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MLB: Texas Rangers Hanging Around In Top-Heavy AL West

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It’s never a smart thing to base how a season will go through the first 12 games of the season but it sure looked like the Texas Rangers were in for a very long season. Texas was dead last in the standings and with a team batting average at an awful .201 clip.

Not to mention Texas was near the bottom 3rd in every statistical offensive category. The two vet leaders of this team, Beltre and Choo were hitting .140 and .138 respectively. Their defense was very suspect and the sure handed Andrus had a league high in errors (5) as did the entire club. Their pitching staff decimated by injuries along with an extremely young unexperienced staff seemed like the team was destined to lose 100 ballgames.

Fast forward to April 24th and Daniels makes the decision to bring back an old familiar face in Josh Hamilton. More and more questions were building around this team asking what’s going on and where do they go from here. Hamilton brought back a glimpse of his old shell and in a way re-energized the Ranger’s faithful and the team started winning.

Now fast forward further to July 10th where the Rangers only sit six games behind the upstart Astros for first in the AL West and are now batting a modest .248. Just that statement alone may cause a stroke! The Rangers with a current record of 41-44 are only three games under .500 and competing along with the Astros who owns the best record in the AL, but hey this is baseball!

The big question around Big D is will the Rangers make the playoffs in 2015? My answer may surprise people but I say they do not. Do they win 82 ballgames? They very well could end up with a mark like that and let me tell you something Ranger fans’, that’s a major accomplishment by these young guns and a new skipper in town. Let’s start with the outstanding job done so far by Jeff Banister. He’s done a commendable job so far managing a young team with a lot of adversity. Let’s not forget that the Rangers have led the league in players on DL the past 2 seasons. He’s shown to handle the bullpen well and the player’s seems to be buying in on what he wants to do which is a must on any team.

The season turned for the Rangers when they swept the Astros in early May and did it in Houston. The Rangers since that series are 29-19 which is astonishing considering their situation with the young players and vets struggling early on. I think you’re seeing young players overachieving a bit at the moment and its great sight to see.

Just remember every rookie and young players go through rough patches either at the plate or pitching. Luckily they have been playing at a high level and with guys like Fielder, Beltre, and Moreland they have helped mentor these young hitters teaching them how to roll with the punches of baseball.

Fans’ might be shocked at how fielder is hitting this year and I for one am not surprised one bit. Is he going to hit .340 this year? Well no, but I think he finishes with a slash line like this .304/.415/.526/.870. The only concern right is his power numbers may not reach what they used to be but that can be contributed to his neck being 100% and getting walked at a higher rate.

The three biggest concerns for me at this point would be Elvis Andrus, the bullpen, and inexperience. Andrus has had a poor year in the field so far and at the plate. All his numbers are subpar and they don’t look to be climbing much which begs the question, has Andrus peaked? His offensive numbers are not impressive, his stolen bases are down, his defense lacks at times (.957 FP %) and he doesn’t get on base like he used to.

For the Rangers to compete this year or next he’s going to have to step it up or it may force the Rangers to possibly look for a trading partner (if they could find a team that would even consider it). Ranger’s bullpen is consisted over mostly young throwers that have litter experience with holding leads or closing out games.

This will be major problem down the road if they want to compete this year because the numbers are below average for the pen. Tolleson has been a great find and I think he provides a great bullpen piece but he can’t do it all. Bass, Claudio, Detwiler, Freeman and Scheppers have all been average to below average and that bullpen won’t scare any teams down the stretch and rightfully so.

What was once strength of this team a few years ago is now a young rebuilding unit needing a few vets.

The Rangers are gaining valuable playing time for a lot of their younger players and prospects which will pay off in the long run but we will see more and more growing pains as the season moves forward. Gallo started off red hot and showed why he led the minor leagues in homers over the past few seasons.

But at the same time now you’re seeing why he still needs AB’s down in the minors because his K rate is around 40%-50% since he’s been called up and that won’t cut it long term. Don’t kid yourself; the Rangers view him as Beltre’s future replacement at 3rd base.

As I first wrote this, the Rangers were in the middle of a five-game skid as it brought out all the flaws that I mentioned earlier. Young players struggling, the bullpen is very suspect at times, and there’s no clear ace to stop the bleeding on a skid. I understand a lot of teams go through this but the Rangers to me just aren’t there yet in terms of truly competing for a title. The pieces are lining up but it will take this season to get them comfortable with playing time and getting to know their manager better.

The Rangers rank in the middle of the road in a lot of categories both offensively and pitching. Their best offensive category is runs scored which they are 12th with 360 runs, 18th in on-base percentage (.312) and 12th in slugging percentage (.399) and a -24 run differential. Believe it or not the pitching really kept the Rangers afloat early in the season when the team was just downright abysmal at the plate. But when you have young throwers, an inexperienced pen, and playing home games at Globe Life Park the numbers will have the potential to grow and in a hurry.

The Rangers defense has been very poor so far this season and it doesn’t look like it will improve much over the next 3 and a half months. If the Rangers can somehow cut down on some errors and keep their bats hot then they could make it interesting down the stretch. I will stick relatively close to my pre-season prediction and say the Ranger’s win 80-82 ballgames and finish 3rd in the division which isn’t terrible considering the injuries and youth.

I believe the Rangers are prime to make a serious WS run in 2016 and just by looking at the potential roster will give you good reason. Think of a possible rotation that goes something like this: Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo, Nick Martinez, Martin Perez, Chi Chi Gonzalez.

Not to mention the possible addition of a top of the line starter such as a (Cole Hamels) which would make that rotation absolutely filthy and we all know pitching wins championships. Now I do think they will have to answer some questions after this season like what to do with Beltre (if he isn’t traded this season) or will Martin ever truly take over the centerfield spot (hitting .234). I can’t answer a lot of questions this early for next season but I would bet it might look a lot different than this year, especially in the outfield.

The biggest concern for me going forward is the catching position and how the Rangers have gotten by in the recent seasons with FA signings of veteran players who can play average to good ball. Ever since Pudge retired the Rangers haven’t had an all-star catcher outside of Mike Napoli who was considered more of a DH anyways. Jorge Alfaro is the prized catcher in the farm system and hopefully the Rangers will give him a look in September to see what he could potentially bring next season because Corporan and Chirinos aren’t going to cut it behind the plate.

Overall, I would say the Rangers are in a great position going forward with a good mix of veterans and young players along with a top 10 farm system. I truly believe if they pull the right strings this season and the injury bug doesn’t bite too hard, they have the potential to win 93+ games in 2016. Think of a lineup like this Deshields/Martin (CF), Choo(RF) ,Fielder(DH), Moreland(1st ), Gallo(3rd), Hamilton( LF), Chirinos/Alfaro (C), Andrus/Profar(SS), Profar/Odor(2nd). That would be a very good and potentially scary order and that’s without any trades or FA signings.

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