Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Texas Rangers 2019 season preview

Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Photo from Dallas Morning News


          The Texas Rangers had a period from 2015-2016 where they were title hunting. A Jose Bautista bat flip in '15 and an embarrassing ALDS sweep ended the Rangers' run. Now, they are at rock bottom. Former face of the franchise Adrian Beltre retired, and out the door went budding second baseman Jurickson Profar, catcher Robinson Chirinos and reliever Alex Claudio. Former closer Keone Kela left last July. Engaged in a painful rebuild, the Rangers can do nothing but hope to be like the 2017 Twins, who went from terrible team to contender in a season.

           Offseason additions: RHP Lance Lynn, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Jesse Chavez, C Jeff Mathis, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Shelby Miller, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Edinson Volquez, OF Hunter Pence, RHP Jeanmar Gomez, INF Logan Forsythe, 3B/P Matt Davidson, OF Ben Revere

            Offseason subtractions: 3B Adrian Beltre, 2B Jurickson Profar, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Doug Fister, OF Drew Robinson, LHP Matt Moore

            Rotation
The four starters Texas brought in, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Drew Smyly and Edinson Volquez, have all had Tommy John surgery before, with Miller, Smyly and Volquez just returning from it. Lynn is coming off the worst season of his career, but has a 3.57 ERA and a 3.67 FIP in his career, better than Dallas Keuchel, the best remaining free agent starter. Lynn had a 2.17 FIP after a July trade to the Yankees. Smyly hasn't pitched since 2016, his first full season as a starter, but also his worst. Volquez had a 4.19 ERA in 17 starts for the Marlins in 2017, and was a key starter for the 2015 Royals that won the World Series. The best returning starter, Mike Minor, was moved back to the starting role for the first time since 2014. He was a dominant reliever in KC in 2017, but didn't pitch in 2015 or 2016 because of major shoulder surgery. Miller was one of baseball's best young starters from 2012-15, but completely failed and was injured when traded to Arizona. Texas is hoping for the Miller that was on St. Louis and Atlanta.

             Bullpen
Jose LeClerc, the closer after Keone Kela was traded to Pittsburgh, absolutely dominated in 2018, with a 1.56 ERA, with 85 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. He will keep the closer duties. Jesse Chavez, traded to the Cubs last July, was re-signed. He had a 2.55 ERA last year, a career best. Chris Martin returned from Japan, but didn't find much success. Lefty Jeffrey Springs was decent in a short amount of MLB time last year. Connor Sadzeck allowed just one run in 9.1 innings last season. Adrian Sampson had a good spring, and should make the team. Veterans Shawn Kelley and Jeanmar Gomez will also make the team. Combined, they have 18 years of MLB experience. Kelley is the better of the two. Mets Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy was picked up off waivers, and should make the team over either Sampson or Sadzeck.

             Catching
 Robinson Chirinos left after hitting 18 home runs. The Rangers signed defensive catcher Jeff Mathis to a two year deal. Mathis will likely back up Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a catcher and infielder, who made his rookie season in 2018.

             Infield
Replacing Beltre at third will be Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit 23 home runs in '18. Sophomore first baseman Ronald Guzman hit 16 home runs. Injuries limited Roughned Odor to just 129 games, where he hit 18 home runs. But, his OPS improved dramatically from 2017, up to .751. Injuries limited Elvis Andrus to 97 games. He he hit six home runs, 14 less than his career high in 2017, five stolen bases, when his previous career low was 21, and a career low .256 average.

               Outfield
Joey Gallo hit 40 home runs again, but hit in the low .200s and struck out 200 times. Those numbers are what we've come to expect from Gallo. His OPS dropped from .869 in 2017 to .810 in 2018. Delino DeShields Jr. is one of the fastest players in baseball, and it was a disappointment seeing him steal just 20 bases last year. He could work on his offense. He hit .216 with a .591 OPS in 2018. In each of his first three MLB seasons, Nomar Mazara hit exactly 20 home runs. Mazara will turn 24 at the end of April. This could be his breakout year.

                DH/Bench
Shin-Soo Choo has moved to a DH role. He hit 21 home runs with a .810 OPS last season. Hunter Pence made the team out of Spring Training as the fourth outfielder. Pence completely fell off in 2018, hitting four home runs, with a .226 average and a .590 OPS, all career lows by far. Logan Forsythe is the backup infielder. He had a .356 OBP in 50 games after a midseason trade to Minnesota. Mathis is the backup catcher.

                 Lineup
DH Shin-Soo Choo
2B Roughned Odor
SS Elvis Andrus
RF Nomar Mazara
LF Joey Gallo
3B Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Ronald Guzman
C Isiah Kiner-Falefa
CF Delino DeShields Jr.

                  Rotation
Mike Minor (L)
Lance Lynn (R)
Drew Smyly (L)
Edinson Volquez (R)
Shelby Miller (R)
                 
                   Bullpen
Jose LeClerc (R)
Jesse Chavez (R)
Chris Martin (R)
Jeffrey Springs (L)
Kyle Dowdy (R)
Shawn Kelley (R)
Jeanmar Gomez (R)
Adrian Sampson (R)

                    Bench
C Jeff Mathis
OF Hunter Pence
INF Logan Forsythe

                    Additional Information
Ballpark: Globe Life Park
Manager: Chris Woodward
GM: Jon Daniels
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 67-95

                     Steal of the Decade
The best Rangers trade this decade could end up actually being a bad one in years. Well, first, they acquired lefties Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman from the Phillies for six players. Hamels and Diekman were both key parts of the Rangers' runs in 2015 and 2016. The only two of the six players that can come back to hurt the Rangers are Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams. But, Alfaro was traded to the Marlins and Williams is now a fourth outfielder because of the Bryce Harper signing.

                      Prediction
The Rangers don't impress anyone as a team. Their bullpen, outside of LeClerc, is really bad, their rotation is made up of guys that have missed at least a season, and their lineup isn't great. There shouldn't be postseason baseball in Arlington this year.

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