Tuesday, March 20, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

2011 Record: 96-66

Key Additions: Yu Darvish, Brad Hawpe, Joe Nathan

Subtractions: C.J Wilson, Taylor Teagarden, Darren Oliver, Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor

2012 Outlook: The back to back winners of the American League might not have improved this off-season, or gotten worse, but a division title will be much harder to come by this season with the improvment of the LA Angels. CJ Wilson, left the Rangers, and joined the Halos just a few minutes after Albert Pujols did during the Winter Meetings, making the Angels a World Series contender in the span of a few minutes. So, the task for the Rangers Front Office was to replace Wilson. After announcing that Neftali Feliz, the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year winner will move to the Starting Rotation in 2012, the Rangers bid over $50 Million on Yu Darvish, and then signed him to a 6-year contract. Darvish will be given the task of replacing Wilson, and Feliz will likely be given the #5 spot in the rotation. Feliz's electric stuff isn't needed in the Rangers Bullpen anymore, as All Star Closer, Joe Nathan signed with Texas during the off-season. The Rangers will need Darvish to live up to all his hype, and not become a second Dice-K. But, the rotation looked to good to be true. Today, Feliz, who was scheduled to pitch four innings in the Rangers Spring Training game against the Cubs, left the game after his third inning because of should stiffness. This likely won't cause surgery, but he will miss some time during Spring Training. So, if Feliz can't get enough work in by the start of the regular season to be a starter, who will take his place? Will Scott Feldman move to the rotation, or maybe Alexi Ogando will, or, Roy Oswalt might be signing earlier then assumed. I'd put my money on Feliz to stay at extended spring training for a week or two, and come into the Rangers rotation after that. I'd guess it would be Ogando who fills in for him during that time, although Feldman is also an option. If your a Rangers fan, you better hope that Feliz doesn't need surgery, and that his injury is shoulder stiffness, and that is all it is.

The Rangers offence has been amazing over the past few years, and playing in the best hitters ballpark in the MLB does not hurt that. Led by 2012 AL MVP Josh Hamilton, the Rangers are built around their offence, which also features Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and Elvis Andrus. There are a few questions about the Rangers offence for the 2012 season, although it still seems like they are going to produce at a ridiculous pace like they have before.
1. Can Josh Hamilton focus on playing after a relapse during the Winter?
2. Is Mike Napoli really that good? Will he be able to keep up his pace set in 2011?

I definitely believe Hamilton will be able to return to his 2010 form, after missing almost 40 games last season, which did effect his performance a little bit. My only real doubt about Texas is Napoli. After being at best a mediocre player before 2011, he joined the Rangers and just exploded offensively. He hit 30 homers and hit .320 in 2011, but those numbers are not ballooned because of the Ballpark in Arlington. 17 of his homers were hit during away games, and his average was .10 points better when he was not playing in Arlington. His OPS was also significantly better on the road, where he had a mark 0f 1.078, compared to a 1.011 mark during home games. So, do I believe in Napoli? I don't. I think he will return to normal form this season,and the Rangers will be stuck with him. But, if he does produce, and even if he doesn't, the Rangers will be very scary this season, mostly because of there offence.

The Final Count: 97-65, 2nd AL West

The Rangers season is going to be on the shoulders of their starting pitchers. If Darvish produces, and Feliz has an easy transition, then the Rangers should easily make the playoffs. Whether they win the Division, or win one of the Wild Cards, a third trip in a row to the World Series is very plausible.

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