The Rangers time as the team to be in the AL might be over.
They lost four of their key starters that got them to back-to-back World Series, before 2012.
Texas wasn’t able to make the big show last season, but at least they didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of losing the championship series for three years in a row.
The face of their franchise, Josh Hamilton, bolted for their biggest rival and a major payday.Hamilton was looking for a major deal, despite his lingering history of injuries and his fragile life off the field.
Let’s face it, going to the Angels from the Rangers is like switching between the Red Sox and Yankees.
I’m not sure you could say that Texas “lost” Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, and Michael Young, as much as letting them walk.
Napoli and Young have been on the decline in recent seasons, but were able to sign short-term deals with the Red Sox and Phillies.
Ryan Dempster was acquired during the trade deadline last season, but never seemed to bring the production he had in Chicago early in the season with him.
The fact that the Rangers upgraded their pitching staff and still didn’t make it back to the World Series was a sign that they need to start a youth movement.
Management did their best politicking with not coming out and saying for those three to not return, by not doing their best to re-sign them.
Don’t be mistakened by their tactics, the Rangers have one of the best farm systems in the league. They have plenty of prospects that just needed an opportunity to step up and play at the major league level.
The key position that will be analyzed in spring camp will be in the outfield.
Nelson Cruz will be the most veteran presence, but he could also be the next one out by season’s end.
The competition will open up in centerfield specifically, but could transition over into left field as well.
Texas has three major prospects in Mike Olt, Leonys Martin, and Jurickson Profar.
Profar is now only the Rangers’ top prospect, he’s the top prospect in all of baseball.
Mike Olt is a big bat, that can be compared to Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks, able to play multiple positions.
Leonys Martin has the most to gain from Hamilton departure out of any of the three.
The bottom line is that the Rangers need to balance between giving their top prospects a chance to show what they can do at this level, while being a productive ball club.
The pitching staff is the most interesting aspect of this team.
Yu Darvish was the hottest pitcher in fantasy, during the first half of the season, but because one of the biggest risks in the second half.
Now that Ryan Dempster has departed for Boston, Darvish becomes the ace of the staff.
So who fills Dempster’s spot in the rotation? That will have to be decided in spring camp.
Neftali Feliz is out until August, recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but there is a familiar face that could come out of the bullpen.
Alexi Ogando was one of the best fantasy pitchers in 2011, but saw his role decrease in 2012 with the arrival of Darvish.
Colby Lewis won’t be back until around June, which could open an opportunity for Martin Perez.
Beyond the Rangers’ outfield and back end of their rotation, they have find a way to build a team that can compete with the Angels’ All-Star roster.
Let’s take a look at the re-tooling Rangers…
RANGERS PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Ian Kinsler 2B He’s one of the top 5 2B to own in fantasy, doesn’t have the best batting AVG, but you draft him for his HRs and base stealing.
2.Elvis Andrus SS It’s all about speed and what he can do once he’s on base. Not going to hit double digit home runs, but can fill up all the other stats.
3.David Murphy LF This will be the first season that he was a full time role, with Hamilton’s departure, but he’s not someone to rely on
4.Adrian Beltre 3B He’s the best hitter on the team, should be treated as an elite early round draft target until proven otherwise
5.Lance Berkman DH Couldn’t stay healthy in 2012, not the same fantasy option he once was, but still a late round option
6.Nelson Cruz RF Swing for the fences mentality gets you big payoffs every other day, but worth a mid-round draft choice
7.A.J. Pierzynski C What scares you is that he’s coming off his best season in his career, so now it’s just a matter of proving consistency. He never hit 20 home runs before last season (27 in ’12)
8.Mitch Moreland 1B He’s the fill in option when Berkman has to DH, so don’t invest too much thought into him
9.Leonys Martin CF Takes over in CF, has drawn comparions to Jacoby Ellsbury, late round draft option to cash in on
1.Yu Darvish Was one of the biggest casualties for owners in the 2nd half of ’12, can put up big strikeout numbers, but high an equally high ERA. Risky, but high draft pick worthy.
2.Derek Holland Hasn’t been the same hero he once was during the 2011 WS stretch. High strikeouts, but high ERA. Wait until he gives you confidence to rely on him.
3.Matt Harrison The most underrated arm on this staff.Has a balanced approach, coming off a career high record of 18-11, and can only get better. High upside at a cheap draft price.
4.Alexi Ogando Played like an ace in 2011, has a chance to be a starter again, huge sleeper with an extremely cheap draft price going into this year
5.Martin Perez Considered to be one of the Rangers top pitching prospects, but comes with a high ERA, might be keeping the seat warm for Lewis’ return in June
RP-Joe Nathan What was more impressive than his 37 saves in ’12, was the fact that he was healthy for the first time in 2 years, could have a boost in opportunities with a less powerful offense
Somebody has to step in for Josh Hamilton, and that somebody is Leonys Martin. He has already drawn comparisons to Jacoby Ellsbury, which has to excite fantasy owners. The question is which Ellsbury? The one young version or the MVP candidate that he’s become today. It’s more realistic that Martin is the younger version that is a constant threat to get on base and steal, with spot power. He’s one of the Rangers’ top prospects that just needed the opportunity to play. Now that Josh Hamilton is gone, Martin could develop into a long term component to the new-look Rangers. No one in your league is talking about him, so wait until the later rounds to get him.
Jurickson Profar is not only the top Rangers prospect, he’s the top prospect in all of baseball. If you’re looking for this year’s Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, this is your guy. He probably won’t make the Opening Day lineup, but he will definitely make an impact this fantasy season. There’s an outside chance that he could make the team as an outfielder, but it’s more likely that he’ll start the season in the minors. Profar can play 2B, SS, and OF. He’s a five tool player that will be the new face of the franchise. Keep in mind that he’ll be 20 years old this season, so there’s a chance he might not come in until Texas really starts to struggle or the trade deadline.