Texas Rangers: 2014 Potential Lineup and Predictions
Compared to the past three seasons, 2013 was a down year for the Texas Rangers lineup.
With the exception of Adrian Beltre, the rest of the lineup did not live up to expectations. Elvis Andrus struggled throughout the first half, David Murphy couldn’t get a hit and Mitch Moreland went deep or nothing at all.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Nelson Cruz was hit with a 50-game suspension while on pace to break his career high in homers (33). Leonys Martin was given the opportunity to be a full-time center fielder but just couldn’t find a rhythm at the plate and swung out of his shoes at every pitch. Then of course, Lance Berkman couldn’t stay healthy and Jurickson Profar never got a full-time opportunity to prove his potential.
Texas started the offseason off with a bang after landing Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. Other moves will most certainly happen considering the team has been involved with nearly every big free-agent name out there.
With a few exceptions, the batting order is up for grabs come next season. New and old faces are sure to come to Arlington, and spring training will help answer questions, as well.
But if the 2014 season were to start tomorrow, with the Rangers only making one big splash with Fielder, how would the lineup shake up? What would Rangers fans expect of the hitters in 2014?
Here are the early predictions and potential lineup for the Rangers in the upcoming season.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and MLB.com.
1. Craig Gentry—LF
2013: .280, .373 OBP, 24 2B, 39 R
2014: .282, .368 OBP, 30 2B, 95 R
This is where I disagree with Ron Washington. Right now, Craig Gentry is the leadoff man, not Leonys Martin (crowd gasps).
Last season was Gentry’s best as a big leaguer. He played in just 106 games, 16 fewer from 2012, but improved in various categories. He had the same amount of doubles (12), one more triple (4) and 11 more stolen bases (24). He also scored 39 runs, an eight-run improvement from the year before.
His biggest improvement was his discipline at the plate. In his first four seasons, he had a combined 27 walks. In his limited time in 2013, he walked 29 times, seeing breaking balls better and showing more patience.
As previously mentioned, Gentry had a career high in stolen bases in 2013. It is not a mind-blowing stat compared to Andrus or Martin, but he is rarely caught in the act. In 66 attempts, he has only been caught 10 times, seven of which came in 2012 alone.
Gentry could flourish in the leadoff role. He doesn't have the power that Kinsler has, but his speed and improved plate discipline give him the early nod of getting on base at the top of the order.
He might end up being the spark plug the Rangers are looking for. Maybe the opportunity of an everyday job will help him prove it.
2. Elvis Andrus—SS
2013: .271, .328 OBP, 17 2B, 42 SB, 91 R
2014: .270, .340 OBP, 25 2B, 38 SB, 85 R
Elvis Andrus has been the No. 2 hitter in the order throughout most of his career and will stay there no matter what.
Washington likes Andrus’ speed and his ability to move runners over. He has led the American League in sacrifice bunts in three of his five years of service. He has had no fewer than 12 in any season as a big leaguer.
Andrus struggled to get going in the first half of 2013, hitting just .242, and he had a .300 OBP. His performance was a different story after the All-Star break. He hit .313, stole four more bases (23) and hit all four of his home runs after the Midsummer Classic. Andrus also led the majors in singles last season with 143.
The Venezuela native has always been a big part of this offense. He was on base for all four of Josh Hamilton’s home runs against the Orioles back on May 8, 2012. His lowest run total over the course of a season was in 2009, when he scored 72 runs as a rookie.
There aren’t many players to live up to big contracts the year after it’s signed. But look for Andrus to put up numbers like he did in 2012 when he posted career highs in hits (180), doubles (31) and triples (9).
3. Prince Fielder—DH
2013: .279, .362 OBP, 25 HR, 106 RBI, 82 R
2014: .294, .385 OBP, 34 HR, 121 RBI, 92 R
The Rangers made the first big move of the offseason in 2013 when they gave up Kinsler for Fielder.
He hasn’t hit as well since departing Milwaukee in 2012 to sign with Detroit. But not many guys are assigned to protect a guy like two-time reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, which is what Fielder had the task of doing for two years.
It’s safe to say that Prince has some pretty high expectations to live up to in a hitter’s ballpark like the one in Arlington. Last season marked a career low in homers (25), slugging percentage (.457) and his lowest OPB since his first full season in the majors (.362).
Now that he is a Ranger and will most likely have Adrian Beltre hitting behind him, his numbers are sure to be more like the ones he put up for the Brewers. With Beltre behind him, speedsters in front and a jet stream and short porch in right field, Fielder’s past two seasons will be forgotten.
Plus, he doesn’t seem to be having anymore off-the-field issues and is getting a new start in a good clubhouse. Fielder and this ballpark are too good of a match together to overlook.
4. Adrian Beltre—3B
2013: .315, .371 OBP, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 88 R
2014: .307, .360 OBP, 28 HR, 99 RBI, 84 R
There hasn’t been a more consistent player for the Rangers over the past three seasons than Adrian Beltre.
Since joining the club in 2011, he has a .312 batting average and a .542 slugging percentage. To put that in perspective, he had amassed a .478 career slugging percentage in the previous 13 years. He has hit at least 30 homers in all three years with Texas, the longest stretch of his career.
He has had Nelson Cruz hit behind him for much of his time with the Rangers, but those are still impressive numbers. And with Fielder hitting in front of him, opposing teams will have to choose which guy they want to throw to.
Beltre is aggressive but has cut down on his strikeouts since moving to Arlington. He had a career low in K’s in 2011 (53) and struck out just 78 times last season, the third lowest of his career. He also has had at least a .880 OPS in every season with Texas, another string he hasn’t accomplished anywhere else.
Next season might be a bit of a decline, but don’t expect it to be anything other than slight. Beltre is still going to get his hacks and bring in runs.
5. Alex Rios—RF
2013 (Total with CWS/TEX): .278, .324 OBP, 18 HR, 81 RBI, 83 R
2014: .276, .331 OBP, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 79 R
He was acquired after Nelson Cruz was suspended last August. Rios only played in 47 games with Texas and was putting up practically the same numbers he has been throughout his career.
In 2013, he hit 18 homers, drove in 81 runs and had a career high in stolen bases with 42. Considering what the Rangers gave up to get Rios, he was a solid pickup last year and will get his first full season with the team in 2014.
The Alabama native never had a solid spot in the lineup (as with most everyone else) but looked most comfortable in the third spot. With Fielder in the order now, Rios is a good fit at No. 5 and could benefit in the RBI department with his ability to hit for extra bases.
He also is coming into the last year of his contract, with the Rangers having the option to bring him back for $13.5 million in 2015 ($1 million buyout). That could play a factor in his performance next season.
6. Leonys Martin—CF
2013: .260, .313 OBP, 8 HR, 36 SB, 66 R
2014: .281, .341 OBP, 11 HR, 33 SB, 71 R
Leonys Martin struggled to get anything going in his first full season as a starter for Texas.
The 25-year-old hit just .260 in 147 games after winning the full-time center fielder job. Martin scored 66 times and stole 39 bags but was caught stealing nine times. He struck out 104 times while walking just 28 times, swinging out of his shoes at just about every pitch.
With his speed and bunting ability, Ron Washington hopes to mold him into the leadoff man for the Rangers. Martin was always a threat to bunt for a base hit and led the team with six triples last season. He also hit eight homers and 21 doubles and drove in 49 runs.
Although he was a disappointment in 2013, Martin has a lot of upside. His numbers aren’t spectacular but will improve in his second season as long as he cuts down on his hacks and is more selective at the plate.
Now that he has a full season under his belt, Martin may live up to the $20.5 million contract he signed in 2011.
7. Geovany Soto—C
2013: .245, .328 OBP, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 20 R
2014: .251, .330 OBP, 13 HR, 51 RBI, 42 R
According to Washington and Daniels, Geovany is going to be their primary catcher moving forward. That became more probable when the team missed out on Brian McCann just a few days ago.
Soto played in just 54 games last season, filling in on A.J. Pierzynski’s days off. If Pierzynski didn’t exceed expectations, Soto might have seen more playing time. He has played less than 100 games the past two seasons.
He won the NL Rookie of the Year with the Cubs back in 2008, hitting .285 with 23 homers, 35 doubles and 86 RBI in 141 games. Although a small sample size, he has shown the ability to hit and catch full time and is still relatively young for a catcher (he’ll be 31 in January).
Soto isn’t going to put up numbers like he did five years ago but is the club’s best option at catcher right now. If the Rangers can find a left-handed hitting catcher to platoon with Soto, it will work out in their favor. He has a career .286 average against southpaws, 53 points higher than his average against righties.
For now, we will assume Soto will catch the majority of the 2014 season.
8. Mitch Moreland—1B
2013: .232, .299 OBP, 23 HR, 60 RBI, 60 R
2014: .254, .310 OBP, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 61 R
Although he was third on the team in home runs last season, Mitch Moreland struggled to find a groove at the plate.
Moreland took the full-time job at first base once the Rangers could not bring back Mike Napoli last year. He has proven to be a solid defender after finishing No. 4 in the AL with a .996 fielding percentage. Although he was an asset in the field, he was a liability in the batter’s box.
His 23 homers were a career high, as well as the 60 runs he drove in. But he had career lows in batting average (.232) and OBP (.299). He struck out 117 times, which crushed his 2011 total of 92. He was one of many Rangers who could not hit with runners in scoring position, finishing in front of only David Murphy among players with at least 40 at-bats in that situation.
Moreland has shown the ability to hit the long ball and play good defense. He stays in the lineup only because Fielder should be the designated hitter. But he is going to have to vastly improve at the dish if he wants to stay in Texas.
9. Jurickson Profar—2B
2013: .234, .308 OBP, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 30 R
2014: .278, .339 OBP, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 68 R
Now that Ian Kinsler is gone, it looks like Jurickson Profar is going to assume the everyday job at second base.
He struggled to get anything going at the plate in 2013, playing in 85 games but never really knowing if or where he was going to play tomorrow. Profar hit just .234 while platooning around the infield, hitting six home runs, 11 doubles and driving in 26.
An everyday job may be what Profar needs to show his potential. Another thing to look at is his age; he will be 21 years old by the start of the 2014 season. He still has lots of upside and has been gaining experience since playing at the age of 17 in Low-A Spokane.
But since he was rated the top prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com, Profar has high expectations. He has been rumored in deals for big-name players like David Price and Giancarlo Stanton.
Rangers fans want to see Profar stick around, and it is time for him to prove he is worth keeping.
You can follower Trey Warren on Twitter @treydwarren.