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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.
|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|| |
|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|
|Struggled in high minors, but is still developing and drawing Johan Santana comparisons.|
|Flamethrower compared to Brandon Morrow could also debut in the bullpen before joining rotation.|
|If he doesn't make rotation this spring, he could be first call-up from Triple-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.|
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