30 Clubs in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

Posted: March 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageIn 2010-11, the Texas Rangers were the class of the American League. Back-to-back league pennants, however, culminated in heartbreaking defeats in the World Series to San Francisco and St. Louis. Last year, the Rangers took a modest step back, blowing a five game lead with a week to play before choking the division away to Oakland in the season’s final regular season game. Two days later, the Rangers’ once promising season came to a dismal end, falling to Baltimore in the AL Wildcard playoff, 5-1.

It is not as if Texas pulled a Mets style collapse in September. The Rangers, led by former MVP Josh Hamilton (.285-43-128), went 15-13 in the season’s final month. Their only losing season all year was in July, where the team labored through the hot summer month in Texas with a 9-14 record. Oakland was just more determined than Texas, the team that has played the most games in baseball over the past three years.

Midseason moves to acquire RHP Ryan Dempster (7-3, 5.09) and RHP Roy Oswalt (4-3, 5.80) did not pay off, as the veterans without American League experience struggled to get acclimated to their new stomping grounds. The offense contained 7 regulars over the age of 30. Somewhat amazingly, they managed to stay healthy, with only Mike Napoli (.227-24-56) among that list not playing 147+ games.

The Rangers were heavily involved in most rumors this offseason. The losses of Hamilton, Dempster, Oswalt, Napoli, Michael Young (.277-8-67), and RHP Scott Feldman (6-11, 5.09) left the team looking for answers. Did GM Jon Daniels make the right moves to keep Texas ticking towards their first championship? Or, will a combination of age, free agent losses, and young prospects stepping into bigger roles leave the Rangers at the altar in a tough AL West?

Five Year Review:
2012: 93-69
Lost WC playoff to Orioles, 5-1
2011: 96-66
Lost World Series to Cardinals, 4-3
2010: 90-72
Lost World Series to Giants, 4-1
2009: 87-75
2008: 79-83

2012 Team MVP: 3B Adrian Beltre: Josh Hamilton and Beltre were the catalysts for everything the Rangers did offensively in 2012. Sure, their lineup was as well-rounded as any in baseball. But, no player on the team provided run production quite like Beltre. The 2004 MVP runner-up whilst a Dodger, Beltre continued his resurgence in Arlington. A .321-36-102 line earned the 33-year old his third consecutive All-Star appearance. Meanwhile, the suddenly reliable Beltre won his fourth Gold Glove Award, committing just 8 errors in 156 games.

2012 Team LVP: RHP’s Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster: When everyone still believed that Texas was the frontrunner in the American League, Jon Daniels gambled to boost a pitching staff that was short on experience and depth. By trading two prospects to Chicago for Dempster and signing the aging former ace Oswalt, the Rangers thought they were acquiring the two best available right-handers at the time. In 29 G (21 GS), the two combined to go 11-6. Not bad, right? Well, the peripherals suggest otherwise. Dempster and Oswalt benefited from a bodacious offense. But, their combined numbers, 11-6, 5.41, 128 IP, 153 H, 21 HR, were dismal for two pitchers making a combined $12 million for their half-seasons with the team.

Key Acquisitions:

C AJ Pierzynski (Chicago White Sox)
1B Lance Berkman (St. Louis Cardinals)
RHP Kyle McClellan (St. Louis Cardinals)
RHP Josh Lindblom (Philadelphia Phillies)
RHP Joakim Soria (Kansas City Royals)
RHP Jason Frasor (Toronto Blue Jays)

Key Departures:

C/DH Mike Napoli (Boston Red Sox)
3B Michael Young (Philadelphia Phillies)
OF Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
RHP Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs)
RHP Roy Oswalt (unsigned)
RHP Mike Adams (Philadelphia Phillies)
RHP Mark Lowe (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RHP Koji Uehara (Boston Red Sox)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

2B Ian Kinsler – .266-20-65-20 SB
SS Elvis Andrus – .282-4-56-26 SB
DH Lance Berkman – .276-19-66
3B Adrian Beltre – .295-27-91
RF Nelson Cruz – .267-25-80-10 SB
LF David Murphy – .278-13-59-10 SB
C AJ Pierzynski – .282-13-54
1B Mitch Moreland – .268-13-45
CF Leonys Martin – .277-7-32-10 SB

RHP Yu Darvish – 14-8, 3.54
LHP Derek Holland – 12-10, 4.38
LHP Matt Harrison – 13-10, 4.10
RHP Alexi Ogando – 11-7, 3.73
LHP Martin Perez – 6-8, 5.50
RHP Joe Nathan – 3-3, 3.25, 37 SV
RHP Joakim Soria – 2-2, 3.55, 4 SV

2013 Outlook:

Free agent losses have the Rangers looking a bit different in 2013. Young prospects like Leonys Martin, Martin Perez, and Robbie Ross will likely be called upon to play integral roles in the new look Texas ballclub. Other kids, including SS Jurickson Profar, 3B Mike Olt, RHP Tanner Scheppers, and RHP Justin Grimm, will also see their workload increase as the year goes on. What does this mean for Texas? Losing Hamilton’s 40+ HR and 120+ RBI will undoubtedly hurt. I seriously doubt that Berkman will be able to adequately supplement the offense in the 2010 AL MVP’s absence. Without him, there is added pressure placed on Kinsler and Beltre to produce.

The pitching staff, while strong, has holes that were not addressed. Is Yu Darvish a bona fide ace this early in his career? What about Martin Perez and the other cast of youngsters that Texas is planning on filling the #5 spot with? The 21-year old Perez just went down with an injury in spring training, and it has awoken the hibernating rumors of free agent RHP Kyle Lohse to Texas. Whether or not they are willing to pony up the money for the Scott Boras client remains to be seen. Texas lost some solid arms from their bullpen and replaced them with some question marks. Soria is coming off Tommy John Surgery, and has not pitched since 2011. Lindblom, meanwhile, showed that he was a longball machine in Philadelphia, which should only get worse in the AL and the heat of Texas in July.

The Rangers have had a big role in the AL West for half a decade. But, with great success, comes the inevitable reversion back to reality. High-priced free agents have come and gone and left Texas in a state of influx heading into 2013. The youngsters should be ready to bring this team back to the playoffs soon. Can it really be this year? I have Texas winning between 85-91 games and competing for the Wild Card. If their current makeup struggles, I have full faith that Daniels will use the prowess and prospects that he has developed to make a key move at the deadline.

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