Ian Desmond, Tom Wilhelmson, Justin Ruggiano
Yovani Gallardo, Mike Napoli, Leonys Martin
Gallardo and Napoli provided a spark last season that won the Rangers the division, but they don’t have to be considered as major losses. Napoli was used as a platoon and a right handed hitter, but the Rangers added Desmond, Ruggiano, and have an in house replacement for some of those at bats with Ryan Rua. Wilhelmson is probably the the best signing though as he adds a strong arm to the back end.
Projected Playoff Lineup
- Delino Deshields
- Shin-Soo Choo
- Prince Fielder
- Adrian Beltre
- Mitch Moreland/Ryan Rua
- Ian Desmond
- Rougned Odor
- Robinson Chirinos
- Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar
Delino Deshields will be important when looking at how this lineup will function. He had a .344 OBP last season, which is really strong, but posted a .334 BABIP and a .261 average, so there could easily be regression. All of this does also point to the fact that he has a good eye and is a guy that can take walks. For someone to get on base to start up this lineup will be major. Elvis Andrus has been discussed as a lead off option, but he has a lower OBP and and walk rate than Deshields. He is also a liability on defense, and there is the potential that Profar can come up from the minors and push Andrus out the door via trade. Profar hasn’t been healthy for a full season since about 2012, so it isn’t worth banking on, but Andrus should not assume his job his safe. With Profar, the Rangers have Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara who could come in this year and provide a spark. However, with the signing of Desmond the thought is that they want those two to grow in the minors for longer. Desmond has always played short, and while it would make sense that his signing could have been another nudge of Andrus out the door, it appears they are committed to transitioning Desmond, who isn’t a good defensive shortstop to the outfield. Desmond is coming off of his worst year of his career, and is right handed hitter, so Mazara, a lefty could eventually come in for platoon or replacement time, but the expectation should be that Mazara spends most of the season in AAA. The overall defense, Deshields aside isn’t very strong in addition to Desmond and Andrus being poor. The team can definitely hit though,and Fielder, Choo, Odor, Moreland and Beltre all have 20+ home run potential. It gives them a chance to be contenders, and they have experience and depth to make a run.
While the rotation looks good on paper, as you dig in it becomes a very blurry picture. To start, Darvish is coming off of Tommy Surgery and isn’t scheduled back until late May. They have some names, like prospects Chi Chi Gonzalez and Anthony Ranaudo but neither seem ready to take the step into the big leagues yet. They also have guys who can fill in like Nick Tepesch and AJ Griffin, who are more likely to fill the bottom slot while they wait for Darvish. The youth may also see time for Holland, as he has only pitched 95 innings since 2013 and has struggled to be an effective pitcher in that time. Lewis is a guy that can eat innings, but really isn’t the most effective pitcher, and his 4.66 ERA and matching sabermetric numbers doesn’t bring expectations that the 37 year old righty is going to improve much this year, and in the best case he is a number five type. It would be on guys like the 25 year old Perez and the other young pitchers mentioned to take the step and round out a strong rotation next to Darvish and Hamels this summer. Through this spring it is tough to say whether the Rangers are on that pace or not.
As mentioned Wilhelmson should really help this back end. Shawn Tolleson had a strong year last year as the closer, and with an added punch in front of him it should help. The overall pen is probably a middle of the pack pen. They should be able to get some help due to the high number of potential arms in the rotation, but overall the hitting on this team should outweigh the pitching.
The Rangers are a team that could see a wide variety of outcomes. Their greatest strength is probably the depth of the team, especially when it comes to young names that can emerge next to stars in place like Beltre and Fielder. They have the core to compete, but the youth just seems to be a year away from really making an impact. Especially in the staff, if no one can step up without Darvish, will they even have enough when he comes back?
2nd in the AL West