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, a team that looks like they’ll be at the mercy of the injury bug for the second straight season. Will they ever catch a break?
Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin, SS Elvis Andrus, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Adrian Beltre, 1B Prince Fielder, DH Mitch Moreland, LF Jake Smolinski, 2B Rougned Odor, C Robinson Chirinos
Projected Rotation: RHP Yovani Gallardo*, LHP Derek Holland, RHP Colby Lewis, LHP Ross Detwiler*, RHP Nick Tepesch
* new additions
The Rangers received news of the worst kind this spring.
Their ace pitcher, Yu Darvish, couldn’t shake the inflammation that occurred in his elbow late last season, and went under the knife. Tommy John surgery.
Recovery time: 12-18 months.
Recovery time for the Rangers’ fan base: indeterminate. Could be years.
What a blow this is to an ailing group of loyal fans who have suffered far more hardships than they deserve. 2014 saw the Prince Fielder season-ending neck injury, a Derek Holland knee injury, and questions about whether Jurickson Profar is still alive. Now there is nothing left but for Rangers fans everywhere to shout, “WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?!”
But I suppose you could call this good news: the Rangers would’ve been a long shot to make the playoffs this season anyway, regardless of whether Darvish was healthy. It’s not like this broke up a contending team.
The core of Texas’ lineup is strong, but aging. Adrian Beltre, who will turn 36 in April, is starting to see a dip in his power, with just 19 long balls last season. Granted, he’s still an exceptional offensive force, who even without his standard amount of homers last year managed to finish eighth in the league in OPS. Trends are powerful things, though—what was 19 homers last season may be just 12 this season, and before long he’ll just be a well-paid singles hitter in the middle of Texas’ lineup.
Prince Fielder is back in action, and he’ll be looking to have a comeback year after missing nearly all of 2014. I wouldn’t put too much stock into Fielder’s .247 average or the mere three homers he hit in 42 games last year. His neck problems had apparently been bothering him since back in his Tigers days, and if that’s the case, I’d be scared about what he can do now that he’s pain-free.
Outside of those two, there are a lot of unfamiliar names on the team, but a guy whose name you should learn is Carlos Peguero. As a non-roster invitee this Spring, he has had a strong showing thus far with a 1.300 OPS through nine games. He also tore up the Dominican Winter League a couple months ago, leading the league in homers while posting a .970 OPS. He’ll have a good chance to win an outfield spot for the big league team, possibly as the starting left fielder.
We all know the pitching staff is broken without Darvish, but new addition Yovani Gallardo helps mitigate the loss. Acquired from the Brewers in a trade in January, Gallardo is a consistent mid-rotation type starter who is the portrait of good health—he has started at least 30 games in every season since 2009. He should rack up plenty of innings for the Rangers and help save the bullpen from complete annihilation.
Derek Holland could also be a guy who steps up and takes on more of the load. His 2014 was mostly lost due to injury, but in six appearances towards the end of the year, and when absolutely no one was watching because the team was way out of contention, he posted a 1.46 ERA and averaged seven innings per start.
But the Rangers might have a hard time finding consistency in the rest of the rotation. Colby Lewis probably shouldn’t be in a major league rotation any more, but the Rangers will take his 5-plus ERA just to eat the innings. And Ross Detwiler hasn’t started a game since July of 2013.
In the bullpen, Tanner Scheppers will be reprising his role as set-up man in which he performed so well two seasons ago. The Rangers briefly tried to make him a starter, an experiment which failed miserably. The experiment is now over, say the Rangers, which is good news because it gives the bullpen back that eighth inning guy they were missing for all of last year.
Scheppers will be setting up for Neftali Feliz, one of the more underrated closers in the game who is still just 26 years old. The duo gives the Rangers a strong end game, as any lead making it into the eighth inning will now be in very good hands.
The Rangers won’t win a lot of games, but I’d like to at least be able to give them an “A” for participation this year. If they can stay healthy and play out the string, the fan base will be grateful they gave it an honest effort.
The playoffs? We’ll talk about that once Darvish is back.
Projected Finish: 72-90, Fourth place in AL West