Last season: 96-66 (Won AL West)
2011 Playoffs: Beat Tampa Bay in ALDS, 3-1; Beat Detroit in ALCS, 4-2; Lost to St. Louis in World Series, 4-3
Grady says: Even for a team who has made it to the World Series two years in a row, this team is awfully good, top to bottom. This organization has done a really tremendous job in accumulating and developing premier talent over the last decade, and we are witnessing the dividends. Whether it be through trade (Mark Teixeira for Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Neftali Feliz), draft (Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland), or free agency (Adrian Beltre), they’ve spotted talent, and are now in dynasty-mode.
Kinsler, Beltre, Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz all have 30+ homers in their bats if they can stay healthy. That’s obviously the big question mark, since all have had injury problems to some degree over the last few years. The rest of the offense, even without big power numbers, is still very tough. Everybody on this team gets on base at a great clip, and there are just never any easy outs in this lineup. The worst regular position-player on this team last year was David Murphy, and he was an above-average offensive contributor when compared to other center fielders. Playing in Arlington might be boosting the stats, but this offense is good enough that they would score a ton, no matter the park.
The pitching staff lost a pretty important piece in C.J. Wilson, but gained a potential ace in Yu Darvish, as well as another year of maturity and experience from starters Holland and Harrison. Feliz, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando will compete for the final two spots in the rotation, with the odd-man out being in the running for the best sixth option in the history of baseball. In Darvish, the Rangers add a player who, at his worst, will be a well-above-average starter on a team who doesn’t really need a whole lot of pitching to succeed. At his best, Darvish will dominate opposing hitters with an arsenal of pitches, excellent control and a rubber arm, capable of going out there every fifth day without the worry of breaking down. He’s been the best non-Major League player in the world for a few years now, and we’re finally about to see what the fuss is about.
While the rotation lacks star power behind Darvish, the bullpen and bench are going to play big supporting roles. Question marks in the rotation are backed up by one of the better bullpens in baseball (especially if they can find a lefty-specialist at some point), and the bench players (Yorvit Torrealba, Julio Borbon) will surely get their share of playing time, even if it’s just to give injury-prone guys like Hamilton, Cruz and Napoli a bit of rest.
Worth watching: GM Jon Daniels has brought his club to two straight World Series and still hasn’t gotten the job done. First base could use an upgrade if Mitch Moreland doesn’t perform, and if a major injury occurs elsewhere, he might not be satisfied with filling the void internally. This team is peaking, and should probably try to win while they still have the tools available (Napoli and Hamilton are both set to become free agents after the season). They’re probably going to need to find a lefty to come out of the bullpen, and they may want to find an upgrade for the rotation if anyone has trouble. They have the prospects necessary to complete a trade for a front-line starter or first baseman who might become available at the deadline (Matt Garza, Paul Konerko), and I think Daniels is going to try to be a little more certain about his chances this time around.
Featured Image Credit: Lenny Ignelzi, Associated Press