Friday, November 30, 2012

Texas Rangers Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  77-85 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense:  706 runs (14th)
Pitching:  4.66 ERA (12th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  IF Wilfredo Vazquez, SP Alfredo Torrealba, RP Vic Olmeda

FA Signees:  RP Chris Coppinger,  C Don Towers, CF Andy Wagner

Lurking in AAA: 3B Reagan Cuddyer (Sea 18 #34 overall), OF Lucas Ford (Sea 18 #9 overall), OF Pascual Astacio (Sea 18 IFA)

Season 21 Outlook
The Texas offense is a bit of an oddity - it's a non-slugging (last in HR's), speedburner (2nd in SB's) lineup in a hitter's ballpark.  2B Howie Simmons (48-3) and 1B Rafael Sosa (36-6) are the 2 most prolific thieves, although Simmons starts the season on the 15-day DL.  He could be Wally-Pipped when he returns - with Wagner taking over CF, Del Chang is now set at 2B, leaving no clear spot for Simmons.  3B currently has no clear successor to Vazquez - prospect Cuddyer may be there in 20 games.  Chang (26 HR's & 96 RBI, but he'll need to improve that .294 OBP), Sosa (.252/18/72) and DH Bryce White (.269/17/74) are the prime run-producers.

The staff may experience some post-Torrrealba adjustments.  Benito Acosta is undoubtedly an ace-level talent, but seems to be limited to about 150 innings.  He'll be the most-of-the-time #1 starter.  Les Price had his best ML season last year, and the Rangers desperately need something similar from him.  The other SP candidates - Marrero, Stark, Beam and Rowand - very honestly, are barely ML-quality.

The short-relief crew - Adam Friend, Hector Franco and Coppinger - is pretty solid.  I don't know how many leads they're going to inherit, but they should do OK with the ones they get.

Looks like kind of a tough season coming for the Rangers (and I've certainly been wrong about predictions a lot).  That starting staff is more than likely going to put them in a lot of early game 5-0 holes - not exactly ideal for an offense centered around stealing bases.  It might be time for Texas to try to remake this thing into more of a get-on-base, hit-for-power squad.  With that in mind, I bet we'll see both AAA OF prospects (Ford and Astacio) early on.

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