The Rangers. Oh, the Rangers. There were a lot of possible picks for this year's make-you-sit-in-a-tattered-easy-chair-in-the-dark-and-sigh team. I had the Royals, mostly because I miss them. But, no, the Rangers are that team. Their big offseason acquisition, Prince Fielder, was lost for the season on the same day their prized young infielder, Jurickson Profar, was lost for the season. Sit in the tattered easy chair, turn off the lights, and sigh. No, I'm okay. No, I don't need anything. No, just thinking about Tommy John and spinal fusion.
It depresses me, and I'm not a Rangers fan. So I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about Martin Perez or Matt Harrison or Profar or Fielder or Geovany Soto or ... man. Instead, let's pretend those players don't exist. Poof. Now pretend it's March 31, and it's time to write a season preview about the Rangers. How optimistic or pessimistic would we be? Ignoring the Texas death cloud is the only way to get a balanced evaluation.
Texas Rangers Preseason Preview
March 31, 2014
The Rangers are on an uncomfortable trajectory. They went from the AL Pennant to the Wild Card to out of the playoffs entirely, and the A's didn't do anything over the winter to get weaker. One would think the Rangers would take my advice from the last couple years and replace Mitch Moreland at first, but, no, they're stubborn. It was Albert Einstein who said, "There are three kinds of lies, and they are all the definition of insanity, so don't use statistics." Makes you think.
But an unexciting-yet-competent Mitch Moreland isn't enough to bring down the entire team. The Rangers have talent up and down the roster, and our job is to see if they can contend as is.
There is talent. There is the promise of youth. But there might not be another team in baseball so reliant on that promise of youth, and the Rangers' ability to contend in the AL West is wholly dependent on young players taking a developmental step forward.
It doesn't have to be all of the young players. Just a couple important ones. We'll use standard rhetorical question format for this one. Is Elvis Andrus going to hit like a 20-something Omar Vizquel or a 30-something Omar Vizquel, who was inexplicably better? Does Leonys Martin have a higher ceiling, or is what we see what we get? Will Michael Choice's tools transcend his mediocre stats in the upper levels of the minors? Is Rougned Odor ready to become a star?
Prince Fielder Injury
Prince Fielder Injury
Pick two of those players to be enthusiastic about, and you're optimistic about the Rangers. Pick three to be enthusiastic about, and you're expecting the Rangers to be favorites. The rest of the lineup is filled with known quantities. Shin-Soo Choo could lead the league in on-base percentage now that he's in Arlington. Adrian Beltre is still one of the game's best two-way players. Alex Rios was an odd risk to take, considering his contract and age, but another Jekyll season isn't out of the question before he ends his career with Hydes.
It sure would be nice if the Rangers had one more middle-of-the-order hitter.
If you're thinking the Rangers can hit enough to win, you're thinking they enjoy development from key youngsters. Could happen. Maybe it's likely to happen. I'm not sure I share that kind of confidence, but give me the over on Odor and Martin, and the Rangers should be fine. Not dominant. Not prolific. Just fine. Which isn't a problem if the pitching is stellar. So ...
Yu Darvish is one of the best pitchers in baseball. That's 20 percent of the rotation. One down, four to go.
After that, though, there's just no way to give this rotation an enthusiastic endorsement. Colby Lewis and Scott Baker are both outstanding rebound candidates for a team to stash in the last spot of the rotation; they might be the Rangers' #2 and #3, respectively.
Other than eight brilliant starts in Triple-A, there's no reason to think Nick Tepesch is going to provide much more than his replacement-level performance from last year. Nick Martinez is a legitimate prospect, but he hasn't pitched above Double-A. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of 7.9 was just a tick higher than the league average in the Carolina League last year. Also, he was in the Carolina League last year.
Tanner Scheppers is an option, but he's starting the season on the DL, as is Joe Saunders, who leads the league in being Joe Saunders almost every season.
We're kind of burying the lede, though, because Derek Holland still exists, and he could be back in July. With Darvish and Holland at the top of the rotation, the Rangers would be more than okay with 40 percent of their rotation. Then you get a surprise performance from a rookie, a bounce-back performance from either Lewis or Baker, and ford the rivers until you can caulk the wagon at the trade deadline. Watch out for the dysentery.
It can work. I'm not sure if it's likely to work, though.
Every year, a team turns ifs into wins, with young players and surprising veterans making all of these preseason prognostications useless. The problem is that it's impossible to pick which team is going to benefit from the cosmic tumblers clicking into place, not until it actually happens.
Considering that, I'm going to have to pass on the Rangers until further notice. They didn't do enough to upgrade the lineup, even though Choo is a fantastic addition, and the rotation is too thin. There are too many young players to count on, and young players are jerks when it comes to making confident predictions.
It could have been different for the Rangers. It should have been different. Still, if they can get a little good fortune, the Rangers might still contend.
Let's all kick back and wait around for that Rangers good fortune.
Any day now.
Waaaaaiting for the good fortune to roll in.