The 2023 MLB trade deadline season marked an early start with the Rangers’ acquisition of Aroldis Chapman from the Royals in June. The Texas team’s urgent need for relief pitching prompted this early move, securing Chapman’s services well before the actual deadline. In today’s baseball landscape, trades involving rental relievers usually yield modest returns. Such was the initial perception of the Royals’ end of the deal, with Cole Ragans and 17-year-old outfielder Roni Cabrera coming their way. However, appearances can be deceiving.
Cole Ragans had a challenging start in the big leagues, struggling through 24.1 relief innings across 17 games with the Rangers, particularly his four-seamer that hitters slugged at .561 against. His early performances amassed a -5.2 run value on that pitch alone, despite an improved changeup and increased velocity. After his move to the Kansas City Royals and a rocky first outing, everything changed for Ragans.
Eno Sarris’ comprehensive profile of Ragans outlined his impressive career turnaround. From his offseason training at Tread Athletics to develop his velocity and his consultation with Royals pitching coach Brian Sweeney, it’s a testament to the power of player development. The Royals’ willingness to consult outside sources mid-season to support their player is commendable, especially considering their previous struggles in nurturing pitchers.
While it’s still early in the collaboration, the results are undeniable. In just 47 innings, Ragans has showcased elite performance on the mound. The Royals’ investment in his development has proven fruitful, emphasizing the value of comprehensive player support and the potential for even greater success in the future.
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