2010 Texas Rangers Preview

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rangers.gif2009 Record: 87-75, 2nd AL West

2009 Prediction: 70-92, 3rd AL West

2010 Prediction: 4th AL West

 

Impact Player: Josh Hamilton

Impact Pitcher: Scott Feldman

Top Prospect Player:
1B Justin Smoak

Top Prospect Pitcher:
RHP Neftali Feliz

 

Manager: Ron Washington, 4th Season
(241-245, .496)

 

Significant
Acquisitions
: DH/OF Vladimir
Guerrero
, INF Khalil Greene, RHP
Rich Harden, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Chris Ray

Significant Losses: OF Marlon Byrd, OF/DH Andruw
Jones
, 3B/1B Hank Blalock, INF Omar Vizquel, C Ivan Rodriguez, RHP Kevin
Millwood
, RHP Jason Jennings,
LHP Eddie Guardado, RHP Jason Grilli

 

 

Like the Mariners, the Rangers destroyed by prediction by a
healthy margin.  They were much better
than I anticipated they would be.  They
got contributions from their young pitchers and rode a solid bullpen and timely
lineup to an 87-win season, finishing second in the AL West.  New part-owner Nolan Ryan wants his pitchers to be throw-back inning eaters who
battle through a game and this focus on pitching paid off in ’09.  For the first time in years, the lineup
didn’t finish near the top of the AL in runs scored, but the team still
finished with its highest win total since winning 89 games in 2004.  But how much of it was a fluke?  The Rangers relied a lot on young power arms
which typically do well in their first season but take a step back in their
second.  They also were merely average
most pitching and hitting
categories.  Will the Rangers fall back
to earth or will their young hurlers carry the team to the division title?

 

Pitching

scott-feldman.jpg

Scott Feldman was
a reliever with a ¾ arm angle and a very hittable fastball and looked to be
washed up at only 25 years old, but before giving up on him, the Rangers
revamped him.  Feldman’s open mind and
the Ranger’s minor and major league pitching coaches worked tirelessly to
change Feldman’s arm angle to a more over-the-top style.  Low and behold, his fastball had more pop and
his breaking pitches dove out of the strike zone making them nearly unhittable
at times.  The culmination of these
efforts was realized last year when Feldman went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and led
the Rangers back to respectability.  Can
he do it again, or was it mostly a fluke? 
He’ll have to prove that he’s here to stay as a number one starter this
season with the trading of Kevin
Millwood
to the Orioles.  Canadian Rich Harden has boatloads of talent,
but has never stayed healthy long enough to realize his lofty potential.  The Rangers are his third organization and he
will attempt to do just that with them. 
If he can’t stay healthy, the bullpen might be a better option, a la Kerry Wood.  He would make a dominating closer.  The rest of the rotation will be made up of
young hurlers who will try to build on the successes of last season.  Derek
Holland
looked brilliant at times, but finished 8-13 with a 6.12 ERA.  He’ll need to be better to stick for another
season.  Tommy Hunter started great after his call-up, but struggled down
the stretch when his arm wore out in his first 162-game season and Brandon McCarthy is hoping this is the
year he lives up to his billing.  Neftali Feliz is the most talented
pitcher on the staff, but the Rangers haven’t decided if he should spend
another year in the bullpen or not, and Doug
Mathis
, Matt Harrison, Dustin Nippert, and Warner Madrigal are also in the running
for rotation spots.

 

After early struggles by lefty C.J. Wilson in the closer’s role, Frank Francisco took over and finished the year strong with 25
saves, but was erratic at times.  The two
combined for 39 saves last season and could be a nice lefty/righty platoon
closing tandem.  Dominating youngster Feliz
certainly has the stuff to close and might get a shot if the others struggle;
his place is eventually going to be in the rotation.  Veteran lefty Darren Oliver returns to the Rangers after an 8-year absence and
rejuvenated his career with the Angels. 
He’s 39, however, so there’s no telling how effective he’ll be this
season.  Darren O’Day was traded in May to the Rangers from the Mets and was
plugged into a game against the Blue Jays just hours after being acquired.  It was so soon in fact, that O’Day hadn’t
even had a jersey made for him yet so he pitched in Kason Gabbard’s.  That night
he struggled, but he went on to be the most reliable pitcher in the ‘pen,
finishing with a sparkling 1.84 ERA.  Chris Ray was once a dominant closer for
the Orioles, but has had his career derailed by injuries.  If he’s healthy, he could end up
closing.  One of the starter candidates
will get the job as long-man.

 

ROTATION

Age

B/T

Scott Feldman

27

L/R

Rich Harden*

28

L/R

Derek Holland

23

S/L

Tommy Hunter

23/4

R/R

Dustin
Nippert

28/9

R/R

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Frank Francisco (CL)

30

R/R

C.J. Wilson

29

L/L

Darren O’Day

27

R/R

Neftali Feliz

21/2

R/R

Darren Oliver*

39

R/L

Chris Ray*

28

R/R

Brandon McCarthy

26/7

R/R

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Doug Mathis

26/7

R/R

Colby Lewis*

30/1

R/R

Matt Harrison

24/5

L/L

Pedro Strop

24/5

R/R

Guillermo Moscoso

26

R/R

Warner Madrigal

26

R/R

Willie Eyre

31/2

R/R

Clay Rapada*

29

R/L

Ben Snyder*

24/5

L/L

Eric Hurley

24

R/R

Geoff Geary*

33/4

R/R

Elizardo Ramirez

27

L/R

*=newly acquired

 

 

Lineup

josh-hamilton.jpg

The health of outfielder Josh Hamilton will go a long way to deciding how good this team
will be in 2010.  He was an All-Star
again in 2009, but was not healthy for most of this season and his numbers
suffered.  If he’s healthy he’s one of
the best players in the game and this team’s franchise player.  He’ll play mostly leftfield this season which
the Rangers hope will keep him healthier. 
In rightfield will be Nelson Cruz
who broke out in an All-Star 2009 campaign. 
He hit 33 HR and stole 20 bases, but the Rangers would like him to have
a higher average than his .260-mark and more than 76 RBI.  Only 8 of his homeruns came with runners on
base.  The centerfielder will be
24-year-old Julio Borbon who will
get a chance to put together a full season. 
In under half of one he hit .312 with 4 homeruns and 20 RBI; he also
stole 19 bases and played outstanding defense. 
Vladimir Guerrero was signed
in the offseason but will almost exclusively DH.  David
Murphy
hit 17 homeruns last season and will get some time spelling Hamilton
and Cruz.  He could also play left,
shifting Hamilton to center, if Borbon scuffles.

 

The Rangers return one of the more productive infields in
baseball for 2010.  Second baseman Ian Kinsler hit a ton of homeruns last
season after a torrid start, but tailed off badly toward the end of the year,
finishing with only a .253 average.  He
hit 31 homeruns and stole just as many bases, though, so is considered one of
the best at his position.  Veteran Michael Young seems to be pushed to a
new position every few years, but adjusts well each time.  He had a terrific season in 2009 hitting .322
with 22 HR in another All-Star year.  Elvis Andrus will look to build on a
solid rookie campaign where he played outstanding defense and had some timely
hits down the stretch.  He finished
second in AL Rookie of the Year voting and has a very bright future at only
21-years-old.  Finally, Chris Davis is back at first base.  He hit only .238 last year with 21 homeruns
so he needs to bounce back.  Top prospect
Justin Smoak could be ready for the
majors this season so don’t be surprised to see Davis on the trading block for
some veteran pitching help if the Rangers find themselves in contention.  After showing major promise, Jarrod Saltalamacchia took a step back
in 2009 hitting only .233.  He made major
strides defensively and will get the starting job again.  If he can’t hit, Taylor Teagarden may get more of a chance as he is much better
defensively.

 

Murphy will lead the bench contingent as the fourth
outfielder and will be joined by Teagarden and utility-man Esteban German.  Khalil Greene should be the spare
infielder and will try to get his career back on track after finishing second
in the Rookie of the Year race with the Padres in 2004.  He hit 27 homeruns in 2007 before falling off
badly.  Last season, he played in only 77
games for the Cardinals despite being given the starting job in the spring.  Ray
Olmedo
could also get a look and Smoak will likely see some time at some
point this season.

 

Pos.

 

Age

B/T

C

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

24/5

S/R

1B

Chris Davis

24

L/R

2B

Ian Kinsler

27/8

R/R

3B

Michael Young

33

R/R

SS

Elvis Andrus

21/2

R/R

LF

Josh Hamilton (CF)

28/9

L/L

CF

Julio Borbon

24

L/L

RF

Nelson Cruz

29/0

R/R

DH

Vladimir Guerrero* (RF)

35

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

C

Taylor Teagarden

26

R/R

INF

Khalil Greene* (SS, 2B, 3B)

30

R/R

UTIL

Esteban German (2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF)

32

R/R

OF

David Murphy (LF, RF, DH)

28

L/L

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

OF

Craig Gentry (CF, LF)

26

R/R

INF

Ray Olmedo*

28/9

S/R

1B

Justin Smoak

23

S/R

C

Toby Hall*

34

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

There’s no denying that the Rangers were a much improved
team in 2009, but are they really an 87-win team?  They were average on offense last season and
average in pitching as well, and they also have to rely on some very young,
mostly unproven arms.  I also don’t
entirely buy that Feldman is anywhere near the ace he was last year.  He might be an okay middle-of-the-rotation
guy who can get 10-12 wins a year, but expecting anything beyond that seems
unwarranted.  Until pitchers like Feliz,
Holland, Harrison, and Hunter mature, the Rangers won’t be much more than a
.500 team.  Given the parody of the AL
West this season, .500 might be enough to keep things interesting.

Final Prediction:
81-81, 4th AL West

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