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2011 Rangers Preview: 2011 Rangers Preview

Jason Brown

Jason Brown

Jason Brown writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Rangers began the 2010 season with a rotation headed by Scott Feldman and Rich Harden and ended the season dumping champagne on each other three separate times before falling to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. That’s quite the journey. The offseason was spent trying to hold onto Cliff Lee and then scrambling a bit after Lee left for Philadelphia. All told, it was an offseason that saw a few notable departures (Lee and Vladimir Guerrero most notably, and now possibly Michael Young) and one big addition (Adrian Beltre). Whether the stars will align again and have Texas playing in another postseason remains to be seen, but the core of last year’s team remains largely intact.

Offseason moves:

Lost Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Bengie Molina, Jeff Franceour, Jorge Cantu, Cristian Guzman and Brandon McCarthy via free agency; lost C/1B Max Ramirez off waivers to Boston.

Lee and Guerrero are the obvious big losses here, as both performed well during their time in Texas. Guerrero’s absence was largely offset by signing Adrian Beltre as a free agent after Lee departed, and the remaining players listed above were late-season additions (Molina, Franceour, Cantu, Guzman) that are easily replaceable, or were never healthy enough last season to contribute in the case of McCarthy. Boston’s poaching of Ramirez isn’t a surprise given their interest in the once-heralded prospect in seasons’ past.

Signed C Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year, $6.25 million contract; re-signed C Matt Treanor to a one-year, $850,000 contract.

Torrealba’s well into the decline phase, posting OPS totals of .732, .699, .687 and .732 his final four years in Colorado and .721 last season with the Padres. He’s still expected to catch around 100 games for Texas despite the acquisition of Mike Napoli (covered in depth below) later in the offseason, and will pair with the returning Treanor to give Texas a little punch behind the plate.

Signed Ps Yhency Brazoban and Seth McClung to minor-league contracts with invitations to spring training.

McClung nominally fills the role of the departed Dustin Nippert or Doug Mathis, an occasional spot starter and long reliever you hope you don’t have to depend on very often. Brazoban gives Texas a cheap lottery ticket for a possible arm out of the bullpen after missing large chunks of the past three seasons recovering from elbow and shoulder injuries. Neither is expected to contribute, though a healthy Brazoban would likely make the team out of spring training.

Signed free agent OF Endy Chavez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Texas tried the same move last season and spent the year waiting for Chavez to get healthy following offseason knee surgery. He’s being viewed as nothing more than a center-field capable reserve outfielder if healthy, and opens spring training behind Craig Gentry in that role.

Signed P Yoshinori Tateyama to a major-league contract.

Tateyama was effective last season in Japan (55 innings, 43 hits, 11 walks and 59 Ks) and could provide some decent middle-relief work in a Texas bullpen that won’t feature Frank Francisco at the very least (and possibly Neftali Feliz as well).

Signed SP David Bush to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.

Bush gives Texas an option to plug-in at the back of the rotation if Brandon Webb and/or Derek Holland don’t work out this spring, and his past history with Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux shouldn’t be dismissed. He was a marginal pitcher even in his best years in Milwaukee, and should be viewed as rotation fodder at best given his flyball tendencies that won’t be assisted by Texas’ strong infield defense.

Signed free agent 3B Adrian Beltre to a five-year guaranteed contract.

Beltre was Texas’ foray into the free agent market after Cliff Lee spurned Texas’ offer for Philadelphia. He’s been a solid contributor when healthy, despite the “only performs in contract years” talk, swatting 25+ HRs in four of the past five seasons (including three straight in pitcher-friendly Safeco). He lands in an ideal spot with Texas, playing 81 games in a park he’s excelled at over his career and well-positioned as Texas’ cleanup hitter. He’ll pair with Elvis Andrus to form arguably the best left-side of the infield when it comes to glove work and there’s no reason to think that Beltre won’t remain a productive player for several more seasons.

Signed free agent RP Arthur Rhodes to a one-year contract.

Texas inked Rhodes, perhaps in response to Darren Oliver’s occasional struggles as the season wore on and in the postseason when Oliver was leaned on heavily in a Frank Francisco-less bullpen. Rhodes remains an effective option in the later innings, particularly against lefties (moreso than Oliver), and could carve out a larger role if Neftali Feliz is moved back into the rotation.

Signed SP Brandon Webb to a one-year contract.

Webb’s return from shoulder surgery has limited him to just one start the past two years, but Texas hasn’t shied away from rehab projects in recent years. A return to anything close to his past form would provide a big boost to the Texas rotation, particularly with Texas’ strong infield defense playing well with Webb’s groundball tendencies.

Traded RP Frank Francisco to Toronto for C/1B Mike Napoli.

Toronto was quick to flip Napoli to Texas after acquiring him from the Angels in the Vernon Wells salary dump. Napoli’s role with Texas is undefined as long as Michael Young remains with the team, as Napoli’s not expected to be a lineup regular at catcher, first base or DH. He’s shown the ability to be productive in limited at-bats in the past, especially for a catcher, but his catcher-eligible status could evaporate after this season if he’s deployed as expected.

Projected lineup/Rotation:

Lineup (vs. RH and LH)

1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. Michael Young DH
3. Josh Hamilton LF
4. Adrian Beltre 3B
5. Nelson Cruz RF
6. Mitch Moreland/Mike Napoli 1B
7. Yorvit Torrealba C
8. Julio Borbon CF
9. Elvis Andrus SS

Rotation
1. C.J Wilson
2. Colby Lewis
3. Brandon Webb
4. Tommy Hunter
5. Derek Holland

CL: Neftali Feliz

Notes of import, fantasy and otherwise

Elvis Andrus hitting 8th or 9th, can that be right?

Andrus spent all but a handful of games atop the Texas lineup in 2010, drawing 64 walks and stealing 32 bases in 588 at-bats as a 21-year old, but the early talk this winter has Ian Kinsler resuming his leadoff role that he filled in 2009 and Ron Washington would “find a spot” for Andrus. Obviously a trade of Michael Young, which seems more likely by the hour, opens up the No. 2 spot if Washington wants to go that route, making much of this question irrelevant in terms of projected fantasy value. Of growing concern was Andrus’ complete lack of power (just 18 extra-base hits all year) despite good speed, combined with his terrible second half (.247/.318/.274).

Does Ian Kinsler go back to being a leadoff option?

Kinsler spent 2009 in the leadoff role, hitting like a middle-of-the-order hitter with 31 bombs and a .327 OBP. He spent 2010 in the middle of the order, hitting like a leadoff hitter (nine homers, 56 walks in 103 games leading to a .382 OBP). He’s expected to get a long look at reclaiming the leadoff role for 2011, where a 25/25 season would all but be guaranteed if his offseason efforts to regain his quickness prove successful

What’s Neftali Feliz’s role for 2011?

You don’t see many teams fresh off a World Series appearance enter spring training with questions surrounding the leadoff spot and closer, but those are two major questions that Texas will address in spring training. Feliz was dominant as a closer, taking over from Frank Francisco in early April, but it was just this time last year where his future was in the rotation. While the trade of Francisco makes it more likely that Feliz will remain as Texas’ closer, all the winter rhetoric has Feliz getting a long look this spring at returning to the rotation. From a fantasy standpoint, Feliz’s value would seem to be higher as a closer for 2011, as one can expect a few growing pains as a full-season starter not entirely comfortable with his secondary pitches, but the long-term prospect of Feliz throwing 180 dominant innings a season has Texas rightfully toying with the idea.

Sleepers

Mitch Moreland – Moreland emerged as Texas’ first baseman late last season after another failure from Chris Davis and the trading of prospect Justin Smoak in the Cliff Lee deal. Moreland performed well, hitting .255/.364/.469 in 145 at-bats, and further cemented his spot with a postseason full of quality at-bats. He could hit as high as sixth in the lineup depending on exactly where Ian Kinsler lands in the order, and should be a lineup regular against right-handed pitching. He’s a good bet to approach 20 HRs, 70 RBI and post a solid OBP.

Derek Holland – An early spring knee injury followed by subsequent shoulder problems limited Holland for much of 2010, but the departure of Cliff Lee leaves Holland with a real chance at a rotation spot with a solid spring. Texas’ addition of Arthur Rhodes gives them two effective lefties out of the bullpen, which should eliminate any thought of keeping Holland buried in the bullpen. He’s fanned 161 batters in 196.2 innings in his major-league career and enjoyed a nice run late in the year once healthy. He’ll struggle at times with his control and yields a few too many homers to post great numbers, but there’s upside here especially for those in leagues that reward strikeouts.

Roster

Here's a rundown of players not mentioned above:

Michael Young (1F/DH) – The odds of Young remaining with Texas continue to dwindle, with Young now requesting a trade (not an easy feat for a player making $16 million/year for three more years). He’ll get at-bats on a regular basis, primarily at DH but also second base, shortstop and third base, which could give him some nice in-season flexibility depending on your league rules. He’s terrible as a corner infield option however, and his fade in the second half (.262/.302/.401) and poor postseason makes one wonder if his bat is starting to slip.

Nelson Cruz (OF) – Cruz hit the DL three times last season with nagging hamstring problems yet still managed 22 homers, 17 steals and a .318 average. He’s a good bet to far exceed those totals, particularly in the power category, and remains a legit 30/20 threat.

Josh Hamilton (OF) – Hamilton won the MVP last year despite missing most of September with cracked ribs. He was insanely good at home (.390/.438/.750) and against righties (.401/.447/.716), which all but guarantee a drop off of some sort. He’s being shifted to left field in an attempt to keep him healthier, and he should be among the AL elite again if he can stay healthy for 130 games.

Julio Borbon (OF) – Borbon was handed the everyday center field duties at the seasons’ outset last year, but hit poorly in April and was largely phased out by David Murphy as the season went along. He managed to appear in nearly 140 games thanks in large part to injuries to Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, and is once again entering the season as the starter in center field. He offers some nice 20-swipe upside under Ron Washington, and Texas’ desire to keep Hamilton out of center field gives Borbon a bit longer of a leash should he struggle again.

David Murphy (OF) – Murphy begins every year without a defined role and ends up racking up 400 at-bats by years’ end. This season appears to be no different from the outset, and he’ll likely end up with another 15 HR/10 SB season for those digging for value as the auction/draft progresses.

Craig Gentry (OF) – Gentry’s 49-steal campaign at Double-A Frisco in 2009 looks like an aberration on the heels of 2010’s 12 steal effort. He could inherit some playing time if Julio Borbon struggles again, but he’s not going to be worth owning from the outset. He’ll be worth bidding on if a playing time window opens however if you find yourself needing steals however.