Texas Rangers Preview
With the fifth and final team in the American League West, and the final team in the American League as a whole, I will be previewing the Texas Rangers. Last year, the were the AL West champs due in part to some key acquisitions down the stretch, but after losing to Cleveland in the ALDS and with the additions division rival Houston has made, I have them on fighting for the second wild card spot. This roster could get a boost soon, as the Rangers have been linked to 1B/DH Mike Napoli for the past two weeks, and they are now linked to All-Star starting pitcher Jose Quintana. But, at the moment, the Rangers are the second best in the west.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross
This is a rotation with numerous bounce back candidates looking to help solidify the rotation with All-Stars Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Hamels was a candidate for the Cy Young Award, and Yu Darvish was above average in his return from an extensive DL stint. Martin Perez started every game, and usually that means you are doing your job well enough. The pitchers in need of a rebound are Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, both former San Diego Padres, and the latter spent most of the season on the DL. Keep an eye on AJ Griffin, Mike Hauschild and non-roster invitee Dillon Gee to try to round out the rotation.
BULLPEN: Sam Dyson, Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Bush, Tony Barnette, Alex Claudio, Keone Kela, Andrew Faulkner, Tanner Scheppers
Sam Dyson is another closer who has virtually come out of nowhere to have a very good season, and he is the front runner for the closer's job again. Jeremy Jeffress, a former closer for the Brewers who came over with C Jonathan Lucroy, is another who has a chance (although he was arrested for a DUI and that hurt the end of his season). Matt Bush is one of the best comeback stories in baseball history, and Tony Barnette and Alex Claudio joined him in being better than expected last season. Keone Kela, Andrew Faulkner and Tanner Scheppers are all dealing with struggles from the past season, but they all have the potential to make the roster. Should the Rangers add Mike Napoli, one of those three likely won't make the team. There is also Dario Alvarez, Nick Martinez, top prospect Yohander Mendez and non-roster invitee RJ Alvarez competing for bullpen spots.
CATCHERS: Jonathan Lucroy, Robinson Chirinos
Jonathan Lucroy is in the final season of his incredibly team-friendly contract, and the Rangers are fortunate to have him behind the plate and in the middle of their lineup. Robinson Chirinos struggles getting on base and with pitchers, but over the past few seasons he was good enough to keep the starting job and keep the Rangers in contention. With Lucroy in the fold, Chirinos will be looking to hold off Brett Nicholas for a roster spot, as overall catching depth is a weakness for the Rangers at the big league level and in the farm system.
INFIELDERS: Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar
This infield looks solid, yet it could also be in for some major adjustments in the near future. Adrian Beltre is not getting any younger, and likely only has these last two seasons to play. The middle of the infield is talented, with Andrus and Odor looking to lockdown those positions for the next several years. As far as first base goes, however, that is where Mike Napoli comes in. Should he not, Ryan Rua and former top prospects Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar will compete for the first base job, and likely DH as well. Number four prospect Ronald Guzman is also around, as well as non-roster invitees James Loney and Will Middlebrooks. Hanser Alberto will also compete for an infield job as well, although he would serve more as a backup at the other three positions.
OUTFIELDERS: Carlos Gomez, Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields
Outfield depth at the big league level looks pretty weak, but in the 33 games Carlos Gomez played in Texas he appeared to be what he was when in Milwaukee. Nomar Mazara started off strong, then kind of curtailed off once teams started to figure him out, and Choo spent a good portion of the season on the disabled list again. Delino DeShields had a strong 2015, but his 2016 saw him go between the big leagues and Triple-A a few times, but due to the lack of depth he is clearly in the driver's seat for a roster spot. The only other outfielder on the 40 man roster is Drew Robinson, but non-roster invitees Josh Hamilton and Jared Hoying seem to be more worthy competition.
LINEUP: Gomez (CF), Choo (RF), Lucroy (C), Beltre (3B), Odor (2B), Mazara (LF), Gallo (DH), Rua (1B), Andrus (SS)
With Mike Napoli in the lineup with either Gallo or Rua, this lineup looks a lot better. Assuming Gomez continues to play like he did at the end of the season, Choo plays like he used to, and Mazara regroups and hits consistently all season, this lineup will be dangerous once again. If Joey Gallo or Ryan Rua gets going too at the big league level, watch out. The pitching staff is okay, and it is definitely a top heavy staff. Texas went all in last season and failed, and now they need to regroup if they want to compete again for a World Series title. I like them to battle Baltimore for the final postseason spot, and I believe 86 wins is a good number for this group as it stands on February 1st.