Teams have reported to 2010 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year.
Finally, the Texas Rangers mean business in the American League West again. After years of posting massive power numbers and never having enough pitching support to back up the bats, Texas’ starters woke up last season. Led by Scott Feldman (and, perhaps, Nolan Ryan’s influence), the Rangers stayed in contention most of the year, winning 87 games.
Now, we bettors must decide what the Rangers’ 2009 season was: an anomaly, right on target or the beginning of a championship run?
It’s strange to say it, but the Rangers must score more in 2010 to improve. It’s not that the Rangers don’t have stalwarts; Ian Kinsler is a stud at second base, outfielder Nelson Cruz finally got to show off his huge power last year and third baseman Michael Young is as reliable as they come. But Texas desperately needs bounce-back years from hacker Chris Davis, injury-prone Josh Hamilton and fallen star Vladimir Guerrero.
The most intriguing story could be Vladdy’s.
His career OPS at Rangers Ballpark is over 1.000 and he should have the luxury of DHing more often than not, so we could see a rebirth.
Speedy Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus made nice strides as rookies last season and should score plenty of runs if the power bats can stay healthy and effective in 2010.
Starting pitching is a real crap shoot for Texas right now. It’s not that the future isn’t bright – it really is – it’s simply that the young guns may not be ready for prime time and the veteran support is unpredictable.
Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz are both top-flight prospects but Holland only looked major-league ready in one month last season and Feliz, though he has electric stuff, hasn’t made the necessary push thus far in spring training to crack the rotation.
If even one of these two develops into a legit starter this year, the Rangers could be playing meaningful games into October.
Scott Feldman won 17 games last season and the Rangers need a repeat effort from him; don’t count on it. He’s certainly not a bad pitcher but, based in batting average on balls in play (BABIP), Feldman was the fourth-luckiest pitcher in the majors last year.
Since he isn’t overpowering, I can’t see him matching last year’s performance.
New acquisitions Rich Harden and Colby Lewis are the veterans of Texas’ staff but come with totally different pedigrees.
Harden is usually dominant when healthy – which is almost never. Lewis has no sustained major-league success but was a big star in Japan over the last two seasons and is out to show that he found himself overseas.
Frank Francisco has closer-type stuff but battled a myriad of injuries last year; if he falters or gets hurt again, C.J. Wilson can handle the role. The Rangers could even give Feliz a shot at the ninth inning.
When assessing American League West divisional futures, it’s important to realize that the top three teams are each separated by a hair. You could justify any combination of the Rangers, Angels and Mariners in the top three spots.
Since I’m not convinced the Rangers can match their pitching success of last season, I think they’ll wind up third.
All hope is not lost for years to come, however; Holland and Feliz will blossom soon enough.
Rangers Prediction: Third, American League West
This Article Also Appears On The Cappers Picks Baseball Betting Blog