Added: SP Brandon Webb (by way of: Arizona), RP Arthur Rhodes (Cincinnati), C Mike Napoli (Toronto via Los Angeles), C Yorvit Torrealba (San Diego), 3B Adrian Beltre (Boston)
Napoli figures to provide some more pop in the middle of the Ranger lineup
Lost/Traded: SP Cliff Lee (Philadelphia), SP Rich Harden (Oakland), RP Frank Francisco (Toronto), C Bengie Molina (retirement), C Matt Treanor (Kansas City), OF Jeff Francouer (Kansas City), OF Vlad Guerrero (Baltimore)
Offseason Recap: It was an interesting winter for the American League champs, which can be summarized in large part by three key moves:
1-Â Â They basically swapped Cliff Lee for Adrian Beltre, a reasonable move considering the money involved. Lee is a workhorse and the responsibility of replacing him will need to be spread among either inexperienced arms (think Derek Holland) or aging vets (Webb).
2-Â Â They also dealt Frank Francisco to Toronto for Mike Napoli.
3-Â Â They watched Vlad Guerrero walk away to sign with Baltimore. Although replacing Vlad and his 2011 OPS+ of 122 won’t be simple, the Rangers offer a treasure trove of offensive talent.
Starting Nine: With many fantasy leagues holding their drafts this week, here are the nine Rangers that should be targeted first (projections are combination of Bill James + Marcel + my own formula):
1-Â Â Adrian Beltre, 3B: 30 HR / 90 R / 100 RBI / 10 SB / .305 BA
2-Â Â Josh Hamilton, OF: 28 / 90 / 99 / 5 / .320
3-Â Â Nelson Cruz, OF: 28 / 75 / 90 / 20 / .285
4-Â Â Ian Kinsler, 2B: 18 / 100 / 65 / 20 / .270
5-Â Â Neftali Feliz, P: 2 W / 35 S / 1.00 WHIP / 2.00 ERA / 88 K
6-Â Â Mike Napoli, C/1B: 25 / 60 / 65 / 3 / .245
7-Â Â Elvis Andrus, SS: 4 / 90 / 45 / 30 / .270
8-Â Â CJ Wilson, SP: 13 / 0 / 1.25 / 3.90 / 165
9-Â Â Julio Borbon, OF: 2 / 60 / 40 / 35 / .290
-Notice, seven of the nine players listed are hitters (numbers 10 and 11 would be too – Mitch Moreland and David Murphy)
-Here are the Rangers ranks among all of MLB in the standard 5×5 categories during 2010:
Batting Average: 1st
Home Runs: 10th
Stolen Bases: 7th
Swapping Beltre for Lee will only exacerbate the hitting-pitching divide but it will strengthen this beastly lineup.
Last yearâ€™s pitching numbers werenâ€™t too shabby, but the loss of Lee will certainly hurt.
-If I were taking a flier on a pitcher, it would be Alexi Ogando. To start the year he will be a member of the rotation until Tommy Hunter returns. Additionally, with Texas toying with the idea of adding Feliz to the rotation, Ogando could be next in line for save opportunities.
-Whatever you do, stay away from Brandon Webb. Itâ€™s been almost two years since he has thrown in a Major League game. Let someone else take the risk on him.
-Injuries are an issue to consider. The top five players on my fantasy target list all missed time in 2010 with injuries.
Hunter (currently injured; avoid even when healthy)
Colby Lewis (avoid)
Others to Watch:
Chris Davis: The first base job was his to lose in 2010, and he did just that. He could be a huge source of power if given the at bats. Might they come while wearing another uniform?
Tanner Scheppers: Flamethrower experienced some arm trouble in college and this spring, but he could be the closer of the future if Feliz moves into the rotation.
Team (and League?) MVP: Adrian Beltre will win the American League MVP trophy. Surely, he will not be a popular pick, but there are a number of positive trends that strike me.
Happy Beltre means productive Beltre
This offseason as a free agent, Beltre stated his preference to play his home games in a warm climate. Arlington offers just that. Rangers Ballpark has also been a hitters’ paradise (by home run metrics) in every season since 2002.
Over the last nine seasons, Beltre has averaged 25 home runs while playing stellar defense at the hot corner. He has also averaged 149 games played, a staggeringly high number for a player that has a(n unwarranted) reputation for being brittle.
Slotting him into a lineup that features reigning American League MVP Josh Hamilton, rising star Nelson Cruz, uber-talented but oft-injured Ian Kinsler, and steady Michael Young among others will give Beltre the opportunity to drive in a copious number of runs.
Naysayers will point to the fact Beltre has produced his best numbers in contract years. However, the sample size is extremely small, and the correlation is almost impossible to prove. Is it reasonable that a player saves “another gear” for contract years? I would hope as a fan of the game this was not the case.
Another point to consider – although it likely has no fantasy relevance to you – is the increased emphasis on defense in the game. Teams have come to realize just how important run prevention is as it relates to winning ballgames. Although it will not play a major factor in the MVP voting, a defensive wizard, like Beltre, might get a slight bump in the mind of voters.
-Will Michael Young be a Ranger three months from now? Letâ€™s hope so because the team plans to play him all over the diamond making him an extremely useful multi-position-eligible player.
-The â€śRunner-upâ€ť Curse strikes much worse in football, but in the last five years, only one team that lost the World Series even qualified for the playoffs during the following season:
2005: Houston (did not make playoffs in 2006)
2006: Detroit (did not make playoffs in 2007)
2007: Colorado (did not make playoffs in 2008)
2008: Tampa Bay (did not make playoffs in 2009)
2009: Philadelphia (lost in 2010 NLCS)
Can the 2011 Rangers buck the trend?
I think the locals would be happy if the team stayed competitive all season especially when you consider the fact that the team had never won a home playoff game in its 28 years of existence.
Prediction: After another midseason acquisition of a dependable number two starter, the Rangers will go 90-72 and win the division by six games.