StrategyMarch 6, 2012

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

By Urban Cohorts

In 2011, the Texas Rangers won their second straight division title and made it to a second consecutive World Series. Despite a strong showing, the Rangers lost again, this time to the Cardinals in seven games. In addition to losing another World Series, the Rangers also lost their ace, C.J. Wilson, in the offseason. To help remedy this problem, the Rangers signed the Japanese sensation Yu Darvish. Texas spent $60 million in a six-year deal for Darvish, along with $51.7 million in negotiation rights.

In addition to signing Darvish, the Rangers also signed veteran relievers in Joe Nathan and Mike Adams. With the addition of those pitchers, the Rangers have moved their former closer, Neftali Feliz, into the starting rotation. These moves have totally revamped the pitching, hopefully for the better. The hitting is very much the same as the 2010 and 2011 World Series teams. But the question still remains: will this be enough to win a World Series?

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.

Offensive Starters

C Mike Napoli.320.414.6317230754369 
1B Mitch Moreland.259.320.4146016512464 
2B Ian Kinsler.255.355.477121327730620 
SS Elvis Andrus.279.347.3619656037587 
3B Adrian Beltre.296.331.56182321051487 
LF Josh Hamilton.298.346.5368025948487 
CF Craig Gentry.271.347.3462611318133 
RF Nelson Cruz.263.312.5096429879475 
DH Michael Young.338.380.47488111066631 

Unsettled: First Base. Mitch Moreland is penciled in as the everyday 1B for the Rangers. In 2011, Moreland had a very respectable first half (35-11-24-2-.287 line in 235 ABs) but fell off dramatically in the second half after suffering a broken bone in his wrist. The wrist is still bothering Moreland; he is on a limited hitting program in spring training. If he is not ready for Opening Day, look for Connor Jackson or Brad Hawpe to man 1B with Michael Young filling in occasionally.

Target: Craig Gentry. Although Gentry hasn’t won the starting CF job, he should edge out Julio Borbon by the end of spring training. In 2011 Gentry had a whopping 18 SBs (without being caught stealing) in only 133 ABs. He is currently penciled in as the No. 9 hitter, with Kinsler and Andrus hitting behind him. If Gentry can hold onto a full time job, he could be an excellent late round source for runs and steals with a moderate AVG/OBP.

The Rotation

Colby Lewis (R)14-104.401.2116956200.1 
Yu Darvish (R)18-61.440.8327636232.0in JPN
Derek Holland (L)16-53.951.3516267198.0 
Neftali Feliz (R)2-32.741.16543062.1RP
Matt Harrison (L)14-93.391.2812657185.2 

Unsettled: The back end of the starting rotation is very murky going into 2012. As of now, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison are penciled in as the fourth and fifth starters. Feliz is being converted to a SP after being the team’s closer for the last two seasons. This move, and the addition of Darvish, has left Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman out of luck. Ogando had a respectable 2011 campaign; he started 29 games, with good stats, and made the All-Star team. Despite this, it looks like the Rangers are committed to starting their younger pitchers.

Target: Alexi Ogando. It is tough to recommend targeting a pitcher who doesn’t have a defined role, but Ogando is too much of a bargain to ignore (MDP ~212 overall / 17th round pick). Ogando has an excellent fastball, great control, and was effective as both a starter and reliever in 2011. If he gets a starting job by Opening Day, expect another season like 2011. If he doesn’t win a spot, look for Ogando to be a late innings guy, with the potential to both close and fill in as a starter in the case of an injury. At the very least, look for him to be a starter in the second half when Feliz gets tired or hits his IP quota.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Joe Nathan (R)144.841.16431444.2w/MIN
Mike Adams (R)21.470.79741473.2w/2T

Chasing Saves: Joe Nathan should be drafted with caution in 2012. Nathan was a better pitcher in 2011 than what his 4.84 ERA showed and had a good K/9, BB/9, and an excellent second half. The problems are Nathan’s age (37) and health (poor over the last two seasons). Another factor is the change in venue. Nathan gave up a lot of fly balls in 2011, and Arlington is not a place where you want to do that. If Nathan struggles, the closer role will be given to Mike Adams. Ogando could also be in the mix for saves if Nathan falters.

Final Thoughts

The Rangers go into 2012 as one of the two favorites for the AL West crown. The hitting has stayed the same, but both the SP staff and relief corps have been changed. Yu Darvish was brought in from Japan and looks to be one of baseball’s biggest stories this year. Veteran relievers were brought in to bolster the bullpen, allowing the Rangers to field a younger and hopefully more talented SP core. Will this be enough to overcome the Angels (who made some big splashes of their own) for a third consecutive year? And if the Rangers make it to another World Series, will the third try be a charm?

Matthew Law is an avid baseball fan living in the greater Boston area. He loves the Red Sox, video games, and the Roman Empire. He has proven to be indestructible- surviving after a truck crashed into him dead on.
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