Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breaking Down The 40-Man Roster Day 3

It's amazing what a night of sleep and a bottle of Pepto Bismol can do. I'm not quite back to 100%, but I think I can manage to get this done. Consider me like Milton Bradley; I may not be able to go play the outfield just yet, but you can pencil me into the lineup at DH. So, as promised, here is today's 2-for-1.

CJ Wilson
6'1" 215 lbs
Born: 11/18/1980
Opening Day Age: 27

2007 Statistics

Games Pitched: 66
Innings Pitched: 68.1
Record: 2-1
ERA: 3.03
Strikeouts: 63
Saves: 12

2008 Prognosis:
At the age of 21, after conquering Rookie Ball and both levels of Single-A, CJ Wilson finished the 2002 season at Double-A Tulsa. He started 5 games and went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA. At that time, Wilson looked destined to finish the 2003 season at Triple-A and break into the big leagues at some point during the 2004 season. His 2003 season wasn't quite what the Rangers or he had hoped for, and got even worse when he had Tommy John surgery on August 12, 2003. CJ returned in 2005 and was called up from Double-A Frisco and into the Rangers' starting rotation. As a starter, CJ struggled mightily. His ERA was astronomical and his future looked to be in doubt. But, a decision to keep CJ at the big league level and move him to the bullpen revived his career. In 18 games out of the Rangers' pen in 2005, CJ went 1-2 with a 2.73 ERA. After a decent 2006 campaign and a great 2007 season, CJ is now one of the focal points of that bullpen.

CJ goes into the season as the odds on favorite to win the vacant closer's job. He handled the bulk of that duty following the trade of Eric Gagne last season and his poise and attitude have led many to believe he will be the Rangers' closer for a long time. CJ is a captivating pitcher and person that has become a huge fan favorite in Arlington. There has been some sentiment among those fans that the Rangers should try CJ in the rotation again now that he has become a major league success. It is the same kind of discussion that has been heard in Boston regarding their young closer Jonathan Papelbon. At this point, however, it appears the rotation will be the fall back option for the Rangers and CJ. All signs indicate that CJ will be the closer as long as he performs well in that capacity. And hopefully, for the Rangers, that will be a long time.

CJ may also play a huge role for the Rangers in another capacity. Many Rangers fans have heard the stories on CJ and his personal philosophies. Wilson is a Taoist and adheres to what is known as a "Straight-Edge" way of life. You can read more about the lifestyle here. Basically, "Straight-Edge" means CJ doesn't indulge in alcohol, smoking, or drugs. Most fans have also heard the stories on new Ranger, Josh Hamilton. A big part of Hamilton's success in Cincinnati was due to the strong support system they had in place. In fact, it was such a big part the Rangers have since hired Johnny Narron who spent last year with the Reds organization helping Hamilton. Well, the Rangers may also have a key to Hamilton's new support system in place in the form of CJ Wilson. At the very least, it can't hurt for Hamilton to spend as much time as possible with CJ. And hopefully those two spend a long time together as key cogs for the Texas Rangers.

Check out CJ's blog by clicking the link on the sidebar, or just clicking here.

今それはテキサス・レンジャーズで最も新しい水差しの1 つ、前の日本リーグ水差しKazuo Fukumori に動く時間である。
(Translation: "Now it is time to move onto one of the Texas Rangers' newest pitchers, former Japanese League pitcher Kazuo Fukumori.")

Kazuo Fukumori
5'11" 170 lbs
Born: 08/04/1976
Opening Day Age: 31

2007 Statistics
Games Pitched: 34
Innings Pitched: 36
Record: 4-2
ERA: 4.75
Strikeouts: 33
Saves: 17
*all stats from 2007 season spent pitching in Japanese League*

2008 Prognosis:
Naturally, it is hard to project what to expect from Fukumori in 2008. He spent the latter half of last season rehabbing his elbow after having surgery to remove bone chips. Apparently, his elbow is not in as bad of shape as Akinori Otsuka's elbow. Otsuka was let go by the Rangers after the White Sox turned down a trade upon reviewing his medical records. It has since been reported that Otsuka will require Tommy John surgery. Fukumori's elbow condition is not nearly as serious and he should be ready to go for Spring Training. According to Rangers' GM Jon Daniels, "He only took four to six weeks off and was throwing again. It was a very minor procedure."

According to scouting reports, Fukumori features a fastball that comes in at anywhere from 86-90mph. It will be interesting to see exactly how accurate those velocity reports are in Spring Trainings, especially considering his elbow surgery. He also throws an average to below average curveball that he has had control problems with in the past. His go to pitch appears to be his forkball or split-finger, whichever one you want to call it. It is said to have great diving action and cause a lot of hitters to chase. There have also been reports that Fukumori has experimented with a knuckle-curveball to complement his other 3 pitches. The biggest concerns with Fukumori have been control and consistency. He sometimes elevates his fastball or gets lazy and flattens it out. He is also said to have trouble throwing his curveball for strikes when he needs to. His consistency has been a question mark as well. In the Japanese leagues he was either magnificent or terrible. Kaz will have to find some level of consistency if he wants to succeed with the Rangers.

Fukumori will likely be eased into the Rangers' pen and used in the 6th, 7th, and perhaps 8th innings. He hasn't thrown more than 63 innings in any of his previous 5 seasons, so the Rangers would be wise not to use him in a Willie Eyre mode. It is likely the Rangers will use Benoit and Wilson as their 8th and 9th inning combo as much as they can. This will allow Fukumori and Guardado to help handle the 6th and 7th innings based on the opponents lineup. It would be fantastic if Kazuo can pitch around 60 innings with an ERA at or below three. That kind of season would do wonders for the bullpen. The pen was a strength last year, but there is no component of a baseball team that shifts more on a year to year basis than the bullpen.

"What really stood out to us about Kaz is makeup," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We feel he has the right temperament, the right character to succeed. He's got the traits we look for, guys that want the ball, guys that are not afraid, guys that throw strikes and attack the zone."

Well if that is the case, then テキサスの氏へのFukumori 歓迎。(Translation: Welcome to Texas Mr. Fukumori.)

Tomorrow's breakdown post will feature SP Brandon McCarthy.

all photos courtesy of