By: Hunter Holdridge
As the calendar turns over to May lets take a look at your AL West leaders the Texas Rangers. After blasting the Angels Saturday evening 7-2 the Rangers are half game up in the standings after 1 month of play (14-10).
“They are what we thought they were”… Speaking of the Rangers being in 1st place and clearly the best team so far in the AL West. Preseason picked to finish anywhere between 1st to 3rd for the AL West; they look to be the most complete. Lets talk surprises, studs, and the duds for the Rangers through 24 games.
Studs: Lets identify a few Rangers who continue to be a staple and foundation for their success.
Adrian Beltre: What more do you expect from the future hall of famer?? He’s provided the veteran leadership this team needs with his glove and bat. Still considered a top 3 -3rd baseman in baseball today, Beltre has made the routine plays along with the amazing ones we’re accustom to seeing. His 78 chances are a team high and as you guessed no errors.
His bat is still strong even at the age of 37, while his numbers aren’t quite what they once were he still provides veteran AB’s and a force to deal with in that lineup. Batting a respectable .289 while leading the team in total AB and hits so far. If he can stay healthy then the Rangers will have one less thing to worry about.
Cole Hamels: Well of coarse your “ace” of the staff should be in the stud’s category and here he is. Whenever Cole is on the mound the Rangers tend to win. 14 straight wins for the Rangers dating back to last season with Cole on the bump. He provides the veteran presence for the pitching staff and goes about his business like a professional should. Off to another great start with an (2.52) ERA and the team leader in strikeouts (23). With Darvish coming back possibly in late May, the Rangers will have a 1-2 punch of Hamels and Darvish…whew!…
Jake Diekman: Might go down as one of the most overlooked trade pieces in recent memory for Texas (Hamels deal in 2015). He leads the team in ERA (0.00) in 8.1 innings. He provides Texas with a dominant lefty setup man that can reach 100mph. He’s been lights out this year and if healthy will provide a true “stopper” in the pen for Texas.
Just missed the cut: Rougned Odor, Sam Dyson, Derek Holland
Duds: Lets touch on a few duds on the roster so far this season where things just haven’t panned out.
Prince Fielder: Lets face it; so far Fielder is not living up to his hefty contract he signed 2 years ago.
The first year he got a pass since he missed most of the season, and came back last year to lead the team in BA, but his power numbers were down. Fast forward to year 3 and he hasn’t looked the same. The most disturbing part is he’s missing pitches in the zone and when he does make contact within the zone the power isn’t what it once was.
Now he does lead the team with 17 RBI’s but only posting an slash line of .207/.265/.310/.567… He will improve on those numbers no doubt but his power numbers along with his inability to adapt to shifts will continue to hurt. The Rangers really need him to be a force in the middle of that order for them to make the playoffs in 2016.
Tom Wilhelmsen: When the Rangers traded for him in the off-season, they were looking to get a good middle to late relief veteran for the pen. Well he’s been hit and hit hard to put it nicely. Posting an (11.85) ERA through the first month doesn’t look too good paper and nor on the field. He has a career (3.18) ERA but that hasn’t shown up yet this season and watching him so far doesn’t look promising. The Rangers have some fire ballers in their farm system that could step in if he doesn’t turn it around here pretty soon.
Just missed the cut: Shin-Soo Choo, Ian Desmond, Keone Kela (injured)
Surprises: Texas has quite a few of them this season and that’s a great thing if you’re a Rangers fan.
Elvis Andrus: Fans and myself included have criticized Elvis in recent years and rightly so. But this season has been anything but that for Andrus. He leads the team in BA (.336) and leads the majors in triples this season. His defense was atrocious in 2015 but so far so good this season with only 1 error. Maybe it was all the Profar talk that finally got Elvis going but whatever it was it worked!
Nomar Mazara: Composure, patience, and production. Those aren’t usually 3 terms people use to describe a 21-year old rookie starting in the majors. The kid has been sensational and a force at the plate as well as with the leather. Posting a (.333) BA and a (.852) OPS is impressive for his first month in show. He has great range in right field with a great arm to go with it. Whenever Choo comes back from the DL it will be hard to send this kid down because he gives Texas a few things Choo doesn’t.
A.J. Griffin: What a find this guy was this past off-season! AJ hadn’t pitched in the majors in almost 2 years because of injuries. He took control of the 5th starter slot in the absence of Darvish and has filled in nicely. He’s (3-0) on the year and showing glimpses of his old self before the injuries. He has a solid (2.52) ERA and WHIP (1.04). Add another Ranger player who’s filling in extremely well and a tough decision coming when Darvish is ready.
Just missed the cut: Derek Holland, Brett Nicholas, Tony Barnette
This first month and 24 games are a very small sample size but it gives us a quick look of potential trends for 2016. Injuries, performance, and outside circumstances always come into play and we expect to see some new faces or potentially lose some this season. I fully expect us to see some of Joey Gallo and possibly Jurickson Profar as well. Gallo’s K rate is improving and you just can’t ignore that kind of power he brings.
I will continue to stick with my pre-season prediction of Texas finishing either 1st or 2nd in the AL West and making the playoffs for the second consecutive season.