Texas Rangers: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Texas Rangers: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

TEXAS RANGERS

Last Year: 90-72, 1st in AL West  

Manager: Ron Washington 

 

 

PROJECTED LINEUP 

C- Yorvit Torrealba (R) 

1B- Mitch Moreland (L)

2B- Ian Kinsler (R)

3B- Adrian Beltre (R) 

SS- Elvis Andrus (R)

LF- Josh Hamilton (L)

CF- Julio Borbon (L)

RF- Nelson Cruz (R)

DH- Michael Young (R)

The Rangers' offense is still just as strong as last year's group that went to the World Series. Led by AL MVP Josh Hamilton, they have a great balance of power and speed that makes them tough for other teams to deal with.

Hamilton has all the offensive tools. His combination of power and ability to hit for average make him one of the game's most dangerous hitters. He should hit .315/.370/.580 with 30 home runs.

Nelson Cruz is a dangerous right-handed bat who should hit behind Hamilton. Like Hamilton, Cruz has an ability to hit for power and average. One facet of Cruz's game that is overlooked is his speed.

The key with Cruz is staying healthy.  If he does, I see a line of .290/.365/.545 with 30 home runs and 17-20 stolen bases.

Julio Borbon is a contact/speed hitter with little plate discipline. He will split time with David Murphy, who is the better overall hitter.

Michael Young will DH and spot start all around the infield. Young can be counted on for a .290 average and 17-20 home runs. 

Mitch Moreland should be a breakout player for the Rangers this season. (His projections are below in BREAKOUT PLAYER).

Ian Kinsler has dealt with injuries last year that seemed to zap some of his power. Kinsler is capable of putting up 20-plus home runs with a solid average between .275 and .290 and 20 plus steals.

He is a really solid player who can get on base and can quietly change the course of a game.

Elvis Andrus seemed to lose what little power he had in 2010, but he showed in the playoffs he can change the course of a game with his speed.

I like him improving on his 2010 season with 4 home runs, 35 stolen bases, and a line of .290/.360/.360.

I'm not sold on Adrian Beltre's offense even in Arlington. I think he greatly benefited from playing in Fenway Park for half the season in terms of his average, and his OBP is lower than it should be.

He can still be counted on for 25 home runs but his line will drop to .275/.315/.475.

Torrealba is not bad offensive option at catcher with his 5-8 home runs, a solid average and good OBP.  

The Rangers were 10th in UZR during the 2010 season, and that number should improve with the addition of Adrian Beltre.

Beltre is a significant upgrade at third base over Michael Young. Beltre paired with Andrus, one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, should make the best right-side infield combo in baseball.

Mitch Moreland showed he was an average first baseman in 2010, and Ian Kinsler is above-average at second base.

The Rangers also upgraded at the catcher position with Torrealba, who is a great catch and throw guy.

Throw in the great outfield defense, where every fielder is way above average, the Rangers might be one of the best defenses in baseball. 

 

 

BENCH

OF- David Murphy (L)

IF- Andres Blanco (S) 

1B/C- Mike Napoli (R)  

 

 

STARTING ROTATION

LHP- CJ Wilson 

RHP- Colby Lewis 

RHP- Tommy Hunter (on DL until May)

LHP- Derek Holland 

LHP- Matt Harrison

RHP- Alexi Ogando

The depth in the rotation took a hit with the departure of Cliff Lee during the offseason. CJ Wilson becomes the ace of the staff after his first full season as a starter in the majors.

Wilson doesn't have the best command (4.10 BB/9) but he gets most of his outs via the strikeout and groundout. Wilson has a five pitch repertoire, and every pitch is above average. (90.5 MPH fastball, curve, slider, cutter, and change-up.)

Colby Lewis, who was excellent in the postseason, slots behind CJ Wilson as the No. two starter.

Lewis has decent control and fastball (averaged 90.1 MPH), but he relies heavily on his slider and curveball. His breaking balls and his ability to locate his fastball allowed Lewis to strikeout almost 200 batters last year.

Wilson and Lewis were thoroughly impressive last year and I believe they will put up similar strong numbers this season. 

Missing Cliff Lee hurts the bottom half of the Rangers' rotation. I've never been a fan of Tommy Hunter, who will be on the DL until May, and his 2010 line was not indicative of his ability.

His 3.73 ERA was helped by a ridiculously high left-on-base percentage, and low BABIP (.255). Hunter's ERA should be around 4.50 this season.

Derek Holland has the promise to be a top pitcher for many years to come. He averages 92.1 MPH on his fastball and compliments it with a filthy slider, decent change, and average curveball.

2011 could be the year he puts it all together, and and he should post an ERA in the high 3's and almost 8 K/9 innings. 

Alexi Ogando emerged as a strong set-up man in 2010, but will be shifted to the rotation with the injury to Hunter. He should head back to the bullpen in May. 

Ogando will throw a hard fastball (avg 96.3 MPH) and a good slider. His best attribute is his ability to keep the ball in the park.

Harrison will probably remain in the rotation because I don't see Webb coming back any time soon.

Harrison throws a low 90's fastball with a slider, change, and occasional curveball. His slider has a tendency to flatten out and he should try to mix in more curveballs, a pitch he has had success with.

Harrison doesn't strike out many hitters (5.29 K/9 in 2010), and he will walk close to four per nine innings. In addition, with his high home run rate, Harrison should have a 4.80 ERA in the rotation and could loose his spot if Ogando performs. 

 

 

BULLPEN

RHP- Neftali Feliz (Closer) 

RHP- Darren O'Day

LHP- Arthur Rhodes

RHP- Pedro Strop 

LHP- Darren Oliver 

RHP- Mark Lowe 

RHP- David Bush

RHP- Mason Tobin 

Neftali Feliz anchors this strong Rangers bullpen. Feliz has shown good control and the ability to strike out any hitter with a 96 MPH fastball and a strong curveball. He has the ability to start, but it sounds like the Rangers are keeping him as the closer this season.

Right-handed side-armer Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver return to the Rangers bullpen to work as situational pitchers. O'Day is tough on righties, and Oliver will be used during the middle innings.

Arthur Rhodes was signed to be the primary left-handed specialist. Rhodes doesn't pitch well against righties, unlike Olver, and will use his tough slider and low 90's fastball to get lefties out.

Pedro Strop throws in the mid 90's with a slider and splitter. He has strikeout stuff, but his command is in issue.

Mark Lowe, essentially a throw away in the Cliff Lee deal, missed most of last year with an arm injury. Lowe, who also throws a 96 MPH fastball and can average 8 K/9 innings, will establish himself as another good option for Ron Washington.

David Bush will be the team's long reliever after failing to win a starting job. 

 

 

BREAKOUT PLAYER: Mitch Moreland 

I really liked what I saw from Mitch Moreland in the second-half of the season and the playoffs. He always seemed to put up tough at-bats, and he had an impressive OBP.

He gained Ron Washington's trust during the playoffs, and Washington let him hit against lefties.

I see Moreland getting 500 at-bats this season and putting up a line of .270/.360/.480 with 20 home runs. 

 

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH: RHP Tanner Scheppers 

The Rangers believe this young pitcher could impact the big league club later in the season. With an upper 90's fastball, curveball, slider and change-up, many think he could make an impact in the starting rotation.

Looking at his stats, it seems like he would be a better fit in the bullpen where his fastball can reach triple digits. I could seem him being the closer in 2012 with Neftali Feliz heading to the rotation. 

 

 

PROJECTED FINISH: 1st in AL West 

The Rangers should be in line for another division title. The lineup is as strong as last year (maybe better), the team plays great defense, and the bullpen is slightly improved.

I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Young is traded for another starting pitcher during the next few weeks since the starting rotation is lacking depth.

The A's have improved, but I see the Rangers holding them off to win the division. 

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