The Frisco RoughRiders, Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, have a new arm in the bullpen. It didn’t come from promotion, acquisition, or trade. It came from their starting rotation. Connor Sadzeck has been transitioned from starter to reliever. Some people may see this as a “demotion.” I assure you this isn’t. It’s utilizing his best qualities to better serve him, the Frisco RoughRiders, and ultimately, the Texas Rangers. This change could very well be his ticket to The Show.
Connor Sadzeck was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 45th round of the 2010 draft, right out of Crystal Lake Central High School in Illinois. He opted to go to college instead and spent one year at Howard College in Texas. As a freshman at Howard, Sadzeck was 7-3 with a 3.56 ERA over 15 appearances. He had committed to continuing his college career at the University of Texas until he was drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He ended up signing with the Texas Rangers.
In 2012, Sadzeck held batters to a .200 average, third-lowest among Northwest League starters. In 2013, he led the South Atlantic League in ERA, at 2.25. He ranked ninth among all full-season pitchers in Minor League Baseball. Sadzeck went at least five innings in each of his 24 starts, eight of which were quality. Batters hit just .216 off him that year, which was second-lowest among South Atlantic League starters. Sadzeck missed the entire 2014 season, after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Continuing his Tommy John recovery into 2015, Sadzeck didn’t make an appearance until May 19. He started the season with Advanced-A High Desert and moved up to Double-A Frisco on August 1. He recorded his only win of the season with the RoughRiders, after tossing six no-hit innings. Sadzeck made seven relief appearances in the Arizona Fall League. He was added to the Texas Rangers 40-man roster on November 20.
Last season, Sadzeck spent the entire year with the Frisco RoughRiders. He was named a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star, and led the RoughRiders in innings (140 2/3), wins (10), and strikeouts (133). Those 133 strikeouts were most among all Texas Rangers pitchers and second-highest in the entire Texas League. Sadzeck recorded a team-high 11 quality starts over his 23 games, even pitching two seven-inning complete games.
Entering this season, Sadzeck was ranked as the Rangers No. 11 prospect by MiLB.com, No. 15 by Baseball America. He attended Major League camp during Spring Training for the second-straight season and appeared in two games for the Rangers.
Something happened between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Connor Sadzeck just didn’t look like the pitcher he had been. He got off to a rough start and seemed to never bounce back.
Through the first half of this season, Sadzeck went 4-5 with a 5.05 ERA. He logged 67.2 innings over 14 starts and 15 total appearances. Sadzeck walked 24 batters and struck out 82. He finished the first half with a 1.37 WHIP, allowing hitters to average .267 against him.
In his first start of the season, on April 6, Sadzeck didn’t make it out of the first inning. He allowed one hit and four runs, all earned. Four batters drew walks against him, and he had 0 punchouts.
To say that Sadzeck has disappointed may be accurate. Especially with the expectations he carried coming into the 2017 season. However, if you watch him pitch, you don’t see a disappointment. You see a better opportunity for his skill. Transitioning to the bullpen utilizes the best of Sadzeck, and fills a need for the Texas Rangers. There is no doubt that the Rangers relievers have had their downfalls. It’s an area of the organization that is suffering. They need solid, reliable help. Sadzeck could very well be that type of reliever.
Transitioning from the starting rotation to the bullpen has its challenges.
“My training is a lot more condensed. I don’t have five days to get my work in anymore. I’m learning the ropes on how to go about my days. But, we’ve got plenty of guys on this team that have been doing it a while and have been really good. So I can learn from them, which is good,” Sadzeck told me about his change in position.
I asked him how it impacted him personally. “I’ve always had the dream of being a starter. I think they (Frisco RoughRiders and Texas Rangers) still know that. I told them at the end of the day if that’s what they need at the big league level, and that’s what helps get me there faster, I’m all for it,” Sadzeck said.
Since transitioning to a reliever, Sadzeck has looked far better. On June 24, he pitched one inning and allowed two hits and one run (earned). He walked one and struck out one. On June 29, he pitched one inning of perfect baseball. He allowed no hits, no runs, no walks, and even got one punch out.
I’m curious to see how Connor Sadzeck does in his new role with the Frisco RoughRiders. The transition is tough, but he seems to have the right attitude about it. One thing is for sure. At this point, being a reliever in the Texas Rangers farm system will get you closer to The Show than being a starter.