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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Texas Rangers

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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After finishing right behind the Los Angeles Angels for two straight seasons, the Texas Rangers finally got the better of their AL West rivals in 2010. In fact, they surged past all AL teams on their way to their first-ever World Series berth. Unfortunately, the Giants were there to cool them off in five games.

The Rangers are technically the team to beat in the AL after winning their first league pennant, but many would consider the Boston Red Sox the favorite on the Junior Circuit heading into 2011 after they loaded up in the offseason. Regardless, the expectations are certainly elevated deep in the heart of Texas.

Gone is midseason acquisition Cliff Lee, All-Star Vladimir Guerrero and reliable setup man Frank Francisco. Arriving are Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli and Brandon Webb, who could be a key for Texas after missing nearly two full seasons because of a right shoulder injury.

Keeping reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton healthy is going to be crucial for the Rangers. The good news is that Beltre is just another bat to protect Hamilton. Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and the disgruntled Michael Young, who is unhappy about a move to designated hitter with Beltre's arrival, are a great supporting cast. They are also quality Fantasy options.

The rotation could be the key to Texas repeating as AL West champs. Despite losing Lee, the Rangers return three pitchers -- C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter -- that won 10-plus games for the club last year. The rotation could also receive a real boost if closer Neftali Feliz makes a seamless transition to a starter this spring. Otherwise, Texas will keep his 40-save presence at the back end of the bullpen.

The Rangers spent a good deal of the early 2000s trying to get out of the AL West cellar. They finally popped the champagne last year, and despite losing All-Stars like Lee and Guerrero, the Rangers aren't ready to take the bubbly off the ice just yet.

Late-round flier ... Tommy Hunter, SP

Hunter is turning into quite a little winning machine for the Rangers. He has a .647 winning percentage in less than 50 starts with the Rangers, this coming after he posted a .571 winning percentage in the minors. Hunter could be just scratching the surface with his potential. It's unlikely he is going to be an elite strikeout pitcher, but his ERA, WHIP and hits per nine innings has dwindled each year he has been in the majors. He also doesn't walk a ton of batters and knows how to pitch in the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington. Hunter has a .765 winning percentage, 3.70 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 24 home outings (23 starts). Hunter went 13-4 last season after starting the year 8-0. He hasn't even reached 30-plus starts in a season yet, but if he keeps on his current path, he could easily be a threat for 15 wins. With little investment needed, Hunter could be a great return for Fantasy owners.

Bust ... Adrian Beltre, 3B

Look, do I feel Beltre will perform as a No. 1 Fantasy third baseman? Yes. However, he will not repeat as the third-best Fantasy scoring third baseman like he was last year and I don't think he is going to put up the same numbers he did with Boston. Beltre is going to a hitter-friendly ballpark and will likely bat behind one of the best hitters in baseball -- Hamilton. However, it is worth pointing out that Beltre got paid this offseason and his best numbers have come in contract years. Case in point, Beltre totaled a career-high 48 homers, 121 RBI and .334 average in 2004 -- his first free-agent year. His second free-agent year -- 2009 -- doesn't really count because he was injured. However, last year he had a career-high 49 doubles while posting his second-best numbers in homers (28), RBI (102) and batting average (.321). Beltre slumped to .255, 19 homers and 87 RBI in 2005 after his career year. It wouldn't surprise me if Beltre's numbers take a dip in all major categories this season.

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Breakout ... Mitch Moreland, 1B

You see Moreland's .255 batting average in 47 regular-season games and you probably don't think much of him. But take a closer at some of his other numbers. He had a .364 on-base percentage and a .833 OPS. In 15 playoff games, Moreland hit .348, while posting a .400 on-base percentage and .900 OPS. This coming after Moreland had a .313 average, .383 on-base percentage and .892 OPS in the minors. He is also a solid gap hitter and run producer. Not every elite prospect hits consistently when they first arrive in the majors. But Moreland's postseason run has to be a huge confidence booster. Also working in his favor is that he doesn't have to be the savior since Texas' lineup is loaded, so he will probably see some good pitches to hit. He also plays in one of the majors' top offensive parks.

Texas Rangers Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Elvis Andrus SS 1 C.J. Wilson LH
2 Michael Young DH 2 Colby Lewis RH
3 Josh Hamilton LF 3 Brandon Webb RH
4 Adrian Beltre 3B 4 Tommy Hunter RH
5 Nelson Cruz RF 5 Derek Holland LH
6 Ian Kinsler 2B Alt Scott Feldman RH
7 Mitch Moreland 1B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Yorvit Torrealba C CL Neftali Feliz RH
9 Julio Borbon CF SU Darren Oliver LH
Top bench options RP Alexi Ogando RH
R David Murphy OF RP Arthur Rhodes LH
R Mike Napoli C RP Darren O'Day RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Martin Perez 19 SP Double-A Triple-A
Struggled in high minors, but is still developing and drawing Johan Santana comparisons.
2 Tanner Scheppers 24 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Flamethrower compared to Brandon Morrow could also debut in the bullpen before joining rotation.
3 Michael Kirkman 24 SP Majors Triple-A
If he doesn't make rotation this spring, he could be first call-up from Triple-A.
4 Engel Beltre 21 OF Double-A Double-A
Texas' minor-league Player of the Year is still developing at the plate but is solid basestealer.
5 Jurickson Profar 18 SS Class A Class A
Very similar player to Elvis Andrus, but switch hitter is still raw and far off from debut.
Best of the rest: Robbie Erlin, SP; Mike Olt, 3B; Luis Sardinas, SS; Jake Skole, OF; Miguel De los Santos, SP; Robert Ross, SP; Neil Ramirez, SP; Kellen Deglan, C; Wilmer Font, SP; Luke Jackson, SP; Cody Buckel, SP; Justin Grimm, SP; Roman Mendez, SP; Joe Wieland, SP; Miguel Velazquez, OF; Omar Beltre, SP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Peter Moylan 'doing fantastic' in return from Tommy John
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Peter Moylan indicated Friday that he's "doing fantastic" in his return from his second Tommy John surgery, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"I’m doing fantastic, mate. Dropped 35 pounds," Moylan said. “My goal is to be 100 percent by end of spring. Ball is coming out great, though. Probably have to throw for some teams right around the start of spring to gauge interest, but there have already been some nibbles, which is encouraging."

Moylan underwent the procedure last March after receiving a non-roster invitation from the Astros. He's throwing from about 70 percent strength off a mound and in the process of deciding whether to sign a a deal in the near future or after the season begins. He hopes to resume pitching in the big leagues by midseason at the earliest.

Moylan has made 309 appearances since debuting in 2006, compiling a 21-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 213:121 K:BB ratio in 276 innings.


Braves' Shelby Miller: Sinker is 'going to take me to the next level'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller had an up-and-down season with the Cardinals in 2014. He began the season by going 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA before going 2-7 with a 5.11 ERA over his next 16 appearances (15 starts).

Miller, however, was able to finish the season on a high note, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and .190 opponents' batting average over his final seven starts. Miller attributes his success down the stretch to incorporating a sinker into his repertoire, per FOX Sports South.

"I said I'm going to throw some of these, and we'll see where it's at," Miller said of a conversation he had with catcher A.J. Pierzynski before an Aug. 23 start against the Phillies. "It felt good so we just went with it. I started throwing it literally within three days. It's a good pitch that I picked up quick.

"I still need a lot of work with it. I need a lot of work with all my pitches. There's all sorts of ways to get better. But I think that's definitely a pitch that will help me be more efficient and take me deeper into games. That's [the sinker] going to be a huge pitch for me this year that's ultimately going to take me to the next level. Not only that but kind of mixing it all together, becoming more of a complete pitcher more than a thrower."

Miller added he will also begin to work more on his changeup, which he threw just 2.2 percent of the time in 2014, per FanGraphs.com.

"I know [Braves pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] has been known for changeups," Miller said. "A lot of great pitchers have come through this organization, [and] that's a pitch I would love to pick up. I want to be able to throw it more consistently, [and] have a little bit more confidence in it."


Scott Baker agrees to minor-league deal with Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) The Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with pitcher Scott Baker, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. If Baker makes the major-league roster, he will be paid $1.5 million.

Baker made 25 appearances (eight starts) for the Rangers in 2014, going 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.


Rockies designate Jayson Aquino for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:24 pm ET) After completing a two-team trade Friday, the Rockies decided to designate Jayson Aquino for assignment, the team announced.

Aquino spent 2014 bouncing around the minor league, pitching in 18 games with a 5.13 ERA in 107 innings pitched. He went 5-10 with 83 strikeouts in stints with both Double-A Tulsa and Class A Modesto.


Report: Red Sox express willingness to trade Edward Mujica
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) The Red Sox have expressed a willingness to trade reliever Edward Mujica, a source told FOX Sports. The right-handed reliever is set to make $4.75 million in 2015.

Mujica, who was an All-Star with St. Louis in 2013, went 2-4 with a 3.90 ERA and eight saves in his first season with Boston in 2014.


Orioles 1B/OF Steve Pearce agrees to $3.7M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) The Orioles avoided arbitration with outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce, agreeing to a $3.7 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Pearce reportedly filed for $5.4 million, while the Orioles reportedly offered $2 million.

Pearce is coming off his best season as a major leaguer, batting .293 with a .373 on-base percentage, .556 slugging percentage, .930 OPS, 21 home runs, 26 doubles and 49 RBI in 102 games.


Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is 'staying put'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:57 pm ET) A team source told CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is "staying put."  Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told FOX Sports earlier in the week that it is "highly, highly unlikely" Tulowitzki will be traded before opening day.

Tulowitzki, who has been linked to trade rumors involving the Mets this offseason, is under contract through 2020 on a six-year, $118 million deal. He is also recovering from August hip surgery.


Red Sox agree to deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:52 pm ET) The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which includes $1.5 million in bonuses, according to USA Today.

Ogando has been a free agent since being non-tendered by the Rangers in December. Ogando made just 27 relief appearances in 2014 due to an elbow injury. He went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA.

Ogando, who was an All-Star in 2011, also has experience starting at the major-league level, going 19-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 48 career starts.


Braves trade RPs Hale, Schlosser to Rockies for two minor leaguers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:42 pm ET) The Braves traded pitchers David Hale and Gus Schlosser to the Rockies on Friday in exchange for catchers Jose Briceno and Chris O’Dowd.

Hale went 4-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Atlanta in 2014. He struck out 44 batters and issued 39 walks in 87 1/3 innings.

Schlosser made his MLB debut in 2014, going 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA in 15 relief outings for Atlanta. He struck out eight and walked six in 17 2/3 innings.

Briceno hit .283 with 12 home runs, 23 doubles and 50 RBI in 84 games for Class A Asheville in 2014. He has a career .280/.433/.776 slash line over five minor-league seasons.

O'Dowd hit .271 with five home runs, 27 doubles and 48 RBI in 113 games between high Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa in 2014. He has a career .260/.362/.689 slash line over three minor-league seasons.


Tigers' Dombrowski: Steven Moya 'relatively close' to making impact
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:31 pm ET) Tigers outfield prospect Steven Moya, who was the MVP of the Eastern League (Double-A) in 2014, is expected to open the season at Triple-A Toledo, per the Detroit Free Press.

"I don't know if I'd say we're buying time for Moya," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week. "Probably when a guy as talented as Moya is ready, he'll make his way onto a team. I don't think we could absolutely say, trying to win a pennant, trying to win a world championship, you can count on him being 100 percent ready."

The 23-year-old Moya hit .276 with a .555 slugging percentage, .861 OPS, 33 doubles, 35 home runs and 105 RBI in 133 games last season at Double-A. He has a career .251/.444/.739 slash line over six minor-league seasons.

Moya also made a brief appearance in the majors last season, batting .375 (3 for 8) in 11 games.

"I think the development time will be good for him" Dombrowski said. "Could he come up and produce at some time during the year? Yes. He's relatively close."


 
 
 
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