The Rangers, fresh off their back to back AL Pennants in 2010 and 2011, saw themselves go from Wild Card game loss (2012) to a loss in the play-in game to get to the Wild Card game. They had a very bold offseason, first trading 2B Ian Kinsler (.277, 13, 72) to the Detroit Tigers for 1B Prince Fielder (.275, 25, 106) and the remaining 7 years Fielder has on his current contract. They followed that up by signing free agent OF Shin Soo Choo (.285, .423, 21, 54) to a 7 year deal.
With a projected starting staff that includes RHP Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.83, 32 starts), LHP Matt Harrison (back from Tommy John surgery) and LHP Derek Holland (10-9, 3.42, 33 starts, the team seemed to make the adjustments to compete with the teams in the AL West. All three being on the DL to start the season is not what the Rangers were expecting. However, Darvish should be back in April, Harrison by May and Holland sometime before the All Star break. New starting 2B Jurickson Profar (.234, 6, 26, 85 games) is out for an extended period of time and backup catcher Geovanny Soto has a torn meniscus.
The lineup even without Profar should be one of the most lethal in all of baseball. Choo and Fielder join top AL 3B Adrian Beltre (.315, 30, 92) and LF Alex Rios (.278, 18, 81). SS Elvis Andrus (himself returning to the lineup soon)(.271, 4, 67, 42 SB) does not have to worry about Profar taking his position. JP Arencibia (.194, 21, 55) takes over at catcher hoping to pick up his average a little bit. Leonys Martin (.260, 8, 49, 36 SB) will be back in CF with Mitch Moreland (.232, 23, 60) taking over as the full time DH. Until Profar returns, journeymen Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson will play 2B. I'd line the Rangers up like this: Andrus SS, Choo RF, Beltre 3B, Fielder 1B, Rios LF, Moreland DH, Arencibia C, Murphy/ Wilson/ Profar 2B, Martin CF. Former top OF prospect Michael Choice adds to the team's bench.
Not having Darvish, Harrison and Holland weakens the starting pitching of this team. Tanner Scheppers (6-2, 1.88, 76 games) makes his first MLB start; it will be opening day for the Rangers. LHPs Martin Perez (10-6, 3.62, 20 starts) and Robbie Ross (4-2, 3.03, 65 games, 0 starts) will be the 2 and 3 starters for the team to start the season with Joe Saunders (11-16, 5.26 in 32 starts) and Nick Martinez filling out the rotation.
Closer Joe Nathan (6-2, 43 saves, 1.39 in 67 games) left to join the Tigers. Former Royals closer Joakim Soria (1-0, 3.80 in 26 games) takes over as the closer while RHP Neftali Feliz goes back to the minors to work on his craft. Losing Scheppers and Ross to the rotation could make the rotation deeper but it will sure lessen the depth of the bullpen. RHP Alexei Ogando (7-4, 3.11, 23 games, 18 starts) is another pitcher the Rangers can't figure out whether he should be a starter or a reliever. He will be a reliever this season and probably the set up man to Soria. LHP Neal Cotts (8-3, 1.11, 58 games) was great last season. Jason Frasor (4-3, 2.57, 61 games) also gives the team some flexibility. The pen should be stronger both when Feliz comes up and one or two of the starters make their way back into the bullpen.
A lot of people bailed on the Rangers after some of their injuries. I think Profar being out does not hurt them that much. Darvish should be back within a couple of weeks and I think the pitchers filling in for Darvish, Harrison and Holland will make the pitching staff deeper once they return. Vegas has the Rangers at 86.5 for the O/U and I will take the over at 95-63, 1st place in the AL West division. I think this is the strongest team in the AL and they are not the only ones to have to get through injuries.