After making the World Series two years in a row, it seemed a dynasty was forming in Texas. The Rangers had known futility all too well until manager Ron Washington changed the culture to a winning atmosphere. However the organization has regressed the past two seasons and 2014 will not be any different.
The Rangers staff is anchored by Yu Darvish. The Japanese sensation is well on his to be the greatest pitcher from overseas. Rarely has Japanese baseball sent overpowering pitchers to America but Darvish is a unique talent. His 277 strikeouts were the most in the Majors by a longshot as that tally had not been eclipsed in over a decade. This year, he should be baseball’s first 300 strikeout pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2002. His 11.9 ratio of strikeouts per inning was dominating throughout the league. In 209 innings, he allowed only 145 hits. If Darvish improves his walks (amongst league leaders at 80), he will be more efficient, record quicker outs and pitch deeper in the ballgame. With funny-man Derek Holland out until at least the All-Star break, Darvish faces added pressure to keep the Rangers battling in the super-competitive AL West. Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando will need to step up to fill the void of Holland’s absence. Each should develop into strong middle-of-the-order starters. Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers both had below-2.00 ERAs as the Rangers again boast one of the best bullpens. Closer Joe Nathan departed after one season. His replacements include former closers Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria.
Rangers mainstay Ian Kinsler was traded in the offseason for power-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder. Outside of former great Michael Young, Kinsler had the longest tenure of any Rangers player. The trade pushes Mitch Moreland into the outfielder, severely depleting the team defense. However, Fielder is an upgrade over Kinsler. He is the youngest ever to hit 50 home runs in a season and the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington will only merge well with the southpaw. Legend has it that Fielder would follow his father Cecil during batting practice and hit balls out of the old Tigers Stadium as a 12-year old. It will be fun watching him go to work in Texas as home run derby could become commonplace. Fielder struggled in his last few years in Detroit so a change of scenery will do him well. Leonys Martin is the team’s diamond in the rough. He plays a solid centerfield and causes lots of trouble on the basepaths. His power numbers should improve as he has the potential to be one of the best leadoff hitters. Elvis Andrus is arguably the slickest shortstop in the game. His magician-like fielding skills is similar to the great Omar Vizquel. With a .271 batting average and 42 steals, he looks for a breakout season with the bat. J.P. Arencibia replaces AJ Pierzynski at the plate. The Rangers lineup is led by Adrian Beltre. With Fielder hitting behind, there is no way for defense to pitch around the two. If both hit to their potential, it is reminiscent to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz with the Red Sox championship teams. Beltre has three consecutive 30+ home runs seasons and does not look to stop any time soon. Another 30 homers and 30 doubles season is expected for fantasy owners.
The loss of Holland will hurt the team during the upcoming season. Darvish is a solid number one pitcher but the talent behind him is inexperienced. The 1999 Red Sox are the classic similarity with this particular Rangers team. Pedro Martinez was the most dominant pitcher and they had a solid batting lineup, but they faltered as teams would load up on the pitchers after Martinez. The Rangers need Perez and Ogando to step up but there is too much unknown between the two. The remaining starters are also a mystery and as Washington faces the task of building a winner from the open holes, Rangers fans should look toward next season for an October run.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference. com/.