It’s early March and there’s already some hostility in Texas Rangers camp with the rumored six-man rotation. Cole Hamels is not a fan and while the Rangers have plenty of rotation candidates, they don’t really have a plethora of top or even middle-of-the-rotation arms at their disposal.
After a disappointing end to the season last year, going 12-17 to close out the year and drop six-games under-.500, the Rangers will look to rebound in 2018, but will aim to do so without their most effective pitcher from a year ago and without any major upgrades to a lineup full of swing-and-miss.The Rangers’ strategy over the offseason was to stock up on potential lottery ticket arms, adding Tim Lincecum, Matt Moore and Mike Minor. The pitching should be better, but there’s still no clear closer. Did GM Jon Daniels do enough or will Jeff Banister be short-handed again in 2018?
2017 Record: 78-84
2017 Moneyline Record: -1.27 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 74-82-6
Current World Series Odds: +12500
Current Odds To Win AL: +6300
Current Odds To Win AL West: +1650
Regular Season Win Total: 77.5
The Rangers were the only team in the top-6 in the AL in runs scored to miss the postseason. They scored 799 runs, but allowed 816 while posting a team ERA of 4.66.
While Texas returns most of the same players form the everyday lineup in 2017 and have added many different arms to the mix for 2018, the names on the roster still likely don’t add up to a solid team.
At the plate, the Ranger will be without Mike Napoli and Carlos Gomez, but the rest of the bats are the same except for a full season of Willie Calhoun. Calhoun has a strong minor league track record as a hitter. The 23-year old ranks out as a top 60 prospect across multiple publications with Baseball America ranking him the No.36 prospect heading into 2018.
The biggest issue with Calhoun is his lack of a position. He’ll be tried out in leftfield, but could ultimately DH if he cannot find a spot. In the minors he showed power and contact. Power is something the Rangers are familiar with; contact, not so much.
Calhoun and the rest of the lineup will try and make up for the 46 lost homers from Napoli and Gomez though Napoli hit just .193 with a .285 OBP.
In addition to Calhoun, the offense still includes plenty of power. Joey Gallo slugged 41 homers last year. Rougned Odor hit 30. Both Gallo and Odor will work on their averages. Gallos hit ojust .209 though he did have a respectable .333 OBP. Odor was terrible at the plate save for the 30 bombs. He produced a .204/.252/.397 slash line after a breakout 2016.
Odor needs to step up. He and Nomar Mazara were supposed to be cornerstones of the future. Odor took a step back in 2017 and Mazara was okay, but not great though he did drive in 101 runs, but had a .745 OPS and 92 OPS+.
Across the board, the Rangers are full of flawed hitters with interesting skill sets. The only two complete hitters to his point are the 39-year old Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. Beltre played in only 94 games last year and given his age, health remains an issue. Productivity, however, is there when he’s healthy. Andrus was a 20-20 guy last year and provides speed and a bit of pop from the shortstop position.
While the Rangers lineup is far from a thing of art, it produced nearly 800 runs and could do so again, but is that enough given the pitching staff?
Cole Hamels is the ace for Texas and the Rangers have done a poor job of keeping the ace happy. He’s critical of the six-man rotation and his lack of buy-in could have a trickledown effect. If he could get on board, it might help him. He was injured a bit last year and is now in his mid-30s. The extra rest could help, but not if he doesn’t allow it to help.
Regardless of the rotation being five or six men, Hamels results will need to be better in 2018 when he’s on the hill. He was an average pitcher in 2017 with a 11-6 record and 4.20 ERA. His FIP was more telling at 4.62 as his strikeout to walk ratio dipped to 1.98.
Hamels, at this point in his career, is an average pitcher. Behind him, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Doug Fister, Matt Bush, Bartolo Colon and Martin Perez could all factor in.
Moore was a failure in San Francisco and is looking to benefit from a change of scenery. Minor pitched brilliantly in KC last year, but that was in the pen. Bush is another bullpen arm that they’re trying to convert. He’s got great stuff, but managed just 52.1 innings last year.
Perez, Colon and Fister were all starters last year, but Perez was a 4.82 ERA pitcher, Colon was let go by the Braves and is now in his mid-40s while Fister couldn’t even hook on with a team until mid-year when he was a serviceable back-end starter. That’s not a lot of ringing endorsements beyond Hamel.
The bullpen brings the same level of uncertainty. Tim Lincecum is trying to resurrect his career and got a Major League offer form the Rangers to pitch out of the pen. The team also added Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin to mix with Alex Claudio, Jake Diekman and others. The closer is likely to be Claudio.
Last year, the bullpen blew a lot of games early for Texas and the pen isn’t any more stable in 2018.
Everywhere you look, the Rangers are full of questions. It’s a potentially powerful offense with several places things could go wrong and a pitching staff full of hopes and dreams with little to hang your hat on. It’s the type of team that could certainly overachieve, but is far more likely to crash and burn at—or near—the bottom of the AL West.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: vs Houston Astros
April 2-5: at Oakland Athletics
April 6-8: vs Toronto Blue Jays
April 9-11: vs Los Angeles Angels
April 13-15: at Houston Astros
April 16-18: at Tampa Bay Rays
April 20-22: vs Seattle Mariners
April 23-25: vs Oakland Athletics
April 27-29: at Toronto Blue Jays
April 30-May 2: at Cleveland Indians
The Rangers start their season off with a bang, facing off against in-state rivals and the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros. From there, things ease off a big for the Rangers who face three teams who ended 2017 below .500 before another series against the Astros, this one in Houston.
In total, April brings two series against the Astros and a series with the Indians at the end of the month. Outside of that, the Angels are the only team they face that’s projected to finish above .500 based on each team’s projected win totals on BookMaker. Of course, the Rangers are supposed to be a below-.500 club themselves. They face the Blue Jays twice and the Athletics a couple times in April. They were 3-4 against Toronto last year and 8-11 against the A’s.
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