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The Texas Rangers, 2017: Word from the Mad Prof.

The Rangers return from a season that was essentially a repeat of 2015.  They won the division and lost to Toronto in the American LDS.  They improved upon their 88 win performance in 2015 with 95 wins in 2016.  But, Toronto dispensed with them even more quickly: 3-0 in 2016, 3-2 in 2015.

Texas again looks good for 2017.  Cole Hamels and the post-TJS Yu Darvish pack an impressive 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.  They’ve added two solid, but gimpy refugees from San Diego to the bottom of the rotation:  Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.  Mike Napoli has returned to the team formerly known as the Washington Senators, while Mitch Moreland has headed to the balmier climes of Fenway Park.

Will we be…

So, generally, the day to day starting lineup has not changed much.  Texas ought to threaten to get 90 wins (though I’d take the under on that)—and that’s nothing to sniff at.  Problem is, the Astros are stacked.  They are a young team that is collectively breaking out.  So, while Texas could make the postseason, in 2017 they are more likely to do it as a wild card team.

 

Lineup

The lineup is solid from top to bottom.  Of course, questions abound—this is baseball.  Carlos Gomez is a quality leadoff hitter.  He still has the skills to deliver 25 HR and 25 SB.  But, he’s been a perennial underperformer and, at 31, his upside may begin to dim.  Still, at the top of this lineup, he is not a bad fantasy option as a #3 OF.

 

POS AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS BB K
Carlos Gomez OF 485 63 15 61 21 0.249 0.308 0.408 0.716 33 125
Shin-Soo Choo OF 400 61 15 49 6 0.263 0.353 0.430 0.783 46 91
Adrian Beltre 3B 535 80 24 87 1 0.301 0.353 0.499 0.852 40 57
Mike Napoli 1B 463 67 25 73 4 0.238 0.326 0.447 0.773 58 131
Rougned Odor 2B 586 79 27 83 11 0.268 0.303 0.481 0.784 22 114
Jonathan Lucroy C 479 64 17 68 4 0.286 0.346 0.463 0.809 43 77
Nomar Mazara OF 549 65 22 70 0 0.271 0.322 0.428 0.75 38 107
Elvis Andrus SS 570 74 7 64 26 0.279 0.331 0.389 0.72 43 71
Jurickson Profar DH 341 46 7 33 4 0.246 0.315 0.352 0.667 30 62

 

Shin-Soo Choo (34) and Adrian Beltre (38) are not getting any younger.  Choo suffered a nasty drop in power and production last year.  Father time may be on his heels and his recovery from an arm injury does not give the bidder any reason to move with confidence in Choo’s direction. He may share DH time with Jurickson Profar.  Beltre continues to impress and should be a solid 3B option.  He’s been consistent enough to set a watch by his performance over the last several years.  But, one wonders when time will catch up with him. Fortunately, the heir apparent, Profar, is available.

Profar (24) is still wet behind the ears.  Yet, he has the skill set to become a top flight hitter and infielder.  The question looming is whether he can put the shoulder issues behind him and reclaim the double-digit power that he displayed in the minors.

There are worse problems than having Mike Napoli batting cleanup.  Nonetheless, while he can deliver 25 HR, that really is not enough to offset what he will do to your BA. When he misses, he misses big.

courtesy espn.com

Rougned Odor possesses 30 HR power and can steal 15 bases.  He is potentially the best player on the team.  He’s a baby too.  Definitely worth snapping up in keeper leagues.  Question is: when to draft him?  He has displayed the skills and anyone who takes a swing at Joey Bats is worthy of applause on general principle.  But, he’s young and one wonders about regression next year.

Jonathan Lucroy is the best catching option in the AL.  Sure, folks are still raving about Gary Sanchez on the Yankees, but we need to see Sanchez get through an entire season.   Lucroy is solid.  But, he’ll probably go too high in AL-only drafts as managers panic to get production at C.  I think you can afford to pass on him, grab a better other position player and make up the relative loss of production you may experience at C.

Mazara and Andrus comprise a damn fine 7-8 combination in the batting order:  25 HR power and speed that could get you 30 SB.  In any other lineup, these guys would be a solid 2-3 combination.  I’d urge caution on Mazara though.  He’s only 22 and demonstrated some weakness against lefties last year.  He may need some seasoning.  Meanwhile, 30 SB potential in the 8 spot?  I’ll pay.

I discussed Profar above.  When you look at him, Mazara and Odor, you see the core of the Rangers’ future. They are young, solid (though not without flaws) and have clear upsides.  The only challenge is to deal with the ups and downs of youth.   Regardless, Texas has a lineup that would be the envy of many managers across MLB.

Pitching

Hamels and Darvish comprise an outstanding 1-2 at the top of the Texas staff.  Darvish is a strikeout machine.  The key question concerns how he will hold up after TJS.  After these two, the staff is dicey to say the least.

Perez has seen his dominance drop consistently over the last few years.  A.J. Griffin had TJS and then suffered shoulder problems.  Neither of these guys offers much to help a manager sleep at night.  I think that the success of this staff depends heavily on Ross and Cashner’s return to health and their old, more successful ways.  If they do so, they present a solid 3-4 option in this staff and quality late-round draft value.

Player IP W L ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
Cole Hamels 201 12 10 3.54 1.24 201 68 12.20% 92.6 mph
Yu Darvish 167 11 8 3.02 1.15 210 55 12.60% 93.3 mph
Martin Perez 165 8 10 4.20 1.42 91 61 7.90% 92.7 mph
A.J. Griffin 100 3 8 5.31 1.39 92 39 9.10% 87.7 mph
Dillon Gee 55 2 4 4.75 1.42 38 16 8.10% 89.5 mph
Andrew Cashner 125 5 9 4.39 1.44 107 48 7.30% 93.5 mph
Tyson Ross 126 7 7 3.64 1.29 123 51 14.90% 92.4 mph

 

The bullpen… is ok.  Dyson is a mid-tier closer.  His dominance peaked two years ago.  If he can regain that swing and miss power, his value will increase.  Right now, he looks like a potentially undervalued investment.  Fantasy pundits place him as a low #1 closer or high mid-tier pickup.  But, he looked solid in the WBC, so maybe he is taking the next step. Keone Kela als0 offers intriguing potential value.  Despite injury last year that cost him a significant part of the season, he came back and displayed double-digit dominance. If he can maintain that, Dyson will pitch from the hot seat.

 

Player IP W L SV ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
Sam Dyson 61 3 3 24 3.25 1.21 52 19 8.30% 95.3 mph
Matt Bush 63 3 3 2 3.14 1.10 62 15 13.10% 97.0 mph
Jeremy Jeffress 52 3 3 2 3.12 1.27 44 16 9.60% 95.1 mph
Nick Martinez 54 2 4 0 4.67 1.44 32 17 6.30% 91.8 mph
Tony Barnette 45 2 2 0 3.2 1.16 37 12 11.50% 92.2 mph
Keone Kela 40 2 2 0 3.15 1.23 50 15 12.00% 95.7 mph
Alexander Claudio 35 2 2 0 3.34 1.14 23 8 10.50% 85.5 mph
Kyle Lohse 35 1 3 0 4.89 1.40 24 10 4.30% 87.0 mph
Eddie Gamboa 33 2 2 0 4.09 1.30 28 15 7.70% 86.6 mph
Dario Alvarez 30 2 2 0 4.2 1.60 44 13 13.70% 93.1 mph
Jake Diekman 15 1 1 0 3 1.33 18 8 10.90% 95.1 mph

 

If Kela does not heat up Dyson’s chair, Matt Bush may.  Bush displayed solid dominance and a 3.9 command ratio last year. But, he’s 31 and Kela is 24.  It’s nice for Jeff Bannister to know that he has two closer-worthy prospects in waiting if Dyson struggles.  For fantasy owners, the Rangers bullpen will be a headache because it is absolutely a handcuff investment.

Prospects and Depth

Ryan Rua still sits on the bench.  He’s a solid batter who has displayed decent power and good speed.  But, he’s not getting better without regular at-bats.  Joey Gallo is injured but sits in the same situation.  The Rangers have good bats on the bench that can provide consistent power—if they get the reps. On the staff, Nick Martinez and Eddie Gamboa have pitched well this Spring and offer a glimmer of insurance in case Cashner and Ross can’t get going.

Outlook and Fantasy potential

As I noted at the outset, the Rangers are poised for a solid season.  Darvish is strong enough to be handed the Opening Day ball.  Odor has re-upped for 6 years. The season will bring the celebration of Beltre’s 3,000th hit.

On the other hand, Carlos Gomez now has a shoulder injury with barely a week to go.  Tanner Scheppers was not an arm of much consequence on this roster.  But, the veteran is headed in the direction of the DL with an abdominal strain.

But, overall success depends on the consolidation of the 3-4 spots in the rotation and stabilization of the bullpen if Dyson falters.  The bullpen depth offers more confidence at this point that the starting rotation.  But, if Cashner and Ross can deliver the sort of quality that their skill set indicates, the 4-man SP rotation could be solid enough to dominate with the support of the sort of bats that this lineup boasts.

There is great fantasy profit up and down the lineup.  Very ew of these starters will be on the waiver wire in MLB leagues.  Overall, I think the Rangers offer a bit more fantasy profit than real-life success due to the uncertainties I note above and the certainty that the Astros will simply be nasty.  Regardless, the AL West will offer exciting baseball right up to season’s end.

And season’s beginning is barely a week away.  Play ball!

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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