Previously, we profiled the Detroit Tigers, and I said I couldn’t take them seriously because they refuse to win the big game. Well, at least the Tigers have World Series championships on their resume. The Rangers have never won one, and have made a habit of choking down the stretch the last two years. Will they even get that far before blowing it this year?
The Rangers did some work this off-season, letting Nelson Cruz (Orioles) go through free agency and trading Ian Kinsler to the Tigers for Prince Fielder (pictured at the top). They also picked up Shin-Soo Choo through free agency, which changes their lineup a bit, and makes it a little more intriguing. First of all, let’s start with Fielder, who had a bit of a down year last year with detroit (.279/362/.457 with 25 HR, 106 RBI), should bounce back in the friendly confines of the now newly named Globe Life Park in Arlington. That park is built for power hitters, specially left-handed ones. Look for him to slide into the cleanup spot and put up some numbers. Rangers fans missed the left handed raw power of Josh Hamilton last year (I think he left it somewhere on the way to Anaheim anyway). Fielder should help. Choo, on the other hand, does a little bit of everything. He’s got 20/20 speed and power, but his main asset is his ability to get on base. Look for him to set the table nicely for Fielder by walking over 100 times.
Kinsler will be tough to replace, but the Rangers have Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings, which is a big part of the reason they felt OK letting Kinsler go in the first place. Profar has been a top level prospect since he was basically a baby. He’s been dealing with an injury this spring, but should hopefully be feeling good soon (if he isn’t already), and ready to step into the lineup. He’s still not 21, so he’s got time to build his legacy in Texas.
The Rangers have some other nice pieces in the lineup, most notably Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios. Beltre put together another 30 homer season while hitting over .300 last year, and Rios is a Choo type, but with less walks. Both guys are also a great defender, which always helps. Elvis Andrus is back. That guy is an Ozzie Smith out on the diamond, but if he doesn’t improve his hitting, that contract is going to be an albatross. Another guy the Rangers should hope improves his hitting is young Cuban Leonys Martin. Martin is a speedster in the Brett Gardner mode, but showed far less power and less speed too. If you’re not going to hit, you better run really, really fast. I’m sure the Rangers are hoping Martin can kick it up a notch in 2014.
On The Hill
The Rangers pitching is really failing to impress me on paper right now. This, of course, does not include Yu Darvish, who is among the best pitchers in the league. After that, however, i ho hum. Derek Holland hurt his knee doing something stupid (not playing hockey on his home made ice rink… don’t even question that) and will miss the first half at least. Matt Garza left for the land of beer and brat worst too, which means they have some guys to replace.
One key to their rotation is going to be keeping everyone healthy. Alexi Ogando can be electric, but he only managed 23 games and 18 starts last year. With Holland already hurt, the Rangers can’t afford to lose anyone else. They’re also hoping that Tommy Hanson, the former Braves top prospect, can return from injury and ineffectiveness to previous levels of success. There’s also the intriguing return from injury of Colby Lewis, who is a former staple of the rotation, as well as my fantasy teams of years past. The real key to this situation, in my opinion, is Martin Perez. He’s been their top pitching prospect for a while now and showed a lot of good stuff while making 20 starts his rookie year in 2013. He might be ready to make that leap forward and possibly become an anchor for this rotation.
The bullpen, from what I’m seeing, should again be one of the best in baseball. Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor are all back. Feliz might be the key here, as he missed most of last year with an injury. This bullpen did lose it’s leader in Joe Nathan (Tigers) this year, but they are hoping a now fully rehabbed Joakim Soria can take over and, once again, become one of the best closers in the league, as he was just a few years ago with the Royals. If not, maybe Feliz can reclaim the closers role he held in 2011? Either way, I think the bullpen will definitely be a strength here.
I’m very concerned about the Rangers rotation. I’m not sure they’ve done enough to replace the guys that left, and the Holland injury is really going to put a strain on everyone else. They really need Hanson to find himself again and Ogando to stay healthy until Holland can make it back, or they might be in a bit of trouble. They also recently signed Joe Saunders to a major league deal, so I guess he’ll get a crack at the rotation to. A guy like Nick Tepesch could beat out Hanson or Saunders for a spot in the rotation, or replace someone in case of injury, but he doesn’t really strike me as being a super useful piece.
The offense should be good enough, or at least as good as previous Rangers offenses. The issue won’t be scoring runs, in my opinion. The bullpen definitely won’t be an issue, so if the offense can score enough to be winning after six or seven innings, they’ll win a lot of those games. The problem, for me, is those first five or six innings, and if the Rangers have enough arms to create save opportunities for Soria and company. I think this might be another year for Oakland. If it were up to Ian Kinsler, however, they’d go 0-162a… I kind of hope they do.
You better Choo Choo Choose Shin-Soo come draft day. He’s got the ability to help in just about every offensive category, and shouldn’t be missed. Rios should again be a solid speed/power combo option. The power will come from Beltre and Fielder, so they’re definitely worth having. Jurickson Profar isn’t a guy you probably want to draft yet (unless you’re talking the last couple of rounds when your team is already set), but he might be the most intriguing guy here.
Darvish, Perez and Harrison should be solid again this year. Ogando is good, but he’s coming off of an injury and could be a risk. I’d wait on him. Soria is worth a late round pick if that’s your closer drafting strategy. He came back late last year from Tommy John surgery and pitched pretty well. It will be interesting to see how he does in 2014.
Featured image courtesy of: Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis
- http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10544839/ian-kinsler-intends-become-elite-second-baseman-detroit-tigers-espn-magazine?src=mobile (back)
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