MADISON, March 28, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 3, the Texas Rangers.
2013 Record: 91-72 with a +94 run differential.
Key Additions: RHP Jason Fraser, AJ Pierzynski, 1B Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, C JP Arencibia, OF Michael Choice and IF Brent Lillibridge
Key Losses: 1B Lance Berkman, RHP Joe Nathan, OF Nelson Cruz, 2B Ian Kinsler, Craig Gentry and OF David Murphy
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus
1B Prince Fielder
3B Adrian Beltre
OF Alex Rios
DH Mitch Moreland
OF Leonys Martin
C JP Arencibia
2B Adam Rosales
Projected 2014 Rotation:
Matt Harrison/Colby Lewis
Derek Holland/Robbie Ross
Best Case: After early injury scares to much of the rotation the staff remains healthy and Derek Holland provides another boost in July. Yu Darvish leads the rotation and the AL in wins and strikeouts on his way to the AL Cy Young award. Shin Soo-Choo posts an OBP over .400 and sets the table for the heart of the order. Prince Fielder enjoys a bounce back season with an OPS+ over 150 and 35 HR’s.
Adrian Beltre continues to be one of the most underrated stars in baseball providing great defense and hitting over 30 HR’s for the fourth straight year. Jurickson Profar misses the first three months but returns on schedule and reminds everyone why he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The bullpen is spectacular as the Rangers collection of power arms like Joaquim Soria, Neftali Feliz and Jason Fraser help manager Ron Washington shorten games. The Rangers lead the AL in runs scored on their way to winning the AL West.
Worst Case: The Rangers’ projected rotation never materializes as Matt Harrison takes longer than expected to return, Derek Holland struggles upon his return and Colby Lewis is on and off the DL all season. Jurickson Profar re-aggravates his muscle tear in his right shoulder and ends up missing the whole year.
The bottom half of the order struggles causing the offense to sputter more than expected. Alex Rios reverts to his 2011 form leading people to question whether or not he should be in the lineup every day. The Rangers finish third in the AL West and grumbles about the team’s inability to win the division grow louder.
Prospect Watch: The Rangers have graduated a lot of prospects to their big club recently, including Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez and Derek Holand, and are considered one of the model farm systems in all of baseball. Although most of their prospects are at least a year away from helping, there is plenty to be excited about. Catcher Jorge Alfaro may have the highest ceiling and spent last year in A ball posting a .265/.346/.463 line and although he is blessed with great tools, catchers tend to take a while to develop so he may be a couple years away. Rougned Odor may be able to help earlier, especially with the injury to Jurickson Profar, as he spent most of camp with the big club and did well across A and AA last year with a combined .305/.365/.474 line. Right-hander Alex Gonzalez is considered the top arm in the system. Gonzalez logged 42.2 innings last year after being drafted in the first round out of Oral Roberts, but could move quickly.