By Rory MacCallum
Three years ago, the Rangers were given two chances to close out the Cardinals in Game Six of the World Series. And on each opportunity, the Cardinals’ third baseman, David Freese, spoiled the Rangers’ plans. The Rangers have fallen hard since appearing in back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011. And last year, the team had to fight tooth and nail to avoid 100 losses. Team Manager Ron Washington is gone. President Nolan Ryan is gone. The core of Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young is gone. And during this year’s spring training, the Rangers received some more bad news when they found out that their ace (best pitcher), Yu Darvish, will miss the season due to a scheduled Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. The buzz surrounding this team during the World Series years has slowly faded alongside the success of the team.
Every year, Las Vegas puts out an estimate for number of wins they predict for each team. This year, they put the Rangers at 76 and a half. I would say that this is a little optimistic. Let us take a look at the roster.
Pitching is the name of the game in baseball today. Scoring is down, and nowadays the best teams have the best pitching. The Rangers didn’t have the greatest arms a few years ago, but they were able to get the best out of them with legendary pitcher, Nolan Ryan, helping to manage the pitching staff. Today, the staff is even less talented. Darvish was the anchor of the staff; he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he is just one name on the group’s list of injuries. Martin Perez has long been considered one of the team’s top prospects, and he showed promise during his first full season in 2013. He began much the same last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery as well. He begins 2015 on the 60-day disabled list, and it is not certain whether or not he’ll pitch this year. The rotation will have to rely on an aging Yovani Gallardo and inconsistent Derek Holland, who has dealt with his own recent injury issues. The bullpen is also one big question mark. Outside of Neftali Feliz, there are not any recognizable names, and this means that the Rangers will have to rely on unproven commodities.
Shifting over to position players: the Rangers certainly lack the talent they have had in recent years. The lineup will get a boost from a healthy Prince Fielder, who dealt with injuries in his first season with the team a year ago. However, the lineup will rely upon too many aging players, such as Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre. They will need a good year out of Elvis Andrus, a player who had a bit of a down year last year. Andrus will also need to anchor the defense, as the rest of the infield is below average defensively.
With all the problems the Rangers have with their roster, their biggest obstacle will likely be the division they play in. The Los Angeles Angels won last year, and they will return with Mike Trout, the consensus best player in the world. The Seattle Mariners are a popular World Series pick, and the Oakland A’s were a playoff team last year. If they do not win their division, the Rangers will have to have one of the top two records among non-division winners to qualify for the postseason. Given the injuries and lack of talent, it looks like this will be a rebuilding season for the Rangers.