2013 MLB First-Quarter Grades: Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers are sitting pretty right now as the first quarter of the season comes to a close. With a 29-16 record, they have more wins than any other team in the league. Not bad for a team that lost superstar Josh Hamilton to the Los Angeles Angels last winter.
Texas boasts one of the most balanced teams in the league right now, as it has posted efficient numbers offensively and on the mound. With so many players making big contributions for the Rangers this season, it's tough to separate the good players from the great ones.
That said, here are some grades for Texas' top studs after the first quarter of the season.
1. Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish has easily been the best player for the Rangers this season and is one of the top pitchers in the league thus far. With a 7-1 record, only Rays pitcher Matt Moore has more wins than the second-year star from Japan.
Darvish also owns a 2.97 ERA and has held batters to a .174 batting average. He has made strides at improving his command around the strike zone as well—something he struggled with last year.
In 29 regular-season games in 2012, Darvish walked 89 batters, averaging just over three walked batters per game. This season, through nine starts, he has walked only 19 hitters, which puts him at just over two walks per game.
Should Darvish continue at this rate and manage to start 29 games again, he'll be on pace to walk about 61 hitters—a nice drop from last year's total.
The 26-year-old phenom was named to his first All-Star game as a rookie, and he finished ninth in Cy Young voting. The Rangers will need Darvish to continue his hot pitching in order to make a run at the division title this season.
2. Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman seems to have found the fountain of youth this season with the Rangers. The 37-year-old designated hitter is hitting .309 for the Rangers and has the highest on-base percentage (.423) of any player on the team.
Berkman has also displayed a veteran's touch at the plate in his walk production. His 27 walks this season lead the team and are the second-most among players in the American League.
Berkman doesn't seem to have the power he once had, but that hasn't stopped his run-producing ability. Despite hitting only 10 doubles and three homers on the season, his 25 RBI are the third-most on the Rangers.
It's hard to not love what Berkman has done in 2013 so far. He's performed at an All-Star-caliber level and has become a great addition to the Rangers' lineup.
3. Mitch Moreland
Mitch Moreland has posted a strong year for the Rangers thus far. He's hitting a respectable .289 and is second on the team in home runs (10).
Of his 46 hits on the season, half of them have gone for extra bases. To go along with his home run total, he also has 12 doubles on the season and one triple.
Moreland has played in all 46 games for Texas this season and has been just as solid defensively as he has been on offense. The first baseman has a .995 fielding percentage and has committed only two errors in 399 chances.
Moreland has been one of the best hitting first basemen in the American League so far and should continue to play a big role in the Rangers' success as the season continues.
4. Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler continues to be one of the best hitting second basemen in the league. Although he recently landed on the 15-day disabled list, the injury shouldn't hamper his stellar offensive production once he returns.
One problem for Kinsler so far is that he's been a bit of a liability in the field. He has committed the most errors by a second baseman in the American League, as he's recorded seven errors in 40 games.
He has already been a great contributor offensively, which makes him deserving of a high grade. Should Kinsler be able to improve on his early defensive struggles, he could easily elevate his grade on this list.
5. Elvis Andrus
There is no doubt that shortstop Elvis Andrus is one of the top players in the league at his position. This season, Andrus has continued to shine for Texas.
He has never been the player with the biggest bat, but he's still a solid offensive force in the Rangers' lineup. Although he is hitting only .270 on the season, Andrus still has a .317 on-base percentage and leads all Rangers in stolen bases with 12.
In the field, he has been just as solid. He is fourth among shortstops in assists in the American League and has the third best fielding percentage (.988). Andrus has also committed only two errors in 44 games this season. He has never committed less than 16 errors in a season, and he could see that number drop drastically if he continues his great fielding this year.
Having a catalyst on the basepaths is always a nice luxury for any team. Combine Andrus' ability to orchestrate runs with his fantastic fielding this season, and he is easily a key factor in Texas' lineup.
6. Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre has been a key player for the Rangers' offensive success this season. The 34-year-old third baseman still shows a great display of power at the plate and prowess in the field.
Beltre is hitting .280 on the season with nine homers and 28 RBI. He is also tied for the team lead with 51 hits on the season and has a total of 20 extra-base hits.
Although he hasn't had as many opportunities to make plays at third base this season, Beltre has still assisted on 72 outs while committing only four errors in 106 chances. His fielding has some room for improvement this year, though, as his four errors are the fourth-most among shortstops in the American League.
Beltre has won multiple Gold Gloves throughout his career, and he remains one of the best hitting third basemen in the league. Look for his production at the plate to continue and his errors to drop as the season progresses.
7. Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz has been one of the top power hitting outfielders in the league over the last few seasons, and he looks to be on pace for another nice year.
Cruz leads the Rangers in homers (11) and RBI (33) and is second on the team with 14 walks. He has never hit for much of an average and is hitting only .253 this season, but his run-producing ability makes him a great player in Texas' lineup.
Cruz has yet to record any outfield assists this season, and he has committed only one error on the year. Given that he doesn't regularly throw runners out from right field, his production on defense looks to be on par for another typical year.
Cruz's bat may be one of the most important bats in Texas' lineup. He is one of only two Rangers who has hit 10 or more home runs this season and has a great knack for driving in runners. Look for Cruz to continue his strong hitting as the season continues.
8. Joe Nathan
Joe Nathan is on pace to turn in one of the best years of his career, as he is a perfect 13-of-13 in save opportunities this season.
The 13-year veteran has posted a 2.12 ERA this year and has held hitters to a .194 batting average. His strikeout ratio has been a good one as well, as he has struck out 16 batters through 17 innings pitched.
After converting on 37 saves in 40 chances last season, Nathan appears to be on track for another great year. If the Rangers hope to continue their early-season success, they'll look to Nathan to shut the door on opponents heading into the ninth inning.