This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Rangers, the perennial powerhouse team in the AL West. They say everything’s bigger in Texas—and that includes opposing pitchers’ earned run averages.
Projected Lineup: LF Shin-Soo Choo, SS Elvis Andrus, 1B Prince Fielder, 3B Adrian Beltre, RF Alex Rios, DH Mitch Moreland, 2B Jurickson Profar, C J.P. Arencibia, CF Leonys Martin
The Rangers have the best pitcher on the planet, and even though Yu Darvish only pitches every fifth day, he’ll take the team pretty far. The question is, will it be far enough?
The rest of the rotation is filled with question marks. Tanner Scheppers will be in the starting rotation for the first time this year, after a great 2013 in which he was lights-out in the setup role. But he has never pitched more than 80 innings in any professional season. It remains to be seen how Scheppers will handle the workload of a full season, but the Rangers don’t have many other options—Derek Holland is out until at least midseason with a knee injury, and Matt Harrison is dealing with some injuries of his own.
And speaking of the injury bug, the Rangers are also now faced with a quandary at second base, with Jurickson Profar now on the shelf for 2-3 months. With Ian Kinsler now in Detroit, they don’t really have a major league second baseman to speak of.
Ah—but wait! There’s a prospect on the horizon.
A guy who General Manager Jon Daniels picked up on a whim in the Rule 5 Draft, because he saw a certain level of discipline rare in players these days. That’s right, I’m talking about Russell Wilson, a middle infielder in the organization who is currently on the inactive list because of what he calls “other obligations”. But once he’s finished screwing around with those extracurricular activities, he’s a lock for the second base job.
And man, I’m excited. He’s the type of guy who just screams “champion”. You know?
Even if Wilson doesn’t show up, the Rangers have a great new-look offense which should carry the team. The Rangers’ addressed their need for left-handed bats, and added Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to an already potent lineup. Choo is one of the best on-base threats in the game, and will be crucial to the Rangers’ success. But even more crucial will be the guy hitting between Choo and Fielder, Elvis Andrus. Andrus is a career .306 hitter with a runner on first and less than two outs—which, hitting behind Choo, is a situation he’ll be facing a lot.
What do you get when you add all that up? You get Fielder and Adrian Beltre hitting with a lot of ducks on the pond. Cha-ching.
My only real concern with the team is the questionable closer situation. Neftali Feliz is back in the fold after his recovery from Tommy John surgery, but he hasn’t pitched in a high-stakes situation in almost two years. Joakim Soria, likewise. No one has been further from the ninth inning than these two guys, outside of that family of four who leaves the ballpark in the sixth to beat the traffic.
So here’s a dark horse to win the closer role: Alexi Ogando. The Rangers have moved him to the bullpen, a decision which may have had something to do with his career numbers in relief: 7-1, 110 strikeouts in 113.1 innings, and a 2.46 ERA. And that’s not even counting his postseason numbers, which are even better.
The Rangers definitely have the pieces to contend in this stacked division. And if they’re really lucky—they’ll put together another unsuccessful championship run.
Projected Finish: 94-68, First place in AL West