(2012:93-69, 2nd Place AL West)
(2013: 2nd Place AL West, Wild Card Berth)
The Rangers will miss Josh Hamilton, especially considering that he went to the division rival Angels, but Texas still has a great team heading into 2013. Back to back years, the Rangers have lost their top free agent to the Angels, but that won't stop them from competing again this year.
Gone is Hamilton, but the Rangers welcome catcher AJ Pierzynski to town. AJ should enjoy the hitter friendly Ballpark in Arlington coming off his best season in terms of home runs in his career. The pitching staff is solid, but not great, but with the Rangers lineup, they should compete day in and day out.
Let's take a look at what the Rangers bring to the table:
The top three in this staff are Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland. Darvish was good last year in his Major League debut, but I expect him to take another step in 2013. Darvish has the stuff to be a top tier pitcher in this league. Harrison surprisingly won 18 games last year, and while he might not win the same total this year, he'll get guys out. Holland needs to cut down on home runs, and if he does, he will be much more successful. Alexi Ogando moves out of the bullpen and into the number 4 spot. He has the stuff to be successful and has had success as a starter in the past, but the question is can he put together a full season in the rotation. Number 5 was supposed to be Martin Perez, but after an injury, Colby Lewis will take that job. He is a serviceable number 5 in this league, even on a competing team.
The pen for this team is very good. Closer Joe Nathan was fantastic last year in his first year with the Rangers and I don't see him slowing down. New Ranger Joakim Soria looks to bounce back from injury to solidify the back end of the pen. After those two, the Rangers have power arms Tanner Schneppers and Josh Lindblom. Both can bring it with the fastball and have very good breaking balls. The X-factor, either in the pen or the rotation is Neftali Feliz. He has been great when healthy, but coming off an injury last year, he will need to prove he can stay healthy.
Martin Perez is one of the Rangers' top pitching prospect, but due to his injury, his contributions will be put on hold. Cody Buckel is also a quality pitching prospect. He throws a variety of pitches, and while none are excellent, all are at least average. Buckel could possibly make the leap late in 2013, but the more likely scenario is that he is ready for the 2014 season.
The Rangers have a very formidable lineup, even after the losses of Michael Young and Josh Hamlton. At first, Mitch Moreland will take over full time duties. While Moreland isn't among the league's best there, he has a good amount of power. Ian Kinsler returns at second and is an extremely explosive player who can hit home runs and steal bases. Elvis Andrus will play short. While he won't provide much power, Andrus is a menace on the base paths and plays a great shortstop, all while hitting for a high average. Third baseman Adrian Beltre is among the best in the league and will almost assuredly hit 30 home runs and drive in 100.
At catcher, the Rangers brought in A.J. Pierzynski. While I personally hate AJ, the guy hits for power, although he is a bit of a liability behind the plate. The designated hitter will be Lance Berkman. Berkman is in the twilight of his career, but he still swing a great bat, especially from the left side of the plate. Geo Soto is ready to fill in for AJ at any time, as Soto is a former starter who can more than hold his own.
The outfield is a little bit more in flux for the Rangers. In left, David Murphy will play the majority of the time. He is an average Major League players. Nelson Cruz will be in right field. While Cruz won't hit for a high average, he is one of the league's most prolific power hitters. Center field is interesting for the Rangers. Right now, it looks to be a split between Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin. Both leave a bit to be desired. Another option would be to move second baseman Ian Kinsler to center to make room for top prospect Jurickson Profar.
The Rangers' top fielding prospects are second baseman Profar and third baseman Mike Olt. Profar is one of the games best prospects and they need to make room for him immediately. Olt is also a quality player, but he is blocked as well. Olt might become trade bait mid-season if the Rangers need more pitching for a playoff run.
NON-ROSTER INVITEE TO WATCH:
There are a bunch of quality relievers in camp for the Rangers including Neal Cotts, Nate Robertson (good for him), Evan Meek, Kyle McClellan, Randy Wells, and Derek Lowe. The guy who will make the club out of the non-roster guys is Jeff Baker. Baker has had a great Spring and given his ability to play pretty much every position and absolutely crush left handed pitching, he has played his way into a virtual lock to make this team.
The Rangers are an immensely talented club, and are even more talented if you include a guy like Profar. The Rangers should be able to make the playoffs but I don't know if they will be able to catch the Angels. The Rangers have a solid rotation, although it might not be incredibly deep, and they have the talent to withstand the losses of Hamilton and Young. The Rangers should hit enough, especially at home to keep themselves in contention all year long. The Rangers also possess the Minor League talent to trade for an arm at the deadline to bolster the rotation if need be.
TWITTER ACCOUNT OF THE DAY:
Hands down, Derek Holland. He has a mustache, he does a good Harey Carey impression, and he's pitching tonight for Team USA. USA USA USA!!!! Follow him @Dutch_Oven45