Texas Rangers' 2009 Season Preview
*From Protect the Plate
The Texas Rangers finished above third place in the American League West for the first time since winning the division in 1999, but still finished 21 games out of first place.
They appear to have the same problem as always heading into 2009: pitching. While they didn't make any offseason additions to the staff, there are a few promising prospects waiting in the wings this year.
With the division dominating Los Angeles Angels losing their dominant closer and top slugger, there is renewed hope in Arlington this year.
Elvis at Shortstop
Michael Young will move from shortstop to third base this season to make room for 20-year-old Elvis Andrus, who was one of a handful of prospects to come over in the Mark Teixeira trade. This will be the second position change for Young, who went from second base to shortstop in 2004.
Andrus hit .295 with 53 stolen bases in Double-A last year.
The Rangers are giving a couple veterans a shot at redemption.
From 2005-06, Andruw Jones hit 92 homers and drove in 257 runs. Since, he has 29 home runs and 108 RBI. He hit rock bottom with the Dodgers last year, hitting .158. He's expected to get a lot of at-bats against lefties.
Kris Benson, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006, made the Rangers' rotation. A former No. 1 overall pick, Benson beat out Scott Feldman for the fifth spot.
The Rangers will have a couple first-time regulars who are expected to provide some pop to the lineup.
With Young shifting the third, Chris Davis will settle in at first base. After hitting .296 with 36 homers and 118 RBI in 2007, Davis hit .309 with 40 home runs and 128 RBI last year. He ended the season with the Rangers, putting up a .285-17-55 line in 80 games.
At 28-years-old, Nelson Cruz is no longer a prospect, but he looks primed for a monster season. Cruz hit .338 with 44 homers and 126 RBI between the majors and minors last year.
Benson may not be able to hold on to that fifth spot long with prospects Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz expected to be big league ready at some point this season.
Holland, 22, will likely be the first to debut after an impressive year in the minors. In three stops, he went 13-1 with a 2.26 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 150 2/3 innings.
At 20-years-old, Feliz may require a bit more seasoning, but he enters the year as Baseball America's No. 10 prospect. The Dominican was 10-6 with a 2.68 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 127-1/3 innings pitched.
The Rangers sent Gerald Laird to Detroit to make room for their young catchers.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, another player acquired in the Teixeira trade, will get the first chance to take the job, and has more Major League experience (154 games) than the alternatives.
Taylor Teagarden enters the year as the backup, but should see plenty of playing time. He was impressive in 16 games with the Rangers last year, hitting .319 with six home runs and 17 RBI. That was especially surprising when taking his Triple-A numbers into account (.225, seven homers, 16 RBI in 57 games).
They also have Max Ramirez, who hit .329 with 21 home runs last year. It's likely Texas will use one of these three as a trade chip to improve their pitching staff, but it's any one's guess who stays and who goes.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler hit .319 with 18 home runs and 26 steals, but played just 121 games.
Josh Hamilton made a name for himself at the Home Run Derby, and had a huge season, hitting .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBI.
Frank Francisco, who has just five career saves, will start the year as the closer.
Brandon McCarthy returns to the rotation after making just five starts a year ago.
The team needs Kevin Millwood (9-10, 5.07 ERA) and Vicente Padilla (14-8, 4.74 ERA) to step up in their contract years.
Hank Blalock averaged 30 homers and 100 RBI over his first two seasons, but has just 22 homers and 71 RBI last last two years.
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