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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
Indians optimistic about Nick Swisher bouncing back in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:07 pm ET) Indians general manager Chris Antonetti talked Monday about how the team expects first baseman Nick Swisher, who finished the season on the disabled list due to problems with his knees, to bounce back next season.

"It’s important to get the surgeries out of the way, especially as we look to next year," Antonetti said, per MLB.com. "Retrospectively, I don’t think we knew what he was trying to battle through and perform through. It’s easy to look back now and wonder if we could have done it differently, done the surgeries sooner. To his credit, he worked hard and tried to play through it for the team. Encouraging: He should come in to spring training ready to go and contribute the way we all know he’s capable of contributing."


A's reliever Eric O'Flaherty left off roster for AL wild-card game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Athletics reliever Eric O'Flaherty was left off Tuesday's roster for the AL wild-card game at Kansas City due to a reported arm injury, according to MLB.com. Yahoo! Sports reported earlier in the week O'Flaherty has a sore elbow.

Lack of lineup protection hurt Braves 1B Freddie Freeman in 2014
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was great during clutch situations in 2013, finishing second in the majors with a .443 average with runners in scoring position. However, he wasn't nearly as productive in that area in 2014, batting .294 with runners in scoring position.

"I think the formula for Freddie is getting consistent chances," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The (No.) 1 and 2 hole was up and down this year. We couldn’t find consistent answers there. We needed Jason (Heyward) in both spots, in the middle and leading off. That was not what he wanted to do. Jason views himself as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. He’s a team player and he’s going to do whatever the manager asks him to do, but that’s what he views himself as, a middle-of-the-order hitter.

"But if you give Freddie consistent chances and they pitch to him, that’s another big key. You’ve got to have somebody behind him, that’s part of the puzzle. Yeah, Justin (Upton) had a great year hitting behind him this year, but one reason (Upton) had a lot of RBI is that Freeman walked a lot."


Ryan Zimmerman could be Nationals' starting first baseman in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman has come to terms with his future role likely being as a full-time first baseman since Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper appear to be the long-term options at third base and left field, respectively, for Washington.

"Do I wish some of the injuries that I've had never happened so I can continue to play Gold Glove third base that I enjoy doing? Of course I do," Zimmerman said, per MLB.com. "But things happen. They are not easy decisions. It's not easy for me to say I have the possibility of moving from third base. It's reality."

If the Nationals choose to make Zimmerman the starting first baseman in 2015, then it doesn't appear the team will bring back incumbent first baseman Adam LaRoche, who has a mutual $15 million option for next season.

"Sometimes those things are tough. That's just how it is. We'll see what happens," Zimmerman said. "But I think it's more important to look at what [LaRoche] has done while he has been here, how much he has meant, not only to the players, but the fans and the organization. He is a great guy, never complains. He is a great teammate and a great player."


Marlins SP Jose Fernandez 'progressing perfectly' post-elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:52 am ET) Marlins manager Mike Redmond provided an update Tuesday on the status of starting pitcher Jose Fernandez, who missed most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May.

"He is starting to play catch within the next few days," Redmond told MLB Network Radio. "Everything is progressing perfectly."


Red Sox want to talk extension with Yoenis Cespedes
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told MLB.com the team plans to discuss a contract extension with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .260 with 22 homers and 100 RBI. Cespedes is owed $10.5 million next season, the final year of his contract.

Josh Donaldson says his knee feels more 'stable'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, who's been dealing with a knee injury, said he's encouraged because it feels more "stable" than it did the past couple days, reports CSNCalifornia.com. Donaldson should be in the lineup when Oakland visits the Royals in Tuesday's Wild Card game.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis to stay in the hospital longer
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Updating an earlier report, Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is expected to remain in the hospital the next few days while undergoing tests related to the infection he contracted, reports Newsday.

Tanner Roark expected to come out of the bullpen
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark is expected to be used as a reliever in the NLDS despite going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts this season, reports MLB.com.

Mariners bring Jesus Montero back to 40-man roster
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) The Mariners activated designated hitter Jesus Montero from the suspended list, which puts him back on the 40-man roster. Montero was suspended after getting into an altercation in late August with a team employee in the minors.

 
 
 
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