Following Shin-Soo Choo's signing, the Rangers will have one of the league's best all-around clubs.
There are still several miles to go in what has surely become one of the most exciting major league baseball offseasons in recent memory.
But the Texas Rangers got most of their business done before Christmas Day. Barring a major signing of Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka or maybe one or two smaller depth-related signings, they appear just about ready to head into 2014.
Here, I'm grading each player on the Rangers projected 25-man roster for 2014. While you progress through the team, note that I am assuming that the team will not make any more signings this offseason. That of course, seems unlikely, but for now I'll grade based on the players the Rangers actually have right now who could be on the 25-man roster.
The grades are evaluated on the basis of the particular player's importance to the team in his specific role as well as how much the player can contribute to the 2014 team.
Arrangement is not ordered from best to worst grade. I'll start with the Rangers' projected Opening Day lineup and then move to the bench, starting rotation and bullpen in that order.
*All stats, unless otherwise noted, are provided by ESPN.com.
Choo is expected to leadoff for the Rangers in 2014.
He could be the missing piece of the Rangers' puzzling quest to win their first World Series title. He was certainly paid as such.
Even if he was overpaid, many Rangers fans and baseball people believe Choo was a great signing for Texas. He was just what the team needed—a proven table-setter who can consistently bring out the best in the middle of an order headed by Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre.
Per ESPN, the Rangers ranked eighth in the majors in runs scored, and tenth in on-base percentage. Last season, the Rangers combined for a team total of 465 walks. Last season for Cincinnati Reds, Choo walked 112 times, nearly one-fourth of that total by himself.
Think about that for a minute. Imagine how much more efficient this offense will be with Choo taking a walk or getting plunked basically 25 percent of the time.
Then factor in his .285 batting average with 21 home runs, 54 RBI from last season and .423 OBP in 2013, per ESPN. The RBI total was a little low because he was on base half the time or was trying to drive in the No. 7 through No. 9 hitters in the Reds lineup.
Choo's power will play beautifully out to right and right center in Arlington, and he should hit more home runs in that park. His propensity for doubles, hitting 34 last season, will translate well to the park's wide gaps.
Choo is the complete player the Rangers needed. He might have been a bit overpaid, but how else was Texas going to land this guy?
A-plus if the Rangers could have signed him for $115 million or less. But you can't have your cake and eat it too, right?
Andrus makes the spectacular plays look routine.
He is getting better and better. Remember he is just 25 and still hasn't reached his prime.
Not many teams have a shortstop like Elvis Andrus, one who plays sparkling defense, advances base runners as well as anyone in the league and can steal 30 to 40 bags. He plays hard, but makes the game look fun and easy.
Andrus' hitting numbers have fluctuated over the last three seasons. He's been up and down in just about every major offensive category. But don't be fooled by just the numbers. He is steadily improving his all-around game.
At the plate last season, his increase in power and patience were evident. His 67 RBI showed improved gap power. He averaged 3.98 pitches seen per at bat in 2013, per ESPN.
Defensively, I thought he had his best season in 2013. He turned 97 double plays with now-departed second baseman Ian Kinsler. His defensive WAR of 2.1 was the second highest of his career, and his 14 errors were the lowest he's ever had in a season, per ESPN.
The most important thing about Andrus is the wealth of big-league experience he's gained in such a short time. That's why general manager Jon Daniels decided to lock him up for the next ten years.
Andrus is a defensive player at heart and always has been. But his bat is developing. He has the versatility and plate discipline to be the perfect man to bat behind Choo.
If Andrus can put up an OBP anywhere close to just .340 this season, the Rangers will routinely have 2-0 or 3-0 leads by the second inning.
If his bat continues to develop in 2014, he will be bumped up to an A.
With Choo and Elvis setting the table, Fielder's high-average power hitting will be lethal.
Fielder was the Rangers' other monster acquisition this offseason via trade with the Detroit Tigers.
Personnel wise, it was a brilliant deal for GM Daniels. He got a premier power hitter, who is nearly two years younger than Ian Kinsler. Texas desperately needed a steady left-handed power source. Fielder, who has averaged 35 homers a year since 2006 is a perfect fit.
Fielder's also averaged 90.5 walks per season since 2006, and has a career .389 OPB. That makes two of the top four hitters in the Rangers' lineup with a career .389 OBP.
Fielder does strikeout in his fair share of at-bats, but his prodigal power is worth a few swings and misses. Last year in Detroit was considered a "down year" for him when he hit .279 with 25 homers and 106 RBI, with a .362 OBP.
First of all that isn't much of a "down" year, and secondly, Fielder is no longer playing in Comerica Park, which boasts the deepest center field in baseball.
The Rangers haven't had a power source like this from the left side since Mark Teixeira, who was traded away in 2007 for a few guys on this list.
Fielder's seven-year, $138 million contract is pretty steep, but he should translate to a full-time DH role nicely in 3-5 years. Whatever he gives up on defense, he more than makes up for at the plate.
I expect Fielder will hit between 35 and 40 homers in Arlington and will at least improve upon his .362 OBP from last year. The next guy on this list should definitely help him get there.
If he was just an average defender at first base, rather than below average, he'd receive an A here as well. His power earns him high marks.
Beltre is still a complete player at 34.
At 34, he's one of the faces of the Rangers franchise. He's still one of the best—although not THE best anymore thanks to Baltimore's Manny Machado—all-around third baseman in the league. He's also protecting Prince Fielder in the lineup, insuring that the Rangers newest homer machine gets to see quality pitches.
Yes, Adrian Beltre still might be the Rangers' most important player.
2014 will be his fourth full season in a Texas uniform. In each of the past three seasons, Beltre has hit at least .296 with at least 30 homers and 92 RBI. His walks and OBP have increased in each of the last three seasons, with the latter number going from .331 in 2011 to .371 last season.
Beltre is indeed the one hitter the Rangers cannot survive without for an extended period of time. If his bat is lost, opposing pitchers are far more likely to pitch around Fielder to get to Alex Rios and Mitch Moreland.
Defensively, Beltre had a less-than-spectacular 2013 season at third. His .959 fielding percentage was the lowest in three seasons with Texas, and his 14 errors were his most as a Rangers.
Now that he is nearly 35, I don't expect Beltre to return to his 2012 defensive prowess. But I do think he'll bounce back a bit from last year. Age is certainly slowing him down, and he'll be a full-time DH in the last year or two of his deal.
Still, he's a guy the Rangers cannot afford to lose. His production has been worth every bit the six-year, $96 million deal he signed in January of 2011.
Because of that, he gets an A.
Choo through Beltre represents what I think is the best one through four in baseball. I expect leads in the second inning far more often this season.
Rios is yet another complete player in the Rangers' potent lineup.
Getting Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox in late July was another excellent acquisition pulled off by general manager Jon Daniles. Texas was willing to pick up the remaining $26.5 million on Rios' contract and thus, Daniels had to surrender only Leury Garcia in the trade.
This year will be Rios' first full season in Texas. In 47 games following his arrival last year, Rios was solid. He hit .280 with six homers and 26 RBI in those 47 games. His .315 OBP was a little low, but he also stole 16 bases.
Most of Rios' damage was done with the White Sox. That's the player the Rangers are hoping to get this season, the one who stole 42 bases, hit 18 homers and drove in 81 runs.
He plays great defense in right field, and has an cannon for an arm, as evidenced by his nine outfield assists last season between Chicago and Texas.
Because of Rios' speed and baserunning ability, some Ranger fans have suggested that Rios should be hitting third in the lineup. I like the idea of having all that speed at the top. It's potentially 110 stolen bases 1-2-3. But you really don't want Fielder having to lead off an inning.
Rios was a great find for Texas. I expect him to have a 2014 similar to last year, in the range of .280/.330/.460 with around 17 to 20 homers and 80 to 90 RBI. And throw in at least 30 to 35 base swipes.
Moreland has always had respectable power.
Moreland seems to be one of the more polarizing players on the Rangers roster.
Fans are in awe of his power flashes, but are then turned away by his low batting average and relatively high strikeout rate.
Guess what? That's the definition of a true power hitter. A guy who takes a lot of strikeouts and doesn't usually have an impressive average. There are few exceptions to that rule, and one of them is hitting in the three hole on in this lineup.
But remember, Moreland is providing power and the threat of it in the lineup—and doing so for an extremely affordable price. Last year, he finished with a career-high 23 homers and 60 RBI. All of that production cost the Rangers just $502,700, per baseball-reference.
For that price, I'll take that and his career-low batting average of .232 in 2013 any day.
Moreland's role with the team is clear. He is a full-time DH, barring the signing of a Jeff Baker-type right-handed hitter and a very occasional backup first baseman. Moreland's most important attribute is his status as another lefty power threat at the plate.
I think Moreland will have somewhat of a bounce-back year average-wise. I'm predicting he'll hit closer to .250, post an OBP of maybe .320 as well as hit 20-plus homers and 55 RBI. Ideally he'd surpass his home run and RBI totals from 2013, but if he hits around .250 rather than .232, I think Ranger fans will take that.
His power and run production earns him this grade.
Soto should be a bargain for the Rangers this year.
For just one year and $3.05 million? GM Daniels deserves another round of applause.
After putting up solid numbers in a bench role last season, Soto was signed to be the club's starting catcher.
In 54 games last year, Soto hit .245 with 9 homers and 22 RBI. He came up big for the team in several situations, most notably his walk-off homer against the Los Angeles Angels on July 29, a win that exploded the Rangers out of a month-long slump.
Behind the plate he handled the pitching staff, particularly Yu Darvish, well last year. His CERA, a measure of the collective ERA of pitchers when Soto caught them, was 3.67 last year. It's definitely fair to assume that if the Rangers pitching staff was even a little healthier last season, Soto's CERA would have been significantly lower.
Soto isn't as good a defensive catcher as you'd like your starter to be, but for just over $3 million, his production makes him quite acceptable. It's also important to remember that Soto won't be catching over 100 games. I'd say it'll be more like 80 to 90 at most. He and backup J.P. Arencibia will form a nice platoon. They will complement each other's offensive abilities perfectly.
Soto might be around only for this year, but while he still is, he should be a decent starting catcher for the Rangers. I can see him hitting around 12 to 15 homers with 50 to 60 RBI. And he'll both receive well and handle the staff nicely when he is starting. Arencibia will pick it up from there.
The key word here is value. Value, value, value.
Martin should be much more comfortable hitting lower in the order.
The best thing about signing Shin-Soo Choo was getting that on-base machine at the top of the order. Obviously.
The second best thing? It moved Leonys Martin out of the leadoff spot, and moved him down in the order where he should be far more comfortable.
Don't underestimate the value of that.
I never thought this team had chance of winning the World Series with a guy who had a .301 OBP last year when leading off. It isn't at all that Martin isn't capable. It's that he isn't capable yet. He is still very much a raw player who has all the tools to make Ranger fans drool.
But to ask him to leadoff every day on a contending team? It's too much to ask of a developing player. One day he could definitely handle that responsibility, but not now.
In 2013, Martin was a much better hitter when he wasn't leading off. Per baseball-reference, Martin hit .292 when batting ninth, compared to just .238 when leading off. His OBP was also 35 points higher batting in the nine hole, and he played over half of his games batting ninth.
Six of Martin's eight homers as well as 27 of his 49 RBI came out of the nine hole.
Those numbers suggest that Martin is clearly more comfortable in a position that doesn't require him to get on base to kickstart this offense.
Hitting eighth or ninth, depending on Jurickson Profar's progress, is where Martin should be most of the season. His elite speed plays great lower in the order and can turn over the lineup. His 36 stolen bases in 2013 show that he can, even hitting lower in the order, put himself in position to score when Choo comes to bat.
Like Andrus, Martin is a defense-first player who is developing his offensive skills. His 14 assists last season puts him in the conversation for best outfield arm in baseball.
I believe he will continue to develop at the plate in 2014 while remaining the Rangers' best defensive player. His defense is an A. His offensive skills still need some work and bring him down a bit overall.
Thanks to the trade of Ian Kinsler, Profar will now man second base every day.
Jurickson Profar really is the baby of the Rangers' offense. But he's quite advanced for his young age.
At 20 years old, he is ready to handle second base on an every day basis, following Ian Kinsler's departure to the Detroit Tigers as part of the Prince Fielder trade.
In terms of expectations for 2014, Profar is one of the most mysterious players in the Rangers' lineup.
We know the defense will be certainly be there. Between he and Andrus, Texas might have the best middle infield in the game. But what about at the plate?
In 303 at-bats last season, Profar hit just .234 with six homers and 26 RBI. Many Ranger fans believe that Profar was "exposed" and that his value in a potential trade plummeted due to his poor showing at the plate.
I have to disagree. I believe Profar struggled because there was no consistent place for him to bat in the lineup. He was a true utility player who played every infield position except first base. It has to be an unsettling feeling for a 20-year-old kid to be asked to play everywhere defensively and be expected to still hit well.
Being cemented at second base this year, Profar's offense should improve quite a bit. He is now comfortable and has a clear, everyday role. I think he'll hit around .265 with a 10 to 15 homers and around 60 RBI.
At 20 years old and playing great defense, those numbers would be a huge leap for Profar. I think he's up to the task.
He gets a slight boost from a B-minus because of his potential.
Overall, this is a World Series-contending lineup. Every player brings something valuable to the table. I don't think there is a true C-rated player in Texas' starting nine. Soto might be the closest, but I see him having a great year for his price.
Next up is the bench.
Along with Moreland, Arencibia is another cheap power source.
Yet another great signing by GM John Daniels, as Arencibia is one of the game's most underrated power hitters.
All he requires is $1.8 million guaranteed with incentives that could earn him another $300K?
Arencibia is the second leg of Texas' new catcher platoon. He'll probably start around 70 games behind the plate, which will keep Soto fresh all season. When at the plate, Arencibia is another power threat in the order. Over the last three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, he averaged 20 homers and 63 RBI a year, per ESPN.
His strikeout rate is as abnormally high and his OBP is low, but you'll have to excuse that. Because when he connects, the ball goes a long way—often times into the seats. Last season, 21 of Arencibia's 93 hits were homers.
Even in a backup role, I can see Arencibia hitting at least 15 homers in Rangers Ballpark. If he and Soto can combine for around 40 homers and 110 RBI, the Rangers will be in great shape.
Remember, I'm grading the players based on their importance to the team within their designated roles. In that role with Texas, Arencibia is one of the better backup catchers in the game.
If he were the starter, he'd get a C.
In terms of talent and ability, there's a reason why Adam Rosales is a career journeyman.
But don't even think about looking past the energy and hustle he provides every single night, no matter which uniform he's wearing.
Rosales is one of the most fun Rangers to watch. His home run "trot" is actually a sprint, and he goes all out on every play. Ron Washington and the front office love to see that effort. But most importantly, the fans adore a player who plays that hard for just $750K.
Rosales will be the team's primary utility backup, giving Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar a rest if they ever need it, which isn't often. If Wash doesn't want to have both of his catchers in the lineup at the same time, Rosales could be a feasible DH candidate against left-handed starters.
Rosales recorded only two hits in 11 at-bats with Texas last year, per ESPN. But for what it's worth, one of those hits was that two-run shot off the White Sox' Chris Sale in Chicago on Aug. 23. He was so excited that he almost fell over himself running out of the batter's box.
That's certainly the fastest round-tripper I've ever seen. How can you not appreciate that?
Rosales is a decent backup—that's about it. He won't get much playing time, but boy is he entertaining to watch whenever he plays.
His ridiculous Koji Uehara-like energy raises him from a C.
Beltre's speed and defense make him a valuable bench player for Texas.
Engel Beltre played in just 22 games for Texas last year. He was called up from the minors on a couple of occasions to fill in for injured players and try to help a badly slumping offense.
He played slightly better than his numbers indicate. He hit just .250 in 40 at-bats with only two RBI. The silver lining is that he stuck out only five times in those 40 at-bats, for a very respectable 12.5 percent strikeout rate.
Beltre didn't drive the ball, as he only hit one double. But he made contact and made under-the-radar plays with his legs. He stole just one base, and was caught stealing twice. But in his 40 games with the Rangers he scored seven runs and kept rallies alive on several occasions.
He is out of options, which is one of the main reasons he should be on the the 25-man roster. But outside of that, I believe he is ready to fill in occasionally for one of the outfielders.
His speed, awareness and ability to make solid contact bump him up from a C.
Adduci is another hustle-first player for the Rangers.
His spot isn't guaranteed on the 25-man roster, as I can definitely see John Daniels signing someone like Jeff Baker or Michael Young to fill out the bench. Signing one of those two would substantially improve the quality of the Texas reserves.
Michael Choice would be an instant upgrade over Adduci, but he's just 24. With three everyday outfielders in Choo, Rios and Martin, and E. Beltre also on the bench, why not send Choice down to Triple-A and allow him to continue developing?
For now, Adduci seems to be the front-runner for the final bench spot, based on his major league experience relative to other Ranger prospects.
In 17 games with Texas last season, Adduci filled in decently. In 31 at-bats he hit .258 with one double. He struck out nine times, which is a pretty high rate for just 31 plate appearances.
But he is another heart-and-hustle player, who will be on the Rangers' 40-man roster late in the year and who is capable of filling in for a game or two.
At 28, he is likely well past his abilities to be an impact player on a major league roster. But for now—or at least until the Rangers either sign a more veteran player or place their trust in someone else—Adduci is the team's fourth bench player.
He loses points for his 29 percent strikeout rate in just 31 at-bats in 2013.
Next up: the starting rotation.
Darvish is one of the top five pitchers in baseball.
He's the face of this franchise and the undisputed ace of an excellent pitching staff.
When he's on, Yu Darvish is one of the five best pitchers in baseball. Like Adrian Beltre, Darvish has been worth every penny of that $51.7 million posting fee GM John Daniels paid, as well as the six-year, $56 million contract to which he was signed.
6/56 might be the single best bargain in baseball, right up there with Chris Sale's current 5/32 deal.
Last year, Darvish pitched what is surely one of the greatest seasons in Texas Rangers' history. According to baseball-reference, in 209.2 innings over 32 starts, Darvish went 13-9 and recorded a 2.83 ERA with 277 strikeouts and 80 walks. He led the league in strikeouts, fanning 37 more batters than the next highest pitcher, Detroit's Max Scherzer, who beat out Darvish for the AL Cy Young award.
Opponents hit just .194 off Darvish in 2013, and all of this while pitching in the launching pad that is Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers were notorious for a lack of run support when Darvish pitched, or he would have won closer to 20 games.
Scoring runs for the ace shouldn't be a problem at all in 2014. When Darvish got a lead last season, the game was pretty much over. That should be the expectation this season.
He has the best slider I've ever seen, and a filthy assortment of pitches with which he's become so adept at changing speeds. But he needs to rely a bit more on his 94-to-97 mph fastball this season, which will leave hitters helpless against his lethal slider-splitter-curveball combo.
I see him winning 18 games this season with a newly loaded offense behind him. He'll fan at least 250 batters and probably walk around the same number, maybe a few less. He will give up home runs as long as he tries to be too fancy with his off-speed stuff, but he is pitching in Arlington.
The ERA should be the same, maybe a bit lower, and his opponent batting average should stay in the .190 range.
He's the Ranger's best player and face of the franchise. If there was an A++, he'd get it.
Holland is a capable no. 2 starter in Texas' rotation.
Holland is a great no. 2, and could maybe even be a no. 1 for a couple of teams in the league.
Last year was by far Holland's best season. In a staff-high 213 innings, he posted a 10-9 record with a 3.42 ERA, struck out 189 batters and walked just 64, good for a 2.95 strikeout to walk ratio.
He did a great job of keeping the ball down much better than in years past, allowing only 20 homers last season.
He gives up hits, but over the last couple seasons he's had a knack for getting out of sticky situations, or at least limiting the damage. He's aggressive and will pound the zone, forcing hitters to swing and put balls in play. This is part of the reason he escapes trouble. It also helps to have a great defense behind you.
The best part, is that Holland is just 27 and signed through 2018.
You can count on he and Darvish to be horses at the top of the Rangers rotation once again in 2014.
Harrison should return from lower back surgery as the Rangers' no. 3 starter.
When a major league pitcher misses 99 percent of a season, nothing about his status can be certain the following year.
But Matt Harrison should be ready to go in 2014 after having surgery on his lower back in April. He was nearing return in mid-August, but experienced a setback in rehab and was shut down for the rest of the year.
After a year of rest and rehab, Harrison should be ready to take the mound as the Rangers' no. 3 starter.
In his last full season in 2012, Harrison had his best year in the majors. He was an All-Star and an 18-game winner, recording a 3.29 ERA in 213.1 innings. He pitched to contact, striking out only 133 men but allowing just 59 walks.
He pitched very well in his Opening Day 2013 start against the Houston Astros, but he did take the loss as the Rangers only scored two runs. He got blasted in his next start against the Los Angeles Angels in Arlington, but he was clearly in pain and couldn't keep the ball down because of it.
I am confident that Ranger fans will see Harrison perform close to his 2012 level. He probably won't win 18 games as he returns from major surgery, but 13 to 14 wins is not out of the question. I think he'll finish with an ERA around 3.40 and pitch about 185 innings, closer to his 2011 total.
Still, Harrison is a valuable member of this rotation, and will be needed to eat innings late in the season. He, like Holland and Darvish, is also signed long term, through 2018.
For now. If he can find a way to reach his 2012 level, he'll earn an A-.
Perez was impressive in his rookie campaign with the Rangers.
For the last three years, there had been so much hype over the potential ability of Martin Perez.
Last season, he finally justified it, proving that he's legitimate major league starting pitcher.
At just 22 years old, Perez had a stellar 2013 season, going 10-6 in 20 starts with a 3.62 ERA in 124.1 innings. He struck out 84 batters and walked 37.
Those numbers alone aren't incredible, but to fully appreciate the kind of season Perez experiencedd last year, one has to apply some context.
First, many of his 20 starts were important, if not must-win games. There was a time, in late July and into early August, when Perez won six consecutive decisions and seemed to be the only Ranger pitcher who could win a game.
Secondly, Perez had a number of key victories throughout the 2013 season: June 22 against the Cardinals in St. Louis; June 28 against the Cincinnati Reds in Arlington; July 9 on the road against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, and an August 23 win against Chris Sale and the White Sox in Chicago.
Even more impressively, he notched a win over the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez in late August. In early September, he came through with a victory against the white-hot Oakland A's. How about his Sept. 25 complete-game win over the Houston Astros?
Finally, he started against the Tampa Bay Rays in the the 163rd regular-season game at home. Working what was, in effect, a playoff game, Perez lost but pitched admirably in a win-or-go-home situation against David Price.
The best thing about Perez, besides his talent, is his experience in huge situations, pitching and winning against elite teams. I expect that trend to continue this season.
He's still a contact pitcher, but I think he'll give up fewer hits in 2014. He'll also work about 180 innings, with an ERA around 3.40, much like Harrison.
Perez still has a lot to learn, but he is already one of the best young pitchers in the game.
Tepesch pitched effectively as a No. 5 for the Rangers early in 2013.
The top four spots in the Rangers' rotation are set.
The fifth spot is not, and barring improbable signing of Masahiro Tanaka, it appears that Nick Tepesch and Colby Lewis are the main competitors to round out the rotation.
Right now—although this could very well change based on Lewis' performance in spring training—I have to give the slight edge to Tepesch.
If Lewis were a little healthier, he'd be a no-brainer here. But he hasn't pitched since the middle of the 2012 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery. It's one thing for a pitcher to have shoulder problems. It's quite another to have hip problems on top of that. Plus, Lewis is 34 years old.
In 17 starts in 2013, Tepesch threw 93 innings, went 4-6 and finished with a 4.84 ERA. He showed impressive control, walking only 27 batters in those 93 innings and striking out 76—nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Tepesch's main problem was his effectiveness during the second and third time though the opposing lineup. His opponents' batting average was .158 the first time through the order but jumped to .270 the second time through and to .451 the third time through.
Keep in mind before he started for Texas, Tepesch hadn't pitched at a level higher than Double-A. That considered, he did a decent job.
He has solid, but not incredible stuff. His best pitch is a hard sinker that he can locate well on any part of the plate. He has a good slurve-like pitch that he can also get over for strikes. But the problem with any sinkerballer is a tendency to sometimes over extend the release and "yank" the sinker back over the middle of the plate.
Remember what is needed out of a fifth starter. It doesn't need to be someone who is lights out or even a guy who wins 10 games. It just needs to be someone who can take a turn every five days, eat innings and keep his team in the game.
With 93 innings under his belt and a powerful offense behind him, Tepesch could handle around 130 to 140 innings as a No. 5.
Of course though, if Lewis impresses in the spring he should get the nod. It wouldn't hurt Tepesch at all to start the year in Triple-A.
All things considered last season, Tepesch filled in decently and ate innings as best he could. He could have been better, but he could have been much worse as well.
With a healthy Lewis and Harrison, this rotation can win a World Series.
Now to the bullpen.
Scheppers is one of the candidates to be the Rangers closer in 2014.
In my mind, Scheppers is the Rangers' best reliever.
He has closer potential, and has some of the filthiest stuff in the Rangers' bullpen.
In a late-inning setup role last season, Scheppers was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 76 games. He struck out 59 and walked 24 in 76.1 innings
Opponents hit only .214 off Scheppers, and he was almost equally as effective against lefties as he was righties. His greatest plus is that he has elite velocity with mesmerizing movement on his two-seamer. It's one of the best two-seamers in the game, one that really jams a righty and tails away sharply from a lefty.
As Neftali Feliz works his way back from the Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss almost all of 2013, Scheppers should be the closer. He has the stuff and the mentality. He should also have made the AL All-Star team last year.
He figures to be used heavily again next season.
Could Ross be a candidate to be in the rotation?
Ross has to be one of the best stories on this Rangers club.
After only pitching in High-A Myrtle Beach, he impressed in spring training in 2012 and earned a spot in the bullpen. He's been stellar almost every time out since.
He enters into the 2014 campaign as one of two lefties in the Rangers pen. In 2013, he was 4-2 in 62.1 innings with a 3.03 ERA. He surrendered more hits and finished with a higher ERA than in 2012, but he struck out nine more batters and walked four fewer in 2013.
Ross is valuable because of his versatility. He can make a spot start if he has to, can be the long man out of the pen or can pitch in a set up role. The danger lies in overusing him before the All-Star break. Last season, it sure seemed like he was used every game, and the pen as a group was a bit tired by the brake. It'll be up to the starting rotation and Ron Washington's better judgment to limit Ross' use early in the year.
Ross is a quality major league reliever, who at his best, can be an AL All-Star. He'll be huge to the Rangers' ability to finish games this season.
Soria is another Texas closer candidate.
He wasn't quite as effective as many Ranger fans hoped he would be after John Daniels signed him to a two-year, $8 million deal before the 2013 season. Many people thought the Rangers were getting the All-Star Soria from 2010.
But considering that he was making a return from Tommy John surgery, he did well enough for a Rangers bullpen that was deep and didn't necessarily need Soria to dominate.
In 23.2 innings last year, Soria was 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA. He stuck out 28 and walked 14, maintaining his impressive strikeout-per-inning career pace.
He'll likely start off this season as a setup man, but if he impresses enough in spring training, hw could be a strong closer candidate.
I think Soria can return to his 2011 form with the Kansas City Royals, with a workload of around 50 to 60 innings. If he can do that, and average around a strikeout per inning, he'll be just fine for the Rangers.
B-plus if he is anywhere close to his 2011 numbers.
Neal Cotts has proven to be a fantastic find for the Rangers.
What a diamond Neal Cotts was last year. A low-risk spring-training signing turned into probably the Rangers' best reliever last season outside of Joe Nathan.
At 33, Cotts had what was by far the best season of his career in 2013. He went 8-3 in 57 innings, while absolutely shutting down the opposition nearly every single outing. He struck out 65 and walked just 18 in those 57 innings, all while allowing the opposition to hit .180.
He was the lefty specialist for the Rangers. Left-handed batters hit just .157 off him in 102 at-bats.
As good as he was last season, Cotts, like his lefty companion Ross, was used quite a bit last year. He's another quality reliever, but manager Ron Washington needs to be careful on not to burn him out.
And if he doesn't, then I expect a similar season from Cotts in 2014. A true gamer with dirty stuff, who knows how to hit corners and pitch intelligently.
Feliz will be making his much-anticipated return from injury.
Just like Harrison in the rotation, Feliz will be returning to a major role in the bullpen, following major surgery—Tommy John surgery.
If he can pitch in 2014 anywhere near as effective as he did in 2011, that'll be a major bonus for Texas.
The key with Feliz is patience. It's unlikely that he'll start off the year in prime form. He'll need time in a more comfortable role—working the sixth and seventh inning perhaps—to regain the late-inning confidence that once made him one of the best closers in the majors.
I think he'll spend the majority of 2014 regaining his 2010 and 2011 form. A realistic prediction for Feliz is somewhere around 40 innings, maybe a 3.30 to 3.45 ERA with a strikeout rate not quite one per inning. He'll be good but not yet the Feliz we have seen in the past.
As the season progresses, and if he shows improvement, I would have no problem moving Feliz into a late-inning setup role.
Again, just for now. Feliz is a better reliever than this. B-minus is a baseline grade from which he can only improve. By midseason, I expect he'll be between a B-plus and an A-minus.
By 2015, he could be back to being that 40-save closer we all know and love.
Frasor is now the eldest statesman of the Rangers pen, but he can still be effective.
At 36, Jason Frasor is now oldest member of the Rangers bullpen, with Joe Nathan moving on to Detroit.
After spending almost his entire career as a Toronto Blue Jay, Frasor proved to be a nice free-agent signing before last season. At times, he might have seemed a bit shaky, but overall he had a superb year.
In 49 innings, Frasor finished with a 4-3 record and a 2.57 ERA, while striking out 48 batters and walking 20. The major plus for Frasor in 2013 was that he allowed just 36 hits in those 49 innings and also didn't hit a single batter.
He relied on a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a straight changeup, which was his primary strikeout pitch.
He was the one Ranger reliever, along with Soria, who wasn't overworked last season. Perhaps that's why he had a great season.
Frasor's 2014 campaign shouldn't be too far from the numbers of his 2013 season. He's the veteran of this pen, and while he isn't even close to the best reliever, he offers invaluable experience and can handle many different situations.
Ogando's versatility makes him incredibly valuable to the Rangers.
Many Ranger fans still think Ogando should be the team's No. 5 starter. I have to disagree.
He has shown over the last couple seasons that he doesn't have the arm necessary to stay healthy all year as a starter.
He's been successful stats-wise as a starter, but I just think he is better off in the pen as a long man with Ross. He doesn't have the complete repertoire of pitches necessary to be a starter for an entire season, and I love the idea of having even more velocity in the bullpen, with Ogando being a sixth-inning or eighth-inning guy.
Again, Ogando's versatility is his biggest draw. He can make that spot start but also be a lights out reliever. For that, he earns a nice score.
The Rangers are now a clear World Series contender.
Overall, the 2014 Texas Rangers will be a bonafide World Series-contending team. It's a complete club that doesn't have a clear weakness. Skeptics could argue that the No. 5 spot in the rotation is a question mark. But the team has depth and a number of guys who can fill in to make those starts if needed.
Here are the overall grades for each unit of the the team.
The offense might be the best in baseball with the additions of Choo and Fielder. In my mind, the top fourth of the lineup is the best in the game. Speed, power, average, balance—it's all there in spades for the Rangers. They will present matchup nightmares for pitchers with striking regularity. If Profar and Martin continue to develop, watch out.
Right now. But if the Rangers can sign a Jeff Baker or a Michael Young, this bench could jump up to a B-plus, which is very good. The backups provide solid depth and a collective skill set that Ron Washington should be comfortable putting into the lineup every few games. Just like the lineup, the bench offers power, speed and, with Rosales, a bit of extra energy.
Also, a grade as the rotation stands currently. If Lewis returns to 10-plus win form and takes over the No. 5 spot, this will be an A-minus rotation. As it stands right now, however, it is one that can win many, many games. With an elite offense behind it, this rotation can at least make a World Series appearance.
It's the second brightest spot on the team, behind the lineup.
It could use another capable lefty, but Wash could go with a three-man bench and perhaps bring up Joe Ortiz to the bullpen as a third lefty. Impressive velocity and movement can be found up and down this pen. It's one that will recover from the loss of Joe Nathan beautifully and might even be better—if Feliz returns to any kind of form.