By Will Carroll
March 01, 2011
The reigning American League champions will have all their work ahead of them when 2011 opens. They face improved competition not only from the improved teams in the AL Central and East, but also from the Oakland A's in their own back yard. They have the talent to repeat as champions, of that there is little doubt, especially with the addition of Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli. As much as any player, the Rangers' title quest will fall on the shoulders of head Trainer Jamie Reed and his staff -- the Rangers' best players are also their most injury-prone. Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and new addition Brandon Webb will take much of Reed's time to keep on the field, to say nothing of a pitching staff full of young arms who either saw their innings jump last year or will be expected to have them increase this year. Health is critically important to every team, but there may not be a team in baseball whose title chances depend more on their medical staff than the Rangers'.

(HEAD TRAINER: Jamie Reed; FIVE YEAR RANK: 23; 2010 RANK: 23)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Mike Napoli
Napoli's unlikely to do more than a half-share of the catching, which keeps him green. The timeshare at the position between multiple players is an interesting one, especially considering not one of them is from the prospect class that looked like "too many catchers" just a couple years ago.

3B Adrian Beltre
The System doesn't even like to think of the injury Beltre had a few years ago. It's the very definition of traumatic, even for a non-human. Aside from that, Beltre's relatively healthy.

RF Nelson Cruz
Cruz is at the top of the range for green. He's been hampered throughout his career by minor injuries, but the plethora of options available for Ron Washington give hope that Cruz can be spotted out as needed.

CL Neftali Feliz
Feliz is green as a closer, bright red as a starter. That he's in camp working as a starter doesn't affect his risk at all. In fact, we think it's a smart move for almost all pitchers, especially young ones such as Feliz. Teammate C.J. Wilson's career path reminds us that sometimes you just don't know.

Also Green:
1B Mitch Moreland
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Julio Borbon
DH Michael Young
RP Darren O'Day
SP C.J. Wilson
Wilson's risk comes from the massive increase in innings he saw between his closing duties -- 73 innings in 2009 -- and his ascension to the top of the Rangers' rotation where he logged 204 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. Wilson has been relatively healthy, which bodes well, but how he'll react to a near tripling of his innings will be worth watching.

SP Colby Lewis
While he didn't see his innings skyrocket the way Wilson did, Lewis' innings did increase substantially in his first season back stateside. In his last season in Japan, Lewis threw 176 innings compared with 201 last year. Lewis has a big frame, which will help him bear in the increased innings load, but a large number of high-intensity innings take their toll on even the sturdiest of arms.

SP Tommy Hunter
Hunter will be asked to throw a large number of innings, likely a career high, if for no other reason than that he is expected to break camp with the team for the first time in his career. That alone makes him an injury risk, but the fact that he could be asked to throw an even larger number of innings due to the injury risk of his rotation-mates makes his risk even higher.
2B Ian Kinsler
Kinsler missed two months of 2010 with separate lower body injuries, which fits well into the pattern of his career. Kinsler has yet to avoid the disabled list since his 2006 debut and averages 40 days on the DL per season, which is the biggest knock against a player whose production -- when healthy -- is among the best at his position.

LF Josh Hamilton
Much like his teammate Kinsler, when Hamilton is healthy, he's one of the best in baseball. Also like Kinsler, Hamilton has had trouble staying on the field. His career arc is still strange enough to cause The System some consternation on its own, but add in his own injury issues, and Hamilton's red rating fits well.

SP Brandon Webb
Webb simply could not get his rehab on track in 2010, as seemingly every step forward was accompanied by a setback. The righty has now thrown just four innings since 2008, and until he shows that his shoulder is healthy, there will be doubts about his ability to pitch for a full major league season ... and perhaps at all.

SP Derek Holland
Like Hunter, Holland is a young pitcher without much of a major-league track record, who is expected to pitch around 150 innings for the Rangers. The System rightly suspects that he may struggle to hit that mark, especially given the extended time he missed in 2010 due to an injured rotator cuff.

Dan Wade contributed to this report

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