Friday , 18 April 2014
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Rangers 2011 Preview and Prediction

Rangers 2011 Preview and Prediction

Friday is Opening Day for the Rangers, so it’s time to take a look at the roster, see who’ll be doing what, and make a prediction for the season.

We’ll start by breaking down the 25-man roster by grouping, fill you in on who made the 40-man roster, and make our lineup/season predictions.

First things first though, let’s discuss the differences between a  25 and 40 man roster. Wikipedia actually breaks it down pretty well.

25-man roster

Also called the active roster, the 25-man is composed of 25 players who are playing for their Major League team. They are the starting eight position players, pitchers, and reserve players on the team. Players on the active roster are also on the 40-man roster. These players are generally the only ones who dress in uniform and are the only ones who may take the field in a game at any time. Typically, only players on the 25-man roster, and players who are on the disabled list but were on the 25-man roster, travel on road trips with the Major League team.

40-man roster/September call-ups

Also called the expanded roster, the 40-man is composed of all the players in a Major League club’s organization who are signed to a major-league contract. These are the players who are able to be called up to the 25-man roster at any given time. Also on the 40-man are any players on the 15-day disabled list and minor league players who are signed to a major-league contract but are on an “optional assignment” to the minors. (Each player has three “options” to be sent to the minors once on the 40-man before they must be placed on waivers to be sent there.) Players who were on the 40-man but are placed on the 60-day disabled list are taken off the 40-man until the time on the DL is over. The same applies to players who are suspended.

A “September call-up” is a player who is on the expanded roster before September 1, but not the 25-man. On September 1, the Major League team’s roster expands from the 25-man active roster to the entire 40-man roster. At this point, any player on the 40-man can play for the Major League team. September call-ups are players from the minors who are played in September to get Major League experience and, especially for teams in contention, to provide reinforcements down the stretch.

Now, let’s break down the Rangers’ 25-man roster.

Starting Pitchers

C. J. Wilson

Colby Lewis

Matt Harrison

Derek Holland

Alexi Ogando

Ogando was awarded the final spot in the rotation yesterday, after the Rangers had to scramble to replace Tommy Hunter in the rotation.Hunter will start the season on the Disabled List with a groin injury, which could take up to 6 weeks to heal.

Brandon Webb will also start the season on the DL. His spring saw a lot of ups and downs, and nobody knows when (if ever) he’ll be ready to pitch in a game again.

Obviously, there are a ton of questions in this group. Nobody knows if Wilson and Lewis will be able to match their 2010 performances, and if they don’t this team could be in a world of trouble.

Matt Harrison was a good reliever late last year, and now he is getting his opportunity to start after having a very solid spring. Hopefully that can translate into wins during the regular season.

This is the year that Holland needs to step up and prove that he deserves a spot in the rotation. He’s got the left-handed advantage and now he needs to show that his stuff can get people out consistently for 6+ innings.

If Holland and Harrison can produce something close to what Wilson and Lewis did last year, they can really help solidify this rotation.

I like that the Rangers are giving Ogando an opportunity to start. He’s got an explosive fastball with solid off-speed pitches to mix in. I feel that he’s better suited for a starting role than Feliz at this point, simply because he has more command of his off-speed pitches.

This is easily the group with the most questions for the Rangers, but I am confident that Wilson and Lewis can lead the charge and go late in games consistently. If not, then the Rangers are in for a very long season.

Relief Pitchers

Scott Feldman

Mark Lowe

Darren Oliver

Arthur Rhodes

Darren O’Day

Omar Beltre

Pedro Strop

Mason Tobin

David Bush

The best scenario for this group would be that they only have to get the Rangers from the 7th and 8th innings with the lead, so that Neftali Feliz can shut it down in the 9th. However, that obviously won’t happen every night.

I really think the go-to guys in this bullpen need to be the two Darrens. Both Oliver and O’Day were able to deliver pretty consistently when they were called upon last year, and that needs to be the case again.

Scott Feldman and David Bush are your long relievers, and the rest of the pen can be called upon for situational use. I like the mix of veterans and young guys in this bullpen, and I think this could end up being a strong point on this Rangers team.

Closer

Neftali Feliz

Now that he’s not going to start (at least for now) he can focus on using his newest toy to mow down hitters in the 9th.

While Feliz was still trying to decide whether or not he even wanted to start, pitching coach Mike Maddox taught him how to throw a cut fastball.

You know what other closer throws a nasty cutter?

Yeah, Mariano Rivera.

If Feliz can do half the things Rivera can with a cutter, he’ll be infinitely better than last year when he earned AL Rookie of the Year honors.

Catchers

Yorvit Torrealba

Mike Napoli

Torrealba has come in this spring and worked hard to earn a starting role that everyone assumed was his to lose. He hit over .400 for the spring, and has apparently gotten along very well with the pitchers. He will probably not be a huge offensive threat this season, as he’s a career .257 hitter, but that’s not why he’s here. He’s here to manage the pitchers, and manage games.

Mike Napoli will be seeing a lot of time behind the plate as Torrealba’s backup, now that Matt Treanor has been traded to the Kansas City Royals. Treanor was traded for cash, opening up a roster spot for the Rangers to add an extra bullpen arm to the roster. This is unfortunate, because Napoli isn’t a very good catcher.

Here’s what I wrote about Napoli’s catching skills when the Rangers first traded for him.

Let’s run through a few potential uses for Mike Napoli:

1. Catcher- Napoli should not play here. Ever. In a single season, his caught-stealing percentage peaked at .309%. His career average? .239%. Essentially, second base is a freebie for anyone who wants it when Napoli is behind the plate. To put it in different terms, 256 people have attempted to steal on Napoli. He’s only caught 86. Boo.

Let’s hope Torrealba stays healthy, or I see Taylor Teagarden being called up.

Infielders

Elvis Andrus

Adrian Beltre

Andres Blanco

Ian Kinsler

Mitch Moreland

This is the strongest group that the Rangers’ have this year, as defense goes. Fans will realize how big of an upgrade Beltre is at third once the season gets underway.

Andrus got robbed out of a gold glove last year, and will be looking to make another strong campaign.

If Kinsler can stay healthy, he’s as strong as any second baseman in the league as far as range and arm strength.

Even if Kinsler doesn’t stay healthy, Blanco proved last year that he is an incredibly viable backup player, hitting .277 in 166 at bats. He also had a 96% fielding percentage in 128 innings of play.

The question in the infield lies at first base, where Moreland will see the majority of the starts. I just hope he doesn’t pull a Chris Davis and forget how to hit, because he’s very solid defensively.

If things go south with Moreland, we’ll probably see Davis called up. From there some combination of Mike Napoli, Chris Davis and Michael Young will probably rotate at the 1 bag.

Outfielders

Julio Borbon

Nelson Cruz

Josh Hamilton

David Murphy

Borbon struggled a little this spring in center field, but he’s still going to start there over Josh Hamilton to begin the season. I think there are two reasons the Rangers are doing this.

First, to protect Hamilton. How true this is, I don’t know. What I do know is that left field is a lot less ground to cover, which equals a lot less diving around and sacrificing your body. That will probably help Hamilton out a little bit, but as far as I know, the wall in left field is not padded any differently, and he really likes to run into walls.

The second reason is that Borbon has the ability to be a successful everyday center fielder. He still throws to the wrong base now and then and he’s still streaky at the plate, but he has the potential.

If Borbon just can’t figure it out, Hamilton will shift back to center and David Murphy will step in out in left field. He’s a more consistent hitter than Borbon, and could start for quite a few teams around the league, but the fact is, he’s not suited for center field. If he was, he’d be starting over Borbon.

Designated Hitter

Michael Young

Young will be the main DH this year, much to his own dismay. He’ll still get plenty of opportunities to show he can still use his glove though, when Andrus and Beltre need days off, or if someone gets hurt. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he saw just as much, if not more, time in the field as Andres Blanco.

I think he can thrive in this lineup, especially now that he is not hitting in the 2 spot in the order anymore. Now that he’s hitting 6th he can cut it loose and do what he does best, drive the ball to right field. He’ll have to think a lot less at the plate now, something he had to do the majority of last year when he was hitting 2nd and had to focus on hit and runs, protecting Andrus, moving him over, etc.

Disabled List

Tommy Hunter

Brandon Webb

Tommy Hunter’s groin is expected to keep him out up to 6 weeks, but once he’s back we can expect Ogando to move to the bullpen and for someone like Mason Tobin or Pedro Strop to get sent back down to the minors. That is, unless Ogando is pitching lights out, then it’ll be a toss up as to what the Rangers do. At that point, if another starter is struggling, they may get the occasional day off to work Hunter back into the rotation somewhere.

Brandon Webb didn’t pitch in a single spring game, and seemed to make progress then have a setback almost weekly. Who knows when he’ll be ready to pitch in a game. My guess is not before July, if at all.

40 Man Roster

Rounding out the 40 man roster are the following players:

P-Fabio Castillo

P-Miguel De Los Santos

P-Wilmer Font

P-Eric Hurley

P-Michael Kirkman

P-Zachary Phillips

P-Yoshinori Tateyama

C-Taylor Teagarden

1B-Chris Davis

OF-Engel Beltre

OF-Craig Gentry

There are a lot of questions that still need answering, but if everything works out, the Rangers shouldn’t have a problem winning the West again this year.

The lineup should be as follows:

Kinsler -2B

Andrus -SS

Hamilton-LF

Beltre-3B

Cruz-RF

Young-DH

Moreland/Napoli-1B

Torrealba/Napoli-C

Borbon-CF

When I look at this lineup I really like what I see.Andrus can do anything the coaches ask him to do, and now he’ll have the chance to execute in a lot wider variety of situations versus last year when he led off. The gauntlet of Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz will give any pitcher nightmares, and then they’ll still have to throw to Young and Moreland if they survive. I also like having Borbon hitting last, because he provides some speed when he gets on that Kinsler and Andrus can work with.

These bats will need to produce a lot of runs, and they’ll need to start right away to help support a pitching staff with so many unanswered questions.

Now, on to my prediction.

I’m gonna say that the Rangers win 88 games this year, and win the West again. I think that the lack of a true ace in the rotation will hurt them, but their bats will produce more than enough runs. Eventually, the young staff will figure it out and start bearing down.

Go Rangers.

About Jamie Plunkett

The site is owned and operated by Jamie Plunkett, a TCU graduate with a B.S. in advertising and public relations. In short, he’s a sports junkie. Born and raised in Dallas, he grew up following Dallas sports closely and passionately. He created the Dallas Sports Rant as an opportunity to unleash his sports knowledge and bias on the rest of the world. He also performs a pretty excellent karaoke version of Ice Ice Baby.

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