Texas Rangers 2012: 7 Reasons Rangers Are Still Team to Beat in AL West

Brandon Tripp@BrandonJayTrippContributor IIIApril 12, 2012

Texas Rangers 2012: 7 Reasons Rangers Are Still Team to Beat in AL West

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    After two straight World Series appearances and no titles, the Rangers are still looking for that illusive championship. With a stronger AL West, particularly the Los Angeles Angels, many are predicting this could be the year the Rangers finish second in the division. 

    But until someone can prove they can topple the Rangers stranglehold on the division, they are still the team to beat in the West. 

7. Deep Farm System

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    There is no substitute for a deep farm system. With one of the deepest in baseball, the Rangers have the ability to pick and choose when they spend money. When a player becomes a free agent, there are guys who can replace him at the big league level.

    It also gives the Rangers, as we have seen the last two seasons, the ability to go and make mid-season upgrades using their deep farm system as bait for any team looking to be sellers at the deadline. It worked with Cliff Lee, Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.

    Having this flexibility puts them a step ahead of the rest of the division because when they identify a need they can make a move without sacrificing the major league lineup or depleting their farm system, much like the Yankees have done in previous years. 

6. Albert Pujols Can't Bat in All 9 Spots

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    It’s unfortunate right? But last time I checked you can't have one batter in all nine spots of the lineup.

    The Angels still have bats in the lineup, but it is much less fearsome after you get past Pujols. With almost the same lineup as last season, the Angels finished a very mediocre 17th in run production. It is hard to imagine the addition of Pujols can put them on par with the Rangers ability to score runs in mass. 

5. Pitching Depth

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    There are few teams that can boast seven legitimate starters on their major league roster. Texas happens to be one of the few.

    The Angels may have the better rotation on paper, but the Rangers have one of the better bullpens in baseball with two former All-Stars and a guy like Mike Adams who is considered one of the best setup men in baseball.

    Alexi Ogando is maybe the best example of this team's depth. Ogando went 13-8 last season with a 3.51 ERA, made the All-Star team and still got put back in the bullpen.

    If Joe Nathan can return to the form he had prior to his Tommy John surgery, Texas will have the ability to hold down any lead they get. 

4. The Rotation May Be Better Than Last Year

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    It still remains to be seen, but potentially this starting rotation could be much more dangerous than last year's. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison have pitched on the biggest stage now, and Holland was dazzling in Game 4 of the World Series allowing just two hits in 8.1 innings.

    With the addition of Yu Darvish and the move of Neftali Feliz to the rotation, Texas might end up with a top-three staff ERA by the end of the season and one of the best rotations in baseball. The cherry on top is that Texas has this rotation essentially set for years to come.

    And to think, they are only spending just over $13 million this year for this rotation. Thanks Derek Holland.  

3. The Front Office

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    Over the last two seasons there may have been no better front office than the Rangers. Jon Daniels had Nolan Ryan have managed this roster brilliantly without breaking the bank.

    Their system of securing their promising young players early (Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler) has paid huge dividends.

    Daniels has also made trades that have helped the Rangers without sacrificing big money or big time prospects. As long as Daniels and Ryan are with the Rangers, they will have a leg up on the other AL West teams. 

2. Ron Washington

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    True, Washington has made some moves that make you scratch your head times, like in the playoffs.

    On the flip side, Washington gets the most out of his players every single day. Never once have I heard a player say he didn’t enjoy playing for Washington. That kind of relationship with your players gets you the best effort out of them every single time out.

    The Rangers have managed back-to-back World Series appearances—you don’t get that without having a manager who can push his team.

    Never underestimate the effect of having a great motivator as your skipper. 

1. Best Lineup in Baseball

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    There is no easy out in the Rangers' lineup. Anyone can have a big night any night, sometimes on the same night. The addition of David Murphy as a regular has just made this lineup even more potent.

    Yes, the Angels have one of the best rotations in baseball, and it is full of veteran arms, but the Rangers went 6-3 last season against the top of the Angels' rotation (Weaver, Harren and Santana).

    What’s more than what they do at the plate, this lineup is deep when it comes to base runners. Kinsler, Andrus, Murphy, Cruz and Hamilton are capable of stealing bases and going first to third virtually anytime. Yorvit Torrealba even has a steal this season. That allows you to manufacture runs and means the bats don’t have to be hot every single night.