Continuing from our season preview of the Rangers earlier today…
Are the Rangers going to be able to adequately replace the offense that Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli provided to the team in 2012?
Hamilton and Napoli provided a ton of offense for the Rangers during their careers in Texas. In just over 1050 plate appearances last season, the duo combined for 67 homers, an 11% walk rate, and a .372 wOBA. That is a lot of production that the Rangers are trying to replace, and instead of just trying to replicate that with two players, the Rangers are going in a different direction and trying to replace their production with multiple players.
Napoli's role as a DH/1B/C won't be filled by one player, because that's a complicated trio of positions for someone to get regular playing time at while hitting like Napoli did. The DH role will be primarily filled by Lance Berkman, while Mitch Moreland will get most of the reps at first and AJ Pierzynski will start most games behind the plate. That trio didn't provide as much production as the Rangers duo did in 2012, totaling 44 homers, a 6.7% walk rate, and a .345 wOBA in 2012. But despite that gap in production, the trio provided just two fewer wins in value than Hamilton and Napoli, even including a defensive demerit for Berkman, which won't be an issue in 2013.
Honestly, I can try to make the case for Berkman, Pierzynski, and Moreland replacing the offense that Napoli and Hamilton provided, but it will likely be for naught. Pierzynski had a career year in 2012, one that I doubt he'll repeat in 2013 despite playing in a much more favorable home ballpark. Berkman was awesome for the Cardinals in 2011, but knee problems in a 37-year old don't exactly inspire confidence that he'll immediately be in his old form once he doesn't have to play the field every day. Finally, there's Moreland, who has an even 100 wRC+ over the 1000 plate appearances in his career…league average, but below average for a first baseman.
Where the Rangers can really make up the offense they lose in Hamilton and Napoli is through other positions on the field. Ian Kinsler had a disappointing year for Texas in 2012, posting a .327 wOBA and 99 wRC+ that were far below his career norms of .353 and 112. Nelson Cruz had his second straight disappointing year after back to back excellent years in 2009 and 2010. If the Rangers want their offense to improve, they don't need Berkman, Moreland, and Pierzynski to be the second coming. Instead, if they simply provide production around what they did in 2012 while Kinsler and Cruz tick their production up a notch, the Rangers offense won't miss a beat without Hamitlon and Napoli in the lineup.