Thursday, February 14, 2013

Texas Ranger 2013 Team Breakdown

Well it’s that time.  Football is done.  Pitchers and catchers are reporting in a week.  Everyone is heading out to purchase their fantasy baseball magazines.  And you are wondering what your team is looking like heading into the new season.  Well I’m here to start breaking down teams and see what they are looking like for this year.  I waited for most of the free agents to sign.  Others may sign after I talk about a team, and when that happens I’ll update the team breakdown as necessary.  Last year I started with the NL East.  This year I’ll start with the AL West.  And while I ranked teams alphabetically last year, this year I’ll rank them based on last season’s standings.  I started with the Oakland Athletics, so I’ll move on to the team that was second in the standings at the end of last season, the Texas Rangers.

Projected Lineup

C-             A.J. Pierzynski
1B-           Mitch Moreland
2B-           Ian Kinsler
SS-           Elvis Andrus
3B-           Adrian Beltre
LF-           David Murphy
CF-           Craig Gentry
RF-           Nelson Cruz
DH-          Lance Berkman

Projected Batting Order

2B-            Ian Kinsler
SS-            Elvis Andrus
DH-           Lance Berkman
3B-            Adrian Beltre
RF-            Nelson Cruz
C-              A.J. Pierzynski
1B-            Mitch Moreland
LF-            David Murphy
CF-            Craig Gentry

Starting Rotation-            Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando                                        

Bullpen-                        Joe Nathan (closer), Joakim Soria, Michael Kirkman, Jason Frasor, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Wilmer Font

The Texas Rangers had a roller coaster season last year.  They spent the whole offseason listening to all the baseball commentators pick them to finish second behind the big spending Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Then, they spend pretty much the first ¾ of the season in first place, with a lot room to spare.  Then they fell apart at the end of the year only to see the Oakland Athletics, not the Angels, a team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, vault past them and win the division.  They were bounced by the Orioles in the one game playoff and ended their streak of 2 straight AL Pennants.  This offseason, they were outclassed by a lot of people and seemed to be lost.  They were negotiating with Josh Hamilton, but put him on a back burner while they pursued other players.  They missed out on Zach Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, before Hamilton spurned them for division rival Los Angeles.  This not only hurts the Rangers by subtraction, it hurts them even more due to the huge addition it brings to their most serious competition.  Nolan Ryan and the Rangers organization had an ugly falling out with Hamilton at the end of last year, with the bad blood escalating to a point where the crowd at a home game booed him.  But he’s tremendously talented and was a vital part of that team.  To see him leave crippled the team, especially while they failed to bring in any other quality players before and after his defection.  They are in a tricky position with a lot of talented young players, but some don’t have a position (Mike Olt) and others are blocked and perhaps not ready for the big leagues (Jurickson Profar).  And you don’t want to pin your hopes on rookies.  As the Rangers sat pat, confused and unsure of what to do, other solid players (Adam LaRoche) signed with other teams and trade options (Michael Morse, Justin Upton) fell through.  The loss of Hamilton stunned this team, and they never recovered.  Add to that the fact that they lost Mike Napoli to free agency and traded Michael Young, and Texas is quickly falling behind their AL West counterparts.  They brought in Lance Berkman to DH on a 2-year deal.  They also signed A.J. Pierzynski to be their starting catcher.  But neither can come close to filling the void left by Josh, even combined.  The Rangers made some mistakes this offseason, watching the baseball world whiz past them.  They will struggle catch up.

The roster and batting order I put up are the way things are looking right now.  Things could change.  There are rumors of Ian Kinsler moving to first base to make space for Jurickson Profar, but while he was agreeable to that idea at first, he’s backed off that stance lately.  Kinsler is now one of the main engines for this team.  He’s a perennial 30/30 candidate with 300 potential.  However he can never seem to put all that together at one time.  He generally either pops off 30 HR and hits 260 or hits 290 with 15 HR.  But they just need him to be a star.  Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre will have to be the meat in this order backing up the top of the lineup which manager Ron Washington has said will feature Lance Berkman hitting third. I like Kinsler third personally, or perhaps Beltre with Kinsler hitting 5th, but as it stands right now, I bet this is the lineup.  It will be formidable, but missing serious pop without their star outfielder, who will be residing in LA.  Hamilton led the team in HR (43) and RBI (128).  Add in the departed Mike Napoli’s 24 HR, and that’s a lot of wallop that the Rangers have to make up. Hamilton, Napoli and Michael Young combined for 75 HR.  Berkman and Pierzynski will be hard pressed to replace that.  They’ll need help from Beltre again, as well as with Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, who finally stayed healthy for a full season.  His numbers were solid (260, 24 HR, 90 RBI, 86 R), but they’ll need him to be a star to make up for Hamilton.  Ian Kinsler was the team leader with 105 R and tied for first in SB with Elvis Andrus (21).  Adrian Beltre was a stud last year and was second with 36 HR and 102 RBI to go with the team leading AVG.  After him the drop off was steep. Kinsler had 19 HR and 72 RBI, but only a 256 AVG.  If he commits to power he’ll help make up for Hamilton, but he shouldn’t leadoff.  Andrus can leadoff, but Kinsler has more experience in that area.  We’ll see what the Rangers decide to do.  But the 75 lost HR are a lot, and the Rangers will really have to come up with a plan to make it up if they want to compete in the talented AL West.

The Rangers’ pitching has finally started to catch up with the offense.  They showed some talent in both seasons that they made the World Series.  And though they lost C.J. Wilson to the Angels before last season, they replaced him with a talented Japanese import in Yu Darvish and a surprise growth candidate in young lefty Matt Harrison.  Harrison ended up leading the team with 18 Wins and a 3.29 ERA.  However a regression to the mean is a very real possibility for this guy whose BAA (256) and WHIP (1.26) were very pedestrian.  Perhaps he figured something out, perhaps not.  But for a guy who only struck out 133 players in a team high 213.1 IP, he better be on top of his location as he’s not overpowering many hitters.  After Harrison, Yu Darvish was the star going 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in his rookie year.  He led the team with 221 Ks in 190 IP.  His BAA (220) was much more sustainable, though his 1.28 WHIP was a little high.  I think he is probably the true ace of this staff.  After these two it dropped off a bit.  Derek Holland was solid, if unspectacular going 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA.  Colby Lewis was 6-6 with a 3.4 ERA, but only started 16 games.  Ryan Dempster and Roy Oswalt were bad and Neftali Perez was hurt.  Alexi Ogando was solid, but mainly in relief.  And rookie Martin Perez looked overmatched.  The Rangers will have to put together a rotation around the guys they have left, with the options less appealing the further down we go in the stats.  The rotation will start the season with Harrison, Darvish, Holland, Ogando and Perez most likely.  When Colby Lewis returns from injury around the All Star break, the question will be Perez or Ogando.  If Perez pitches well enough, Ogando will go back to the bullpen where he is dominant.  Otherwise Ogando will start (which is what he wants to do) and Perez will return to the minors.  Joe Nathan had a career renaissance saving 37 games for this club with a 2.80 ERA.  He struck out 78 in 64 IP and had a nice 231 BAA and 1.06 WHIP.  Their main setup men are gone in front of him (Koji Uehara and Mike Adams) and the next best reliever may be starting (Ogando).  So the middle relief is looking shaky and unproven.  Scheppers was okay last year and Soria will be a star set up man.  Add in Frasor and there is some depth, but the Rangers will again be worried about the middle relief in their bullpen.

2013 Outlook

Championships aren’t won in January for baseball.  But if there was some sort of ranking system to judge a team’s offseason activity, Texas would be near the bottom.  They are a great franchise with a ton of young, homegrown talent and the type of impact players that it takes to win consistently on the major league level.  However their division has caught up to them.  Oakland snatched the division from them last year, and the Angels had more talent.  The Angles continue to get more talented by poaching Texas free agents (C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton), which pretty much makes it twice as bad for the Rangers.  They have some stars on the team still (Kinsler, Beltre, Andrus, Cruz) and a solid core of starters.  If the middle relief doesn’t kill them, the back of the bullpen looks okay.  And they have nice role players to fill in the rest of the spots.  It’s not that the Rangers will be bad, they just won’t be as good as last year.  And with the Angels and Mariners improving, and the A’s finish ahead of them last year that may be enough to bury this Texas team come playoff time.  I predict a second place finish, and for this team, that’s a huge disappointment.

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