The Rangers are always on the lookout for pitching, and they grabbed another arm for their bullpen on Friday. Texas acquired Dustin Nippert, who was out of options and wasn’t going to make the Diamondbacks, and sent another righthander, Jose Marte, to Arizona.
The Big Leaguers
Nippert, 26, was a 15th-round pick out of West Virginia in 2002 and rated as the Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospect after winning the Double-A Southern League ERA title with a 2.36 mark in 2005. A starter throughout his minor league career, he has mainly pitched in relief in the majors, going 1-1, 5.56 in 36 games out of the Arizona bullpen last year. He had a 38-16 K-BB ratio in 45 innings, while opponents hit .267 with five homers against him. At his best, Nippert can intimidate hitters, throwing an overpowering fastball/curveball combo and using his 6-foot-7 frame to work on a steep downward plane. But he has had trouble repeating his mechanics, leading to inconsistency with his pitches and his command. He was horrible in big league camp this spring, posting a 14.40 ERA while opponents tagged him for a .462 average. He’ll open the season in the Texas bullpen.
Marte, 24, is a marginal prospect. He originally signed with the Cubs as an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, but he drew his release after hitting .211/.291/.349 over three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. The Rangers signed him in mid-2004 and immediately converted him to the mound. Marte has arm strength and can easily pitch in the 90s with his fastball, but he doesn’t command his heater well or have a reliable secondary pitch to back it up. He spent 2007 at high Class A Bakersfield, where he went 2-4, 5.91 with 11 saves in 40 games. In 46 innings, he had a 58-36 K-BB ratio, a .271 opponent average and five homers allowed.
If Nippert can approach his previous form, this deal will be a steal for the Rangers. If not, it was still a low-cost gamble worth taking.