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2014 Preview: Texas Rangers

Feb 26, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

Choo Fielder

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 2014 season. First up: The Texas Rangers.

The Big Question: Were the bold moves bold enough?

The past two offseasons seasons saw the division rival Angels make huge additions in Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Those moves didn’t work and, indeed, those moves are cited as part of the reason the Angels have fizzled. Too much star power, not enough depth, they’ve said. It takes more than the big moves to make a contender. So why should the Rangers’ big offseason moves — trading for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo be any different?

Because they fit a heck of a lot better with the Rangers than those other guys fit with the Angels, that’s why. The Rangers needed on-base ability at the top of the lineup. They needed someone with pop from the left side who can take advantage of the short porch in right down in Arlington. Choo and Fielder supply that in spades. Indeed, Choo is one of baseball’s true on-base machines, and the fact that Jon Daniels and Ron Washington have committed to batting him leadoff is going to mean good things for the lineup. Getting Prince Fielder out of Detroit — and getting him in shape — will do wonders as well. It’ll be hard to find anyone the baseball punditry says will have a better bounceback year than Fielder.

Yes, the Rangers had to give up Ian Kinsler to snag Fielder, but havung Jurickson Profar move into a regular, everyday role at second base is a nice fallback option. If he plays to his potential, the Rangers could have another star on their hands. If he falters, at least his glove should be solid.

Unlike the Angels, the Rangers were not a team trying to patch over several holes with a couple of high-profile signings. They were a strong team who needed a push over the top after falling a couple games short for the AL West title the past two seasons. With Choo and Fielder they should get it.

What else is going on?

  • Injuries to the rotation are going to go a long way towards determining the Rangers’ fate.  Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez make a nice 1-2-3, but Harrison’s early-spring back issues are worth watching and not having Derek Holland around for the first half of the season due to knee surgery is a big problem. If Harrison is OK and Holland can step in when he’s healthy, the rotation should be OK. If both of those guys are gimpy much of the year Ron Washington is going to lean heavily on Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson, and all of those guys are question marks. There’s a lot of depth here, but there’s also a chance that Texas is sporting a rotation with way too many 4-5 guys as the season wears on.
  • The closer spot could be an all-or-nothing proposition. With Joe Nathan gone we have Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria vying for ninth inning duties. Both are not too far-removed from dominant pitching and even less far-removed from Tommy John surgery. If one bounces back to his old form, the Rangers have a closer. If both do, they have a two-headed monster in the late innings which could shorten games.
  • A.J. Pierzynski is in Boston, leaving catching duties to Geovany Soto, who has been a backup the past couple of seasons, and J.P. Arencibia, who was one of the worst offensive players in all of baseball last year. Each is capable of so much more than they’ve done recently. It’ll be interesting to see if either of them can regain lost form.
  • Ron Washington’s contract was just extended through 2015. Seems like a late and somewhat short vote of confidence compared to how these things usually go for guys with a couple of pennants under their belt. If the Rangers, after taking on Fielder and signing Choo, underachieve this season, it wouldn’t be at all shocking to see Wash on the hot seat.

Prediction: That seat shouldn’t be too hot, though. The lineup is stacked. If the rotation doesn’t implode, this is one of the best teams in the AL. First place, AL West.

  1. themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 26, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    Big hitters in a small park. Good defence and strong, strike out pitching. This is a good team.

  2. El Bravo - Feb 26, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Wow Fielder is a beast.

  3. tcb2nyc - Feb 26, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    Could reach 100 wins if pitching holds up.

    • miketreedy - Feb 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      I think they are 88-93 win team. Lots of questions still to be answered:
      How will Profar perform in first full year?
      Leonys Martín showed flashes especially on the bases can he take next step?
      Mooreland at DH – Is he Chris Davis or Justin Smoak? Still rather them go get a DH.
      Martin Perez had great year in minors and majors last year. Is he the real deal?
      Holland and Harrison – need to be healthy and put up innings
      Ron Washington – I rarely understand his play calling. Too many damn bunts!

      I’m a Rangers fan but still think the A’s have to be the preseason favorite.

      • tcb2nyc - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        I agree with all your bullett points (especially about Wash, he makes the worst in-game moves) except that the A’s should be the pre-season favorites. If you are one of these “The champs are always the favorites until someone knocks them off: kind of people then I can’t argue. But the A’s havent added much and they’ve definitely lost a lot, especially in Colon. I still can’t fathom how they win with that roster. Best coached team in the bigs.

        Moving Kinsler will help them as well. Suspect defense (makes some amazing plays, but boots a lot of gimmes) and horrible base running. Profar probably wont have the OBP of a Kinsler, but when you take into account the defense and baserunning, it might be a wash.

  4. stex52 - Feb 26, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Pitching depth. That says it all.

  5. denseflea - Feb 26, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    FIRST PLACE!?!?

    Okay.. Admittedly, I am an Angel fan and want the Rangers to fail, but even I can’t ignore the Oakland or Seattle.

    Personally, I think the AL West will be a lot closer this year in terms of GB to 1st place.

    • joehahntpt - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:23 AM

      Seattle can EASILY be ignored. Cano does not make them contenders. They will finish 4th and be competing with the budding Astros for 4th next year.

  6. superbowl42champs - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    I think this team is another injury away from getting price but either way if the rotation holds up until the all starts break we should do great

  7. thetxhammer - Feb 26, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Like it was said before, pitching will be the key. If Ogando can stay healthy, he’s capable of being another Julio Tehran.

    On another note, I’ll be breaking out my catchers mask and cup for right field, originally intended for when Jason Botts or Crush Davis would figure it out. We know how that turned out…

  8. sisisisisisisi - Feb 26, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Thanks for jinxing my Rangers Craig, that was very bold of a prediction.

  9. scatterbrian - Feb 26, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    Bold moves! Rangers! Angels!

    Meanwhile, the A’s are two-time defending AL West Champs

    • buckwild2014 - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      How many World Series have the been too in the last 15 years?

      • scatterbrian - Feb 27, 2014 at 3:51 PM

        More fun with arbitrary endpoints:

        How many World Series have the (sic) been too (sic) in the last 15 years? Zero, assuming you meant the A’s
        How many division titles have the Angels and Rangers won in the last two years? Zero
        How many division titles have the A’s won in the last two years? Two
        How many World Series titles have the Angels and Rangers won in their franchises’ histories? One
        How many World Series titles have the Oakland A’s won in that same time period? Four

  10. chill1184 - Feb 26, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    AL West is certainly a nice mixed bag, going to be interesting to see what kind of numbers Fielder puts in that park.

  11. psly2124 - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    Pitching is extremely suspect. This team has third place written all over it

  12. markofapro - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Big Ranger fan here.

    A’s easily win this division.

    Rangers are very thin.

    • joehahntpt - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:24 AM

      Ah yes, but Fielder is thick.

      • fordman84 - Feb 27, 2014 at 9:04 AM

        And Leon is getting…larger

    • dylanthom2013 - Feb 27, 2014 at 3:25 AM

      OAK and TB – getting that much performance out of that small a budget is a wondrous feat.

      Rangers fan not looking forward to Reddick healthy and bashing 30+ HR’s and Gray challenging Darvish for the Cy Young.

  13. moogro - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:57 AM

    Mariners will pee in someone’s dreams.

    • fordman84 - Feb 27, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      Sure will. The dreams of all of their fans

  14. dylanthom2013 - Feb 27, 2014 at 3:20 AM

    Like how we have a bunch of guys who can go for 20+ HR’s AND 4 guys who can go for 20+ SB’s. We’re versatile in the ways we can create offense.

    Excited to see what Profar and Martin can do.

    Wonder if Font can improve his control enough to win that last bullpen spot. He’s a beast who brings it at 99-mph.

  15. buckwild2014 - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    AL West should be a dogfight this year!!

  16. doctornature - Feb 27, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    Holland MIGHT make it back this year, but micro-fracture knee surgery could easily keep him out all year.

    Ogando is no sure thing.

    Harrison is coming off 2 BACK surgeries.

    Colby Lewis is coming off HIP REPLACEMENT surgery.

    Tommy Hansen had a 5.5+ ERA in Anaheim, a noted pitchers park.

    Tepesch didn’t scare a single batter last year.

    That leaves Darvish and Perez, who has half a year in the Show.

    As one of the biggest Ranger fans in existence, I am preying for rain 3 days a week

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