A Way Too Early Rangers Projection for 2020
We're only 31 days away from when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Arizona. The Rangers still have moves to make, but after a flurry of moves, we can look and see how the Rangers stack up in competing for a playoff spot.
Despite still have a glaring hole at third base and in need of potential upgrades at first base and center field, the Rangers have still upgraded their roster throughout the winter.
The starting rotation has seen the most attention, along with the addition of a couple depth arms for the bullpen and a reunion with Robinson Chirinos behind the plate.
The Rangers are still in talks with a few free agents, including Nicholas Castellanos and Todd Frazier, and they are also still in communication with the Rockies about a potential trade for all star third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Any of those additions would only improve the Rangers' roster, especially since all of the remaining targets the Rangers have their eyes on are right-handed bats that can drive the ball.
For now, here's a very – almost way too early projection of the Rangers' Opening Day 26-man roster.
Catcher: Robinson Chirinos
First Base: Ronald Guzman
Second Base: Rougned Odor
Third Base: Nick Solak
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
Left Field: Willie Calhoun
Center Field: Danny Santana
Right Field: Joey Gallo
Designated Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo
There's little debate about the starting nine for now, with the exception of third base. A lot of people believe the Rangers will add externally to address the position. For now, the most likely candidate would be either Nick Solak or Isiah Kiner-Falefa, with Solak having the higher upside.
If and when the Rangers add a third baseman, Nick Solak will more than likely fit a utility role along with Kiner-Falefa.
One of the stories to follow closely in spring training will be who makes the team as the secondary catcher – Jeff Mathis or Jose Trevino? Mathis is owed $3 million and was Mike Minor's personal catcher in 2019, but Trevino offers more offensively and showed promise behind the dish as well last season.
When the Rangers bring in a third baseman, it will have a domino effect, as we talked about with Nick Solak. It will likely also kick either Adolis Garcia or Scott Heineman off the active roster. It's very unlikely the Rangers would carry six outfielders on the active roster.
This is the easiest group to project. Management has done a marvelous job upgrading the rotation by adding Kluber, Gibson, and Lyles. The biggest question is who will start Opening Day in Seattle.
The bullpen is the hardest group to project. Jose Leclerc will get every opportunity to be the closer again. Montero, Chavez, Martin, Goody, and Rodriguez are pretty much locks, unless things go very wrong in Surprise.
Jeffrey Springs and Demarcus Evans will both get plenty of competition in spring training from the likes of Luis Garcia, Edinson Volquez, Wei-Chieh Huang, Luke Farrell, Kyle Bird, and Yohander Mendez. Springs is a left-handed reliever, which the Rangers have a shortage on and Evans is a young pitcher with a big arm, which the Rangers usually give every opportunity for them to perform.
Outlook for 2020
On paper, this roster is better than it's 2019 counterpart. The rotation is massively upgraded, catcher has been upgraded with the addition of Chirinos, and a healthy Joey Gallo could turn into a superstar in 2020.
Without any external upgrades at third base, the Rangers' offense will be limited. The Rangers really need to add at least one more middle-of-the-order bat, preferably right-handed, to help round out the lineup. If the Rangers can bring in Castellanos and Frazier, which is more than possible, that will help balance out the lineup much more.
Hitting is a requirement if you're going to have a chance in the American League. Five of the top six teams in OPS made the playoffs last season. Only Boston, who finished 4th in OPS, failed to make the postseason.
Texas was 8th overall in the American League in OPS, despite having three different positions (C, 1B, 3B) finish in the bottom three in the A.L. in OPS. Even with an upgraded rotation, the Rangers still might be on the outside looking in if they can't improve their hitting more. Adding Chirinos will boost the Rangers' offensive numbers from the catcher position, but third base, and potentially first base, still need external attention.
Even as the roster currently stands, the Rangers could eclipse the .500 mark, but it's hard to put them as a favorite to make the playoffs. They'd still have a hard time winning the division.
The Astros, despite losing some pieces, should still be very good. Oakland is still strong coming off a 97 win season. The Angels, despite only a couple minor upgrades to their rotation, bolstered their lineup with Anthony Rendon. A lineup that includes Rendon and Mike Trout is a dangerous one. If you think Trout put up stupid numbers before, just wait for 2020.
The Yankees and the Rays are both strong candidates for a playoff appearance. Boston is a possible bounce-back candidate in 2020. In the A.L. Central, the Twins are the defending champions, and the Indians are coming off a 93-win season. The White Sox have made many additions and are looking to throw their hat into the playoff picture as well.
January is still young, so the Rangers could still improve their roster, one way or another.