Tagged: Texas Rangers

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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Chapman appears to be headed to the Queen’s city

Well, the pipe-dream of the Jays one day brandishing a starting rotation that includes both Kyle Drabek and Aroldis Chapman appears to be all but over.  Chapman has reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, according to multiple sources.

It was worth a shot and I commend Anthopoulos for trying, but in the end it was not to be.

At least he won’t be suiting up for an American League foe…or worse, the Yankees or Red Sox.

In other news, Vladimir Guerrero has signed with the Texas Rangers.  The deal is reportedly for one year with a mutual option for a second year with a buyout on the club side.  Guerrero is apparently going to be the DH which should help him stay healthy and possibly return to the form he has exhibited throughout his career.

’09 Preview — Texas Rangers

texaslogo.jpg

2008 Record: 79-83, 2nd AL West
2009 Prediction: 3rd AL West

Impact Player: Josh Hamilton
Impact Pitcher: Vicente Padilla
Top Prospect: Neftali Perez, RHP

Significant Acquisitions: SS Omar Vizquel, P Eddie Guardado,
P Brendan Donnelly, P Derrick Turnbow
Significant Losses: C Gerald Laird, INF Ramon Vazquez, OF Milton
Bradley
, P Jamey Wright, P Kameron Loe, P Franklyn German

                                                                                                       

The Texas Rangers haven’t had a winning season since 2004
and this year doesn’t look good.  Their offense has no problem; the
Rangers finished in the top 4 in the AL in every major offensive category last
year including #1 in runs scored, hits, batting average, slugging percentage,
and doubles.  With much of the same team returning for ’09, the Rangers
won’t have a problem scoring runs, but their pitching is a different
story.  The Rangers made no visible improvements to a staff that was
dead-last in the AL in ERA in ’08.  GM Jon Daniels may be on thin ice if
this team can’t at least show some improvement in ’09; new team president Nolan
Ryan might want to install his own guy who has more of an emphasis on pitching.

Pitching
As I said just seconds ago, this team can’t pitch.  The Rangers were
at or near the bottom in most pitching categories and this year they look no
better.  They have some young guys coming up through the system but most
of them are still a few years away from making a real impact.  Vicente
Padilla is back as the de-facto #1.  Padilla was 14-8 last year but posted
an erratic 4.74 ERA and is entirely too hittable to be the best pitcher on a
staff.  Kevin Millwood was awful last year; he battled injuries and finished
with a 5.07 ERA in 168.2 innings.  If Millwood is healthy he could be a #1
starter, but he’s 34 and not getting any younger.  After that, the three
pitchers expected to make the rotation are Scott Feldman (a converted reliever
with moderate stuff), Matt Harrison (who showed major promise last year going
9-3 but still only had a 5.49 ERA), and Brandon McCarthy (who has upside, but
threw only 22 innings in ’08 due to injury).  The Rangers had signed Ben Sheets to a two-year deal but revoked the offer after his physical when a tear was discovered in his pitching elbow.  If Sheets recovers by mid-season, the Rangers could still have a shot at signing him, but that will only happen if they are close enough to make a run at the division.  Dustin Nippert and veteran
Jason Jennings are also in the running should someone fail to step
up in the spring.

In the ‘pen, the Rangers won’t be much better.  They have four pitchers
with closing experience in C.J. Wilson, Eddie Guardado, Brendan Donnelly, and
Derrick Turnbow, but the job will likely go to Frank Francisco who posted a
solid 3.13 ERA in ’08.  Wilson will set-up and be the primary option
against lefties; he posted 24 saves last year but had a 6.02 ERA. 
Guardado returns for his second stint in Texas (he started the year here last
year before finishing it in Minnesota) and should help Wilson in setup.  A
minor-league contract was given to oft-injured vet Donnelly who looks to make a
comeback as does Turnbow who can’t seem to stay healthy since going off the
juice.  Younger options, Josh Rupe, Warner Madrigal and Luis Mendoza
appear to be in the mix as well.  Joaquin Benoit will be out until mid-season recovering from an operation on his shoulder in January.

Rotation (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • Vicente Padilla (R/31)
  • Kevin Millwood (R/34)
  • Scott Feldman (R/26)
  • Matt Harrison (L/23)
  • Brandon McCarthy (R/25)

Bullpen

  • Frank Francisco (R/29)
  • C.J. Wilson (L/28)
  • Eddie Guardado (L/38)
  • Josh Rupe (R/26)
  • Warner Madrigal (R/25)
  • Derrick Turnbow (R/31)
  • Brendan Donnelly (R/37)
  • **Joaquin Benoit (R/31) — Out until mid-season with an injury.

Lineup
The Rangers won’t have a problem scoring runs with this lineup in a hitter-friendly ballpark.  The core of this group is still young and if they could ever get just a bit of pitching help, the Rangers would, without a doubt, be a contender.  In the outfield, Josh Hamilton will play in center after his MVP-type ’08.  Hamilton shocked the baseball world by coming back from a crippling heroin addiction to hit .304 with 32 HR and 130 RBI.  He tailed off as the season went on but in all fairness, it was his first full big league season so fatigue might have been an issue; it shouldn’t effect him as much this year.  David Murphy was impressive in his first full season and should start in Left; and Right-field will be fought over by Nelson Cruz and Marlon Byrd.  In the infield, rock-of-the-franchise Michael Young is back but moves to Third to make room for impressive prospect Elvis Andrus at Short.  Young was initially put-off by the Rangers’ request to move him and asked for a trade, but things seemed to have quieted down and he appears to be okay with it now.  If Andrus struggles, the Rangers signed Omar Vizquel as insurance.  At Second will be Ian Kinsler.  Kinsler has become one of the best offensive second-baseman in the game; he hit .319 with 18 HR and 71 RBI last year and the team has talked about moving him down in the order to be their cleanup hitter.  At First, Chris Davis had a coming-out party in ’08 hitting 17 HR and driving in 55 RBI in only 80 games.  Davis is expected to be a guy who can deliver .300/30/100-type numbers for years to come.  At catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is slowly getting better defensively and at 24 should continue to develop into a solid starter.  The DH in ’09 will likely be Hank Blalock who can still contribute with the bat but knee injuries have forced him to give up most of his defensive playing time.

On the bench, the Rangers will try out Taylor Teagarden at catcher and he could leap-frog Saltalamacchia for the starting job if he continues on the track he was on last year; Teagarden hit 6 home runs in 16 games with the Rangers in a September call up.  Whoever’s not playing in Right-field, Vizquel, veteran utility-man Frank Catalanotto, and infielder Joaquin Arias will also ride the Rangers’ pine.

Lineup (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • SS  Elvis Andrus (R/20)
  • 3B  Michael Young (R/32)
  • CF  Josh Hamilton (L/28)
  • 2B  Ian Kinsler (R/27)
  • 1B  Chris Davis (L/23)
  • DH  Hank Blalock (L/28)
  • LF   David Murphy (L/27)
  • C    Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S/24)
  • RF  Marlon Byrd (R/31)

Bench

  • OF  Nelson Cruz (R/28)
  • INF Joaquin Arias (R/24)
  • C    Taylor Teagarden (R/25)
  • UTIL Frank Catalanotto (L/35)
  • SS  Omar Vizquel (S/42)

Outlook
If the Rangers could just get some consistent pitching they would challenge the Angels for the division; their offense rivals that of the Yankees and Red Sox.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to improve upon a staff that was awful in ’08, and that may be the undoing of young GM Jon Daniels.  Final Prediction: 70-92, 3rd AL West

Why the Jays should go for Ben Sheets now; in spite of his bad elbow

When healthy, Ben Sheets is one of the better pitchers in baseball, the problem is, obviously, that he is rarely healthy.  Once again he will have to undergo elbow surgery and will miss the first half of ’09.  But the former Brewer is in a unique situation.  He’s a free agent.

The Texas Rangers stepped up with a two-year contract that Sheets and his agent agreed to pending a physical which obviously didn’t go well.  The Rangers withdrew their offer and it is expected now that Sheets will not sign anywhere until he’s healthy.

Here’s why I think the Jays need to go after him now…
ben sheets.jpg

The Jays apparently had no interest in Sheets because they don’t have the finances to pursue him.  Fair enough.  Sheets was reportedly going to sign for 2-years at around $16-million with the Rangers, far out of the price range for the Jays to even consider him.  But now things have changed.

We know that Sheets will be out until late June/early July at the earliest so I think the Jays should try and get Sheets now at a diminished price.  All well and good, but how do you make Sheets want a deal?  Here’s what I suggest:

You give Sheets a contract for 1-year at a guaranteed $750,000 but you lace it with incentives.  If he starts 10 games in ’09, he gets an extra $1-million.  If he starts 15 games in ’09, you give him an extra $1.75-million.  If he starts 20 or more games, give him an extra $3-million.  On top of that, if Sheets wins more than 10 games with the Jays in ’09, you throw on an extra $2-million.  This means that if Sheets comes back around mid-season and starts more than 20 games down the stretch and wins more than 10, the deal could end up being worth $5.75-million.  Not bad for a guy only pitching half the year who was looking for $8-million for a full, healthy season.

To sweeten the deal for both sides, add two option years; options for both 2010 and 2011 worth some guaranteed amount of money.  Let’s say $7.5-million for 2010 and $9-million for 2011.  The options would be for both parties at the end of both years.  SO, if Sheets comes back and performs well, the two could agree to exercise their option for 2010.  If he does well in 2010, they could bring him back for 2011.  If Sheets feels like he could make more by going back on the market at any point, he could do just that.  If Sheets can’t stay healthy and doesn’t end up pitching in ’09, the Jays have only spent $750,000 and will be free of him next fall.  Win-win.

If Sheets made the maximum in incentives in ’09 and decided to come back on both his option years, the deal would end up being 3-years for $22.25-million…nothing to sneeze at in this market.

I’ll be expecting my phone call from Mr. Riccardi any day to thank me for this wonderful idea.