Key Additions—Adrian Beltre, Brandon Webb, Arthur Rhodes
Key Losses—Cliff Lee, Bengie Molina, Vlad Guerrero
Lineup—This is an offense that carried this team for a good portion of last year, and with the addition of Beltre it seems to be primed to do so again. However, I think the loss of Vlad Guerrero hurts this lineup, and I just don’t believe in their corner infielders. Mitch Moreland does not give you the production you want out of a 1B, and now that Adrian Beltre got his contract, can we really expect the year he had last year. I doubt that. But they are still very good up the middle with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus making up the double play combination. If Josh Hamilton remains healthy he will again be a contender for the MVP. A thing to watch is what they end up doing with Michael Young. It is well known that the Rangers would like to deal him, but that salary will make him hard to move. But he does give them good flexibility to find room for him in the field as well as DH. This is without a doubt the best offense in the division, and should help them contend for another division title.
Rotation—The loss of Cliff Lee means that they no longer have the hammer at the front end to rely on. While many think that CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis can step up and at least maintain some consistency at the top of the rotation, I just don’t see it. I think that having Lee gave these guys the confidence to just go out and pitch, and not have to worry about being an ace. Now that these guys need to be at their best, I don’t think they will be able to. Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland are exactly what they are slated to be, 3 and 4 type starters. There are two big question marks here. The first is Brandon Webb, who if he can regain some of his old form, can be a big contributor. And then what will this team do with Neftali Feliz? If he is able to start and be effective, that is another hammer in the rotation. If not he makes for a great closer. He changes the complexion of either the front or back end of the pitching staff, and spring training will determine which role he will play.
Bullpen—As I mentioned above, it is hard for me to pinpoint how good this bullpen can be. If Feliz goes to the rotation, then they get much better at the beginning of games but the bullpen immediately turns into a disaster. If he stays in the pen, then they have a guy who is an absolute shut down closer. I am going to reserve judgment on this pen until we know what the deal is with Feliz, as I think that highly of him as a closer.
Impact Rookie—Tanner Scheppers, RHP. Scheppers was consensus 1st round pick as a junior on the eventual National Champion Fresno State team in 2008 until he was shut down with shoulder issues. As a result, he slid to the Pirates in the second round but he failed to sign. After going the Indy Ball route, the Rangers selected and signed him in the supplemental 1st round. Like Feliz he’s been back and forth from the rotation to the pen but if he can stay healthy (currently battling a sore back) he could help an ailing pen and could even fill the closer void if Feliz is moved to the rotation.
Outlook—Their offense obviously gives you enough punch in this division to repeat, but I am not sold on this pitching staff. The decision on Feliz will help in some areas but really hurt in another. If he can prove he can start, then that is a big boost to the starting staff, but a huge hit to the bullpen. However, for the Rangers to get back where they expect, in my opinion he needs to start. The problem is that leaves this bullpen really vulnerable. But in my opinion if he is the closer, then the rotation lacks that shut down guy. I know I sound like I am going in circles, but this decision will likely affect how I view this team’s chances in the division.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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