Sunday, March 30, 2008

Russell’s Rangers Preview

Last year, I wrote a preview that basically said that the Rangers will do well if...

If McCarthy and Tejeda can solidify the third and forth spots in the rotation.

If Gagne is healthy and the bullpen falls into place.

If the Blalock can break out of his malaise.

If Cruz and Kinsler are as good as advertised.

If the offense can get it done.
If Sosa doesn't become too big of a distraction.

Well, Gagne was good and got traded and Kinsler was pretty good, but everything else didn’t happen. In fact, almost the opposite happened. Not only did McCarthy and Tejeda not solidify the rotation, but Millwood and Padilla were terrible. Blalock looked really good, then got hurt. Cruz went the way of Tejeda and now both are all but gone. Sosa was ok, but not that great. All the worst case scenarios happened to the highest degrees. Well again, hope springs eternal and new year starts tomorrow. Will anything change? It’s frustrating year after year to lose and lose and this year looks to be no different. The question is are they making progress in the building of the team? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Are we really going to be able to tell? Here’s my rundown of the Rangers with keys to look for to see progress.

1 Kevin Millwood
2 Vincente Padilla
3 Jason Jennings
4 Kason Gabbard
5 Luis Mendoza
Injured: Brandon McCarthy
Next in Line: Eric Hurley, A.J. Murray, Sidney Ponson, John Patterson, Matt Harrison
This years Gagne: Padilla, Jennings

The rotation does not look pretty. The top three are great big IFs (can be really good, can be pretty bad, probably will be mediocre), Gabbard has been terrible during the spring and has a limited upside anyway, and Mendoza was given away by Boston a year ago. So it’s just a lot of “ifs” there. We will be able to see progress if Hurley gets to Arlington in August and performs well and McCarthy gets past his injury issues. These guys should be rotation mainstays for years, but as we all know injuries and control issues usually kill the Ranger pitching prospect. They brought in two guy recently who have been considered good, but have struggled with injuries and ineffectivness- John Patterson and Dustin Nippert. Are they going to be anything? Probably not. But progress could mean one of these two become something like everyone thought they could be. I expect the rotation to be better, and possibly see Padilla and Jennings traded with Hurley and Patterson or Nippert taking their places.

C Gerald Laird
1B Ben Broussard
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Michael Young
3B Hank Blalock
Util Ramon Vasquez
DH Frank Catalanotto and Jason Botts
Next in line: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B Chris Davis, 2B/SS/3B German Duran
This year’s Teixeira: Broussard, Laird, Catalanotto, Blalock

Trading Teixeira for Broussard is HUGE step down. The hope is that Blalock will be healthy and Kinsler will continue to improve. Overall, I expect the offensive output to be similar to last year. We’ll see progress if Salty solidifies his catching defense in Oklahoma and Davis comes up in September to get his feet wet.

LF Marlon Byrd
CF Josh Hamilton
RF Milton Bradley
4OF David Murphy
Next in line: Kevin Mench, Brandon Boggs
This year’s Lofton: Bradley, Mench Byrd

When you have bad pitching, you need really good defense, in the Ballpark especially. Last year, they had one center fielder, Kenny Lofton. Now, they have three with another on the bench. Add the power of Hamilton and Bradley and this outfield is going to be A LOT better, on offense and defense. The future here is further down on the farm. Hopefully, Hamilton will prove that he can stay healthy and play at least 130 games.

CL C.J. Wilson
RP Joaquin Benoit
RP Kaz Fukumori
RP Eddie Guardado
RP Josh Rupe
RP Franklyn German
RP Jamey Wright
Next in Line: Frank Francisco, Wes Littleton, Kameron Loe, Kea Kometani
This years Gagne: Guardado, Wright

I’m a little worried about the bullpen. Wilson, Benoit, and Guardado have been injured or sick during spring training. The bullpen was a strength last year, but I’m afraid that this will be the weak point of this team. The guys who need to step up are Wilson, Rupe, Francisco, and Littleton.

Overall, we want to see progress in the Rangers. I think .500 is the high end of the Ranger year. Around 80 wins would be a pretty good year, but we want to see guys like Kinsler, Hamilton, Murphy, Saltalamacchia, and Botts on the offensive side and Hurley, Wilson, Nippert and Gabbard on the pitching side to lead the way for the Rangers. If it’s Padilla, Jennings, Broussard, and Catalanotto, then progress isn’t being made.

I realize we keep pushing this back, but 2010 is realistically when the Rangers can think about seriously contending for the World Series, but let me give a hypothetical. The Angels are relying on an old outfield and injuries have thinned out their pitching staff. The Mariners are Bedard, Ichiro, and ..... The As are rebuilding just like the Rangers. Can the Rangers contend? Is it at all possible that August roles around and they are within a five of games of first? Could they make a big trade to bring in top pitcher (a bullpen guy) and roll into the playoffs? Or just ride good young players like the Rockies? Maybe, stranger things have happened. I’m not holding my breath though.

Here are my picks for this year.
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: LA Angels
AL Wild Card: Detroit Tigers
AL Champion: Indians
NL East: NY Mets
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card: San Diego Padres
NL Champion: Diamondbacks
World Series: Indians

1 comment:

Chris said...

I won't jinx the Rangers by mentioning that they are over .500.