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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
Hector Santiago lasts only five frames in loss to A's
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2:00 am ET) Angels pitcher Hector Santiago lasted five innings Friday against the Athletics.

Santiago allowed two runs, one earned, on seven hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked two during the outing. Santiago gave up his first run against the first batter he faced. Coco Crisp hit a leadoff home run out to left center off Santiago in the first inning. He was able to get through the next three innings unscathed, but ran into trouble again in the fifth. On a fielder’s choice, a run wound up coming around on a throwing error by shortstop Erick Aybar. Santiago was able to get out of the inning, but was replaced to start the sixth. Santiago threw 98 pitches.

With the loss, Santiago dropped to 3-8. He’ll take on the Marlins in his next start.

Sonny Gray nearly goes the distance for win No. 13
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:00 am ET) Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray nearly went the distance and still picked up his 13th win of the season Friday night against the Angels. The right-hander permitted three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over 8 1/3 innings of a 5-3 victory.

Over his last three starts covering 20 2/3 innings, Gray has allowed nine earned runs. He owns a 3.00 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over 26 starts (171 innings). He will make his next start Wednesday at Houston.

Sean Doolittle picks up two-out save Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:59 am ET) Athletics closer Sean Doolittle allowed three runners on base but still managed to pick up a rare two-out save Friday night against the Angels. Doolittle struck out two, allowed two hits and a walk in two-thirds of a scoreless inning. He has converted 19 of 22 save chances, with a 2.32 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP over 54 1/3 innings of relief.

Hector Santiago goes five innings Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:06 am ET) Angels pitcher Hector Santiago lasted five innings Friday against the Athletics.

Santiago allowed two runs, one earned, on seven hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked two during the outing. Santiago gave up his first run against the first batter he faced. Coco Crisp hit a leadoff home run out to left center off Santiago in the first inning. He was able to get through the next three innings unscathed, but ran into trouble again in the fifth. On a fielder’s choice, a run wound up coming around on a throwing error by shortstop Erick Aybar. Santiago was able to get out of the inning, but was replaced to start the sixth. Santiago threw 98 pitches. 

With the loss, Santiago dropped to 3-8. He’ll take on the Marlins in his next start. 


Jonathon Niese sunk by an error Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese was hurt by an error Friday against the Dodgers.

Niese allowed five runs, two earned, on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three during the outing. Niese gave up his earned runs in the third and fifth innings. The seventh inning proved to be problematic. Niese recorded the first two out quickly via the strikeout. With two outs in the inning, Niese gave up a triple to Dee Gordon. After a Yasiel Puig walk, Adrian Gonzalez reached on a throwing error. Niese was pulled at that point. The two runs he left on base managed to score on a double. Both runs were charged to Niese, though they were unearned runs. 

With the loss, Niese dropped to 7-9. He’ll take on the Braves in his next start.


Dan Haren turns in solid start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren turned in a solid start Friday against the Mets.

Haren allowed one run on three hits over seven innings. He struck out six and did not issue any walks. Haren’s only mistake came way back in the first inning. Haren allowed a solo home run against the lead off hitter. Despite the early struggles, Haren settled in. He erased a second inning single with a double-play, and did the same in the fourth after a runner reached on an error. 

With the win, Haren improved to 11-10. He’ll take on the Padres in his next start. 


Greg Holland saves No. 40
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Royals closer Greg Holland saved his 40th game Friday against the Rangers.

Holland entered with a three-run lead in the ninth. He immediately recorded two outs before issuing a walk. The Rangers threat ended there. Against the fourth batter in the inning, Holland got Elvis Andrus to pop out to end the game. 


Fernando Rodney picks up save No. 37
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(12:50 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney picked up his 37th save Friday against the Red Sox.

Rodney entered the game with a two-run lead. He immediately recorded the first two outs on a groudout and flyout. Rodney issued a walk with two outs, but was able to work out of it. Against the next hitter, Rodney inducing a game-ending flyout to right. 


Craig Kimbrel nails down a save Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:47 am ET) Braves closer Craig Kimbrel picked up a save Friday against the Reds.

Kimbrel entered with a two-run lead in the 12th inning. He struck out Jay Bruce to open the frame, and quickly got his second out on a lineout. With two outs, Kimbrel put one man on with a walk. He managed to shut the door against the fourth batter of the inning, striking out Skip Schumaker to end the game. It was Kimbrel's 38th save.


Jonathan Papelbon picks up 31st save Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 31st save Friday against the Cardinals.

Papelbon entered with a one-run lead in the ninth inning. He was perfect during his only inning of work, inducing a lineout, groundout and flyout. Papelbon threw 12 pitches, six of which were strikes. He's lowered his ERA to 1.52 following the outing. 


 
 
 
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