For a ball club who are used to being in the World Series discussion, 2014 was a disaster for the Texas Rangers as they limped to fourth in the AL West. Dismayingly, as a Rangers fan myself, looking at the 2015 season their biggest addition is perhaps more with a view to the future in Delino DeShields, but they have also added Yovani Gallardo and Ross Detwiler to give them some pitching depth. Unfortunately, they are now the number one and two pitchers in this rotation with Yu Darvish out for at least a season and Martin Perez still on the comeback trail.
When you add the loss of Jurikson Profar potentially for another year then the Texas DL may be nearly as exciting as the whole rotation is. They lost Alex Rios to free agency which allows them to bring through some young outfielders and see what they have. The fact Rios is the only guy worth mentioning as a loss probably tells you where this club was in 2014 and potentially may be come the end of 2015.
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Predicted Line-up (courtesy of www.rosterresource.com)
- Leonys Martin, OF
- Elvis Andrus SS
- Shin-Soo Choo, OF
- Adrian Beltre, 3B
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Mitch Moreland, DH (vs RH), Ryan Rua, DH (vs LH)
- Jake Smolinski, OF
- Rougned Odor, 2B
- Robinson Chirinos, C
Fantasy Superstar: Adrian Beltre, 3B
It feels like Beltre has been around for as long as baseball itself and the fact he’s still an elite option at third base at the age of 35 is bordering on stunning. Injuries will always be a concern for players of his age, but Beltre still managed 549 AB’s last year which was his lowest in three years. His home runs dropped massively in 2014 going from 30 to 19, and almost doubling the decline from the previous year. Hopefully he can reverse that trend this year and get back into the mid-20s in home runs. And hopefully Texas puts up a little more fight this year and that should allow Beltre to both drive in and score 80-plus runs while hitting in the .310 region. You’re going to have to move on him in the third round if you want him, which may feel a reach given the wealth of upside at third base a few rounds later. Honestly, I would probably grab one of the elite pitchers in the top/middle of the third than go for an ageing third baseman coming off the worst year of his career.
Successful Return?: Prince Fielder, 1B
After missing the majority of the 2014, season Prince Fielder is something of a question mark in 2015. I feel it would be wrong to go back and judge him on 150 AB’s in 2014 but at the same time he is getting older which doesn’t always bode well for power hitters, so it’s hard to go back to 2013 to see if he will be that player. In 2013 he was the seventh best first baseman and that was with him only hitting 25 home runs. However, he did bat behind Miguel Cabrera that year, so he was able to reach 100-plus RBI’s. Saying all that, I expect him to return from injury something close to what he was in 2013 because what power decline there has been will be reduced by the fact he is now in a very hitter friendly place in Texas. Behind Beltre and Choo he could feasibly drive in 100 runs while hitting around 25 homers at a .280 average. That should see him push for the top 10 at first base in what is a very crowded position from three through 15. Behind Fielder and Votto there feels like a clear drop off in talent so if you missed out on the top end first baseman and aren’t confident on Votto, then Fielder at the end of the fifth or top of the sixth is a good place for you to fill that first base position.
Slow Decline?: Elvis Andrus, SS
In the last three years Andrus’ roto value has slowly declined and the question entering 2015 is is that a pattern the beloved Texas shortstop can put the brakes on? His stolen bases doubled from 2012 to 2013 but then they dropped by a good chunk of that gain in 2014, so the question around that is just which runner is he? Batting behind Martin means he could often come to base with a runner in scoring position, given Martin’s speed, and that means his 2014 RBI total should increase from 41. It also it seems impossible that the Texas line-up can be any less effective, so hopefully he can break over the 80 run mark while also having a slight bounce back in average. Going as the seventh shortstop in the 11th round scares me a little bit but it feels right for the player he is being projected to be. IF steals are your main goal then with Andrus then I would be tempted to wait a few rounds and get Jean Segura or Alcides Escobar. Personally, unless a shortstop falls to me in a great position, I am waiting and taking a flyer on one of Miller/Lowrie/Owings or grabbing Marcus Semien for when he gets that third place eligibility.
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Speed to Burn: Leonys Martin, OF
Martin is an intriguing option at the top of the Rangers line-up, especially if you can get him as your fourth outfielder. Martin brings plenty of speed to the game and 30 steals is possible this year. So if you have loaded up on outfield power early in a five-outfield league, or you just need some general speed help in a shallow league, then Martin comes about the right value in the 13th round. Batting atop this order should see him a lock for 80-plus runs, and that will come with a decent batting average, but if you haven’t got your power and RBI earlier then Martin won’t provide much in those two categories. Players I might consider over him in the 13th round depends on what you need, but Brandon Moss is the power alternative especially considering you should be able to find speed in the form of Adam Eaton, Austin Jackson and Dalton Pompey in the late rounds (18 through 22). Those guys don’t offer quite the same potential but they each offer at least 20 steal potential at a much cheaper price.
Bounce Back: Shin-Soo Choo, OF
I fear that Texas may regret the contract they gave Choo, because health looks a major issue given his health problems he’s experienced this spring coupled with the problems he had last season. However, if he hits a similar number of home runs to last year (hitter friendly park helps here and his total was 13) but he can get those steals up from three back towards the 15-20 range, then he becomes a serviceable option as a number five outfielder. Batting at number three should mean that he can drive in 70-plus runs and with Beltre and Fielder behind him, scoring at least that should be possible if he can just stay on the field. He is currently being drafted as the 49th outfielder (15th round) off the board and that feels a bit too high given the niggles and the uncertainty. If you can get him in the 18th -20th round then the 15/15 possibility with the potential for one of those to go to 20 would make him a late round bargain. He’s really tough to trust and I am not sure you will feel happy pulling the trigger on him in the 15th round when you have the upside of Joc Pederson and Will Myers potentially still on the board.
Sleeper: Rougned Odor, 2B
Odor took advantage of the continual woes of Jurickson Profar to break onto the scene in 2014, and now he has decent sleeper appeal as we enter 2015 thanks once again to an injury to the oft-injured Profar. With expected full time playing time in 2015, 15-20 homers with five to 10 steals are possible from the young Ranger. He will start the season low in the order but if Martin or Andrus get injured or struggle he may have the chance to slide up into one of those slots, if he has a good start. Batting low will initially limit his runs scored but should allow him to rack up 70-ish RBI’s, and I like that to go up if Rua wins the outfield job over Smolinski. In the 21st round Odor is really only a consideration if you have slept on middle infield and want some high upside player to fill that role.
Deep Sleeper: Ryan Rua, OF
Currently Roster Resource have Rua platooning with Moreland at DH but I think he’ll beat out Smolinski for the third outfield slot – and then we have an interesting sleeper on our hands. Some places already have Rua in the 9 starting batters, so we don’t have to extrapolate projections too much to get an idea of how he could be valued. While Rua likely won’t set the world alight there is potential that the currently projected 10-15 homers could move into the 15-20 territory given his home park. Batting sixth or seventh should give him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and 70 is possible. With a .275 average, Rua is also a consideration to move into one of those top two slots if injuries strike down the two current holders, but don’t draft him expecting that. A decent sleeper currently going undrafted in 14 and lower team leagues that could get hot and offer some trade value if nothing else.
Any Other Business?
- Mitch Moreland, 1B: Moreland will get hot at some point in the season and hit a cluster of homers at which point you will consider him on the waiver wire, but until then it is clear that he won’t have an everyday role and his fantasy value is limited on draft day. Anyone with 20 homer potential is someone I will consider especially if it doesn’t come with a below .240 average late in drafts and that may be the only reason to chase Moreland as a deep sleeper. He should score a few RBI’s batting below Beltre and Fielder, so there is value there, but he is outside my top 30 at first base until his role is better known.
- Smolinski is a tough one to project as he is still in a battle for a job with Rua, and for fantasy I kind of hope Rua wins because I prefer his upside right now. If Smolinski wins the job then we could have some mid-level power potential and a decent average.
- Chirinos is firmly in two catcher range as my 21st ranked catcher and shouldn’t be touched even in that format until the last couple of rounds.
- Yovani Gallardo
- Colby Lewis
- Ross Detweiler
- Derek Holland
- Nick Tepesch
This rotation looks really ugly for fantasy without Darvish and only Holland is even worth considering. Even that is at a push, and frankly I could leave any of these guys given where they pitch and some of the powerful line-ups they face. You should find them all on the waiver wire most of the season.
CL: Neftali Feliz
SU: Tanner Scheppers
SU: Kyuji Fujikawa
MR: Shawn Tolleson
MR: Alex Caludio
MR: Joe Beimel
LR: Roman Mendez
Had the Rangers not spent time trying to convert Feliz to a starter then he really could have been an elite closing option; then when you chuck in the big injury and frankly he isn’t quite the guy he was. Common sense has prevailed and he is back in the role that suits him best closing out games for the Rangers. He doesn’t offer anything special as a closer and is firmly in the low end number two range of closers, simply for his job security as there is nothing proven behind him.
- Joey Gallo, 3B: Gallo is hovering in the wings right now and if Beltre shows signs of ageing and struggles or gets injured then we could see what the young third baseman can do. There is also the potential that if Fielder or Moreland get injured that Gallo could come up in a utility role. On draft day there is limited value and he is, at best, the fourth third base prospect I would consider in redraft leagues (Bryant, Sano and Franco), and therefore I probably am not touching him in 12 team or smaller leagues.
- Chi-Chi (Alex) Gonzales, SP: With the mess this rotation is in, there is real potential we could see Gonzalez at some point. I struggle to get excited over pitching in Texas because of the ball park, and if the Rangers are out of contention then they may decide to wait one more year especially if Perez is coming back later in the season. Gonzales is a decent prospect who could be a decent fantasy guy, but for now he is simply a name to store and get an eye out for.