Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Texas Rangers


The Texas Rangers followed up a surprising 2015 with another division title in 2016, however they lost in their first series for the second straight year.  Will 2017 bring about a deep playoff run for the Rangers?

My 2016 Predictions
2nd in AL West, WILD CARD, lose in Wild Card Game
Josh Hamilton will play less than 50 games in 2016 before he retires at season's end.

2016 Results
95-67, 1st in AL West, lost in ALDS
After hitting the cellar in 2014, the Rangers have now won a very competitive division two years in a row.  Not only that, but in 2016 they had the best record in the American League.  The problem is they can't get past the Toronto Blue Jays as they knocked them out for the second year in a row.  As for Josh Hamilton, he never saw a game in the big leagues during 2016.  I don't know why he didn't retire after the season, but he is currently property of the Rangers recovering from yet another surgery.  He will be lucky if he ever sees the major leagues again.

Additions / Subtractions
The Rangers were fairly quiet this offseason.  They let veteran pitchers Colby Lewis and Derek Holland move on, as well as rent-a-players Carlos Beltran and Ian Desmond.  The only significant player brought in was Mike Napoli to replace Mitch Moreland at first base.

Most Important Hitter
Jurickson Profar
Over the last few seasons, one of the biggest issues the Rangers have faced is injuries.  Even this year, Texas is starting the season with 7 players on the DL, including third baseman Adrian Beltre.  One of the injury concerns in past years was Jurickson Profar.  Once the top prospect in baseball, Profar missed all of 2014 and 2015 with injuries.  Last year, I had the Rangers trading him, but instead he emerged as a useful utility player.  In 2017, he is being counted on as a super-utility guy, being able to play pretty much every position on the diamond.  He went from being one of the injury concerns to being the solution to the injuries.  If the Rangers are going to be successful this season, Profar is a key to that success.

Most Important Pitcher
Yu Darvish
When the Rangers traded for Cole Hamels in 2015, they sold Hamels on the deal with the prospects of dominating the top of the rotation with Yu Darvish in future seasons.  Darvish lost all of 2015 and part of 2016 to Tommy John surgery.  For the first time since acquiring Hamels, Darvish is 100% healthy.  It is also the last season of his current contract.  Especially with the injuries the Rangers have entering the season, they need Darvish to be back to his dominant self in 2017 to partner with Hamels and be one of the best top two's in baseball.

Player to Watch
Yohander Mendez
You can never have enough pitching.  The Rangers know that better than anyone.  That is why they are happy to have prospects like Yohander Mendez ready to join the rotation whenever he may be needed.  Ranked the 5th best lefty prospect in all of baseball, this 22 year old got a taste of the Show in 2016, and is now ready to have a breakout year whenever he gets his chance to make an impact.

2017 Prediction
2nd in AL West, WILD CARD, lose in Wild Card Game
Yes, this is the same prediction as last season.  I see the Rangers once again having a strong regular season and get into the playoffs.  The injuries will probably keep them from winning the division, and their problems of winning in the postseason will continue, but making it to the postseason is huge.  With all that said, the Rangers will start to get antsy as they wonder if they will ever break through with this group.

Fearless Prediction
Joey Gallo will be traded to the Brewers for Ryan Braun.
This is quite a bold prediction, but here is how I see this playing out.  The Rangers have been waiting for Joey Gallo to take off and be the star his potential has said he could be.  With Adrian Beltre starting the season on the DL, Gallo is going to get a chance to show how good he can be.  If he gets off to a hot start, his stock will be high when Beltre comes back to reclaim his hot corner.  If there is any spot in the Rangers lineup that is weak, it is leftfield.  The Rangers and Brewers have a good working relationship after the Jonathan Lucroy trade last year (that I correctly predicted).  If this all works out, Gallo could be the centerpiece of a package going back to the Brewers to bring in the former MVP.

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