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2013 Texas Rangers Preview

The Rangers fell apart during the last two weeks of the season in 2012 and lost to Baltimore in the Wild Card game. Now the club looks to rebound with a host of new faces set to take the field in 2013.

 

 

For the Texas Rangers, the 2012 season came to a bitter end when they were defeated by the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card game last fall. The team had been riding high heading into September and seemed a lock to win the AL West, but as the team turned the corner towards October they fell apart, losing 9 of their last 13 games and slipping into second place behind the Oakland A’s. Now they will come into the 2013 campaign without key players such as Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young, who all left this offseason in free agency. The ball club signed veterans Lance Berkman and A.J Pierzynski to take their places, but they will not produce the numbers their counterparts once did for the club. If the Rangers are going to make an impact on their division this season, they will need a lot of players to step up; otherwise it’s going to be a long year in Arlington.

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Pitching

The Rangers, like many teams in baseball have a rotation that is going to be exciting to watch this season. Matt Harrison (18-11, 3.29 ERA) and Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90) should provide the ball club with a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Harrison had the best season of his career last year, establishing himself as the club’s ace with great control and has the ability to pitch his club deep into ball games. With Darvish, the team has a guy who will strike out batters a-plenty, fanning 221 men last year to earn a spot in conversations about the best number two pitchers in all of baseball.

Behind Darvish, Derek Holland provided the club with 12 wins despite his 4.67 ERA last season and will be a competent number three guy to bridge the gap between Darvish and number four starter Alexi Ogando. Ogando pitched out of the bullpen last season and went 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA and 66 strike-outs. He is being moved back into the rotation due to the lack of other options that the club has, but if he can return to the quality starting pitcher he was in 2011, he could give the club 13 wins, if he doesn’t, they are going to be in trouble because they have few options left to fill his spot should he fail.

Either Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.43) or Martin Perez (1-4, 5.45) will round out the rotation and while neither one looks exceptionally exciting, they will both be capable of putting up a quality start now and again. Unfortunately, neither one is very consistent, so the back-end of the Rangers’ rotation will certainly be an area for concern throughout the 2013 campaign.

Bullpen

The Rangers added some depth to their bullpen this offseason by bringing in Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom. They will join closer Joe Nathan who is coming off a solid 2012 which saw him go 3-5 with a 2.80 ERA and saving 37 of 40 opportunities. Soria will miss at least the first month of the season and did not pitch at all in 2012, but he brings with him good stuff when he’s healthy and should assume the role of set-up man when he comes off the disabled list in May. Frasor and Lindblom are both quality middle-relief guys who should be an upgrade for the club. When Neftali Feliz is healthy, likely after the All-Star break, the Rangers will have at least three options to close out games in Feliz, Nathan and Soria, so if they can just make it to that point with what they have, the ball club should be able to have a great second half, but if they struggle mightily in the first half of the season, it may be too late for Feliz to make an impact when he rejoins the team.



Offense

The Rangers had arguably the best offense in baseball last season, leading the league in runs (808), hits (1,526) and RBIs (780) and they finished in the top five of every other offensive category. The trouble for the ball club this year is that they have lost three big pieces of that offense from last season in Hamilton, Napoli and Young, who took with them 85 homers, 251 RBIs, 245 runs and 409 hits when they left town in free agency. Just how the Rangers expect to replace those numbers is a huge question mark right now as the club will have to rely on Pierzynski, Berkman, Craig Gentry and David Murphy to replace them.

The good news is, there are still a few guys left over from the 2012 line-up who can produce, albeit not quite as good as those who have departed. Ian Kinsler will lead-off and he finished with a .256 average, 19 homers and 72 RBIs last season, not bad numbers for a guy who you want to get on base at every opportunity. Also back are shortstop Elvis Andrus (.286, 3, 62), third baseman Adrian Beltre (.321, 36, 102) and right fielder Nelson Cruz (.260, 24, 90) who are all very capable hitters that should continue to produce good numbers for the club in 2013.

Left fielder David Murphy will likely be the key to this offense though, as he is expected to hit sixth behind Berkman, Beltre and Cruz. If Murphy struggles, it will be tough for the guys ahead of him and behind him to be able to make their mark, so the club hopes that his .304 average from last season was no fluke and he is able to keep things going into 2013. First baseman Mitch Moreland, Pierzynski and the outfield platoon of Gentry and Leonys Martin will round out the batting order.

Outlook

The Rangers are going to struggle to replace so many big bats that were lost this offseason. They have talent on their offense, but losing 245 runs and 409 hits is going to be tough to overcome. Add to that a shaky bottom-end of the rotation and a bullpen that will be relying on two key parts to return to form from major injuries and you have more questions than answers when it comes to this team. They will be good, but by the time they get really good it may be too late to catch up to Oakland and Los Angeles. Expect the Rangers to regress and win anywhere from 83 to 87 games depending on how their offense shapes up, but that will only be good enough for third place in the division. The good news for Rangers fans is that there is help on the way offensively in the minors, and that help could arrive by mid-season which should give them a glimpse of what this ball club will be in another year or two.

 

 

 

By Robert Gonzalez
MLBcenter.com Staff Writer

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