2013 Stats: 1-0, 3.80 ERA, 23.2 IP, 28 Ks, 110 ERA+
Salary: $5.5 million ($7 million team option in 2015, $500,000 buyout)
Each week, we will look at key players on the Texas Rangers 25-man roster, and this time we look at veteran, late-inning reliever, Joakim Soria.
Year in Review: Soria began the season on the 60-day DL while still recovering from Tommy John surgery which caused him to miss the entire 2012 season. For the first time in his career, Soria didn't record a save in a season, though he was more effective in 2013 than the last time we saw him as a member of the Kansas City Royals in 2011 (5-5, 4.03 ERA, 28 saves and 102 ERA+).
As a Ranger, he didn't allow a run in his first six outings, but struggled against the Angels on July 30 as he pitched two-thirds of an inning, gave up one hit, allowed three runs and walked two batters. August was his best month as he only allowed two runs in 7.2 innings (2.35 ERA).
For his career, Soria has generally fared better against left-handed batters than right-handed batters, but the splits were more extreme in 2013:
vs. RHB: .366/.480/.463
vs. LHB: .068/.180/.136
Career: Soria's first four years in MLB were very impressive, as he finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting (2007), was named an All-Star twice (2008 and 2010) and finished 10th in Cy Young voting in 2010.
Soria primarily relies on a four-seam fastball (68% usage) while mixing in a slider (18%), curve (11%) and the occasional changeup (2%). With his fastball velocity in the 90-92 mph range, Soria usually focuses on command of his pitches, but in 2013, his walk rate ballooned to 5.3 per nine innings (2.7 career rate). Despite the high walk rate, Joakim did strike out batters at a 10.6 per nine innings clip and has a very respectable 9.8 K/9 rate for his career.
Joakim doesn't turn 30 until May 18, so there are still several years left in his career.
2014 season: Neftali Feliz may have the inside track for the closer role on this team, but Soria has not hurt his chances with his Spring Training numbers: six appearances, six innings, two hits, zero runs and five strikeouts.
'He's such a professional,' manager Ron Washington said earlier this spring about Soria. 'His arm looks much more free and his velocity has picked up. He was never a power pitcher, but he could locate and throw breaking balls.'
ZIPS projects Soria with the following season: 40.2 IP, 3.76 ERA, 114 ERA+ and worth 0.4 wins. I would expect him to fare better, and my bold prediction: Soria will save more than 10 games this season. While Feliz is the favorite for the closer role and Scheppers is primed for the role as well, Soria is the candidate with the most experience and best production in Spring Training. Joakim might not start the season as the closer, but he will be at some point.
Eddie Middlebrook is a staff writer for Paranoid Fan, covering MLB and college football. Back in 2010, Eddie wrote for Fox Sports Southwest covering the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and the Big 12. In 2012, he began writing for Shutdown Inning where he eventually became Vice President of Media. You can email Eddie at firstname.lastname@example.org catch him on Twitter @emiddlebrook.