After winning the AL West four times from 2010 to 2016, including two losses in the World Series, the Rangers have become the doormat in their division. They finished 60-102 last season, a mere 35 games out of first place. In addition, Texas missed the postseason in each of the past five years.
The pitching staff ranked 23rd in ERA (4.79), with better success in their bullpen (4.13 ERA – 17th). Their reliever finished with 27 wins, 31 losses, and 31 saves. The Rangers had a bottom-tier offense in runs (625 – 28th), home runs (167 – 26th), and RBI (598 – 28th) while pushing to fourth in the majors in stolen bases (106).
Their big splash in free agency was the signing of SS Corey Seager for $325 million for 10 seasons. Texas also added 2B Marcus Siemen, OF Kole Calhoun, and SP Jon Gray for a combined $236 million. As expected, the Rangers didn’t lose any players of value to the free-agent pool (1B Ronald Guzman and SP Mike Foltynewicz).
Texas has miles to go before having a competitive starting rotation. In addition, their bullpen doesn’t have a winning shutdown structure at this time.
The Rangers should move closer to the league average in the offensive categories. The top of their lineup brings power, but Texas needs some of their back-end players to reach a higher ceiling. Prospect Josh Jung must seize the starting third base job.
2B Marcus Semien
Twice over the past three years, Semien has been a top-tier player, supported by his rank (20th and 7th) by SIscore (2019 – 5.36 and 2021 – 7.61) for hitters.
Despite playing in two favorable home ballparks to start the year, his bat had more power (23 home runs) and batting average (.269) on the road. In addition, Semien had more success against right-handed pitching (.274 with 35 home runs and 72 RBI over 475 at-bats). His best two months came in May (.368/23/8/22/2 over 114 at-bats) and September (.260/23/13/25/2 over 127 at-bats).
His quest for more home runs came via a rising fly-ball rate (46.6 and 48.1) over the previous two seasons and improved launch angle (20.3 – 16th). Semien set a career top in his average hit rate (2.029) and HR/FB rate (18.4).
He continues to have an above-average walk rate (9.1) and favorable strikeout rate (20.2).
Last season the Blue Jays’ offense clicked with multiple players having career seasons. I don’t expect Semien to push higher in batting average as many of his fly balls end in easy outs. However, his ADP (33) requires him to be productive again in four categories. I’ll lower his bar to 100 runs, 30 home runs, 85 RBI, and 10 steals.
SS Corey Seager
One errant pitch in mid-May led to two and a half months on the injured list for Seager with a broken right hand. He started the year with a quiet bat over 37 games (.265 with 20 runs, four home runs, and 22 RBI over 147 at-bats). After returning from his injury, Seager hit .335 over 206 at-bats with 34 runs, 12 home runs, and 35 RBI.
He finished with strength in his strikeout rate (16.1) and a new top in his walk rate (11.7). Seager continues to be a top player with runners on base (RBI rate of 16.7 in his career). His swing was impressive against left-handed hitting (.330 with six home runs and 22 RBI over 115 at-bats).
Seager had a spike in his ground ball rate (45.9) last year while seeing his HR/FB rate (16.5) fall in line with his career average (16.1). He finished 30th in hard-hit rate (49.3), but he still needs more loft on his swing (launch angle – 10.7) to deliver a higher ceiling in home runs.
Seager missed 245 games over the previous four years. He has the tools to be a .300/100/30/100 player, but the Rangers may not have the supporting cast behind him in the batting order to rank that high in runs. His ADP (78) in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship puts him in the seventh round in 12-team leagues. His lack of speed is a strike for some fantasy managers, but they haven’t seen his career year. He is in my thoughts, but I'm in research mode, not game-planning.
3B Josh Jung
Because I live in a fantasy world, I will list Jung as the starting third baseman for the Rangers. Texas drafted him eighth overall in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft.
Over his three seasons at Texas Tech, Jung flashed an elite major league walk rate (14.1) while being tough to strike out (13.2 percent). He hit .348 in college with 33 home runs, 181 RBI, and seven steals over 907 at-bats.
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. In 2021 between AA and AAA over 78 games, he hit .326 with 54 runs, 19 home runs, and 61 RBI over 304 at-bats.
In March, a foot injury that required surgery led to Jung not seeing his first minor game in 2021 until June. He had a major league approach over his two seasons in the minors.
Jung looks ready to play with the Rangers after receiving 135 at-bats at AAA (.348/29/9/21). His batting average should be his drawing card while also grading high in runs due to his walks. He has a line-drive swing while focusing on driving the ball to right-center. Jung should have a floor of a .300/100/20/80 skillset early in his career. His ADP (279) in the NFBC in late January put him in fantasy lineups early in the season.
OF Adolis Garcia
St. Louis signed Garcia to a minor league contract after success with the Cuban National team over parts of five seasons (.308 with 154 runs, 28 home runs, 139 RBI, and 25 stolen bases over 843 at-bats).
Over three seasons in the minors, he hit .266 with 222 runs, 69 home runs, 232 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 1,342 at-bats. His free-swinging approach (strikeout rate – 25.3) and low walk rate (4.8) led to Texas acquiring him in December of 2019 for cash with the Cardinals.
The Rangers called him up in mid-April, leading to an unexpected run over 78 games (.270 with 43 runs, 22 home runs, 62 RBI, and eight steals over 311 at-bats). His bat disappeared for a month after the All-Star break (.165/12/4/8 over 109 at-bats) while picking up 38 strikeouts. Garcia hit .242 with 22 runs, five home runs, 20 RBI, and eight steals over his final 161 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (31.2) suggests his success isn’t repeatable. He finished with a balanced swing path and a career-best in his HR/FB rate (19.6).
Garcia scored well in his average hit rate (1.872) and contact batting average (.364). He ranked 40th in SIscore (2.53) for hitters. His ADP (164) ranks him as the 103rd batter drafted in the NFBC in late January. Garcia lacks the sexy approach many look for in fantasy research, but the sum of his parts makes sense based on his price point, even with some regression. Plus, there is always the chance he improves. Ride him while he is hot.
1B Nate Lowe
In 2018, Lowe made a push from High A to AAA after hitting .330 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI over 482 at-bats. He 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).
Tampa gave Lowe limited chances in the majors in 2019 and 2020 (.251 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI over 219 at-bats) while posting a high strikeout rate (31.8). Texas acquired him in December of 2020 for OF Heriberto Hernandez.
Lowe finished with competitive stats in five categories in his first season with the Rangers, ranking him 84th for hitters by SIscore (-0.23). His strikeout rate (25.2) was higher than expected while taking walks (12.5 percent). After a fast start in April (.277 with 11 runs, six home runs, 22 RBI, and two steals over 101 at-bats), Lowe had a dull feel in every other month.
His swing path led to a high ground ball rate (54.5) and weakness in his fly-ball rate (27.4). In addition, Lowe had a shallow launch angle (5.0 – 296th).
Lowe hits the ball hard when it is in play, leading to strength in his contact batting average (.372). Additionally, his natural progression should be a lower strikeout rate, pointing to help in batting average. However, I don’t believe he is ready to pop in home runs. His volume of at-bats should be his friend and steals from a corner position always help. His ADP (243) in the NFBC looks favorable if Lowe delivers a .280/80/20/80 season with a handful of stolen bases.
OF Kole Calhoun
Calhoun started the season on the injured list with a right knee issue that required surgery in early March. After two weeks of action (.292/6/2/5 over 48 at-bats), he suffered a hamstring injury requiring surgery. His season ended with an empty 118 at-bats (.212/11/3/12).
His strikeout rate (21.9) tends to be close to the league average while showing the ability to take some walks (9.3 percent).
Over the last five seasons, Calhoun hit .229 with 292 runs, 92 home runs, 259 RBI, and 17 stolen bases over 1,968 at-bats.
Before 2021 (1.590), his average hit rate supported 25+ home runs, but Calhoun couldn't get over the hump in his contact batting average (.312). His ADP (473) puts him in the free-agent pool in all redraft formats. He has a platoon feel while taking enough walks to steal some at-bats at the leadoff spot when his swing is in rhythm.
OF Willie Calhoun
After his success over four seasons at AAA (.296 with 170 runs, 48 home runs, 168 RBI, and nine stolen over 1,062 at-bats), Calhoun looked majors-worthy 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.
In early March of 2020, Calhoun took a pitch to the face that would have cost him a couple of months if the season started on time. He then 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 while struggling in his contact batting average (.229) and average hit rate (1.368).
Last year a groin issue led to Calhoun starting the season on the injured list. Over his first 205 at-bats, he hit .254 with 23 runs, five home runs, and 19 RBI. After being hit by a pitch in late June, a left forearm injury pushed him to the injured list again for two and a half months. His bat came home with an empty experience over the final two weeks of the season (13-for-55 with five runs, one home run, and six RBI).
Calhoun has a low strikeout rate (15.5) in the majors. He tends to be a free swinger with minimal walks.
The length of his recent injuries pushes Calhoun under the radar for fantasy managers and potentially clouds his opportunity in the majors. He has always had power in his bat while inviting minimal batting average risk. His ADP (411) rates him as a bench flier in 15-team leagues in the NFBC. Calhoun is a better player than he has shown, but his light can’t shine through without an entire season of games.
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 in 2020. Last February, the Rangers acquired him in a deal with Oakland for SS Elvis Andrus.
His half-season of stats in home runs (10) and RBI (32) project well for a back-end C2 if Heim can work his way into more than 400 at-bats.
His walk rate (5.3) and strikeout rate (20.4) came in below his minor league resume (8.1 and 16.3). Heim posted an incredibly low contact batting average (.229) in his time in the majors.
Heim is a switch hitter with a frame (6’4” and 220 lbs.) to deliver much more power. Unfortunately, the Rangers have developing catchers in their system, giving him only a short window to show growth. His ADP (449) makes Heim only a dart for some cheating the catcher position in deep leagues.
SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa
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.
Heading into 2021, Kiner-Falefa didn’t bring much excitement to the table, but the Rangers were willing to give him a starting job. Every day at-bats helped his counting stats, leading to career-highs in just about every category.
His strikeout rate (13.3) was the lowest of his career, with a below-average walk rate (4.1). Kiner-Falefa has a weak average hit rate (1.320), poor launch angle (5.4), and tiny barrel rate (1.8). He has never had strength in his contact batting average (.316).
Kiner-Falefa is a second Ranger player who bounced out of the starting lineup after a free agent signing. He came through the Rangers’ system with catching experience, and that would be the best position for him to help fantasy teams. At best, Kiner-Falefa is a third-base bridge player until Josh Jung is ready. His ADP (316) looks like a donation as he’ll never see over 600 at-bats ever again.
C Yohel Pozo
The Rangers signed Pozo as a teenager in 2013 out of Venezuela. Over seven seasons in the minor leagues, he hit .288 with 234 runs, 48 home runs, 266 RBI, and 12 stolen bases over 1,913 at-bats. He has always been tough to strike out (8.9 percent), but Pozo takes minimal walks (4.8 percent).
After sitting out the Covid-19 season with no minor league baseball, Pozo developed his power stroke at AAA (.337 with 46 runs, 23 home runs, and 74 RBI over 315 at-bats). Texas gave him 21 games of experience last season, leading a .284 batting average with eight runs, one home run, and nine RBI over 74 at-bats.
Pozo will compete for a catching job for the Rangers in 2022. His ability to put the ball in play helps his playability. If his newfound power comes along this year, Texas may very well give him starting at-bats. His ADP (744) in the NFBC suggests many fantasy managers are sleeping on his potential upside and opportunity this season. Giddy up if he makes the team out of spring training.
OF Nick Solak
Over his five years in the minors, Solak hit .297 with 62 home runs, 234 RBI, and 48 stolen bases over 1,687 at-bats. 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 call-up to Texas in late August.
The Covid-19 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 came to 71 runs, five home runs, 61 RBI, and 18 steals.
In 2021, Solak played well in April (.293 with 18 runs, seven home runs, 14 RBI, and two steals over 99 at-bats). Unfortunately, he hit his way out of the majors over his next 235 at-bats (.196/24/2/20/2). Solak limped home with a .293 batting average over 124 at-bats with 15 runs, two home runs, 15 RBI, and three steals.
Solak’s strikeout rate (20.9) was close to the league average, with a slight step back in his walk rate (6.7). He finished with a poor launch angle (7.0) and weakness in his barrel rate (6.5). His ground ball swing path (53.3 – 52.0 in his career) puts a low ceiling on his home runs.
At this point, Solak doesn’t deserve a starting role. He lost his second base opportunity once the Rangers signed Marcus Semien. His path to at-bats comes via the outfield or a utility role. He comes off the board at pick 387 in the NFBC. I can’t chase his minor league stats, so I’ll wait until he shows some heart in the regular season.
OF Leody Taveras
Over five seasons in the minors, Taveras hit .258 with 313 runs, 36 home runs, 242 RBI, and 102 stolen bases over 2,190 at-bats. In his first experience at AAA last year, he hit .245 with 57 runs, 17 home runs, 55 RBI, and 13 steals over 322 at-bats.
His walk rate (9.2) and strikeout rate (18.7) were better than the league average in the minors. However, even with 102 steals on his resume, Taveras didn’t have an impactful success rate (70.3).
The Rangers gave Taveras 293 at-bats over the past two seasons, leading to struggles in batting average (.188) and his strikeout rate (32.3). His counting stats in runs (34), home runs (7), RBIs (15), and steals (18) point to upside once he controls the strike zone better.
Taveras made strides at AAA with his power, but he continues to have a below-par batting average. For fantasy teams in 2022, he’ll offer speed off the bench when given a chance in the majors. His ADP (538) in the NFBC makes him undraftable unless Taveras jumps OF Adolis Garcia on the depth chart in spring training.
SP Jon Gray
The Rangers’ management saw enough in Gray’s arm to pay him $56 million for four seasons despite having a career 4.59 ERA and never pitched more than 175 innings in a season. His best success came from 2017 to 2019, when he went 33-21 with a 4.31 ERA and 445 strikeouts over 432.2 innings.
Surprisingly, Gray was a better pitcher at home (4.02 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and 80 strikeouts over 78.1 innings in 2021. Road opponents hit .285 against him, leading to a 5.22 ERA, 1,527 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts over 70.2 innings. He also struggled after the All-Star break (5.71 ERA, 1.476 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts over 63 innings).
His average fastball (95.0) has plenty of velocity, but batters drilled his four-seamer (.331 with 10 home runs over 272 at-bats). His slider (.151 BAA) continues to be elite with swing and miss value. He also mixed in a low-volume curveball (.120 BAA) and questionable changeup (.256 BAA).
Gray has decent command (3.0 walks per nine) with a respectable strikeout rate (9.2) in his career. However, home runs tend to be an issue when he is off his game. His ADP (175) is well above what I’m willing to pay. A successful year would be a 4.00 ERA and 175 strikeouts. Later in the draft, a fantasy owner should find those stats from someone else. I'll let you have this dance.
SP Dane Dunning
Over three seasons in the minors, Dunning went 17-13 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. But unfortunately, a sprained right elbow ended his season in late June, followed by TJ surgery in mid-March of 2019.
Dunning went 7-10 over his first 34 games in the majors with a 4.39 ERA and 149 strikeouts over 151.2 innings. His 2021 season began with success over his first nine starts (3.74 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 43.1 innings), rarely throwing over 80 pitches. A couple of disaster starts (12 runs, 20 base runners, and three home runs over 8.2 innings) over his next 13 games led to a demise in his ERA (4.72) and WHIP (1.475). In September, Texas moved him to the bullpen after missing three weeks with a battle with Covid-19.
His average fastball (90.7) was below the league average. Dunning had the most success with his slider (.240 BAA) and show-me curveball (.143 BAA). Unfortunately, his walk rate (3.3) improved only slightly.
There is an upside in Dunning’s arm, but he doesn’t have the fastball to get him out of jams over time. His ADP (404) puts him in the flier range. However, I respect his secondary stuff, which will rise with more strikes thrown. His next step is pushing his innings to the 150 range.
SP Kolby Allard
Allard is a former first-round draft pick (2015) with success over five years 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 three seasons (7-20 with a 5.70 ERA and 169 strikeouts over 203.2 innings). His failure comes from a below-par walk rate (3.1), limiting his value in strikeouts (7.5 per nine). However, he did show better command (2.2 walks per nine) last season.
Allard did look the major league part of his first 17 games (3.45 ERA, .226 BAA, and 58 strikeouts over 57.1 innings). After four bad starts (10.80 ERA), he limped home with a 5.69 ERA over 49 innings with 15 home runs allowed.
His average fastball (91.8) was below league average, but batters hit .228 against his four-seamer. All of his secondary pitches had no value.
Allard has work to do to be trusted with a full-time starting job with Texas. His minor league resume paints a better picture, but he is undraftable at this point in his career. I can see him winning a starting job for Texas. However, his secondary pitches need to make a step forward to post a sun 4.00 ERA.
SP Spencer Howard
Over his two seasons in college, Howard went 11-2 with a 2.24 ERA and 136 strikeouts over 124.1 innings. Philadelphia drafted him in the second round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft.
After some success in 2018 at A Ball (3.78 ERA and 147 strikeouts over 112 innings), Howard looked sharp over short innings (71.0) in 2019 (2.03 ERA and 94 strikeouts). His step forward came from improving his walk rate (2.0) while owning an elite strikeout rate (12.0). Unfortunately, Howard missed some development time in 2019 with a sore right shoulder. He went 14-11 in the minors over 235 innings with a 3.10 ERA and 312 strikeouts.
Howard doesn’t belong in the majors at this point in his career based on his failure over 25 games (1-7 with a 6.93 ERA, 1.622 WHIP, and 75 strikeouts over 74 innings). In addition, he battled a finger injury and Covid-19 in 2021.
His average fastball came in at 94.4 MPH while working off a slider, changeup, cutter, and curveball combination of pitches.
Howard needs more development time, with a focus on throwing more strikes. With a winter to clear his head, he has a chance to be much better in 2022. Even so, his ceiling in innings won’t be high after only throwing 71.1 innings last year.
SP Cole Winn
The Ranger selected Winn 15th overall in the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft out of high school. He battled his command (5.1 walks) at Single-A) in 2019, leading to a higher ERA (4.46) and WHIP (1.427) than expected.
After sitting out the Covid-19 2020 season, his arm came fast at AA over 19 starts (2.31 ERA with 97 strikeouts over 78 innings). Winn had two short starts (eight innings at AAA – 3.38 ERA). Batters only hit .146 against him. His walk rate (3.2) improved last year.
Winn isn’t far off from reaching Texas, but he will certainly start the year at AAA. The Rangers lack quality arms, so he already looks better than a couple of the back-end options. Player to follow while having dynasty value.
SP A.J. Alexy
Over five seasons in the minors, Alexy went 13-19 with a 3.30 ERA and 362 strikeouts over 300.1 innings. Despite walking 3.7 per nine innings last year, he blasted his way through AA and AAA (1.66 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 65 innings) to Texas. However, his walk rate (4.4) has been an issue in his minor league career.
Despite walking 17 batters over 23 innings with the Rangers, Alexy started his major league career with 11 shutout innings with two hits, five walks, and 11 strikeouts. He finished with a 4.70 ERA and 1.304 WHIP while allowing four home runs.
His average fastball (93.5) was about league average. Batter struggled to hit four-seamers (.147 BAA) and changeup (.167 BAA). Alexy also threw a slider (.267 BAA) and curveball (.333 BAA).
Alexy has a live arm that requires a better command to have value in the majors. With only 14.2 innings at AAA, Texas should start him there again in 2022. The Rangers have weakness in the starting rotation, giving the first prospect with success in the minors a quick trip to the big leagues. Alexy has more risk than reward at this point in his career.
SP Glenn Otto
Otto made his push to the majors after success in 2021. He went 9-4 with a 3.20 ERA and 134 strikeouts over 95.2 innings between AA and AAA. His uptick in results came from better command (2.3 walks per nine – 3.5 in his career).
Texas gave Otto six starts, with his best stats coming over his first 9.2 innings (two runs, seven baserunners, and 11 strikeouts). He had three disaster games over his final four games (20 runs, 27 baserunners, and one home run over 8.2 innings).
His average fastball (92.7) was below the league average. Otto only had success with the Rangers with his curveball (.231 BAA). His slider should be his second-best pitch while needing to develop his show-me changeup.
Otto only has 30.1 innings of experience at AAA (3.26 ERA and 31 strikeouts), putting him a couple of months away from Texas unless they have an injury in their starting rotation. He has never thrown more than 100 innings in his career. His command invites risk early in his major league career.
RP Joe Barlow
After five seasons in the minors, Barlow went 17-11 with a 2.64 ERA, 306 strikeouts, and 21 saves over 214.2 innings. Texas called him up last June. The Rangers moved him into their closing role after pitching well over his first 12.2 innings (one run and 17 strikeouts). He converted 11 of 12 save chances with a 2.20 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 16.1 innings.
His average fastball (94.7) graded well. Batters only hit .140 BAA vs. his four-seamer while offering an elite slider (.079). Barlow had success with both righties (.109 BAA) and lefties (.143 BAA).
Barlow lines up as the closer Texas on opening. His ADP (238) fits when he isn't a lock to keep the job all season. However, he needs to throw more strikes, something Barlow didn’t do in his minor league career (5.8 walks per nine).
RP Spencer Patton
After pitching in Japan for four seasons (12-9 with a 3.68 ERA, 243 strikeouts, and seven saves over 205.2 innings), Patton gave the Rangers serviceable innings out of their bullpen last year. He posted a 3.83 ERA with 48 strikeouts and two saves over 42.1 innings. His strikeout rate (10.2) flashed upside, but Patton struggled with his command (3.2 walks per nine).
His stuff played well against right-handed batters (.165 BAA with three walks and 32 strikeouts over 91 at-bats). However, any chance at closing ends when facing lefties (.318 with 12 walks and 16 strikeouts over 66 at-bats).
His average fastball (93.7) came in slightly above the league average. Patton had success with his slider (.185 BAA) and four-seamer (.224 BAA). His low-volume changeup (.438 BAA) was a losing pitch.
Patton doesn’t have the profile to close, and his better days are behind him. However, Texas lacks elite arms in their bullpen, so they will use him in the seventh and eighth innings again this season.
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