The Texas Rangers might have had the best offseason out of any team this past year. They upgraded their rotation, sharpened their lineup, and even though an all-star from last year departed, the Rangers are serious playoff contenders, if their bullpen can hold up. Playing against good teams like the Astros, A's and Dodgers will hurt, but Texas is in the best position they've been in since 2016.
Offseason additions: RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Kyle Gibson, C Robinson Chirinos, 3B Todd Frazier, RHP Jordan Lyles, LHP Joely Rodriguez, RHP Luis Garcia, RHP Derek Law, RHP Juan Nicasio, OF Rob Refsnyder, OF Adolis Garcia, 1B Greg Bird.
Offseason subtractions: OF Hunter Pence, OF Nomar Mazara, OF Delino Deshields Jr., IF Logan Forsythe, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Emmanuel Clase, LHP Jeffrey Springs, RHP Adrian Sampson.
The rotation is now the Rangers strength, as the team made one big trade and two free agent signings, after the squad only had two usable starters last year. Mike Minor led the league in pitching bWAR, at 7.7. After a mediocre first season in Texas, Minor had a 3.59 ERA with 200 strikeouts in 208.1 innings, and made his first all-star team. Minor has a fastball with a 2650 rpm spin rate, and his change-up had an average exit velocity against of 83.1 mph. Minor finished 8th in Cy Young voting, three spots behind teammate Lance Lynn. Like Minor, Lynn pitched in 208.1 innings, but Lynn struck out more batters, with 246 Ks. Lynn had a 3.67 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP, and his fastball had a whiff rate of 30.7%. Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber comes over from Cleveland after fracturing his forearm seven starts into the season, and never returned. Kluber struck out 38 batters in 35.2 innings. In 2018, Kluber finished 3rd in Cy Young voting, with a 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts in a league leading 215 innings. Kluber had a 0.991 WHIP. Former first rounder Kyle Gibson had a very good 2018 season with Minnesota, but could not consistently perform in 2019, especially in the final two months. Gibson struck out 160 batters in 160 innings, with a 4.84 ERA. Gibson walks too many batters, with an 8.5 BB% over the last five batters. Jordan Lyles struggled with Pittsburgh last year, with a 5.36 ERA in 17 starts, before being traded to Milwaukee. With the Brewers, Lyles found a groove, striking out 56 in 58.2 innings, plus a 2.45 ERA. Combined, Lyles had a 4.15 ERA with a 9.3 K/9, which is good for a 5th starter.
Jose Leclerc was elite in 2018, with a 1.56 ERA. He had an awful start, with an 8.44 ERA 13 appearances in, costing him the closer job. Leclerc slowly lowered that as the year went on, finishing with a 4.33 ERA, and his first 100 strikeout season. Leclerc had 14 saves in 68.2 innings, with a .159 xBA in his career. He has a high-90s fastball with a 2655 rpm spin rate. Nick Goody was a good pitcher for Cleveland last year, finishing with a 3.54 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. Goody only allowed 30 hits, and his slider had a 45% whiff rate. Jesse Chavez, a former starter that will be 37 years old by the end of the year, was very effective in '18 before a weak 2019. Chavez had a 4.85 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 78 innings, a year after a 2.55 ERA in 95.1 IP. Chavez's 88.1 mph average exit velocity was his best over the last five seasons. Joely Rodriguez returns to the majors after a successful stint in Japan. Rodriguez, who pitched for the Phillies from 2016-17, had a 1.64 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. Rodriguez also had a 0.928 WHIP. Jonathan Hernandez, ranked as the club's 25th best prospect, debuted last year with a 4.32 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Hernandez nearly walked more batters (13) than hits allowed (14). Luke Farrell bounced from the Royals to the Reds to the Cubs in 2017 and 2018 before joining the Rangers four days into 2019. Farrell had a decent stint, with 12 strikeouts in 13.1 innings and a 2.70 ERA. Farrell's fastball had an average against of .136, and his slider was better, at .111. Lefty Brett Martin debuted in 2019, and pitched in 51 games. Martin struck out 61 batters in 61.2 innings, with a 4.76 ERA. Martin's best pitch is a slider thrown 34 percent of the time. Former Mets starter Rafael Montero returned from Tommy John surgery, and was a very good reliever, with a 2.48 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 innings, allowing 23 hits. Montero's average exit velocity was up exactly two miles per hour from 2017. Taylor Hearn can make the roster, although his MLB debut was not good, with four earned runs in 0.1 innings. Hearn has a 3.51 ERA with 395 strikeouts in 338 innings over his minor league career. Chris Martin, the best reliever for the Rangers last year, was traded at the deadline for Kolby Allard. The 14th overall pick in 2015, Allard had a 4.96 ERA in nine starts, with 33 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. Allard had a barrel percentage against of just 2.6%. Derek Law was a set-up man for the Blue Jays last year, and he can make the team as a non-roster invitee. Law had a 4.90 ERA with five saves and 67 strikeouts in 60.2 innings.
The Rangers brought back Robinson Chirinos, who was with the team from 2013 to 2018. Chirinos hit 17 home runs for Houston last year, with a .238 average and a .790 OPS. While he may not be the greatest defender, he is a big upgrade offensively over Jeff Mathis, who is still with the club as a back-up. Mathis has played in the league since 2005, and his a career average of .195 with an OPS of .433. Somehow, Mathis had his worst season in 2019. He hit under .200 for the 7th season, with a .158 average and a .433 OPS. Now 37 years old, Mathis has seen his pop-time get worse over the years, and it was at 2.13 seconds last year. The Rangers could carry a third catcher, and that would be Jose Trevino. Trevino is younger and could be a better hitter than Mathis, but he is still not a good hitter. Trevino hit .258 with an OPS of .655 in 51 MLB games last year.
The Rangers signed Todd Frazier, a veteran third baseman who will likely start out the season at first base to make room for younger players at third. Frazier, who spent the last two seasons with the Mets, hit 21 home runs with a .251 average and a .772 OPS. His OPS was actually higher than his OPS in 2016, when Frazier hit 40 home runs. Frazier hit .300 against fastballs, but was just 4-for-45 in at-bats ending versus off-speed pitches. Backing up Frazier is Ronald Guzman, a six-foot-five Dominican who is a good defender at first, with four defensive runs saved last year. Guzman hit 10 home runs with a .723 OPS. Guzman strikes out too much, with a K% of 28.8% in his two year career. Another player who strikes out too much is Rougned Odor, who led the league with 178 Ks last year. Odor hit 30 home runs, with 11 stolen bases, but a .205 average and .721 OPS. Odor had a 13.6 barrel percentage, and he is a decent defender, with four outs above average. Elvis Andrus is back for his 12th year in Texas. Andrus stole 31 bases last year, his most since 2013. Andrus also hit 12 home runs with a .275 average. Andrus had six outs above average at short last year. Isiah Kiner-Falefa has catching experience and he can start at third base. Kiner-Falefa had a .620 OPS last year, and he hit four home runs with a 1.167 OPS in Spring Training. Nick Solak was acquired from Tampa Bay midseason and made his MLB debut. In 33 games, Solak hit five home runs with a .293 average and an .884 OPS. Ranked as the team's fifth best prospect, Solak had an 11.1 BB%.
While Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz and Pete Alonso are all great, Joey Gallo might be the best pure power hitter in baseball. Gallo hit at least 40 home runs in both 2017 and 2018, and while he only played in 70 games last year, he slugged out 22. Gallo had a career high .253 average and a .986 OPS. While his K rate of 38.4% was terrible, Gallo had an average exit velocity of 94.7 mph. Danny Santana was a huge surprise last year, as the utility player appeared in 130 games after playing in just 15 in 2018. Santana hit 28 home runs with 21 stolen bases, plus a .283 average and an OPS of .857. Santana had -3 outs above average combined at seven different positions, plus one out above average at each outfield spot. Willie Calhoun might not be healthy for Opening Day, but he should be back soon. Calhoun, the big return of the Yu Darvish trade in 2017, had a breakout season in 2019, hitting 21 homers with an OPS of .848. The 4th outfielder will be Scott Heineman, who debuted last year. Heineman played in 25 games, hitting two home runs with a .213 average and a .679 OPS. Shin-Soo Choo is a primary DH, but even at age 38, he can be a lead-off hitter. Choo hit 24 home runs with 15 stolen bases, plus an .826 OPS. Choo had an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph.
DH Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus (R)
CF Danny Santana (S)
RF Joey Gallo (L)
1B Todd Frazier (R)
2B Rougned Odor (L)
LF Willie Calhoun (L)
C Robinson Chirinos (R)
3B Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R)
Mike Minor (L)
Lance Lynn (R)
Corey Kluber (R)
Kyle Gibson (R)
Jordan Lyles (R)
Jose Leclerc (R)
Nick Goody (R)
Joely Rodriguez (L)
Jesse Chavez (R)
Luke Farrell (R)
Rafael Montero (R)
Brett Martin (L)
Taylor Hearn (L)
Derek Law (R)
Kolby Allard (L)
Jonathan Hernandez (R)
C Jeff Mathis (R)
C Jose Trevino (R)
1B Ronald Guzman (L)
IF Nick Solak (R)
OF Scott Heineman (R)
Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
34-68 record, 5th in AL West
Most home runs: Joey Gallo (28)
Highest batting average: Elvis Andrus (.299)
Highest OPS: Joey Gallo (.851)
Best ERA, starters: Lance Lynn (4.36)
Best ERA, relievers: Rafael Montero (3.75)
Most innings pitched: Corey Kluber (122.1)
Most strikeouts: Lance Lynn (103)
Best K/9: Jordan Lyles (10.9)
Record through 60 games, last five seasons
The Rangers have a really good rotation. It is easily top-5 in the league. Their lineup isn't special, but it is good enough. The main thing keeping them from the playoffs is their bullpen, but if they improve on that in this coming offseason, then the Rangers will be a playoff team. Until then, they will be on the outside looking in. I predict a third place finish for the Rangers, and no playoff berth.