Thursday, March 7, 2013

2013 Texas Rangers Preview

Glass Half Empty / Afternoon Cloud: After the crushing defeat in game 6 of the 2011 World Series (twice being 2 strikes and 2 outs from winning the it all) Rangers fans didn’t think it could get worse.  Then came the monumental collapse down the stretch of the regular season last year in 2012.  And finally, there was the offseason where the Rangers’ front office brass swung and struck out on every big free agent out there.  And one of those free agents that got away was the Rangers’ own Josh Hamilton.  And to pour salt in that wound he’s now playing for division rivals the Angels. 

Nelson Cruz is embroiled in a performance enhancing drug controversy and it remains to be seen if he’s going to face a suspension.

Spots Up For Grabs: On defense it appears that center field is a competition between Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry-I would like to see Gentry get a shot at CF since he batted for average (.304) last year in a 121 GP.  And since starting pitchers Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz will not be ready for opening day it appeared the 5th starter’s spot was Martin Perez’s to lose until he suffered a broken bone in his arm during Spring Training.  Now that 5th starting position is maybe not a big question mark but is a question mark nonetheless at this point. 

Lastly, the middle and setup relief is a going to be a huge question mark with, for example, Alexi Ogando making the move back to the starting rotation and Mike Adams another free agent that got away.

Glass Half Full / Silver Lining: The Rangers have a good problem in the middle infield.  With Ian Kinsler apparently staying put at 2B, they don’t know where to put Jurickson Profar, the number one prospect from last year.  If Profar doesn’t play his way onto the big club in Spring Training then they will be keeping a close eye on him in the minors.

New additions A.J. Pierzynski (C, bats lefty) and Lance Berkman  (DH, switch hitter) add lefty bats and some pop to the lineup as well bring big game experience.

Oh yeah, the Rangers have this pitcher named Yu Darvish by the way.  If he builds on his performance from last year he could turn into a true ace.  Nathan will be an anchor again as the Rangers’ closer.  And Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando aren’t too shabby as your 2-4 starters no matter what order you put them in.  Plus, starter Colby Lewis should come back from injury sometime around early to midseason and should resume his role as a starter.  Neftali Feliz is due back mid-to-late in the season.  Too many quality starting pitchers is another good problem to have.  That means Ogando and Martin Perez, or even Feliz, could move back to and strengthen the bullpen at some point during the season.

Thoughts / Observations / Sidenotes: Maybe Josh Hamilton leaving will be addition by subtraction.  Here’s why that’s a possibility: the timing of Hamilton’s slump last year seemed to coincide with him giving the go ahead to film producers to make his life story into a movie with Casey Affleck writing and directing it (late June 2012).  Then, Hamilton batted .223, .177 and .259 three out the last four months of the season last year.  In other words, it is yet to be seen which Josh Hamilton the Rangers lost and which Josh Hamilton the Halos signed.

Mitch Moreland played last year primarily against right-handed pitchers but, with Kinsler staying at 2B it looks like Moreland is going to get a chance to be an everyday 1B.  Keep your fingers crossed when he’s batting against righties.

Finally Rangers manager Ron Washington is going to have to do exactly what his job title says: manage.  Everyone knows that his players love him and will run through brick walls for him.  However, with so many question marks going into the season Wash is going to have to be ready to move people up, down, out of and/or into the batting order as their performance dictates.  And that’s something Wash has seemed hesitant to do, instead sticking with his guys that are struggling and hoping they’ll work their way out of a slump, like he did last year for example as the Rangers squandered the AL West Division lead in the last month.  The same goes for the starting rotation and bullpen.  At times Wash’s decision making regarding the pitching staff has been criticized by those that watch every game.  Wash has to demonstrate that he knows when to make a move and when not to.  In the past the Rangers’ offense has been productive enough to cover up any questionable moves Wash has made with the pitching staff.  That won’t be the case this year.

My projected lineup for 2013:
Batting Order
1. Ian Kinsler – 2B
2. Elvis Andrus – SS
3. David Murphy – OF
4. Adrian Beltre – 3B
5. Lance Berkman – DH
6. Nelson Cruz – OF
7. A.J. Pierzynski – C
8. Mitch Moreland – 1B
9. Craig Gentry – OF

Starting Pitching Rotation
1. Yu Darvish
2. Matt Harrison
3. Derek Holland
4. Alexi Ogando
5. TBD

2013 Prediction: In a very close race the Rangers’ strong starting pitching and a consistent (although less powerful) offense carries them to an AL West win.


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