I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, no one has. The 2014 Texas Rangers set the MLB record for using the most players on an active 25-man roster in history. The cause? Injuries. No pitcher made more than 25 starts, and the team used a whopping 40 different arms during the course of the season. Forty!
There were high hopes for the team, but it wasn’t to be. Their embattled manager Ron Washington resigned at season’s end, and the 67-win team from a year ago has to regroup and move forward in one of baseball’s toughest divisions.
Health and depth will continue to be question marks for this club, as we move deeper into Spring Training. Still, there’s talent here, led by veteran slugger Adrian Beltre and strikeout machine Yu Darvish.
For Fantasy purposes, there’s quite a bit to like here, including Shin-Soo Choo and Leonys Martin in the outfield, a very Fantasy relevant infield, and a power-hitting machine who could make his MLB debut sometime in 2015.
We took the projected lineup, rotation and bullpen from RosterResources.com.
2015 Texas Rangers Projected “Go-To” Lineup
- RF Shin-Soo Choo
- SS Elvis Andrus
- 1B Prince Fielder
- 3B Adrian Beltre
- DH Mitch Moreland
- LF Jake Smolinski
- CF Leonys Martin
- 2B Rougned Odor
- C Robinson Chirinos
Projected Pitching Staff
Rangers Starting Rotation:
- RHP Yu Darvish
- LHP Derek Holland
- RHP Yovani Gallardo
- RHP Colby Lewis
- LHP Ross Detwiler
- RHP Neftali Feliz (closer)
- RHP Tanner Scheppers (setup)
- RHP Kyuji Fujikawa (setup, closer in waiting)
2015 Texas Rangers Fantasy Studs: Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish
It’s really the same old story with Beltre: a great contact hitter who produces high batting averages year over year, hits for power and drives in runs. In 2014 we may have witnessed the beginning of his decline, however, as his power has started to take a dip. It’s probably not something to freak out over for 2015, but he will be 36 and his average fly ball distance fell, while he traded about five percent of those fly balls for grounders; not what you want out of a power hitter.
Still, I have him ranked as a top-three option entering the season, and he’s still a safe bet to hit at least 20 homers and do many of the things we have come to expect out of the veteran slugger.
Elbow inflammation cut Darvish’s 2014 short, but all signs are a go for the lanky right-hander entering Spring Training. If he’s able to stay healthy, he’s a Fantasy ace. Darvish has posted gaudy strikeout numbers since his first year in the league (2012) and certainly has the capability to finish the season as a top-10 Fantasy starter. Drafters seem cautiously optimistic about Darvish, selecting him in the middle of the fourth round in 10-team NFBC leagues. He could provide pretty good value at that spot, assuming the elbow doesn’t flare up.
Biggest fastball minus curveball velocity difference in the PITCHf/x era: Henderson Alvarez, 2013, 27 mph. Second: Yu Darvish, ’13, 26 mph.
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) February 11, 2015
Breakout Candidate: Rougned Odor
Odor’s fate was seemingly tied to the shoulder of Jurickson Profar. News broke Thursday afternoon that Profar would undergo shoulder surgery and is out indefinitely. This means that Odor will no longer have to look over his own shoulder, and it’s a certainty that he will get a full complement of at-bats as the Rangers’ second baseman this season.
Odor has the pedigree, ranked Baseball America’s No. 42 prospect, and the Rangers’ top youngster at the conclusion of 2013. Odor is a very raw player, and he just turned 21, but in his first look at big-league pitching, he hit .259 with nine homers and four steals in just 386 at-bats. He projects as a player who could have 20-20 upside, and although he’s never really walked very much or had a great success rate stealing bases, I think 2014 Kolten Wong-type numbers are possible here.
ZiPS agrees with me, projecting Odor to hit 17 homers and steal 15 bases in 2015. Expect to see his ADP climb in the coming weeks, but at his current price, you could be acquiring a top-10 option at the position for next to nothing.
Sleeper Candidates: Shin-Soo Choo, Leonys Martin
Choo and Martin are being drafted within three picks of one another in early National Fantasy Baseball Championship formats, at OF41 and OF43, respectively. Both are bargain prices.
Let’s start with Choo. After several great seasons with the Indians, he was money with the Reds, going 20-20 once again and recording a ridiculous .423 OBP. In his first year as a Ranger, he struggled, largely due to elbow and ankle injuries, which really did a number on his production.
All the projection systems are pegging him to get back into double-digits in homers and steals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Choo approach 20 homers and 15 thefts hitting atop a (hopefully) healthy lineup.
Martin is a bit of a different story. Fantasy owners probably had the wrong idea about him last year, as he was overdrafted in many leagues. However, this has created opportunity for profit. He’s a near-lock to steal 30 bases assuming the Rangers don’t get sick of his platoon splits and decide to make him a part-time player.
On the power front, there’s probably room for a little more, and Steamer projects a bump from seven homers to 10 in 2015. He’ll hit for a decent batting average, propped up by a high BABIP from the use of his speed and great bunting ability, and if he can supply a little more pop, he has an outside shot to crack the top-30 outfielders.
Bust Candidates: Prince Fielder, Neftali Feliz
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Even before Fielder’s injury, he was on pace to hit just 12 homers last year. Even if we give him a free pass because of the neck, Fielder’s move to Texas is not going to save his declining power.
Globe Life Park rates a 105 (with 100 being average) for left-handed power, according to StatCorner’s Park Reports Tool. What’s more is that Fielder’s isolated power (ISO) and OPS are both in the midst of four-year slides. The sharp downward trend in his fly ball rate over the last six seasons is another unwelcome sight; since 2009 it has dropped more than 13 percent.
I’m no medical expert, but 300-pound men don’t typically succeed in athletics to begin with, Prince has always been an outlier. But now, add in a herniated disc and neck fusion surgery, and what are we to expect? There’s no book on this type of injury, and it’s anyone’s guess how his body will hold up to the daily grind of playing baseball, let alone expecting him to hit for enough power to matter for Fantasy purposes.
— Fantasy Sports Radio (@SiriusXMFantasy) February 14, 2015
Feliz is slated to open the year as the team’s closer, but beware. After returning from injury in early July, Feliz saved 13 games during the season’s second half. During that span, Feliz recorded an impressive 1.99 ERA and even better 0.98 WHIP.
As good as those numbers are, I have my concerns. He put up a pedestrian K:BB rate of 21:11 with the lowest strikeout rate (K%) of his career (17.2 percent). Further, he did so with reduced velocity. His average fastball velocity of 93.6 represents a 3-mile per hour loss from his glory days in 2010 and 11. He’s still young, and has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, and while it’s possible he regains some oomph on his fastball, I’ll let someone else take the plunge.
Top Rookie: Joey Gallo
Gallo has immense power, he smacked 42 long balls between two levels in 2014, although, he whiffs a lot (33.3 percent). He’s 21 years old, and, if all goes well in the minors early on, could be in line for a big league call-up sometime late in 2015. There won’t be anything to see here if he can’t get his strikeout rate in order, something that he had a hard time doing even in the minors last year. However, a hitter with such monstrous power potential needs to be monitored.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 19, 2015
What Should We Know About the 2015 Texas Rangers?
Even though a massive overhaul of the roster might be coming in the not-too-distant future, there is plenty in terms of Fantasy value to be had on this team. Choo should rebound, Beltre will likely still be a near-elite Fantasy option, and a healthy Yu Darvish means a ton of strikeouts.
Otherwise, Odor and Martin are great value plays and will likely be seen on a lot of my teams. I have concerns with the Rangers’ pitching, specifically their bullpen, as Neftali Feliz will have to rediscover his velocity or risk losing the closer’s role. Fujikawa has the ability to strike hitters out, maybe he gets a shot at some point.
Derek Holland and Yovani Gallardo are being forgotten, and they could be nice staff fillers.
Hopefully Jurickson Profar can get his shoulder right, and it would be nice to see Martin Perez make some kind of appearance late in the season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last May, he looked like a pitcher on the rise.
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Yu Darvish Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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