Season Preview: Texas Rangers
Projected MLB Rank: 20th — AL Rank: 8th — AL West Rank: 3rd — Record: (77-85)
It’s hard to argue with the most runs per game (5.56) and the highest team average (.283) in the league as not the best lineup. So I won’t, because I do believe that this is the best lineup in the league.
Secondbaseman Ian Kinsler is a star in the league and he got things started for this lineup last year. He was sidelined last year for the end of the season and still drove home 71 runs from the leadoff spot. He has the rare combo of power and speed and should bat leadoff again for Texas if rookie phenom Elvis Andrus doesn’t. Andrus hasn’t yet played a game in the majors, but will start the season as the the shortstop for this club. He may not have the average for the leadoff spot, but he definately has the speed. He should have 30 or more steals by season’s end.
Andrus’ welcome to majors included moving regular shortstop, Michael Young, to third base. Last year, Young drove home 82 while posting a .339 OBP. Expect big numbers from Josh Hamilton again. He dropped off after the all star break last year but I expect him to do the same thing he did last year (.304/32/130). Firstbaseman Chris Davis should have a huge year after he hit 17 homeruns and drove in 55 runs in only half a season last year. The big lefty also slugged .549.
I would also expect Nelson Cruz to continue hitting well after he hit .330 last season in a short-term with the club. The other corner outfielder, David Murphy should also continue to produce no matter where he is put in the order. Also, keep an eye on the competition at catcher between youngsters Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden. I expect a platoon between the two going into the season.
If only they could get some pitching help. Kevin Millwood is their ace. Uh oh. He went 9-10 last year with a 5.07 ERA and isn’t exactly getting younger. Same case with the number two starter Vicente Padilla, 14-8 with a 4.74 ERA. Lefty Matt Harrison is a quality starter, but first we need to see how he does for a full season. The injury-happy Brandon McCarthy still has yet to prove himself. Then there’s righty Jason Jennings. I’ll leave it at that.
The bullpen, anchored by closer Frank Francisco, is subpar. CJ Wilson’s ERA last season was over 6.00. Eddie Guardado is 38 years old. Then, there’s Derrick Turnbow, shall I go on?
I am a firm believer in pitching, pitching, pitching. The best offense in the league last year could only muster up 79 wins. So until the pitching decides to show up, expect more of the same from the Rangers.