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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
Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


 
 
 
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