- The Rangers look even worse than last year after Adrian Beltre retired. Is there hope under new manager Chris Woodward?
2018 record: 67-95, last in AL West
SI’s predicted 2019 record: 69-93
Key additions: SP Lance Lynn, INF Asdrubal Cabrera
Key departures: 3B Adrian Beltre
1. DH Shin-Soo Choo
2. 2B Rougned Odor
3. SS Elvis Andrus
4. RF Nomar Mazara
5. LF Joey Gallo
6. 3B Asdrubal Cabrera
7. 1B Ronald Guzman
8. C Jeff Mathis
9. CF Delino DeShields Jr.
C/INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa
INF Logan Forsythe
OF Hunter Pence
LHP Mike Minor
RHP Edinson Volquez
RHP Lance Lynn
LHP Drew Smyly
RHP Shelby Miller
RHP Jose LeClerc (closer)
RHP Jesse Chavez
RHP Shawn Kelley
RHP Chris Martin
LHP Jeffrey Springs
RHP Connor Sadzeck
RHP Jeanmar Gomez
RHP Adrian Sampson
Injured List OF Scott Heineman, LHP Yohander Mendez
Movin On Up! It feels a little late for a breakout, so think of this as a now-or-never season for Nomar Mazara. The slugger has hit exactly 20 home runs in each of his first three big league seasons, but finished all three of those seasons with an OPS+ under 100. Like his teammate Rougned Odor, Mazara’s impatience will limit his effectiveness unless he improves his strike zone navigation. Still, Mazara is entering his Age-24 season and has a coil-snapping swing reminiscent of Bryce Harper and Carlos Delgado.
Sell: The entire pitching staff except for Jose LeClerc. It’s a lazy answer, sure, but the Rangers already play in one of the worst ballparks for pitchers in the big leagues. This year, they have a variety of veteran starters all bound to struggle in Arlington, where the ball flies. Reports out of spring were that Shelby Miller was enjoying a minor resurgence, but it’s going to be a rough ride for wily vets like Edinson Volquez and Mike Minor facing AL West offenses in a park so horribly unforgiving.
Appreciate This Man! Logan Forsythe is one of those players who may just prefer a smaller market. The Dodgers acquired him from Tampa before the 2017 season with the expectation that he would be a stalwart veteran second baseman. Instead, he battled injuries, too many strikeouts and a weak batting average. After he was shipped to Minnesota, he found his stroke and provided his stingy at-bats and strong defense. He’s only signed on a minor league deal in Texas, but it’s likely that manager Chris Woodward—the Dodgers third-base coach while Forsythe was there—wants him around for leadership.
A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: The Rangers have finally moved into a rebuild, and will be moving into a new ballpark in 2020, so 2019 is a transition season in many ways. While the wins will be scarce, the team remains watchable with speed in Delino DeShields, strikeouts in Jose LeClerc, and power in Joey Gallo. Gallo, 25, is the most extreme three true outcomes (homers, walks, and strikeouts) hitter in baseball history, keeping the ball out of play 58% of the time in his four-year career. He’s managed to be an above-average hitter in his two full seasons of play while striking out 403 times -- 37% of his plate appearances! When he makes contact, though, look out. Gallo led all hitters in exit velocity on balls hit in the air, and on the rate of hard contact. There’s no one who epitomizes the tradeoffs modern hitters make the way Gallo does.
MLB.tv ranking: 6.0
The Rangers are not an aesthetically pleasing team at all, but they do hit some big dingers thanks to Mazara and Joey Gallo. They go up there trying to do damage.
Keep an Eye Out for … When the Rangers acquired Willie Calhoun from the Dodgers in exchange for Yu Darvish, they knew they had a hitter. What they didn’t know is where to play him. The answer to that is still unclear, but all signs are that his bat is MLB ready.
A rival scout analyzes the 2019 Texas Rangers.
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
Does this team have an identity? Do they have any players? Who are they? They lost Adrian Beltre who was the glue. They don’t have a leader. Maybe it's Elvis Andrus? He smiles a little too often for me and is a bit of an underachiever. He has incredible talent, but he’s not Beltre.
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
Rougned Odor. Ever since he knocked out José Bautista, he’s been a total tough guy and looks like a villain all the time. He swings too freely. He’s hard-headed and doesn’t take instruction well. He’s really stubborn and still strikes out way too much.
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
Nomar Mazara. His swing looks so much like Carlos Delgado’s. He had success right away and then went through a bit of a sophomore slump. He’s matured into more of a hitter now than the brute power guy he was originally. He’ll be a star.
What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?
It’s still Mazara. He’s gonna have a breakout year now that he’s struggled a little bit. He’s going to be that middle of the order guy with Beltre being gone. He’s going to be the impact guy in the middle of the lineup.
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
They don’t have enough good young players to be busts because the farm system isn’t any good. Delino DeShields’s game doesn’t work because he doesn’t get on base enough. He’s underachieving. He should walk a little bit more and play the small game better.
Who gets the most out of his talent?
Probably Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He did a great job catching last year and will be competing for a utility role and backup catcher. He’s a lot stronger than he looks.
Who gets the least out of his talent?
Shin-Soo Choo. It’s too early for him to be a DH. He was a good defender in Cincinnati, but he came over to Texas and has been hurt a bit. He hit fine last year, but he’s a more complete player than just a DH.
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
There’s not much nasty on this team. Shelby Miller might have it more than anybody. He got a bunch of guys fired in Arizona because he couldn’t harness his stuff. He’s got great angle, great deception, but he hasn’t been able to get his command back.
Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?
DeShields, probably, but he doesn’t tap into it too often. He’s got the pedigree both athletically and mentally, but for some reason he can’t put it all together.
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Joey Gallo. Kris Bryant said that this guy has the best raw power in the game and it’s not even close. He’s like Adam Dunn — it’s either a strikeout or a big homer. He’s huge, with long arms and a long swing — his extension when he swings his bat, it’s like it touches the first baseman. If you make a mistake, he’s gonna hurt you.
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.
Mazara and Elvis Andrus. Andrus is a shortstop and a pretty good one. I think a change of scenery, say New York or St. Louis, would be good for him if he could learn from a new code of conduct — Texas has accommodated for him a bit too much.
Name the guy (or guys)on this teams that you would never want in your clubhouse.
Rougned Odor. Maybe I'm leaning on perception too much, but I've always felt you have a responsibility to carry yourself a certain way as a professional. Odor shows up in an unbuttoned jersey, with a long beard, helmet covering his eyes and always stepping out the box. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s sure stubborn.
Whose effort could use a jolt?
DeShields. You want to see more urgency from a quick, fast guy. He needs to take a firm grasp on that leadoff spot. Dee Gordon plays the game with a different level of energy. DeShields could be that guy, but he plays awfully cool for a guy who doesn’t have any numbers.
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
I want Choo up because he can straight up rake. When he’s healthy, he can go enhance an offense somewhere because of an experience. I want José LeClerc on the mound. He’s just filthy. He’ll deceive you to death and is a straight battler.
Who don’t you want in that situation?
Gallo. I don’t like 50/50 odds and he’s either going to hit it out or strike out. Yohander Mendez, I wouldn’t want him. He’s a prospect with no experience. But I don’t really want many of their guys out there. The staff is bad.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
Willie Calhoun is going to break out. He has incredible power for his size. I thought it would be a slam dunk for Calhoun to start the season in the outfield, but they brought Hunter Pence to camp to try and impact the team. The problem with Calhoun is where to put him in the field. He’s bad at second base. They’re trying to hide him in leftfield, and all they want him to do is catch the ball and hit the cutoff man. But that little man has some big-time pop.
Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?
I think Chris Woodward is the perfect guy because it’s a rebuild. They’ve got a ton of work to do and the trend is to get young guys who are players’ managers. He was in L.A. and Seattle and he’s been around. He spent the 2016-18 seasons as the Dodgers’ third-base coach, and I honestly feel the third-base coach is one of the most difficult jobs in baseball. He’s well-regarded and well-respected.
What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?
I have them down for fifth place then fourth place then fourth place. You don’t want to think they’ll be in last place for three straight years, but how can you have hope for this team? Their staff is full of old guys who have all been through Tommy John.
Emptying the notebook:
Who will the next star be for this team now that Beltre is gone? Maybe it’s Nomar Mazara? Your candidates for starters are Mike Minor, Edinson Vólquez, Lance Lynn. This is awful!