World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. A 93-win season and a wild-card birth in 2012. A 92-win season and a play-in game a year ago. The Texas Rangers have had their fair share of success the last four years…in the regular season anyway. Despite the club’s lofty win totals, coach Ron Washington’s team has tended to fizzle at the end of the season or in the playoffs. With this year’s big-name acquisitions, the Rangers hope to remedy this situation. Texas traded for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder along with speedy left fielder Shin-Soo Choo to add some production to an already intimidating starting line-up.
Prince Fielder – 1B
Shin-Soo Choo – LF
Michael Choice – OF
Ian Kinstler – 2B
Lance Berkman – 1B
Nelson Cruz – OF
A.J. Pierzynski – C
Manager: Ron Washington
Replacing the fired Buck Showalter following the 2006 season, manager Ron Washington has been able to turn the entire culture of Texas Rangers’ baseball around. Other than Johnny Oates, Washington is the only manager to lead Texas to the post-season, and he did it three successive years including the two World Series appearances.
Catcher: Geovany Soto, Chris Snyder
Soto, the 2008 N.L. Rookie of the Year for the Cubs has been hampered by injuries since joining the Rangers in 2012. He will miss 10-12 weeks to start the season as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Snyder, the journeyman catcher who broke in the league in 2004 with the Diamondbacks was just signed by the Rangers on March 25 because of Soto’s injury. A career .224 hitter, his best year was 2008 with Arizona when he hit 16 home runs and drove in 68.
First Base: Prince Fielder
Fielder was acquired from the Tigers for Ian Kinstler shortly following the 2012 season. The former All-Star game MVP is a career .286 hitter that has averaged 35 home runs and over 100 runs batted in per season. Last year saw Fielder have some slight dips in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and batting average, but at just 29-years-old the second generation slugger still has a lot left in the tank.
Second Base: Jurickson Profar
Profar, the Rangers top prospect, is in his third year in the Major League.,He is just 21-years-old and Texas management is confident that he will be able to fill the hole left by the traded Kinstler. The Curacao native hit .234 in sporadic action last year. He played in 85 games manning second base, shortstop and third base at various points throughout the season. Profar will start the season on the disabled list for at least 10 weeks to heal a slight muscle tear in his right shoulder.
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
Andrus has been solid in the middle of the infield for the Rangers. In his sixth year with the club, the career .274 hitter will be looking to build upon a strong 2013 campaign where he swiped a career-best 42 bases and scored 91 runs.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre
Beltre, who will turn 35 next week, is still as good as they come defensively and continues to hit for both average and power. The four-time gold glove winner had a .959 fielding percentage last season and narrowly missed out on another gold glove. A career .282 hitter, Beltre hit .315 last season with 30 home runs and 92 runs batted in.
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo, Alex Rios, Leonys Martin
Choo, who hit .285 with 21 home runs and 162 hits last season, was brought in to make sure that runners are on the bases when Fielder and Beltre step up to the plate. The eight-year veteran had a .423 on base percentage last season while scoring 107 runs.
Rios was acquired from the White Sox last season and he belted a combined 18 home runs and 81 runs batted in. A solid fielder, the 10-year veteran committed just three errors last season.
Martin, the Cuban speedster, swiped 39 bases last season for Texas. A career .254 hitter, the third-year pro will have to try to cut down on his 117 strikeouts from a year ago to maximize his potential.
Projected Batting Order:
Starting Rotation: Yu Darvis, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, Nicholas Tepesch
Darvis, the Rangers’ ace, will begin the year on the 15-day disabled list with a neck injury. The third year pro was 13-9 last season with a 2.83 earned run average.
Perez, who had his first full season with the Rangers last year, went 10-6 and pitched 124 innings. Look for his load to increase this year as the No. 2 starter, especially with Darvis and Harrison being sidelined to start the year.
Harrison, who will be on the 15-day DL with back issues, pitched in just two games last season due to back problems. If the left-hander can get healthy and return to 2012 form, the Rangers will have a potent 1-2-3 punch at the top half of their rotation.
Ogando went 7-4 with a 3.11 earned run average in 18 starts last season. The Rangers are looking for him to step up early on in the absence of Darvis and Harrison.
Tepesch, a rookie right-hander, went 4-6 in 18 starts last season with Texas. His earned run average was somewhat suspect at 4.84
Bullpen: Joakin Soria, Neftali Feliz, Joe Saunders, Tommy Hansen, Colby Lewis
What was once one of the most dependable relief corps in the game is now quite a question mark. Soria and Feliz will compete for the closing role, but both are coming off of Tommy John surgery. Lewis and Hansen are in the pen by default. Washington hoped that the two would compete for starting spots, but both have sputtered this spring.
How the Rangers respond to the bevy of injuries at the start of the season should tell us a lot about how they will finish. Despite the fractured starting rotation, this club should have enough power to hit their way to a division title. The Mariners will be much improved, but still a year away, while Oakland is battling a number of injuries and Anaheim still has the depth problem that did the Angels in a year ago.
Texas Rangers Spring Training Preview Expected Finish: First Place.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika