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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Texas Rangers

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The Rangers represented the American League in the World Series for the second straight year, capping off a season that produced a franchise-best 96 regular season wins. If not for David Freese's run-producing shot that soared just over the outstretched glove of Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6, the Rangers would have secured their first World Series championship.

After losing their ace, C.J. Wilson, to the Angels via free agency this offseason, one might have thought that the Rangers were preparing to cede the AL West to their SoCal rivals. With the signings of Wilson and Albert Pujols, the Angels made the biggest splashes in the free agent market, but the Rangers didn't exactly sit on their hands, as they signed righty Yu Darvish to a six-year, $60 million deal. In addition to luring Darvish away from the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League, Texas made another tweak to their rotation, moving closer Neftali Feliz back to the starting role he occupied as a minor league prospect. To make room for Feliz, manager Ron Washington sent Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, where he started his major league career two seasons ago. Along with Mike Adams, Ogando will set up for closer Joe Nathan, who was added on a two-year deal back in November.

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While the Rangers made substantial changes to their pitching staff, they decided to stand pat with their regulars. The team will once again have one of the majors' most potent lineups, with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus setting the table and Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz filling out the middle of the order. When you boast a lineup that likely features Mike Napoli, who has clouted more than 25 homers in each of the last two seasons, in the seventh spot, opposing pitchers can't expect to get many breaks. The one area of uncertainty in the lineup is in center field. Josh Hamilton started 30 games there a year ago, and he should get some playing time there again in 2012, but Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin will also vie for a share of the starts.

With a packed lineup, the Rangers will continue to be a threat in the AL West. However, their ability to seize a third straight division title may rest on whether Darvish can successfully adjust to the majors and on Colby Lewis' and Derek Holland's ability to help him to replace Wilson's production. Even at their best, the Rangers' rotation probably can't match the Angels', but their offense will keep them in the picture as serious title contenders.

Bust ... Elvis Andrus, SS

Andrus has been very consistent since his arrival in the majors back in 2009 as a 20-year-old. However, consistency isn't necessarily what Fantasy owners are looking for from a young hitter. Before a player reaches his peak, owners would ideally like to see growth, but Andrus hasn't provided many signs of progress. He has yet to develop much power, build on his walk rate or break the 40-steals barrier. Andrus has reduced his strikeouts, though we have yet to see it have much effect on his batting average. He is still plenty young enough to have a breakout season, and because of his youth, many owners may assume that it is coming this year. However, there are no signs of it occurring anytime soon, and he could wind up underperforming his draft position for many owners.

Impact 2012 prospect ... Yu Darvish, SP

At 25 and as a veteran of the Japanese Pacific League, Darvish isn't a prospect in the usual sense, but in making his major league debut this spring, he will face many of the same challenges and uncertainties that young players from the minor leagues face. We won't know until he takes the mound how well Darvish will respond, but we know two things for certain. He will be given a prominent role in the Rangers' rotation and will keep it all year long, barring an injury. Also, he comes to North America with an even better track record in the Japanese leagues than Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Hideo Nomo. While there is risk involved in drafting Darvish, there is clearly a lot to like here.

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Bounce-back ... Joe Nathan, RP

Coming back successfully from Tommy John surgery is no sure thing, and to look at Nathan's stats from last season, it would be easy to assume that he didn't enjoy much of a triumphant return. Overall, he compiled a 4.84 ERA and a higher-than-normal 1.16 WHIP, but much of the damage was done during the first three weeks of the season. In just his first seven appearances with the Twins last year, Nathan allowed eight earned runs over 6 1/3 innings, and he blew a pair of saves. The rest of the way, his ERA was a more respectable 3.76, and an 0.99 WHIP shows that he mostly suffered from stranding too few baserunners. Now with the Rangers, Nathan is fully recovered from his surgery and should continue to do a solid job of keeping runners off the basepaths, as well as a better job of preventing them from scoring. Though you probably won't need to draft him early, Nathan could return to performing like a No. 1 Fantasy reliever.

2012 Texas Rangers Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Colby Lewis RH
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Derek Holland LH
3 Josh Hamilton CF 3 Yu Darvish RH
4 Adrian Beltre 3B 4 Matt Harrison LH
5 Michael Young DH 5 Neftali Feliz RH
6 Nelson Cruz RF Alt Scott Feldman RH
7 Mike Napoli C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 David Murphy LF CL Joe Nathan RH
9 Mitch Moreland 1B SU Mike Adams RH
Top bench options RP Alexi Ogando RH
R Craig Gentry OF RP Mark Lowe RH
R Yorvit Torrealba C RP Michael Kirkman LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Yu Darvish 25 SP DNP -- in Japan Majors
A sensation in Japan with a mid-90s fastball, Darvish could quickly become the Rangers' ace, but he will start off in the middle of the rotation.
2 Jurickson Profar 19 SS Class A Class A
Profar has great strike zone recognition for such a young player. He is still at least a couple of years away and may get moved to a new position.
3 Mike Olt 23 3B Class A Double-A
Olt put on a historically-good hitting display in the Arizona Fall League but still has to work on his contact skills. He could rise quickly.
4 Leonys Martin 24 OF Majors Triple-A
Martin will get a shot at being the Rangers' starting center fielder. If he wins out, he could help owners with steals, and he has a strong batting eye.
5 Martin Perez 21 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Perez could eventually be a near-elite starting pitcher, but if the lefty contributes in 2012, it will likely be as a reliever.
Best of the rest: Neil Ramirez, SP; Rougned Odor, 2B; Cody Buckel, SP; Jorge Alfaro, C; Christian Villanueva, 3B; Robbie Ross, SP; Roman Mendez, SP; Tanner Scheppers, RP; Jake Skole, OF; Justin Grimm, SP; Will Lamb, SP; Kevin Matthews, SP; Miguel De Los Santos, SP; Ronald Guzman, OF; Nomar Mazara, OF; Luke Jackson, SP; Odubel Herrera, 2B; Luis Sardinas, SS; Barret Loux, SP; Justin Miller, RP; Matt West, RP; Leury Garcia, SS; Tommy Mendonca, 3B; Johan Yan, RP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Orioles closer Zach Britton notches 12th save of the season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:19 pm ET) Orioles closer Zach Britton worked a nearly perfect ninth inning on Wednesday in Baltimore's 5-4 win over the Astros, earning his 12th save of the season.

Britton got the first two outs of the inning without any issue, but allowed a double down the line to Jose Altuve. Then, Preston Tucker hit a shot to left field, but Travis Snider made a fantastic catch to finish the game. Britton lowered his ERA to 2.45 in 18 1/3 innings of work this season.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez allows 10 hits in no-decision
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:14 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez allowed four runs on 10 hits in seven innings of work in Baltimore's 5-4 win over the Astros on Wednesday, but did not factor into a decision.

Jimenez had issues in the second inning when he gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. Then after getting a flyout, Jimenez gave up an RBI double to Chris Carter.

Jimenez settled down after that, but had more problems in the seventh. Jimenez allowed two consecutive hitters to reach base safely, followed by a fielder's choice to plate a run. Then, he served up a two-run shot to Evan Gattis to tie the game.

Jimenez, who remains 3-3, struck out five with just one walk in his outing. He will look to bounce back Monday again against the Astros.


Dodgers OF Scott Van Slyke has injured back
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:53 pm ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said outfielder Scott Van Slyke is dealing with an injured back and probably won't be available to play, according to True Blue LA. 

The back injury, described as a tweak, is the reason Van Slyke wasn't available for Tuesday. Before being out of the starting lineup past two games, Van Slyke had started three of the past four. 


Orioles catcher Matt Wieters catching every other day
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is still working his way through a rehab assignment, but will only be behind the plate every other day, according to MLB.com.

Wieters is building back his stamina before he catches on consecutive days. 

"And it's going to be a slow process. I've sort of come to terms with that, it's not going to be going back to catching four, five days in a row," Wieters said. "It's how I feel. The every other [day] feels good now and as soon as that little soreness that we have in between is gone, we will start by picking up a ball the day after I catch and go from there. Every other day is better than not playing at all for me right now."

Wieters was able to catch a full game on Tuesday for Double-A Bowie and will catch Thursday and Saturday.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "Yesterday, I was able to get a little bit of a heartbeat going playing under the lights at Bowie. I've been waiting for almost a year now to get back out there."


Angels' Cory Rasmus may begin rehab assignment next week
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:41 pm ET) Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus may begin his rehab assignment next week, according to the Orange County Register.

Rasmus, who is currently on the 60-day DL with an abdominal injury, has been able to throw out to long toss with the injury. Rasmus is yet to throw this season after posting a 3-2 record with a 2.57 ERA in 2014.


White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie dealing with foot issue
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:38 pm ET) White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie has missed the last three games for Chicago while battling plantar fasciitis, manager Robin Ventura said per CSNChicago.com.

Gillaspie has dealt with the issue since the winter, leading to three straight starts for Gordon Beckham.

"Noticing what happened with Avi the first day, so being cautious," Ventura said. "We have a lot of games coming up. He'll be starting at third in Baltimore."

Gillaspie is hitting .248 with 10 RBI on the season.


Blue Jays' Russell Martin shifts to second base Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin saw two innings at second base on Wednesday, the second time in his career he's manned the postition, MLB.com reports.

"We had talked about it a couple of weeks ago," Martin said of his conversations with manager John Gibbons about playing second. "We had another situation where we were a little bit short on the bench. I always knew that it was a possibility, and I think he even asked me a couple of days ago, too, in a situation kind of like that. So, it wasn't really that much of a surprise, and I know I can play in the field. I played there for a long time, so I've had plenty of reps over there and it's kind of like riding a bike. Once you get out there, just play the game."

Martin played the first eight innings of the game behind the plate but shifted to second base after Ryan Goins was removed for a pinch-hitter. He went 2 for 5 and scored a run in his team's 5-3, 10-inning loss to the White Sox.


Disabled list a possibility for Angels' Collin Cowgill
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:26 pm ET) Angels outfielder Collin Cowgill is meeting with doctors on Wednesday regarding his injured right hand, and the team is unsure whether he'll require a stint on the disabled list, MLB.com reports.

Cowgill was scratched from Sunday's game after suffering the hand injury during batting practice. Subsequent X-rays came back negative. Cowgill has hit .180/.231/.295 with one home run, two RBI and one stolen base in 61 at-bats.


No DL decision yet for A's P Scott Kazmir (shoulder)
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin is unsure if pitcher Scott Kazmir will be heading to the disabled list or not, according to Comcast SportsNet California. 

Kazmir exited Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Tigers with a shoulder injury. After the game Kazmir went to have an MRI on the affected shoulder. Melvin said the injury began to progress as the game went on. 

Kazmir left the game after the third inning. He finished with no earned runs, three walks and four strikeouts. He now has a 2.93 ERA. 


Report: Indians' Brett Hayes accepts Triple-A assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) Indians catcher Brett Hayes has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Hayes cleared waivers and was sent outright to Columbus earlier this week, but he had the opportunity to reject the assignment and become a free agent. He went 5 for 32 with three home runs and six RBI with the Indians before the move was made.


 
 
 
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