Getting To Know The 2015 Texas Rangers


This is the fourth in a series of posts previewing the 2015 AL West. Previous posts: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics. Next up: The Seattle Mariners.

Your favorite team has a rival. That rival spends years drafting, developing, and acquiring a group of highly touted players that promise to lead their team to the World Series. Everything starts to click, and before you know it, your favorite team’s rival is in the World Series… in back to back years! They even almost won the damn thing! For your favorite team, things are looking bleak. How to contend with the superteam next door?

Seriously, you’re the Seattle Mariners. The Texas Rangers have started doing their thing, and they look unstoppable. What’s your dream scenario? They waste all their money for both the present and future. Their young players don’t develop as expected. A huge percent of the team’s key players injure themselves in ways that ensure that they’ll never be the same again, or at least that they’ll miss an enormous amount of time. Maybe the beloved manager leaves through the back door while all this is going on? That’s kind of what’s needed to get rid of the superteam next door.

Fortunately for the Mariners, all of that and more has happened in Arlington over the past year-plus. The Rangers, who were looked at as a model franchise just a short time ago, are now maybe probably the worst team in the league. It seems like they’re kind of stuck there, too, as last year’s injury woes are back in force with new season-ending ailments for Jurickson Profar (all-world middle infield prospect) and Yu Darvish (ace’s ace). This team bid farewell to all their Ian Kinslers and are now swimming in a sea of Ryan Ludwicks. It’s a bad place to be. For them, anyways.

As for us? We love it. Here in Seattle, the Rangers’ hasty descent from top team to punchline couldn’t be more of a hoot. They had a good thing going, and now they are hot trash. They finished behind the Astros last year, but they don’t want that to happen again. You think that isn’t going to happen again? I think that’s going to happen again. Who has a better record come year’s end – Rangers or Phillies? Flip a coin, basically.

The Rotation

Mar 6, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish against the San Francisco Giants during a spring training baseball game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Derek Holland
RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Colby Lewis
LHP Ross Detwiler
RHP Nick Tepesch

The strength of this Rangers team is a rotation that should have been a lot better than this. But then came Tommy John for Darvish and Martin Perez and spinal fusion surgery for Matt Harrison. “Spinal fusion surgery” sounds like some kind of sign that maybe you should stop throwing baseballs for a living. Like it or not, that might be Harrison’s only remaining option. Word is he’ll try to pitch in 2015. We’ll see.

Texas may have lost an ace in Darvish, but they’ve also still got one in Holland. They’re pairing him with offseason acquisition Gallardo, who used to inspire the throwing around of the “ace” tag but now is something like a 4 ERA guy. There’s room for a bounceback, and Gallardo is a Texan, and this is his contract year. But one would think that if he could’ve pitched better the last couple seasons, he would have, you know, pitched better.

After that it’s all a wreck. Lewis was atrocious last year coming off major surgery. Detwiler spent 2014 pitching poorly out of the Washington bullpen. Tepesch is coming off a season of 0.0 WAR over 126 innings. Reminder: this is the area where Texas is clearly the strongest.

From World Series contender to this mess of crap, and it happened so fast, right here in our very own division. Maybe the Rangers scrape some value out of Nick Martinez or Alex Gonzalez, but it seems unlikely at best. More probable is that the Rangers’ rotation just sucks after Holland. Who, of course, missed almost all of last season after tripping over his dog. Will he do it again? He is on the Rangers, after all!

The Bullpen

Mar 2, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson (37) poses for a portrait during Photo Day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Neftali Feliz
RHP Tanner Scheppers
RHP Kyuji Fujikawa
RHP Shawn Tolleson
RHP Roman Mendez
RHP Anthony Ranaudo
LHP Alex Claudio
RHP Phil Klein

Is this the worst bullpen in baseball? The eye test sure seems to say so, and FanGraphs agrees, assessing this group as collectively below replacement level. That’s… that’s really hard to do! It’s almost as if the Rangers intentionally built the worst relief unit they could!

No, that’s not what really happened. What happened is that the Rangers really wanted to have a good bullpen, it’s just that they ran out of money before they ever got the chance. That will be covered in the lineup section, of course, though hefty commitments to starters Darvish, Holland, and Harrison don’t exactly increase the team’s flexibility.

The best part about the Rangers bullpen is that there’s virtually no upside. Who up there could be a breakout arm? Scheppers? Maybe Scheppers. Probably not Scheppers. This bullpen sucks. This team is going to lose 100 games.

The Lineup

May 2, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Texas Rangers Jurickson Profar grabs a handful of gun during the game against the Los Angeles Angels during the ninth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The Texas Rangers defeated the Los Angeles Angels 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

CF Leonis Martin
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Prince Fielder
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Mitch Moreland
LF Ryan Ludwick
C Robinson Chirinos
2B Rougned Odor

Squint and this is the team’s strength. Martin’s a fine player, and Andrus might not be a star, but he’s decent. Beltre’s incredible, and Fielder… well, okay, Fielder’s probably just mediocre at best by now, but Choo… that’s a tough injury to get over, and Moreland sucks, and Ludwick sucks, and Chirinos profiles better as a backup, and Odor ooooooh this group sucks. This team sucks! The Rangers suck!

Seriously amazing how recently this team was supposed to look nothing like this. This was supposed to be an AL elite for years to come. Now look at them. Still trodding out Moreland at DH. Moreland’s career wRC+ is 96. Last year it was 76, in 52 games. Who are the safe bets in this lineup? There are no safe bets. The Rangers clubhouse is a mouse trap made of poision ivy. Nobody gets out unharmed.

If you insist on imagining the Rangers as a sleeper – which some do! – then you’re banking on Fielder returning to basically his Milwaukee form, Choo returning to his insane Cincinnati form, Andrus learning how to hit, Beltre not aging… Beltre’s immortal, but none of the rest of that stuff is happening. Last year was a disaster, and this year should be better. But “better” doesn’t mean “the best it ever was,” and that’s basically what the Rangers are crossing their fingers and hoping for.

This isn’t a one-man lineup, but it’s close. The highlight here, other than Beltre, is the up-the-middle defense of Andrus and Martin. But then you’ve got really bad defenders in the outfield corners, and Odor’s not too hot at second, and Fielder plays first… just, what a nightmare of a team this is. This won’t even be fun to watch. This is a fender bender that causes a two hour traffic jam.

The Bench

C Carlos Corporan
IF Adam Rosales
OF Jake Smolinski
UT Ryan Rua

Sep 14, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Michael Choice (15) is helped off the field by a trainer and interim manager Tim Bogar (27) after Choice hits a double and drives in two runs during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Braves 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This team is so bad that they picked up the Astros old backup catcher since he represented a legitimate upgrade from what they had in house. This team is so bad that they’re relying on an MiLB DH to back up the corner outfield and infield positions. This team is so bad that Adam Rosales is actually going to stick on their roster (before being DFA’d and claimed by Oakland, of course, but maybe not until June or July).

Smolinski is interesting. Sounds crazy, I know, but stick with me here! Last year Smolinski hit .349/.391/.512 in 92 plate appearances. Cool, right? Then why’s he on the bench, you say? Because that line was an illusion, entirely the result of a .458 BABIP. Four hundred fifty eight. With bad defense, lots of strikeouts, and no walks. Still interested? Me neither.

Such a pitiful group. Upside here is Rua earns a starting job and hits fifty homers. Downside here is everyone plays the way they’re expected to play. So who do you like more, Texas or Philly?


Sep 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Texas Rangers managers bench before the game between the Rangers and the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Texas Rangers interim manager Tim Bogar (not pictured) is scheduled to replace former manager Ron Washington (not pictured). Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers are projected to 67-95, twenty games behind the Seattle Mariners and in last place in the AL West. Nonsense! This team is losing one hundred games. That projection is for 95 losses and it’s blatantly optimistic. Hundred losses. Maybe 101.

The road back to decency is going to be long and arduous, and hopefully it proves to be too much for a Rangers franchise that probably at least kind of misses being garbage year in and year out. If the Rangers never have a winning season again I’ll be happy. To hell with the Rangers. Their current situation is a dream come true.

This is what they get for depriving us of Yu Darvish for a whole year. This is what they get for robbing us of Holland before that, and for ruining a promising Neftali Feliz. Sure is gonna be fun watching Rougned Odor cough up balls up the middle for the next fifteen years. It’s a pain when your rival gets good, but at least it’s something to do. Thanks for nothing, Texas.