Texas Rangers starting rotation competition is the battle to watch

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The outlook on the Texas Rangers 2023 season comes with a lot of expectations compared to what it was last year. Additions of Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi have really buffed up an otherwise middling starting rotation. Going into the season FanGraphs has the Rangers projected for the 2nd-highest WAR of all starting rotations in the league.

Who can earn the final spot and help the Texas Rangers make a playoff push?

Speaking of the starting rotation there are a lot less open spots pitchers to fill going into the season. With deGrom, Eovaldi, Martin Perez, locking up the top 3 spots of the rotation that leaves guys like Jon Gray, Dane Dunning, Jake Odorizzi, and Andrew Heaney to fight for the remaining spot.

Each of these guys are MLB-level starters to some degree so this positional battle is geared up to be by far the most intense not only in March but for the entirety of the season. I find there to be two guys who in real contention for that final spot. That being Andrew Heaney and Jon Gray.

Like myself, FanGraphs has Andrew Heaney for the highest projected WAR and the most likely to come out of Spring Training with that last starting spot. Like many fifth starters, Heaney comes with flaws of his own. A shoulder injury took out Heaney for more than half of the season and he’s on the wrong side of 30 and not getting any younger.

Luckily for him, the Dodgers unlocked another level of Heaney where he posted a career high in ERA (3.10), WHIP (1.08), and K/9 (13.6). It is not uncommon for the Dodgers to take their pitchers’ game to the next level. Heaney will be due for regression, not only based upon his age, but his career numbers have not sniffed what he did in 2022. An ERA+ increase from 59 all the way up to 138 is due for regression to the median. That doesn’t mean it’s going all the way back to 59 though, I’m expecting numbers in the 105-110 range.

Jon Gray was an under-the-radar addition to the Texas Rangers’ machine and he paid off nicely showing a solid boost in numbers after leaving the pitchers nightmare called Coors Field. Gray posted a 3.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 26% K%, and 7% BB%. Injuries hampered his innings numbers but it didn’t affect his pitching much increasing his velocity numbers in all spots except his slider which is more than fine.

Gray posted a career high in xERA (3.47) and tied his in K-BB% (18%). A 50-point disparity between actual and expected ERA tells us that, while he pitched well, there is potential for greater things in store.

In today’s MLB I wouldn’t rule out a six-man rotation but Bochy hasn’t mentioned much in that department. Depth like this is a fantastic problem to have and both Heaney and Gray can be 3rd starters on plenty of teams.