StrategyMarch 8, 2010

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

By R.J. White

Texas Rangers v San Francisco Giants

Last year gave Rangers fans something to get excited about, as the team was able to win 87 games and challenge for a playoff spot deep in the season. But the Mariners took several steps forward with their moves and look to be the favorites to topple the perennial AL West champion Los Angeles Angels in 2010. Do the Rangers have the chops to make it a three-way race?

In recent history, the adage has been to buy Texas hitters, and avoid Texas pitchers. Nothing has changed in 2010 — most of their lineup could be off the board before a Ranger pitcher is drafted in your league, unless someone reaches for the oft-injured but uber-talented Rich Harden. Who should you target?

Offensive Starters

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia.233.290.371349340283 
1B Chris Davis.238.284.4424821590391 
2B Ian Kinsler.253.327.488101318631566 
SS Elvis Andrus.267.329.3737264033480 
3B Michael Young.322.374.5187622688541 
LF Josh Hamilton.268.315.4264310548336 
CF Julio Borbon.312.376.4143042019157 
RF Nelson Cruz.260.332.52475337620462 
DH Vladimir Guerrero.295.334.4605915502383w/LAA

Unsettled: Catcher and first base. Saltalamacchia has been progressing well with his rehab, recently flashing some arm strength on a throw to second base, which actually is a big deal after his shoulder surgery. Taylor Teagarden is the backup and a nice prospect in his own right, and either one could claim the starting role with a strong spring. At first base, Davis tanked amidst a lot of hype in 2009, and he should be much better in 2010. If that’s not the case, the team and the fans will look to super-prospect Justin Smoak.
Target: Davis. I don’t think Davis will fail. He’s got a legit shot at 30 HRs this season, and while that may come attached to a middling average, it will do you very nice if he still qualifies at 3B in your league. Take him late and bank on him cashing in on a little of his upside in 2010, if not the whole shebang.
The Rotation
Rich Harden (R)9-94.091.3417167141.0w/CHC
Scott Feldman (R)17-84.081.2811365189.2 
Tommy Hunter (R)9-64.101.306433112.0 
Brandon McCarthy (R)7-44.621.36653697.1 
Derek Holland (L)8-136.121.5010747138.1 

Unsettled: Neftali Feliz. That’s right, the young flamethrower will be given a chance to win a rotation spot this spring. While that may be where he has the most long-term value, Feliz was electric in his first major-league season as a reliever, and the team may want to keep him in that eighth-inning role to maximize his ability throughout the season. If so, then Holland will still face a challenge from Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis for that fifth spot. GM Jon Daniels said that Lewis in particular would be in this year’s rotation after a two-year stint in Japan, but we’ll see if the team sticks to that during the spring.
Target: Harden. He comes at a discount thanks to his injury history, and rightfully so, but you don’t get much more bang for your buck late in the draft that you do with Harden. He strikes out way over a batter per inning, a quality that’s hard to find in a starter. Fantasy owners should be grateful for the 140 K-filled innings he’ll give you, and when paired with a waiver-wire SP after his annual injury, the finals stats you get from the position will likely be better than many of the late-round pitchers that are drafted in the same area as Harden.
The 8th and 9th Innings
CL Frank Francisco (R)253.831.11571549.1
SU C.J. Wilson (L)142.811.33843273.2
SU Neftali Feliz (R)21.740.6839831.0

Chasing Saves: Frank Frank is a great value pick in drafts, but it’s likely that you’ll have to weather a DL stint in 2010 as his owner. Because of that, C.J. Wilson makes for a great end-game pick for those that like to speculate on saves. If you listen to Wilson, you may also believe he’s God’s gift to the closer role, as he feels he’s wasted as a setup man. It’s possible another club could come calling should injury strike their own weak pen, and a trade would do nothing but benefit Wilson. Between those two good closer candidates, neither may be the best talent in the Rangers bullpen. Feliz was unhittable in his first MLB exposure last year and could be the long-term answer at closer, or even as the team’s ace.
Final Thoughts
Fantasy owners are banking on a return to form from Josh Hamilton, if the ADP reports are any indication. I would avoid him and the injury headaches that come along with the talented slugger. Julio Borbon is a nice up-and-coming speed talent that goes for a pretty good value and could help your slugger-heavy lineup immensely. Don’t be afraid to speculate on Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz if the price is right. Good luck in 2010, fantasy baseballers!

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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