The moves the Texas Rangers made at the trade deadline solidify their claim as the best team in the American League.
Each of these players fills a significant area of need. Soto brings a steady defensive presence to the catcher position, and Dempster will strengthen a rotation that's reeling from the season-ending injuries of Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz.
Texas still features one of the most explosive offensives in the MLB, and while it lacks a true front-line starter, its pitching staff is one of the deepest in baseball.
This team is built to win now, and the Rangers are desperate for another crack at the World Series.
So, let's take a look at a few post-deadline predictions for this new-look Texas squad.
It's been a rough go of it for Josh Hamilton over the last two months.
He began the season on a blistering pace but then hit a wall when the calendar turned to June and July.
In June, Hamilton hit .223, with only 16 RBI and four home runs. That was bad, but it was nothing compared to his July performance. Hamilton batted a putrid .177 in July, and had an OBP of only .253, numbers most backups would reach with ease.
Still, despite his struggles, Hamilton is due to breakout at any time.
He's a rare talent and has shown signs of additional plate discipline over the last week, even though he was one of the few Rangers without a hit in Texas' thrilling 10th inning comeback on Wednesday.
Hamilton is in the middle of his prime, and players with his track record don't just drop off the map. He will solve his issues soon, and you can expect him to be slugging the Rangers to victory by the end of the month.
After all, he’s a career .306 hitter, and there’s no way "the Natural" continues to bat below the Mendoza line.
They have one of the best one-two punches in baseball, with potential Cy Young winner Jered Weaver and Greinke off the top, and the guys behind them, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are no slouches either.
Plus, Albert Pujols has become superhuman again. When you add that to Mike Trout’s unbelievable rookie year, the Los Angeles attack is now as potent as any.
Still, the Rangers hold a few advantages over their AL West rivals.
First, they have a three-game lead in the standings, which, no matter how small, can't be overstated.
Second, they posses the more potent lineup. The Rangers are second in the AL in runs scored, the Angels are sixth.
Lastly, the wisdom they've procured from their back-to-back World Series runs shouldn't be discounted. Not to mention the hunger that comes with a pair of failures on the highest level.
The Angels young stars, Trout and Mark Trumbo, have yet to encounter the pressure of a division race, and that lack of experience will be the difference down the stretch.
It will certainly be close, but the Rangers will hold off the hard-charging Angels for their third straight AL West crown.
First Colby Lewis went down, then Neftali Feliz.
Now, Roy Oswalt has been banished to the bullpen, and the Rangers’ $50 million Japanese import, Yu Darvish has begun to struggle.
Still, Texas’ five-man rotation is good enough to garner success in the playoffs.
It may be a little tough to believe, but the staff is formidable.
Matt Harrison is having an outstanding season, thus far, with his 3.19 ERA. He's doing so by staying ahead of hitters while pitching to contact, and there's no sign of him slowing down.
Dempster brings a much-needed veteran presence, essentially taking the same role that Lewis had on the team.
He will step on the mound, throw strikes and keep the Rangers in every contest. He has slightly overachieved this season with his 2.25 ERA—his career mark is only 4.31—but Dempster's a proven arm that will significantly bolster the rotation.
Behind those two it gets a bit sketchy.
But Texas' No. 3 and 4, Darvish and Derek Holland feature the best stuff on the Rangers' staff, and are perfectly capable of dominating hitters when they locate their pitches.
Thankfully for Texas, both have performed well in the postseason, though; Darvish's playoff success has come overseas.
However, there could be an outlier in this equation—former All-Star starter Alexi Ogando.
If the Texas pitchers continue to struggle over the next few weeks, the Rangers might decide to plug Ogando back into the rotation.
Sure, the move would hurt the bullpen a bit, but that's the deepest part of the Rangers' roster. They’ll still be effective without the fireballing righty.
Ogando's talent and strike throwing ability would be a great asset. Don't be surprised to see him on the Rangers' postseason staff.
Reaching even one World Series is tough, let alone three, but the Rangers will find a way to work through the minefield in the AL to reach the Fall Classic.
It will certainly be difficult, but when you take a look at the rest of the American League contenders, each suffers a major flaw.
The Detroit Tigers are without reliable starting pitching behind Justin Verlander.
New York has the same problem, as they continue to search for a complement for CC Sabathia.
The A's, well, they're Oakland after all, they’ll fall out of the race sometime soon.
Leaving, guess who, the Angels.
Next to the Rangers, they're the most complete team in the MLB, and also represent Texas' biggest obstacle in reaching another World Series.
But, the Rangers have an edge over their AL West rivals come playoff time—home-field advantage from winning the division (as predicted in slide two), and, most importantly, not having to play in the wild-card game.
The battle between the two wild-card teams will be only a single contest, and, in that short a sample, anything can happen.
The Angels will certainly be the best team on the field if they are forced to compete in the matchup. However, baseball's a fickle game, and if you run into a hot pitcher or a lineup at the wrong time, you’re done.
The Rangers won’t have to contend with that.
This gives a distinct advantage in October. It keeps them out of an elimination game while also allowing them to set their playoff rotation.
These subtle differences will separate Texas from the Angels, and will spur the Rangers to a third straight World Series.