Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 MLB Preview #5: Texas Rangers

Greetings! This one's for you, Nicholas...

Projected Starters - AJ Pierzynski (C), Mitch Moreland (1B), Ian Kinsler (2B), Elvis Andrus (SS), Adrian Beltre (3B), David Murphy/Craig Gentry (LF), Leonys Martin/Craig Gentry (CF), Nelson Cruz (RF), Lance Berkman (DH)

Even without Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, the Texas offense is very, very good. They have legitimate stars at 2nd base and 3rd base with Kinsler and Beltre, above-average players at catcher, shortstop, and right field, and some quality outfield options, as well as Berkman and Moreland. For my money, Adrian Beltre has been the best 3B in the majors over the past three seasons, posting a WAR between 5.5 and 7.0 each year with great defense, high batting average, and 30-35 homer power. Kinsler had a "down" season in 2012, but that sort of year still ended up with 19 homers and 21 steals from the offense-deprived 2nd-base position, and he's very capable of the 7.5-WAR season he posted in 2011 (32 homers, 30 steals, .832 OPS). Andrus, the former Braves' prospect, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, and while he has no power (at all), he's got a career .342 OBP with 30-40 steals in the bank. Nelson Cruz is one of the bigger question marks for the 2013 season for Texas, and while he is a near-lock for 20-30 homers from right field, his defense has suffered in a big way the last couple of years, and his .319 OBP last year isn't stellar. I think he's league-average at worst, but they could really use the 30-homer power from him. Berkman was a sneaky pick-up that I really liked, and he's the full-time DH as long as he's healthy. Berkman hit 30+ homers in 2011, but simply can't play the field effectively anymore (maybe some 1B if needed, but blah) and he's cast well here. Pierzynski was brought in behind the plate coming off of his best season ever (at 36 years old!) when he hit 27 homers for the White Sox in 520 AB's. That type of production would be an ultra-luxury, but he's really durable (500 PA's for 7 straight years) and provides a quality option. Murphy, Gentry, and Martin will combine to fill the other two outfield spots, and Murphy is a favorite of mine. He's got a career OPS of over .900 against righties, and if they platoon him well, good luck to the opposition. One wild card to note is the presence of uber-prospect Jurickson Profar. Profar is the best position player prospect in all of baseball, but he's a shortstop blocked by Andrus (and Kinsler at 2nd), and it'll be interesting to see if they can get him any at-bats.

Projected - Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch/Robbie Ross/Colby Lewis (injured)

I'm all-in on Yu Darvish. All. In. He hit the ground running in his "rookie" season last year, striking out over 200 hitters in 191 innings (10.4 K/9 as a starter!) and posting a FIP of 3.29. He had some big-time control issues, but in the second-half of the season, he lowered his BB/9 rate to 3.65, and all indications in the Spring are showing improved control. I think he's a top-10 pitcher in all of baseball, and he's poised to challenge for the MLB lead in K's while throwing 200+ quality innings. Matt Harrison led the team in ERA last season with a 3.29 ERA, and while that's probably a bit lucky (4.09 FIP), he's a really, really consistent option. He doesn't possess any strikeout potential (5.69 K/9 in 2012), but he strands runners and doesn't walk anyone. I like him. Holland has made a name for himself as a clown, doing impressions (that are hilarious) and generally acting crazy, but he's also a good pitcher. His numbers took a step back in innings (down to 175) and ERA (4.67 up from 3.95 in 2011), but most projection systems have him throwing around 190 innings with an ERA around 4.00 and that's valuable in the AL. Ogando is where the rotation really swings. He came out of the bullpen full-time in 2012 and had a great season, finishing with a 3.27 ERA and a K/9 of exactly 9.00, but in 2011, he threw 169 innings (29 starts) and faired very well. It's unknown how many innings he can pitch, but if his stuff can play in a long-inning role, he's a real asset. The 5th spot is wide open after the broken forearm of Martin Perez, and it looks to be a competition between Ross and Tepesch until Colby Lewis returns. I'm on the Ross bandwagon after he was awesome last season (2.22 ERA), and he has the inside track.

Projected - Joe Nathan (closer), Neftali Feliz* (injured), Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor, Tanner Scheppers, Josh Lindblom, Michael Kirkman, Wilmer Font, Cory Burns

No one seems to be high on Joe Nathan, but I don't understand why other than his age (38). He has 35+ saves in 7 of the last 8 seasons, and since his return from injury, he's been lights-out again with a K/9 of 10.91 last season and a 2.80 ERA. I think he's ultra-safe and an elite closer. Behind him, Texas brought in Joakim Soria (the former KC closer) as a set-up option, but he's going to be out for a while after rehabbing a TJ surgery. Frasor has closer experience in Toronto, but he's nothing more than average, and the rest of the guys are question marks. Keep an eye on Neftali Feliz as well, as the former top prospect and elite closer should return from injury some time during the year, and most leanings are toward him ending up in the 'pen, at least in the short term.


I'm always a sucker for Texas, but that offense impresses me. The loss of Hamilton will be felt, but with the platoons they can put together coupled with me being high on both Moreland and Berkman, I still feel that they'll score enough runs to compete in a big way. The rotation needs to be league-average, and I believe that they will be with the help of a breakout year from Darvish. I think 90+ wins isn't a stretch at all, and they'll be on LA's heels all season.


92-70, 2nd in AL West

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