The Texas Rangers had a 2011 season nearly identical to their 2010: winning the AL West, and then winning the AL pennant. Clear as mud. Unfortunately, the seasons ended the same way too: with a World Series loss to an NL club that got into the playoffs on the season’s last day. Texas returns the nearly identical lineup this season as they had in 2011, with the exception of Josh Hamilton shifting to left field and Julio Borbon starting every day in center.
Depth Chart (as of 3/30)
C: Mike Napoli
1B: Mitch Moreland
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Elvis Andrus
3B: Adrian Beltre
LF: Josh Hamilton
CF: Julio Borbon
RF: Nelson Cruz
DH: Michael Young
SP: Colby Lewis
SP: Derek Holland
SP: Matt Harrison
SP: Yu Darvish
SP: Neftali Feliz
CL: Joe Nathan
The biggest new name in Texas is much-coveted starting pitcher Yu Darvish, who the Rangers ended up paying a mint for this offseason. Texas also has a new closer, shifting former closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation and signing former Twins standout Joe Nathan. And that’s really about all that the Rangers did this offseason. They pretty much stood pat after winning a pair of AL pennants.
Former ace CJ Wilson left town to go to the divisional rival Los Angeles Angels. Reliever Darren Oliver also left town, heading north of the border to the Blue Jays. Another reliever, Mike Gonzalez, is a free agent that hasn’t signed with anyone yet. And then, bench players Matt Treanor and Endy Chavez went elsewhere.
If you consider Darvish a rookie (technically correct, but realistically not), then he’s going to make a huge impact on the Rangers rotation this season. He’s essentially replacing Wilson on the team, and those are some pretty large shoes to fill, even if Wilson was only a dominant starter for two seasons. If Borbon struggles in center field, and the Rangers aren’t keen on starting David Murphy or Craig Gentry, they could call up Cuban signee Leonys Martin to fill the center field role.
There’s not much going on this late in spring training. With Hamilton shifting away from center field, the speedy Borbon will take over there, with Gentry and Murphy filling in when days off are necessary.
The Rangers are completely healthy, with one exception: prospect Matthew West, who sprained his elbow and may require Tommy John surgery for the injury.
Will the musical chairs arrangement of Neftali Feliz to the rotation, Alexi Ogando to the bullpen, and Joe Nathan to the closer’s role end up working out better for the Rangers than if they had Ogando in the rotation and Feliz still closing?
Texas’s lineup does the exact same things they did last year, and Darvish wins the AL Rookie of the Year while contending for the Cy Young. The Rangers win the AL West over the Angels, and finally get the monkey off their back by winning the World Series
The Angels super team is just too good for the Rangers, and Texas doesn’t win the division. The team has to battle for a wild card berth, and while they get it, they get booted in the first round after being fatigued from their battle down the stretch.
The Rangers are a damn good team, which isn’t really a bold statement at all. It’s a toss-up on whether or not they’ll beat the Angels, but I’d expect both teams in the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they both went very far too.