If the Texas Rangers fall short of their ultimate goal in 2014, nobody will be able to say that it was because they weren’t active on the off-season, notably by bringing in Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo.
They’ve certainly grown accustomed to at least contending for the playoffs in Texas. So, how will this group of Rangers do in the upcoming season?
Projected 2014 Rangers Offense
|1. Shin-Soo Choo||LF||31||L||580||105||16||59||18||..284|
|2. Elvis Andrus||SS||25||R||600||86||5||55||31||.277|
|3. Prince Fielder||1B||30||L||585||82||44||126||0||.282|
|4. Adrian Beltre||3B||35||R||560||81||31||106||1||.309|
|5. Alex Rios||RF||33||R||570||74||19||78||29||.281|
|6. Mitch Moreland||DH||28||L||455||57||17||68||2||.255|
|7. Geovany Soto||C||31||R||350||38||11||44||1||.237|
|8. Jurickson Profar||2B||21||S||485||62||10||48||12||.254|
|9. Leonys Martin||CF||26||L||465||79||8||43||39||.271|
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios, Leonys Martin
It should be stated that that lineup is what the folks at MLB Depth Charts have for the Rangers. If I was in Ron Washington‘s shoes, I’d reverse the order of the Top-4, going with Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, and Prince Fielder. All four are still viable fantasy players in the lineup posted above, but I do feel that they’d be better off flipping those guys around a little.
Now, as for what they’ll do.
– Choo: Personally, I feel that Shin-Soo Choo is a bit overrated. He’s just not a good enough player to be “the guy” for a team. Fortunately for the Rangers and their fans, he doesn’t have to be “the guy.” Nope, all that Choo needs to do is keep getting on base at a high rate, which he does best. If that happens, he’ll score a ton of runs.
With Choo in Texas, you’re looking at a real 20-20 threat who should exceed 100 runs (with room to spare) and hit above .280. Ideally, you want more RBI from the outfield, but he’s a lead-off guy and they don’t drive in many runs. Fortunately, he won’t kill anyone in that department.
This isn’t exactly new insight, so I doubt that Choo will be a draft day bargain. But if he does end up on your roster, you’re likely looking at a very solid, five-category contributor.
– Andrus: If he’s on the field, Elvis Andrus will score a lot of runs and steal a lot of bases. Unfortunately, his power numbers are poor and he doesn’t hit for a great average. If he was not a shortstop, he wouldn’t be mentioned right here.
Fortunately, he is a shortstop who can be one of the best at any position in two categories. No, he won’t hit many homers, but Andrus has managed 60 or more RBI in each of the last three years and while his average isn’t great, it’s far from a drain.
Guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes will be better when on the field, we just don’t know how often that will be. With Andrus, that’s not a problem. Don’t be afraid to go into the season with him as your shortstop.
– Fielder: Comerica Park in Detroit certainly did not help the power numbers of Prince Fielder. He won’t lose any homers playing in Texas, that’s for sure. Prince will play every day and if history shows us anything, he’ll get on base an awful lot.
You know you’ll get runs, homers, and RBI from Fielder. Obviously you won’t get any steals but hopefully, his owners can get something around a .300 average. His 22.9 line drive percentage (per Fangraphs) in 2013 was lower than 2012’s mark, but was otherwise the highest full season mark of his career. I’d expect Fielder to be at least north of .280 this year.
– Beltre: I’d like Adrian Beltre a lot more if he was batting in front of Prince. I’m pretty sure Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera will vouch for the kind of protection Fielder offers. Having said that, Miggy is the only 3B that ranks ahead of Beltre and in this lineup, should produce good hitting numbers across the board.
– Rios: Not terribly dissimilar to Choo above, Alex Rios isn’t exceptional in any category, but is well above average in most or even all of them. Even with significant regression in steals, Rios is still one of the best 20/20 candidates in the league. Don’t be surprised if he’s a little closer to 25-25, either.
– Martin: We’ll talk more in depth about Leonys Martin a little later. For now, we’ll just say that while he will lose some at-bats batting at the bottom of the order, I like Martin a lot in the wraparound spot of the Texas order.
Projected 2014 Rangers Pitching
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz
– Darvish: Let me put it this way. The numbers you see above are pretty conservative across the board. Yu Darvish may still be a touch on the raw side, but barely. With the exception of Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg, he’s got a higher ceiling than any pitcher in the game.
– Ogando: As you can see with the projections above, you have to prepare for some missed time if Alexi Ogando is on your team. Still, Ogando has been an effective pitcher whenever he’s been on the mound. You’ll get pretty reliable value when he’s out there for you.
– Feliz: Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Neftali Feliz is a bit of an unknown, which is why his projections are a little worse than what his career averages would likely indicate. He’s not an elite closer by any means right now, but a good value option if the top guys are going a little higher than expected.
**Note**: The injury to Derek Holland keeps him off of this list. It’s a little unclear as to when he’ll be back and you always want to give a pitcher a few starts before rostering him. When Holland returns, he’s not a bad guy to go after, but do so carefully.
- Fantasy Star: Adrian Beltre
But I can bank on Adrian Beltre to be well above average or even dominant in four of the five fantasy categories. The others all have their concerns, and I’d rather have dependability early in the drafts. One of these years, Beltre will begin to show significant signs of decline, but I haven’t seen the signs yet.
- Fantasy Bust: Jurickson Profar
I can see this one coming. Fantasy baseball players tend to overrate the highly-rated prospects. They’ll also see the trading of Ian Kinsler as a sign that the Rangers feel that Profar is ready to be a star, and at a thin position.
On top of all of that, he’s likely going to be hitting somewhere in the 6-9 spot of the Texas order and barring an injury, he’s not that likely to move up the food chain any time soon. No matter the position, it’s hard to be a viable fantasy guy when batting in that part of the order.
I do think Profar has a bright future so in a keeper/dynasty league, I would give him a strong look. But in a one-year league, I’d stay away.
- Prospect Watch: Luke Jackson
The truth is that I don’t think the Rangers are going to have a prospect that will make much of a fantasy impact in 2014. Most of their top prospects are either looking at 2015 (or later), or are being blocked by at least one star.
If Luke Jackson plays in 2014, it will probably be at the end of the year, but I would like to show you what he did in 2013 between two levels.
Luke Jackson: 2013
Even without an injury, the Rangers pitching rotation isn’t exactly deep, so the opportunity can certainly be there.
Again, I don’t think that any prospect will make a big fantasy impact in 2014. But if someone is going to do it — especially without injuries — Jackson is where my money is.
- Fantasy Sleeper: Leonys Martin
It’s true that batting towards the bottom of the order is normally a bad thing for someone’s fantasy value. Obviously, you’re going to lose at-bats with each spot that you drop.
The exception is when you have a hitter like Leonys Martin batting in the nine spot in a strong American League lineup. Yes, he’ll lose at-bats, but Martin will otherwise be in a position to put up big numbers.
Think about it, when he’s on base, guys like Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus will be batting. They are fine hitters, but there’s not a huge concern about stealing and taking the bat out of their hands, like their would be with Adrian Beltre or Prince Fielder. Martin was a .323 hitter in the minors with a .422 OBP, so I’m expecting him to improve on the .260 AVG/.313 OBP that he had with the big club in 2013.
That will give him plenty of chances to steal bases and with four strong hitters batting immediately behind him, that will amount to a lot of runs scored.
I’m not saying that Martin will be a top outfielder. But I’m liking Martin to be a good steals guy that is at least competent in other categories.
- Final thoughts
I’m not 100 percent sure what their pitching will offer outside of Yu Darvish, but the Rangers should bring an awful lot of value from a fantasy perspective. They remind me a lot of the Baltimore Orioles (previewed here) in that the top of their lineup looks like something you’d see in a video game.
I don’t know that they have the pitching to unseat the Oakland Athletics atop the American League West, but the Rangers have a wealth of fantasy value.
- Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Player Profiles: Elvis Andrus
- Prince Fielder Ian Kinsler Trade: Fantasy Impact of Detroit-Texas Deal
- Prince Fielder Rangers: What Texas Trade Does for 1B’s Fantasy Value
- Alex Rios: Evaluating OF’s 2014 Fantasy Value
- Adrian Beltre: Evaluating 3B’s 2014 Fantasy Value
- Shin-Soo Choo Rangers: Fantasy Winners and Losers of Signing