Texas Rangers: 2018 Season Preview

Joey Gallo and the Texas Rangers begin a new season. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend… Men love the baseball diamond… The Rangers are diamonds in our eyes. Start the season right by watching the Texas Rangers at Big Shucks!

By Wiley Singleton

Last season began with many fans of the Texas Rangers having high hopes. The team was coming off of two consecutive AL West titles with much of their core in place. The season turned out to be a crushing disappointment with the team finishing the season with a losing record. There were a plethora of problems with last year’s squad, many of them transferring and persisting into the upcoming 2018 season.

The Bullpen
Last year the Rangers featured a subpar starting rotation and a bad bullpen, both ranking bottom 10 in ERA. Tony Barnette was excellent in 2016, consistently stranding inherited runners. In 2017 Barnette was bad. His ERA went from 2.09 to 5.49 and he will start 2018 on the DL.

Jake Diekman missed most of the season and only joined the Rangers when the season was too late to salvage. Diekman was solid, and is one of the Rangers only lefties in the pen. Diekman only logged 10.2 innings last year but looks to be a big part of the Rangers bullpen this year.

Keone Kela was one of the Rangers best relievers last year. Kela is injury prone however, and his health is a big concern heading into 2018.

Sam Dyson began last season as the Rangers closer. He hamstrung the Rangers with insane ineptitude for the first month of the season before he was traded to San Francisco with a 10.00+ ERA and 7 losses as a closer. Dyson’s inability to be even a shell of his former self set the tone for the Rangers 2017 season of misery.

Jose Leclerc is a hard-throwing rightie with major control issues. If he can get his walks down, he could become a major asset. As it stands, he is just as prone to coming in games and creating nightmare innings with multiple walks as he is getting outs.

Alex Claudio was far and away the Rangers best reliever last year. He was the most consistent and reliable. He was used in a variety of situations, including saves. The sidewinding leftie looks to be one of the Rangers biggest bullpen assets going into 2018.

Matt Bush was slated to be a starter this year, but the experiment was short lived and died in Spring Training. Thankfully it did not take the destruction of the player, like in the cases of Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz, for the Rangers to figure out he was better suited in the bullpen.

The former Giants Ace that defeated the Rangers twice in the 2010 World Series has joined the Rangers. Tim Lincecum has fallen off significantly since 2010. He has a degenerative hip condition. Lincecum will miss the first month of the season with blister issues and is slated to come out of the bullpen too.

Ricardo Rodriguez, Jesse Chavez, and Chris Martin round out the unimpressive bullpen.

Starting Rotation
The Rangers rotation is even worse than it was last year. Ace Yu Darvish is gone, getting brutalized in important playoff games for the Dodgers like it was the 2016 ALDS. Darvish was so bad when it mattered most for the Dodgers in 2017 he became a Cub this offseason.

Cole Hamels is the staff ace for the Rangers, but he is a shell of what he once was. Hamels’ strikeout rate has plummeted and he walks more hitters than he used to. He is not bad, but is certainly not a playoff tier game one starter. Hamels also got hurt last year and is 34 years old.

Things go downhill quickly after Hamels. Last year the Rangers took a couple of flyer picks on starters that were big question marks but had showed ability a few years before. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross were great examples of this strategy and the varying results it could have. Cashner was solid, posting a 3.40 ERA and becoming the Rangers most consistent starter. Cashner was only signed to a one year deal, and walked away from the Rangers after his value was reestablished. Tyson Ross was the other side of the coin. He was absolutely awful for the Rangers last year. He was wildly inconsistent and it looked as though two different humans were taking turns starting in his jersey. The rest of the Rangers rotation are basically guys like Ross or Cashner, risky picks that many other teams were too scared to invest in.

Doug Fister is slated to be the team’s number two starter. In the last three years he has cracked 105 IP once and never achieved and ERA lower than 4.00.

Matt Moore is another pitcher who was good around 2012 but has fallen off significantly since then. The former Ray will be the Rangers 3rd starter.

Mike Minor had a killer year for the Royals as a reliever last year. The reason he was a reliever is because he had a devastating shoulder injury in 2015 that sidelined him for a whole year.

The story on all of these guys is the same. Rangers GM Jon Daniels was looking for pitchers on a budget and took a chance on these guys. They could be Cashners, or they could be Rosses. If Minor fails as a starter he could transition back to the pen, maybe even close.

A very old Bartolo Colon has been throwing for the Rangers in Spring Training. It is not clear what his role will be, but the savvy vet could be a threat.

Martin Perez rounds out the rotation. Perez was injured by his bull while ranching this offseason. Perez has since pitched in spring training and looked sharp. Perez should be able to make his second start of the season. Perez is incredibly average, with his greatest ability being the fact he can eat up innings. Perez pitches far worse on the road. He also pitches far worse at night. This prompted Perez to be started frequently on the Rangers Sunday afternoon home games. Along with Tanner Scheppers, Perez has the distinction of being a Rangers top pitching prospect from 2011 that never panned out despite Dallas Sports Radio hosts dogmatically insisting they were untouchable during the 2010 and 2011 playoffs runs when the Rangers needed one more piece to make it over the hump.

Overall, the Rangers pitching looks pretty bad and it would not be shocking to see both the bullpen and starters finish bottom five in ERA.

The Infield
The Rangers offense looks to be strong this season. They had a ton of pop last season, finishing 3rd in home runs behind the Bronx Bombers and the Champion Houston Astros.

Robinson Chirinos begins this season as the starting catcher. Robinson had some impressive power last year, and is solid on defense. He is backed up by Juan Centeno.

The incredibly powerful Joey Gallo is going to be starting consistently at first base this year. Gallo is known for his jaw-dropping power. Last season Gallo was one of the only players capable of competing in home run length with Aaron Judge and Giancarlos Stanton. Gallo is above average defensively and has developed a keen eye. His batting average is deceptively low. When observing the Rangers, one should ignore Gallo’s batting average completely and focus on OBP and OPS. Gallo should hit 35+ homers and is one of the young bucks the Rangers are building around. He seems to have a great attitude and a thirst for knowledge. Rangers fans should keep an eye on Gallo this year, he could be the first baseman the team has always needed. Gallo is slated to bat in the 2nd spot of the lineup this season.

Rougie Odor had one of the worst 30 homer seasons in MLB history last year. Despite playing every game, Rougie was a black hole in the lineup. In his first year after signing a new contract, Rougie Odor was truly awful. He struck out 162 times, one for every game he played. He batted .204, including a grotesque .168 on the road. His slugging was below .400. His OBP was a laughable .252. Rougie led the league in errors at second base for the third consecutive year. He consistently chased high fastballs out of the zone. He was absolutely horrific, and if he continues at the same pace his contract could be considered one of the worst in MLB history when it is all said and done. Thankfully for Rangers fans, Rougie showed promise in 2016 and there is almost no way he could be as bad as he was last year again. He is backed up by Jurickson Profar, who was so bad last year he was not even on the team most of the year. There were whispers of a Matt Harvey for Profar trade during the offseason, but they fizzled as the Mets wanted too much.

Elvis Andrus has played like a man on a mission ever since his disastrous defensive performance that cost the Rangers the 2015 ALDS and led the the infamous Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista bat flip. Elvis’ sloppy defense gave birth to one of the most crushing moments in Rangers history. Elvis has played some of the best baseball of his life since that moment. He has improved his power and his average and steals have been excellent. Andrus looks to be the cornerstone of the Rangers lineup this season.

There is no World Baseball Classic for Adrian Beltre to try to play in with a nagging injury this year, so he should be present for Opening Day instead of missing over 50 games when the team needed him most like last year. Beltre’s absence was a key factor in the Rangers falling behind early, and never even really posing a threat to the Astros. Beltre is incredible defensively and is also an excellent hitter. He is one of the most fun players to watch on a daily basis.

The Outfield
The outfield will be covered by a combination of Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua, Nomar Mazara, and Shin-Soo Choo. Drew Robinson and Carlos Tocci will back them up.

Mazara is one of the organizations’ rising stars. His defense is a little suspect, but he is very young. His defense will probably improve a bit. He really struggled hitting on the road last year. His road hitting and defense will be the biggest things to watch from “The Big Chill” this season. He is another one of the players the Rangers are looking to build around in the future.

Shin-Soo Choo is a patient South Korean leftie that provided a wonderful counterbalance to the erratic swinging of Rougie, Napoli, and Gomez last year. Choo will primarily DH and is known for his high OBP.

Delino DeShields is the speedy center fielder. He was top 5 in AL stolen bases for most of the season last year. He was solid out of the leadoff spot last year, and did very well with Choo batting behind him. Choo’s ability to work counts synergized very well with Delino’s speed.

Ryan Rua rounds out the outfield. Rua is a decent player. He has never logged over 250 ABs, so being a full time starter will be a new experience for him. Although, it is possible Jeff Bannister will opt to start Choo in the outfield sometimes if the pitcher is right-handed.

Overall, the Rangers look significantly worse than they did at the beginning of last year. The rotation looks very weak and the bullpen does not look much better. There are some bright spots, like Mazara and Gallo, but with the Astros coming off of a World Series and retaining their core make the chance of the Rangers partaking in the playoffs very slim.

Projected record: 77-85