A good friend of DQ and myself, Dan Hagelberg, was kind enough to write up a Texas Rangers preview article. As much as Astros fans may not like to admit, the Rangers are becoming a team to be reckoned with. Considering the strength of their farm system, and the direction the club is headed in with Nolan Ryan at the healm, north Texas baseball fans have a lot to be excited about. Thanks to Dan for writing this for us. Also, welcome to any readers from the Ranger's SBN blog, Lone Star Ball.
Chances are you’ve heard about the Texas Rangers and the collection of talent that comprises what most call the best farm system in all of baseball. The depth acquired from trades, the amateur draft, and
Infield:Much of the talk this offseason was about the drama that erupted when Michael Young, fresh off of winning a gold glove at shortstop, was asked to move to 3rd base to make room for 20 year old Venezuelan prospect, Elvis Andrus. Initially, Young demanded to be traded but considering his declining offensive value and albatross of a contract (he’s due $15-16 million per year for the next five), this was next to impossible. Eventually, he acquiesced to the move and returned to being the consummate professional he is known for. The primary reason for this move was to improve the defense on the left side of the infield. Andrus is a gifted fielder with exceptional range and Young will be a dramatic improvement from the trio of Hank Blalock, Ramon Vasquez, and Chris Davis. John Dewan, the author of the fielding bible, is on record saying these two moves alone could save well over 40 runs during the course of the year. Despite the defensive improvement, Andrus has to prove he can be at least an average offensive player (a tall order for a guy making the jump from double-A) or his defensive prowess will be for naught. Ian Kinsler was turning in his finest season when he succumbed to another freak injury, this time a sports hernia that shut him down for the year in mid-August. He is in camp, healthy again and hoping to play over 130 games a year for the first time in his career. He could put up a monster season if he could stay healthy. After only two years in the minors, Chris Davis was called up mid-season and turned in an impressive performance as a rookie, hitting 17 home runs in only 295 at bats. He is improving defensively and has been named the first baseman for the immediate future. The sky’s the limit for this for this young power hitter. Behind the plate, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden comprise 2/3rds of the best young catching talent in the game. There were rumors that Saltalamacchia would be shipped to
Outfield:The outfield is a little crowded right now with six players vying for five spots. We have all heard about the incomparable Josh Hamilton by now and he will continue to anchor the offense and man centerfield for the Rangers. He has rebuilt his swing in an effort to be more consistent and to avoid the late season slump he endured in August and September last year. If he can accomplish this, he will be an MVP candidate by the end of the season. In right field, Nelson Cruz, a perennial quad-A player, seemed to finally turn the corner last year, hitting nearly .340 with 44 home runs between the minor and major leagues. He is a good defender and one of the few right handed power bats the Rangers have. He will be the undisputed starter for the first time in his career and how he performs with 600 or so at-bats will be crucial to the Rangers’(and High Leverage’s fantasy team) success. Left field is a little muddled. David Murphy has been declared the starter but his struggles against left handed pitching cries out for a platoon with Marlon Byrd. He had a solid year going until a collision with Pudge Rodriguez at the plate ended his season with an MCL sprain. He will get his opportunity to prove himself but will be the outfielder most likely spelled throughout the year.. Marlon Byrd has resurrected his career here in
The Rangers had the worst pitching staff in the majors last year. It was comically bad at times (see a 19-17 loss to the Red Sox) but the starters were also wrought with injuries.
This year features many of the same faces but super prospects Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz are waiting in the wings and will most certainly be called up before the All-Star break to counteract any injury or inefficiency by the starting five. If the Rangers can remain somewhat healthy and have just average to mediocre pitching, their offense could carry them into the playoffs. Like everything, but especially with the Texas Rangers, it all comes down to pitching.Kevin Millwood will make his fourth opening day start and will be counted on to be the horse of the starting rotation. After two stints on the DL last year, Millwood declared himself to be an "embarrassment" and spent the offseason becoming more fit so that he could stay healthier and be more effective. I’m going to pretend that Millwood’s $12 million dollar option for 2010 that kicks in if he reaches 180 innings pitched has nothing to do with his new found dedication. Regardless, he has proven himself to be an above average starter with