Spring Training facilities. According to Kyle Gibson, the Rangers representative to the Players’ Union, “There might be some details that are still up in the air. Our CBA lays out pretty clear the dates that MLB and the players have agreed upon to start Spring Training and the season. From what I’m seeing, I don’t think there’s any desire right now to move those,” Gibson said during the Winter Caravan chat Wednesday.
Therefore, we enter 2021 assuming things are on schedule. The Rangers have many questions entering 2021, but the main head-scratcher is how the rotation will look. I think it’s a more straightforward path to predict the infield, outfield, and bullpen roles for this club, but the rotation presents some inquires. Here’s a likely projection of the Rangers 2021 rotation.
Unless the Rangers make a high strung splash before Opening Day. I think it’s safe to assume Kyle Gibson stands in at least the one or two spot in the rotation. If Gibson gets the opening day nod, it would be the first in his career. It’s doubtful the Rangers go out and get an ace that fits the opening day mesh. Therefore, it’s slim pickings on what they have to work with. Also, Kauffman Stadium ties for the most games Kyle has pitched as an opposing pitcher (13 games, 11 starts, and one complete game).
I placed Arihara in the second slot because he’s known as an innings eater. Unless someone comes from out of the blue, I foresee Texas finishing in the bottom in MLB in innings by “starter” (look for a lot of opener usage in 2021). However, Kohei’s background shows as a breath of fresh air regarding traditional starter work. If Arihara dominates Spring Training, he may sneak to opening day, but it’s unlikely. Arihara seems like a solid four starter on any given club, but for the 2021 Rangers, I like Kohei in the two slot.
Dane Dunning was a piece the Rangers received from the Chicago White Sox for Lance Lynn. Dunning started seven games last season for the White Sox, including appearing in the final Wild Card game against Oakland. In his last two starts in 2020, he struggled, but overall, he positively impacted and threw three excellent games. An impressive start came on September 15th against a powerful Minnesota Twins lineup where Dunning allowed just one run over seven innings and struck out seven. Dane threw 102 pitches on that day in Chicago. There’s a chance that if Dunning excels in Spring Training, he could be an under the radar candidate for opening day in Kansas City.
Out of all of the young bullpen/long relief guys the Rangers used in 2020, Taylor Hearn seemed like he has the arsenal and potential to fit the starter role. “Taylor expressed his desire to start. We’re going to try to get him built up,” Chris Woodward said. Hearn is a powerful lefty with a great combination of pitches and an excellent repertoire. Hearn did not allow an earned run in ten of his fourteen outings in 2020 (2.76 ERA in that span).
Biblically number 20 means “Redemption” personally I took 2020 as double redemption year for me and to be back healthy and competing again I couldn’t thank the Lord enough and I give him praise on credit for what he about to do moving forward! #TogetherWe @Rangers pic.twitter.com/69mUZ2kk1X
— Taylor Hearn (@thearn14) September 28, 2020
Jordan Lyles first then Kyle Cody/Wes Benjamin/Kolby Allard/Peanut Gallery
The fifth spot is an intriguing piece. I think Jordan starts the year in the rotation. However, toward the quarter mark, Chris Woodward may decide to push a starter into a long-relief role and allow guys like Kyle Cody, Wes Benjamin, and Kolby Allard some work. Remember, if we’re talking full season, we’re talking about six months. Once we get to that point, look for a lot of split starts. Remember, injuries to the pitching staff WILL happen (it’s, unfortunately, a reality). Texas liked what they saw from guys like Cody and Benjamin, so don’t show any shock if one of them gets the early role of opener or long relief man. To start the season, the fifth starter role is Jordan Lyles’ spot to lose.
Starter shuffling will be a thing for the Rangers in 2021 and most teams. The question is if these guys who showcased their talents in 2020 can take another step forward in 2021. It’ll also be interesting to witness how this group works with Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara, the Rangers pitching coaches.
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