Baseball in March only means one thing… Spring Training. You wouldn’t think the reigning American League Champions would have many questions to answer, but they really do.
First, Rotation: As a team Texas was top 10 in ERA last season except their starters ranked outside of the first half. With stud Cliff Lee gone, the rotation is very mediocre to say the least. The 1-2-3 of CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter all return after posting a combined 40-24 record and an ERA around 3.6 between them.
The next two choices will be interesting. The Rangers signed Brandon Webb who was once one of the best pitchers in baseball but hasn’t pitched in two years due to injury. Also, 24 year-old Derek Holland has to be considered. Other options could be whoever isn’t the closer between Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando as well as pitching prospect Tanner Scheppers.
Secondly, Bullpen: The main question is what they decide to do with Neftali. He was lights out as a closer last year, but the rotation definitely could use some help. Besides that there is very little to worry about. Last year, they had one of the best bullpens in baseball. They did lose their set up man in Frank Francisco, but they filled his hole with newly acquired Arthur Rhodes.
Finally, Lineup/Defensive Postioning: Coming off a season where they were top 5 in batting average and runs scored, the Rangers bring back another very good lineup this year.
Catcher- Newly acquired players Mike Napoli and >Yorvit Torrealba appear to be the 1-2 for playing catcher this year. In 5 seasons as a starter, Napoli only averages about 100 games played. So even if he is the number 1 guy, expect Torrealba to appear in his fair share of games. Torrealba is the better fielder while Napoli is a better hitter. Expect whoever plays here to bat in the 7th spot.
First Base- Mitch Moreland was very solid in the second half of last season, but in a lineup that is so good he is easily overlooked. You have to wonder with the Rangers working out Michael Young at first whether that could cut into his playing time considerably. If it is Moreland here, he will bat 8th, but Young would bat much higher up
Second Base- If he can stay healthy, Ian Kinsler is one of the best second baseman in baseball. On average, he plays about 120 games a season, but is always very productive. We may be seeing him leading off this year, which looks on paper to be a good decision. The always-reliable Andres Blanco will back up at second and shortstop along with Michael Young.
Third Base- The position of controversy for the Rangers this offseason. Long time third baseman, Michael Young, seems to have had his position taken from him by newly acquired Adrian Beltre. Beltre, who had an amazing 2010 season, looks to keep that going this year for the Rangers. Look for him to bat cleanup filling Vlad’s shoes from last year.
Shortstop- Nothing to debate here. Elvis Andrus has 0 competition at short and will keep improving as he gets older. He is going to bat in the number 2 hole and work on being more consistent this season.
Outfield- The two big guns, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, are solidified in the 3 and 5 holes respectively in the lineup and will hopefully will play to their potential and remain uninjured. The other outfield position is a question mark. Julio Borbon has been named the starting center fielder, however a couple errors from Borbon and getting caught stealing are already putting doubts in some fans heads although he is batting over .700. The 4th outfield spot will be sought after by David Murphy, Endy Chavez, and Doug Deeds.
Hopefully the rest of spring will make these decisions easier to make and will lead to another productive season for the Rangers.
Tags: 2011 Preivew Adrian Beltre AL West Alexi Ogando American League West Andres Blanco Arthur Rhodes Brandon Webb CJ Wilson Cliff Lee Colby Lewis David Murphy Derek Holland Doug Deeds Elvis Andrus Endy Chavez Frank Francisco Ian Kinsler Josh Hamilton Julio Borbon Major League Baseball Michael Young Mike Napoli Mitch Moreland Neftali Feliz Nelson Cruz Spring Training Tanner Scheppers Texas Rangers Tommy Hunter Yorvit Torrealba