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Everything’s bigger in Texas — especially when it comes to offense. The Rangers have speed and power up and down their lineup … But pitching? That’s another story.
With an everyday lineup that’s nearly set, the Rangers have dedicated their efforts this winter to getting more help on the mound. Fantasy owners can be forgiven if they’re not overly impressed with the results.
2017 at a glance
Record: 78-84 (3rd in AL West)
Hitting: 9th (4.93 R/G)
Pitching: 21st (4.66 ERA)
Park Factor, scoring: 2nd (1.215)
Park factor, HR: 9th (1.227)
SPs Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Doug Fister, Bartolo Colon
RP Seung hwan Oh
The Rangers didn’t spend a ton of money this offseason (yet?), but they did make a ton of moves to acquire pitching. The rotation has been almost completely overhauled with Moore coming in a trade with San Francisco, while Minor, Fister and Colon signed as free agents.
Oh was an upper-tier closer for St. Louis at this time last year, but he suffered major drops in his strikeout and ground-ball rates. Opponents began teeing off on him and he lost the closer’s job, finishing with a 4.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.
Players to watch
SS Elvis Andrus
1B/3B Joey Gallo
Andrus took his game to new heights last year, obliterating his career high in home runs with 20, while also stealing at least 20 bases for the ninth consecutive season. He’s not in the upper tier of fantasy shortstops, but he’s awfully close.
Gallo is perhaps the truest “three true outcomes” player in the game today: 41 homers, 75 walks, 196 strikeouts in 532 plate appearances. That’s 59%. While his contact rate is miserable, it’s easy to forget he’s 24 with one full MLB season under his belt. And he had the third-highest exit velocity in the majors last year. Even a slight improvement in his contact rate could yield significant upside.
OF Nomar Mazara
2B Rougned Odor
Despite two full MLB seasons under his belt, Mazara will still be just 22 years old on opening day. He hit exactly 20 homers in both seasons, but last year ramped up his RBI total to 101. He didn’t show much skills growth from 2016 to ’17, but growth isn’t always linear.
Odor saw his batting average go in the tank last season — from .271 to .204 — as his lack of plate discipline combined with a .224 average on balls in play that was the lowest of any qualified major leaguer. Yet he still hit 30 homers and stole 15 bases.
Closer: Alex Claudio
Next: Keone Kela
The Rangers bullpen has all the earmarks of one to be avoided on draft day. Claudio finished 2017 as the closer, converting 11-of-15 save chances. However, the lefty’s mid-80s fastball and 6.1 K/9 rate are far from optimal for the role.
Kela had stem-cell therapy after the season to address the shoulder soreness that had been bothering him. With an 11.9 K/9 rate, he has the raw stuff to close, but he’s had trouble avoiding the DL. Oh has extensive closing experience and could also be in the mix.
Jurickson Profar is still a thing. The one-time No. 1 overall prospect is now 25 and still looking to crack the lineup. His best chance is to get some playing time in left field against left-handed pitchers, but top prospect Willie Calhoun has the inside track to the job.
Matt Bush sets up to be the fifth starter as the Rangers try to convert him from a reliever. They’re trying to do the same thing with Minor.
OF Willie Calhoun
OF Leody Taveras
Calhoun, 23, came from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade. The stockily built former second baseman hit .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers in the minors last season. After getting a late-season call to Texas, he could be the starting left fielder on opening day.
Taveras, 19, is a name to stash away for the future. He’s a switch-hitting outfielder who had eight homers and 20 steals at low-A Hickory (N.C.).
Projected batting order
1. DH Shin-Soo Choo
2. SS Elvis Andrus
3. RF Nomar Mazara
4. 3B Adrian Beltre
5. 1B Joey Gallo
6. 2B Rougned Odor
7. C Robinson Chirinos
8. LF Willie Calhoun
9. CF Delino DeShields Jr.
1. LHP Cole Hamels
2. LHP Matt Moore
3. RHP Doug Fister
4. LHP Mike Minor
5. RHP Matt Bush