Last Postseason Appearance: 2016
Last World Series Title: NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES TITLE
In 2016, Texas won 95 games and finished first in the AL West, but folded in the playoffs, getting swept in three games by the Toronto Blue Jays. With the same main core of players, the Rangers won just 78 games in 2017, and had a losing record, head-to-head, against Houston, Seattle and Oakland.
In one-run games, Texas was 13-24. They had a losing record in both the first, and second half, and never led the division at any point of the season. The pitching staff finished last in the AL in strikeouts, 11th in runs, and 13th in walks allowed. The offense finished 26th in the MLB in runs, and 27th in hits. However, Texas finished fifth in the AL in runs, mainly because they were third in the MLB in home runs. They also finished fourth in steals, which shows this team has plenty of power and speed.
Elvis Andrus had a career year, finishing fourth in doubles, and sixth in hits. He also hit a career high 20 home runs (Previous high was 8), scored 100 runs, and drove in 88 (previous RBI high was 69). Andrus also added 25 steals and joined Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, and Tommy Pham as the only four players to hit .290/20HR/20SB.
Although he finished second in strikeouts and hit just .209, Joey Gallo had solid 2017. In his first full-season, Gallo came in fourth in at-bats per home run, clubbing 41 bombs, which was fifth in the MLB. Yes, the average is low and he strikes out too much, but the .333 OBP isn’t terrible, and he draws a lot of walks (9th in MLB at 14.1% in BB%).
2018: Around the Diamond
Texas will be sending out virtually the same lineup as they did in 2016. Robinson Chirinos, who hit 17 home runs with a .360 OBP in just 88 games, will remain behind the plate. Around the infield will be Gallo, Rougned Odor, Andrus, and Adrian Beltre.
The Rangers will need Odor to bounce-back from last year’s blunder, as he hit just .204 with a .252 OBP, and struck out 24.9 percent of the time. He walked less than 5 percent and showed no discipline at the plate, as his .224 BABIP was the worst among qualified hitters. Fortunately, Odor hit 30 home runs, which was the third-most by a second basemen.
Although he battled injuries most of the year, the 38-year-old Adrian Beltre continues to perform at an elite level. In just 94 games, the 4x All-Star hit .312, and 17 home runs with a .383 OBP. He is in the last year of his deal, so expect Beltre to continue to play his heart out and be one of the best personalities in baseball.
Left to right, the Rangers will showcase Willie Calhoun, Delino DeShields, and Nomar Mazara. Calhoun was acquired from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade last July. He played in 13 games last year for Texas, and hit .265 with one home run and four RBIs. The 23-year-old has shown some power in the minors, hitting 27 HR in AA in 2016, and 31 HR in AAA last season. DeShields had 29 steals, which was tied for seventh in the bigs, and posted a .347 OBP in 120 games.
Nomar Mazara hit 20 home runs for the second straight season, and posted his first 100 RBI year. Mazara is just 22 years of age, and looks like he will have a long career in this league. Shin-Soo Choo hit 22 home runs with a .357 OBP in 2017, and will play the majority of the games at DH. Choo has a career .378 OBP, and has always been a solid talent.
On the Bump
The Rangers starters finished seventh in baseball in terms of WAR. The first four spots in the rotation look to be set. Cole Hamels had a down year in 2017, posting a 3.20 ERA, which was his highest since 2009. His walks have been up ever since he joined Texas, but he is still a great option for a number-one starter.
Hamels will be followed by Martin Perez, Doug Fister, and Matt Moore. In 2017, Perez allowed the third most hits, and 10th most runs in the MLB. He needs to lower his ERA, but he is a reliable arm, throwing 185+ innings in back-to-back seasons. The veteran Fister showed glimpses of his younger self in 2017, but he will need to start games better if he hopes to remain in the rotation for the full-season. Last year, first time through the order, Fister had a 8.16 ERA.
Matt Moore is probably the biggest wild card. He was acquired this past December in a trade, after being one of the worst pitchers in 2017. Moore had a 5.52 ERA (7.22 on the road), 1.532 WHIP, and had the third-highest OPS against among qualified starters. He lost velocity on his fastball and has really never been the same since his Tommy John surgery in 2014. Before the surgery, Moore was 29-17 with a 3.53 ERA, and an opp. SLG of 3.65. Since, he is 22-31 with an ERA of 4.85, and an opp. SLG of .438.
The fifth starter spot will be a battle between Mike Minor, Matt Bush, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Ronald Herrera, and Yohander Mendez. Minor, who was a starter with Atlanta, posting a 2.55 ERA as a reliever in 2017 for Kansas City, probably has the best shot at earning the final spot in the rotation.
Alex Claudio will start out as the closer. In his career, over 162 innings, Claudio is 9-4 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.152 WHIP. He had 11 saves last season, which was the most among all Texas relievers.
Joining Willie Calhoun on MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects’ list is Leody Taveras, who checks in at No. 34 on the list. Just 19 years of age, the switch-hitting outfielder is cousins with the 2008 MLB stolen-base leader, Willy Taveras. Speed runs in the family, as Leody stole 20 bases in 134 games in A-ball. He has the ability to play all outfield positons and, last season, hit eight home runs with seven triples as a member of the Hickory Crawdads.
2018 Prediction: 77-85
Texas has plenty of power and speed in the lineup, but the lack of pitching depth in a tough division is a glaring issue. Besides for Hamels, it is hard to rely on anyone in this staff, so expect more of the same for the Rangers.
Featured image by MLB.com
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