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2017 Texas Rangers Preview

Last season Rangers 2B Rougned Odor smacked 33 HRs and looks to be a force in the line up this season. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

Last season Rangers 2B Rougned Odor smacked 33 HRs and looks to be a force in the line up this season. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

Watch YOUR Texas Rangers at Big Shucks!

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By Wiley Singleton

Baseball season is just around the corner and the Texas Rangers look to defend their division title. The AL West is stronger than it was last year. The Astros picked up Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann over the offseason to help fill out their lineup. The Astros also have young developing stars, like Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The Astros look to be the Rangers biggest threat this season by far. The Astros managed to finish 2nd in the division last year, despite being dominated 15-4 in the Lone Star Series.

Starting Pitching
The Rangers biggest weakness is their starting pitching. The Rangers were crushed in the postseason last year by the Blue Jays, largely due to awful starting pitching. Darvish and Hamels lead the Rangers rotation and are both very good pitchers. In the postseason last year they were both ineffective at home against a strong Toronto offense. The extremely poor performance from both aces is concerning for the Rangers; particularly when considering how weak the back end of the rotation is.

Martin Perez pitched close to 200 innings last year. He was exceptional at home, but struggled on the road. He also struggled with walks throughout the entire year. Many are forgetting about Perez, or simply writing him off. This is largely due to the fact he was set to start game 3 of the ALDS in Toronto, but after disastrous pitching in games 1 and 2 Colby Lewis was given his start. Lewis had the playoff experience, and Perez struggled on the road all year. Perez could be a solid regular season starter to eat up innings.

AJ Griffin started 23 games for the Rangers last year. He features a loopy curveball and fastball that rarely clocks in over 90 MPH. Griffin’s weakness is the high amount of home runs he gives up. Griffin has already had arm trouble in Spring Training. Griffin will probably start for the Rangers this season. Griffin can be a useful regular season asset, but his habit of giving up home runs makes him a liability against offenses like Boston, Toronto, and Houston.

Former Padre Andrew Cashner has been brought in to help fill out the rotation. He posted solid numbers in 2013 and 2014, but his ERA has ballooned since then. Casher is a power pitcher with a hard fastball and a slider Manager Jeff Banister called “electric.” Cashner is currently hurt, and slated to be healthy around April 15th.

Starting pitching is the Rangers weakness not just because of the 3-5 spots in the rotation, but because of issues with Hamels and Darvish. Darvish is notoriously injury prone, and if he goes down the Rangers will be in dire straights. Although losing an excellent starting pitcher is always difficult, it would affect the Rangers particularly harshly due to lack of depth. Hamels had issues with control throughout the entirety of last year. Hamels ended last season top 10 in walks given up, along with Martin Perez. Hamels would seemingly lose the ability to throw strikes mid inning, a trait very rare for aces.

The Rangers have a plethora of questions in their starting rotation. They are also very vulnerable to injury with a staff that includes injury prone pitchers. If the Rangers are undone in 2017, it will be due to starting pitching.

Relief Pitching
The Rangers bullpen is very strong and features a handful of potent late inning relievers.

Matt Bush used to be an infielder but converted to pitcher. He spent last year proving he could pitch in the MLB. Bush is flamethrowing right hander that overpowers batters with brute force. Bush is powerful and consistent, boasting a 2.48 ERA in 2016. He usually comes in near the end of games, and could be a solid replacement for Dyson if he underperforms or gets hurt.

Sam Dyson is the Rangers closer. He features a hard fastball and sinker.  He was 3rd in the AL in saves last year with 38. Dyson won the closer job in May of last year. Dyson was instrumental in helping the Rangers secure their 36 one run victories.

Tony Barnette was incredible last year. He pitched over 60 innings with a 2.09 ERA. Barnette and Bush were the rock solid relievers that protected the lead until Sam Dyson took over in the 9th. Barnette, Dyson, and Bush were the backend combination that helped the Rangers win so many one run games last year.

Alex Claudio was the Rangers best left-handed reliever in 2016. He boasted a 2.79 ERA and was extremely versatile. While Dyson, Bush,and Barnette had more defined late inning roles, Claudio was forced to come into a wider variety of situations. He would sometimes be called upon to be neutralize powerful lefties as a specialist. He would sometimes be used to mop up games that looked lost. Claudio was adaptive and a large part of the Rangers 2016 success.

The Rangers also have Keone Kela and Jeremy Jeffress, two more very good bullpen arms. Jake Diekman and Tanner Scheppers are both dealing with injury but could be a factor later in the season. The Rangers bullpen is a strength, and should not have trouble finishing games if the starting pitching can put them in a position to win.

Outfield
The Rangers boast a solid, young outfield. They lost Ian Desmond over the offseason, who began last year very hot but cooled off and is a already hurt this season. They also lost Beltran, who went to play in Houston.

Shin Soo Choo has been moved from right field to DH. This is a great move, as Choo is getting old and was injured throughout most of last season. Choo is an extremely patient lefie, which is the perfect counterbalance to the free-swinging Rougie Odor. If Choo can stay healthy he will be a huge asset at the top of the order.

Replacing Choo is right field is 21 year old Nomar Mazara. Mazara had an excellent rookie season last year, racking up 20 home runs. Mazara will look to improve his defense as he starts to gain more experience in the field.

Carlos Gomez was acquired mid-season last year and hit his stride. Gomez was a brilliant mixture of fast, powerful, and energetic. He cut down on his strikeouts. He played great defense. Gomez found his home in Texas, and looks to wreak havoc at the top of the lineup.

Jurickson Profar will probably start in the outfield, and split a bit of time with Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua. Profar looks to stay healthy and get his average above .240. Profar is developing, and will probably ride the bench vs leftie starters in favor of Ryan Rua, who hits lefties significantly better than righties.

Infield
The Rangers infield is very strong. It is led by third baseman and defensive paragon Adrian Beltre.

Mike Napoli was brought back this offseason from the Cleveland Indians do to what no Ranger since Mark Teixeira has been able to do: consistently hit for power from first base. Napoli might lack Teixeria’s gold glove defense, but he has the power the Rangers are looking for in a first baseman.

Rougie Odor is the Rangers young, free-swinging second baseman. Odor hits for power and runs the bases aggressively. He is energetic and lively, displaying his youthful energy with each swing he takes. Odor recently signed a massive six year contract extension, officially becoming Ian Kinsler’s replacement as franchise 2nd baseman. Odor walks infrequently and his fielding is a bit sloppy. The Rangers right side of the infield is weak defensively. Both Odor and Napoli led the MLB in errors for their position last year.

Elvis Andrus had a career year last year. He hit for more power than normal, and for higher average. Most importantly, he was excellent with runners in scoring position. Andrus batted .378 with runners in scoring position. This was another critical factor in the Rangers winning close games. Andrus ended the 2015 season with an awful game vs Toronto that included 3 errors in one inning. 2016 was an entire year of redemption for Elvis. He looks to continue building on that success this year.

Adrian Beltre is often considered the leader of the Rangers due to his age, ability, and experience. He is a defensive powerhouse at 3rd base. He hits consistently for power. He is a clubhouse leader. Beltre is a critical veteran presence the Rangers need. Beltre was also extremely good with runners in scoring position last year, hitting .331. The left side of the Rangers infield is very strong, and both players are clutch hitters.

Jonathan Lucroy rounds out the Rangers infield as one of the best catchers in the league. Lucroy is great on defense, often ranking at the top of the league in throwing out runners trying to steal. Lucroy is also one of the best offensive catchers in the league. Lucroy was acquired in a trade last year from Milwaukee, along with Jeremy Jeffress. The Rangers could not hope for anything more than Lucroy, who has meshed very well with the Rangers starters also.

Off The Bench
The Rangers have some solid weapons to use off the bench. Outfielder Ryan Rua is a good option against left-handed pitchers. Outfielder Delino DeShields is incredibly fast and a great pinch runner. DeShields and Rua could both share starts with Profar. Catcher Robinson Chirinos will back up Lucroy, but does not have anywhere close to the offensive production Lucroy has. Corner infielder Joey Gallo has displayed bursts of power, but not enough consistency to be a threat at the big league level.

Front Office
The Texas Rangers Front Office made a huge move extending the contract of young Odor this offseason. The team is in a position to compete, but also has developing young stars that are capable of hanging at an MLB level, like Mazara. The Rangers Front Office is probably going to be faced with a big decision at this trade deadline involving starting pitching. As it stands the Rangers need one more solid arm. Ideally this would be a true ace like who could be just as much of a postseason threat as Darvish and Hamels. Such players are hard to come  by the Rangers proved they were willing to go after ace pitchers at the deadline when they acquired Cliff Lee in 2010.

Such a pitcher would mean Texas would have a truly elite playoff roster, and would greatly increase the chances of getting to the combination of Bush, Barnette, and Dyson. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the possibility of a Chris Sale trade is how he would impact a 3rd consecutive rematch with Toronto. A potential 3rd rematch against Toronto with the starting rotation of  Hamels/Darvish/? is one the Rangers should try to avoid at all costs.

Projection
The Rangers are set to have a solid year. Many people predicting the Astros to win the AL West are forgetting the Astros starting pitching is arguably worse than the Rangers. The Astros gained enough offensive talent to earned them a wild card spot with 90 wins. The Astros lack of exceptional late inning relievers will cost them some valuable games. The Rangers should win 92 games, and the division.

Baseball season is just around the corner and the Texas Rangers look to defend their division title. The AL West is stronger than it was last year. The Astros picked up Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann over the offseason to help fill out their lineup. The Astros also have young developing stars, like Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The Astros look to be the Rangers biggest threat this season by far. The Astros managed to finish 2nd in the division last year, despite being dominated 15-4 in the Lone Star Series.

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
4/3   vs Indians     6:00 p.m.
4/4   vs Indians     7:05 p.m.
4/5   vs Indians     7:05 p.m.
4/7   vs A’s             7:05 p.m.
4/8   vs A’s             7:05 p.m.
4/9   vs A’s             2:05 p.m.

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