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2013 Preview: Texas Rangers

Mar 16, 2013, 8:01 PM EDT

Adrian Beltre AP

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Texas Rangers.

The Big Question: Can the Rangers overcome the loss of Josh Hamilton to free agency?

Hamilton was, by most accounts, the Rangers’ best hitter last season as the lefty finished the 2012 campaign with 43 home runs and 128 RBI, threatening to derail Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown campaign to the very end. The Rangers weren’t willing to commit to Hamilton long-term, which allowed him to sign with the L.A. Angels.

Hamilton spent most of his time in center field last season and will be replaced by Craig Gentry, a 29-year-old with 476 career plate appearances in the big leagues. He is matched by few defensively, but leaves a lot to be desired with the bat as he has no power and is heavily reliant on posting a high batting average (it was .304 last year in 269 PA).

The other big change the Rangers made was handing the everyday job at first base to Mitch Moreland after trading Michael Young to the Phillies. Young had started 40 games at first base while also taking on DH responsibilities. Moreland, 27 years old, hit 15 home runs in 327 plate appearances last year. Their hope is that Moreland is able to consistently hit for power (around 30 home runs in a full season) while continuing to improve his pitch selection, which would help his on-base percentage.

Otherwise, the Rangers are opening up 2013 with more or less the same crew that won 93 games last year.

What else is going on?  

  • Third baseman Adrian Beltre will attempt to defy the aging process once again in 2013. 34 years old in April, has posted an aggregate .912 OPS over the last three seasons. Only  Miguel Cabrera (1.025) beats that mark, but only if you count him despite playing exclusively at first base in 2010-11. Beltre finished third in AL MVP voting last year.
  • The Rangers have been linked to starter Kyle Lohse (yep, still a free agent) for a while, but nothing has happened yet. Colby Lewis (elbow) and prospect Martin Perez (forearm) are both on the disabled list, opening up the door for Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm, Randy Wells, or Nick Tepesch to win the #5 spot in the rotation.
  • A.J. Pierzynski, coming off of the best offensive season of his career at the age of 35, is moving from one hitter-friendly park in the south side of Chicago to another one in Arlington. Pierzynski hit 27 home runs last year, joining Carlton Fisk (1983, ’85) as the only two catchers in baseball history to hit at least 25 home runs as a catcher at the age of 35 or older.
  • Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar are two of the more highly-anticipated prospects in baseball, but both are road-blocked at the moment. Olt is waiting patiently behind Beltre at third base, while Profar is behind shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler. This has led to their inclusion in many trade rumors, but the Rangers have steadfastly chosen to hold onto their prized prospects. 

Prediction: Second place, American League West.

  1. markofapro - Mar 16, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    Go Rangers!

  2. yahmule - Mar 17, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    And take the Cowboys with you.

  3. gt929 - Mar 17, 2013 at 6:14 AM

    Leonys Martin will most likely be the CF, not Gentry, unless they decide to platoon the two.

    • hotdogfinger - Mar 17, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      Exactly, how can you preview this team and not discuss Leonys?

  4. beelza - Mar 17, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    Any foundation to the idea that Ryan’s “ouster” and letting Josh walk maybe related, or true for that matter? Miggy>trout

  5. historiophiliac - Mar 17, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    Thank you, Bill, for sneaking in a little dose of Tigers awesomeness there. :)

  6. spudchukar - Mar 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    The Rangers are a conundrum. Great system, lot of stars, but often bad fits. Why not deal? Twice they nearly won the whole enchilada, but barely missed. So what is their strategy? They seem to be betting against themselves. While protecting Olt and Profar, they are banking on questionable alternatives to succeed. Were I a Ranger fan, I would be frustrated. Either play the prospects or deal them. Time’s awastin’ partners.

  7. markofapro - Mar 17, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Good point, hot dog.

  8. markofapro - Mar 17, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    Yo, spud! Valid points, partner. Rangers are thinking 2014 but will see how this season plays out. If we (yes, Go Rangers!) are contending, say goodbye to Olt. If not, he’s got a year in the minutes and can learn how to play first. Moreland will be the chip to trade.

    Man, I likethis blog

  9. metroplexfrog - Mar 24, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    The Rangers are going to be better than most people think. Their pitching is the key and if it performs as expected they will be fine.

  10. Phil - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    The biggest hurdle the Rangers have to overcome is Ron Washington. It’s pretty obvious he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer and you can only go so far with “he’s a great guy to play for”. I firmly believe the Rangers would have beaten the Cardinals two years ago if the two teams had swapped managers. It’s also possible that if Nolan goes his own way, Washington’s days might be numbered.

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