2021 Texas Rangers
The Rangers finished last season with their lowest winning percentage (.367) since 1973. They’ve missed the playoffs in each of their past four seasons. Over the team’s 60-year history, Texas has two World Series appearances (both losses) and only eight trips to the postseason.
Pitching (5.02 ERA – 23rd) remains a significant issue. Texas fell to 29th in baseball in runs scored (224) and 23rd in home runs (62).
The top players lost to free agency were SP Corey Kluber and OF Shin-Soo Choo. Texas signed OF David Dahl to a one-year deal while taking a shot on Japanese import SP Koei Arihara, SP Foltynewicz, and OF Delino DeShields.
The Rangers acquired 1B Nate Lowe from Tampa for OF Heriberto Hernandez, SS Osleivis Basabe, and OF Alexander Ovalles. They also picked up SP Dane Dunning from the White Sox in a deal for SP Lance Lynn.
In an early February trade, Texas sent SS Elvis Andrus and C Aramis Garcia to the A’s for OF Khris Davis, C Johan Heim, and P Dane Acker.
The starting rotation looks miles away from being competitive with only one upside arm (Yerry Rodriguez) in their minor league system. The combination of Arihara and Dunning improves the rotation's backend, but neither arm has the talent to be a front-end ace.
Texas has strength in the eighth and ninth innings thanks to two pitchers (Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez) that have the talent to close games.
I don’t expect the Rangers to finish above the league average in offense. OF Joey Gallo, OF Khris Davis, and 2B Rougned Odor have power bats while struggling to make contact in many plate appearances. Dahl and Lowe improve the starting lineup, but the remaining core only two players (Willie Calhoun and Nick Solak) with the potential to make a significant step forward in 2021.
The Rangers won’t make the postseason, but they will have some months to give the appearance of being a better team.
1. 2B Nick Solak
The shortened season didn’t go well for Solak. He finished with regression in contact batting average (.335) and average hit rate (1.286). His stats projected over 550 at-bats would come to 71 runs, five home runs, 61 RBI, and 18 steals. Solak lowered his strikeout rate (18.0) with close to a league-average walk rate (7.7).
In 2019, he played well at AAA (.289 with 27 home runs, 74 RBI, and five stolen bases over 419 at-bats), which led to a callup to Texas in late August.
Over his first 22 games in the majors, Solak hit .360 with 17 runs, four home runs, and 15 RBI over 75 at-bats while picking up 12 walks. He ended the season with seven hits in 41 at-bats with one home run and two RBI.
Over his four years in the minors, Solak hit .294 with 61 home runs, 228 RBI, and 48 stolen bases over 1,602 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Surprisingly, his ADP (169) is much higher than 2019 (218) despite coming up short in production last year. I like his approach and his balanced skill set. I’m investing with the idea of a 20/15 season with help in batting average while reflecting on his pre-2020 production.
2. 1B Nate Lowe
Tampa gave Lowe limited chances in the majors over the past two seasons (.251 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI over 219 at-bats) while posting a high strikeout rate (31.8).
In 2018, he made a push from High A to AAA after hitting .330 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI over 482 at-bats. Lowe showcased a major league ready approach (strikeout rate -16.2 and walk rate – 12.3) while handling AAA in 2019 (.289 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI 329 at-bats). He took more walks (17.7 percent) with some regression in his strikeout rate (20.2).
Over the past three seasons, Lowe posted an HR/FB rate of 18.9 or higher at each level.
The combination of his average rate (1.933) and CTBA (.385) points to a 30 home run hitter with an edge in his batting average.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The move to Texas should open up starting at-bats as long as he cleans up his major league struggles with strikeouts. His ADP (338) points to a buying opportunity if Lowe does indeed hit in a favorable part of the batting order with an everyday job. Possible .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI.
3. OF David Dahl
He continues to battle injuries, costing him another season in 2020. Dahl had surgery on his right shoulder in late September after failing to hit a home run over 93 at-bats. Texas expects him to be ready for spring training.
In 2019, Dahl was on pace for 99 runs, 22 home runs, 90 RBI, and six stolen bases if he finished with 550 at-bats. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by 62 games due to a right ankle injury and an abdomen issue.
His high contact batting average (.428) offset his weakness in his strikeout rate (26.6). He didn’t have much of a change in his walk rate (6.8).
Dahl had a dominating month in June (.315 with 25 runs, seven home runs, and 32 RBI over 111 at-bats, leading to an excellent start in 2019 over the first three months (.317 with 53 runs, 12 home runs, and 51 RBI over 281 at-bats). His AVH (1.735) drifted backward while showing strength in his RBI rate (19).
Over seven years in the minors, Dahl hit .306 with 52 home runs, 230 RBI, and 76 steals over 1,648 at-bats. His strikeout rate (20.8) in the minors was about league average with a below-par walk rate (6.3).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Injuries have been plentiful in his career, leading to only one season with over 500 at-bats (2014). His HR/FB rate (17.2) in 2019 was a step down from 2018 (23.2) with less loft on his swing (fly-ball rate – 32.5 and 37.7 in 2018). There’s a lot to like here, but his injury history is priced in his ADP (307). Very capable of a .290/100/30/100 season with a full season of at-bats.
4. OF Joey Gallo
The temptation of Gallo building on his improvement in his batting average (.253) was a flawed theory in 2020. He finished with a sharp decline in his contact batting average (.307 – .480 in 2019) while still posting an off the chart strikeout rate (35.0 – 37.7 in his career). Gallo will take walks (14.0) with the best players in the game.
His average hit rate (2.086) remains in a 40-plus home run area while being lower than his last four seasons with Texas.
Over the previous 420 games, Gallo hit .212 with 113 home runs, 247 RBI, and 16 stolen bases over 1,383 at-bats.
In 2019, Gallo missed just over three weeks in June with an oblique issue. After a month of action, his season ended with a broken right wrist after getting hit by a pitch.
Over his first 170 at-bats, he hit .276 with 41 runs, 17 home runs, and 41 RBI. Gallo had the most success against left-handed pitching (.333 with eight HRs and 22 RBI over 75 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (52.3) was the third-highest in baseball. His swing path delivers a ton of fly balls (47.2 percent) with a massive HR/FB rate (37.3).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Gallo is a great power hitter with value in runs and RBI. Batting average will have a wide range of outcomes, with most results finishing well below the league average. Excellent bat for an owner willing to punt batting average while hoping for some career years in that area. His ADP (158) is 79 spots lower than 2019. Gallo has a 50 home run swing while coming off a disastrous season in batting average (.181).
5. DH Khris Davis
After three dominating seasons in power (.247 with 274 runs, 133 home runs, and 335 RBI over 1,697 at-bats), Davis worked his way out of the starting lineup last year. In 2019 and 2020, he hit .217 with 70 runs, 25 home runs, and 83 RBI over 566 at-bats) with most of the failure coming last season.
His approach (strikeout rate – 26.3 and walk rate – 10.1) fell in line with his career path. Davis had a sharp decline in his HR/FB rate (7.7 – 22.5 in his career) while still hitting a high number of fly-balls (43.3 percent).
His struggles last year look mental while trying to unlock the keys to his lost power stroke.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Davis should have a much better opportunity to regain some lost playing time after the trade to the Rangers. Based on his ADP (527), he looks free in 2021. His lower price point then requires only a 20/80 season to pay off. His batting average risk is a given while almost being a lock to play against left-handed pitching.
6. OF Willie Calhoun
After success over three seasons at AAA (.297 with 169 runs, 48 HRs, 168 RBI, and nine stolen over 1,056 at-bats), Calhoun finally showed he was worthy of a major league opportunity in 2019. Over the last two months with Texas, he hit .251 with 30 runs, 14 home runs, and 28 RBI over 195 at-bats.
His path in the minors supported his AVH (1.952), which points to 30-plus home runs with a full season of at-bats with the Rangers. Calhoun hasn’t taken many walks (6.8 percent) in the majors (9.0 in the minors), but his approach in 2019 led to a low strikeout rate (15.7 – 11.4 in the minors).
In early March, Calhoun took a pitch to the face that would have cost him a couple of months. He suffered a hip issue in early July, and a hamstring injury led to a trip to the injured list for a month.
In the end, Calhoun only had one home run over 100 at-bats and struggled in his contact batting average (.229) and average hit rate (1.368).
Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .289 with 292 runs, 86 RBI, 304 RBI, and 11 SBs over 1,844 at-bats.
His swing path is fly ball favoring (44.2) with strength in his HR/FB rate (18.4).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: In 2019, his ADP (169) was 200 slots off his starting point in January drafts. Calhoun should hit fifth in the batting order, helping his value in runs and RBI. Next step: .270+ batting average with 80 runs, 35 home runs, and 85 RBI.
7. 2B Rougned Odor
Odor continues to be one of the most frustrating players to own in fantasy baseball. His approach (strikeout rate – 31.8 and walk rate – 4.7) was much better in his first three years in the league (strikeout rate – 18.8 and walk rate – 3.9).
His new swing-and-miss approach led to a dismal batting average in three (.204, .205, and .167) of the past four seasons while also seeing fading value in his contact batting average (.253). He missed about two weeks due to an oblique injury and an eye issue.
His power stats (10 home runs and 30 RBI) in 2020 projected over 550 at-bats came to 40 home and 120 RBI. Odor has been much better with runners on base in 2019 and 2020 based on his RBI rate (18). He finished with his highest fly-ball rate (50.0) and HR/FB rate (22.2) of his career.
Odor only hit .104 with two home runs and seven RBI over 48 at-bats against lefties.
Over the last five seasons, he hit .229 with 336 runs, 121 home runs, 349 RBI, and 52 stolen bases over 2,346 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Texas Rangers are growing tired of his direction, leading to more days off going forward. His floor in home runs is high while offering a chance at a league-average value at second in runs and RBI. Odor isn’t a great base stealer, but he will run and chip in with some steals. His ADP (513) gives a fantasy owner a free look at his 2021 season. Odor is just reaching the prime of his career while being a massive black hole in batting average. It’s all about reinventing his approach.
8. C Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Kiner-Falefa doesn’t bring much excitement to the table, but the Rangers willingly gave him a starting job. In 2020, he finished with a full season of playing time projected to 73 runs, eight home runs, 26 RBI, and 21 stolen bases over 550 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (14.0) was the lowest of his career in the majors, with a below-average walk rate (6.6). Kiner-Falefa has a weak average hit rate (1.322) that gives him a minimal chance of hitting 10 home runs. His ceiling in batting average is also limited when reviewing his career path in his contact batting average (.330 – .319 in his career with Texas).
Over seven seasons in the minors, Kiner-Falefa hit .274 with seven home runs, 157 RBI, and 53 stolen bases over 1,834 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Last year, I did miss out Kiner-Falefa as a possible C2 in deep leagues where his steals, runs, and batting average would have played well. In 2021, he’ll be compared to the 3B inventory pre-draft and middle infield at some point in the season. At bats will be his friend, but I would only be interested if the Rangers give him some playing time at catcher. My bar is .260 with 60 runs, five home runs, 35 RBI, and 15 stolen bases with 450 at-bats. His mid-February ADP is 296 in the 12-team high-stakes market.
9. C Sam Huff
Texas may turn to Huff as their starting catching in 2021 despite never playing at AA or AAA. His power is immense, based on his insane run at A Ball in 2019 (.333 with 15 home runs and 29 RBI over 108 at-bats).
Over four seasons in the minors, Huff hit .264 with 177 runs, 56 home runs, 175 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 1,184 at-bats. His strikeout rate (29.7) will be an issue against major league pitching. He does take some walks (7.3 percent).
In 2020, Texas gave Huff 33 at-bats in September, which led to 11 hits with five runs, three home runs, four RBI, and 11 strikeouts.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Fantasy owners have him priced as C2 in deep leagues in mid-February based on his ADP (396). Huff is a high upside power hitter that will be streaky early in his career due to his swing and miss approach. The Rangers don’t have anyone blocking him for at-bats, and Huff will help them when he’s smashing home runs. His spring training news will be the key to his attraction and opportunity in 2021.
C Jonah Heim
Heim has had a slow path to the majors after spending seven years in the minors after getting drafted out of high school in 2013. He hit .250 over 1,802 at-bats with 36 home runs, 236 RBI, and 10 steals.
After success at AA and AAA in 2019 (.310 with nine home runs and 53 RBI over 287 at-bats), the A’s gave him a minimal opportunity in the majors last year.
His walk rate (8.1) is about the league average, with a favorable strikeout rate (16.3). Heim has yet to unlock his power stroke leading to a low average hit rate (1.492) in his minor league career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Heim may not win a bench role of spring training. He is a switch hitter with the frame (6’4” and 220 lbs.) to deliver much more power. Only a player to follow in March with possible C2 value in AL-only leagues.
1B Ronald Guzman
The Rangers gave Guzman 809 at-bats over the past three seasons, which led to 90 runs, 30 home runs, and 103 RBI. His walk rate (8.9) in the majors grades well, while his 232 strikeouts (28.7 percent) invites questions of his viability as a starter for Texas.
He looks dead in the water at this point in his career against lefties (.177 with five home runs and 25 RBI over 186 at-bats). Guzman had a high RBI rate (18) in 2019 and 2020, while his average hit rate (1.789) is trending toward 30 home runs if given a full time starting job.
Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .276 with 57 home runs, 357 RBI, and 24 stolen bases over 2,434 at-bats with experience in four different years at AAA (.292/18/90 over 692 at-bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Guzman is a better bat than his shown so far in his limited playing time with Texas, but he looks destined to be a platoon option until he solves left-handed pitching. His path for at-bats in 2021 looks better at DH than first base, with Nate Lowe added to the roster in the offseason. Guzman will be found in the free-agent pool in all formats.
3B Josh Jung
Over his three seasons at Texas Tech, Jung flashed an elite major league walk rate (14.1) while being tough to strikeout (13.2). He hit .348 in college with 33 home runs, 181 RBI, and seven steals over 907 at-bats.
Texas drafted him eighth overall in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft. Jung hit .316 over his first 174 at-bats in the minors between rookie ball and single-A with two home runs, 28 RBI, and four stolen bases.
With no minor league ball in 2020, the Rangers should push Jung quickly through the minors this spring.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Jung looks ready to play with the Rangers. His batting average should be his drawing card while also grading high in runs due to his walks. He has a line-drive swing with a focus on driving the ball to right-center. Jung should have a floor of a .300/100/20/80 skill set early in his career. Once the ball starts leaving the park up the middle, he’ll push up a level in power. I view Jung as a buy and hold in deep redraft leagues with the idea he’ll be up by June.
OF Leody Taveras
With no minor league baseball in 2020 due to Covid, Taveras made the jump from AA to Texas. He offered stolen bases (8), runs (20), and some home runs (4) over his 119 at-bats with the Rangers, but his high strikeout rate (32.1) led to weakness in batting average (.227).
Over four seasons in the minors, Taveras hit .260 with 256 runs, 19 home runs, 187 RBI, and 89 stolen bases over 1,868 at-bats. In 2019, he had 264 at-bats at AA (.265 with three home runs, 31 RBI, and 11 steals).
His walk rate (8.5) and strikeout rate (17.6) were better than the league average in the minors. Even with steals on his resume, Taveras didn’t have an impactful success rate (70.0).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Taveras will upgrade the Rangers’ defense in centerfield, but his bat is trailing. His low average hit rate in the minors suggests double-digit home runs would be a lot to ask. He needs to make harder contact to help his batting average as well. Only a bottom of the order hitting at this point in his career. Once his major league approach gets in line, Taveras will be more valuable to fantasy teams. His only intrigue in 2021 is his stolen bases. His ADP (215) is very expensive when adding his risk to the year at AAA.
1. SP Kohei Arihara
Texas signed Arihara in late December to a two-year deal for $6.2 million. His path in Japan has been up-and-down, his best success coming in 2019 (15-8 with a 2.46 ERA and 161 strikeouts over 164.1 innings).
Arihara went 61-35 with a 3.65 ERA and 666 strikeouts over 882 innings in six seasons overseas. His walk rate (2.0) grades well with repeated value in each season. In 2019, he set a career-best in his strikeout rate (8.8), which was well above his career average (6.8).
His fastball sits in the low-90s while offering a deep arsenal. Arihara will mix in a slider, cutter, split-finger, and changeup. Each pitch has more value depending on the count and the swing-side of each batter.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: On most teams in baseball, Arihara would be a fourth or fifth starter. This year he lines up as the top the arm in for the Rangers. Fantasy owners don’t have any interest in him in the early draft season (ADP of 548). Arihara could have sneaky upside due to his command, and I expect his split-finger fastball to have more value in the homer-happy big leagues. For now, only an inning eater with more help in WHIP than ERA. Wins and strikeouts won’t end up in a winning range.
2. SP Dane Dunning
Over three seasons in the minors, he went 17-13 record with a 2.74 ERA and 300 strikeouts over 266 innings. His walk rate (2.4) looked major league ready with strength as well in his strikeout rate (10.2).
In 2018, he made 11 starts at AA with success (2.76 ERA and 69 strikeouts over 62 innings), leading to a call up to AAA. Unfortunately, a sprained right elbow ended his season in late June, followed by TJ surgery in mid-March of 2019.
Dunning gave the appearance that he belonged in the majors in 2020 when the White Sox called him up in mid-August. He went 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 34 innings.
His average fastball came in at 92.0 MPH while having the most success with his slider (.150 BAA) and sinker (.189 BAA). His walk rate (3.4) came in above his time in the minors.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Dunning has the talent to lead this pitching staff this season. His command will improve with more experience while having the tools to push his strikeout rate (9.3) higher. He has a backend ADP (289) with some questions about how many innings Dunning can handle in 2021. Since 2017, he’s only pitched 120.1 innings. Possible 3.50 ERA with over 150 strikeouts with 25 starts.
3. SP Kyle Gibson
In 2018 and 2019, Gibson showed growth in his strikeout rate (8.2 and 9.0 – 7.0 in his career), but he failed to clean up his walk rate (3.2). In his first year in Texas, his command (4.0 walks per nine) was the worst of his career, leading to him giving away his gains in his strikeout rate (7.8).
Gibson allowed the most home runs of his career (12 over 67.1 innings). He finished with a disaster in his ERA (5.35) and WHIP (1.530).
Over the last five seasons, he went 43-47 with 4.65 ERA and 622 strikeouts over 729.1 innings.
His AFB (92.9) fell short of 2019 (93.8). Gibson lost the feel of his sinker (.355 BAA) while his other four pitches (four-seam fastball - .234 BAA, slider – .239 BAA, changeup – .220 BAA, and curveball – .185 BAA) were tough to hit.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Twice (2015 and 2018) in Gibson's eight-year career, he has been serviceable in the fantasy market. His WHIP has never been below 1.289, but he has been reliable about making his start each week. Only an inning eater with occasional double start value if he’s pitching well.
4. SP Kolby Allard
Allard is a former first-round draft pick (2015) with a nice five-year resume in the minors (29-23 with a 3.19 ERA and 431 strikeouts over 471 innings).
In 2018 and 2019, he made 40 starts at AAA (3.37 ERA) with a low strikeout rate (7.7) and a career average walk rate (2.9).
After a trade to Texas, Allard looked lost in the majors over the last two seasons (8-15 with a 6.72 ERA and 68 strikeouts over 87 innings). His failure comes from a regressing walk rate (4.4), limiting his value in strikeouts (7.4 per nine).
His AFB (92.0) was a tick below league average while offering a changeup (.200 BAA) of upside and a curveball (.250 BAA) that needs work. His cutter (.292) was a problem in 2020.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Allard can’t have success with Texas until he throws more strikes. For now, a backend command pitcher with risk in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. In 2021, he’ll need a drop-down in class to regain his confidence, but Texas may need him out of the gate.
5. SP Mike Foltynewicz
After one bad start in 2020 (six runs, eight base runners, and three home runs over 3.1 innings), the Braves released Foltynewicz. After clearing waivers, he sat on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
In 2019, I had Foltynewicz in the avoid column due to his lack of length of success in the majors and his expected draft value. In a way, he saved some fantasy owners by suffering a late March elbow injury that led to over three weeks on the injured list.
His season started with six games with four runs or more allowed over 11 starts, which led to a 6.37 ERA, 1.416 WHIP, and 16 home runs over 59.1 innings.
After a six-week trip back to AAA (3.86 ERA and 45 strikeouts over 51.1 innings), Foltynewicz regained his 2018 form with the Braves (6-1 with a 2.65 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 57.2 innings).
A big part of his failure came from home runs allowed (1.8 per nine). His walk rate (2.8) beat his career average (3.1), but he lost value in his strikeout rate (8.1 – 9.9 in 2018).
His AFB (91.3 – 95.0 in 2019 and 96.8 in 2018) lost a ton of velocity in 2020, but his sample size was small.
In 2019, he had the best success with his slider (.235 BAA) and changeup (.200 BAA) with similar value with his four-seamer (.250 BAA), sinker – .260 BAA), and curveball (.250 BAA).
Foltynewicz has a rising fly-ball rate (40.2) and a career-high HR/FB rate (16.9).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With no news of an injury last year and a hint of a drop in weight, a fantasy owner will only be throwing a dart at Foltynewicz. His spring training will drive his lost ADP (657 – 206 in 2019). There was growth in this arm in 2019, but I fear a TJ surgery is coming (rising home runs paired with a drop in velocity). If the March reports show an uptick in his fastball, he is worth a start-to-start ride.
SP Jordan Lyles
Despite being a 2008 first-round pick for the Astros, Lyles struggled in the majors from 2011 to 2017 (28-48 with a 5.43 ERA and 466 strikeouts over 681 innings).
He started to show life as a swingman for the Padres and Brewers in 2018 (4.11 ERA) before earning a full-time starting gig in 2019. After a slow start to the year with Pittsburgh (5.36 ERA over 82.1 innings), Lyles flashed over 11 starts for Milwaukee (7-1 with 2.45 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 58.2 innings). His strikeout rate (9.3) was a career-high, but walks (3.6 per nine) remain an issue.
The move to Texas ended in disaster in 2020. Lyles went 1-6 with a 7.02 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 57.2 innings. His strikeout rate dropped to 5.6 while serving up 12 home runs over 57.2 innings.
His AFB (92.7) had less velocity than his previous four years. He had the best results via his curveball (.235 BAA) and slider (.192 BAA), while his other options invited downside.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Lyles is worthless in the fantasy market. He rarely pitches deep in games, and his command isn’t where it needs to be to support his low upside skill set.
SP Joe Palumbo
Palumbo has been brought along slowly over his minor league career. He never threw more than 100 innings in any year, plus he had his season cut short in April in 2017 due to a left elbow injury that required TJ surgery.
Over seven seasons in the minors, Palumbo went 21-17 with a 2.72 ERA and 425 strikeouts over 357.1 innings. He pitched well in 2019 between AA and AAA (3.01 ERA and 108 strikeouts over 80.2 innings), earning him his first trip to the majors.
With Texas in 2019 and 2020, Palumbo never found his way over 19.0 innings (9.47 ERA, 2.571 WHIP, and eight home runs).
His fastball sits in the low-90s while working off a changeup and curveball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Texas gave him two appearances last year, but his right elbow flared up in August. His minor league resume gives him a chance at offering starting value for the Rangers in 2021 if Palumbo can get past his injuries.
SP Wes Benjamin
Benjamin doesn’t have a top prospect pedigree. He’ll enter 2021 at age 27 with only 22.1 innings in the majors (4.84 ERA).
Over five seasons in the minors, he went 28-24 with a 4.26 ERA and 399 strikeouts over 443.2 innings. His career was trending forward until he lost his way at AAA in 2019 (5.52 ERA and 1.530 WHIP). Benjamin flashed command before his last year in the minor with a mid-range strikeout rate (8.1).
He throws a low-90 fastball while mixing a changeup, slider, and curveball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Benjamin has a better arm than he’s shown over the last two seasons, but he’ll need to prove it at AAA before getting another chance in Texas.
CL Jose Leclerc
In 2018, Leclerc moved into an electric range after shaving off 4.0 walks per nine. He held batters to a .126 BAA with a bump in strikeouts (13.3) while converting all 12 saves once taking over the Rangers' closing job in early August. Over his last 21 games, Leclerc didn’t allow a run over 21 innings with five hits, six walks, and 32 strikeouts.
In 2019, his arm crushed fantasy owners over the last three weeks of April (14.21 ERA and 3.316 WHIP over 6.1 innings). Leclerc regained his form over his final 58.0 innings (3.57 ERA, 1.172 WHIP, and .185 BAA with 86 strikeouts) while converting nine of his 11 saves. Over this span, he walked 4.7 batters per nine with strength in his strikeout rate (13.4).
His struggles came against lefties (.267). Leclerc had the best fastball (97.0 MPH) of his career. His four-seamer (.210 BAA), slight-finger (.175 BAA), and changeup (.200 BAA) all played well. He pitches up in the strike zone (fly-ball rate – 45.0) with a big step back in his HR/FB rate (10.4).
Last year he missed almost the whole season with a right shoulder injury.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Leclerc has an upside closing arm, but it comes down to throwing more strikes to become a top reliever in the game. His ADP (372) is more than 200 spots lower than 2019 due to fantasy owners waiting for a clean injury report. Leclerc isn’t a slam dunk to win the ninth-inning role, with Jonathan Hernandez coming up fast up the bullpen ranks in Texas.
RP Jonathan Hernandez
After bombing as a starter at AA in 2019 (5.16 ERA and 1.438 WHIP), the Rangers shifted Hernandez to the bullpen. The transition worked well last year, leading to a 2.90 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 31 innings with Texas.
Over seven seasons in the minors, he went 37-39 with a 3.80 ERA and 552 strikeouts over 610.2 innings. Hernandez saw his walk rate rise as he moved up through the Rangers’ system.
His AFB (97.1) has plus velocity while relying on a swing and miss slider (.167 BAA) and low-volume changeup (no hits over 63 pitches). Batters did square up his sinker (.314 BAA) at times.
In August, Hernandez was dominant (two runs over 15.1 innings with 19 strikeouts) while taking on some bad innings in September (six runs, 15 baserunners, and two home runs over 12.2 innings).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Hernandez has a short sample size of success. He could be a great value with closing chances based on his ADP (476) if his command holds up paired with a big fastball and upside slider. Viable target as a closer in waiting in deep leagues, but his price point will rise in March if Jose Leclerc has any negative injury news.
RP Demarcus Evans
Evans started his career with the Rangers as a low-inning starter. After struggling in 2017 (2-8 with a 4.53 ERA and 81 strikeouts over 59.2 innings), Texas moved him to the bullpen in 2018.
In 2019, he had a dominating year between High A and AA (6-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 100 strikeouts over 60 innings) while converting 12 saves. Even with an elite strikeout rate (15.0), Evans struggled with his command (5.9 walks per nine).
Over five years in the minors, he had a 2.53 ERA and 369 strikeouts over 242.1 innings.
Texas gave him four appearances in 2020 (one run over four innings with four strikeouts). His fastball came in at 94.1 MPH, with the only other pitch thrown being a curveball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Evans is a future closing option once he cleans up his command. He should start the year at AAA, but the Rangers may give him a ride in the majors out of the gate.
2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks