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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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O's Chris Davis provides insurance homer in ninth inning on Saturday
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(7:40 pm ET) Designated hitter Chris Davis' two-run homer in the ninth inning, an opposite-field shot, on Saturday provided the Orioles some breathing room in their 4-1 win over the Red Sox.

The homer was just Davis' second this season as the slugger has accumulated 18 strikeouts in 10 games.

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Nolin, who is currently on the 15-day DL with the injury, has also thrown a simulated game as he recovers from the surgery. Nolin has appeared in just two games in the last two seasons, allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 innings of work.


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Buchholz notched seven strikeouts in the loss.

Buchholz looks to even up his record Thursday in Tampa Bay.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman allows one run in 5 1/3 IP for victory
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
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The one run allowed came via Tillman's fielding error in the sixth inning.

Tillman's next start is set for Thursday in Toronto.

Nationals outfielder Denard Span may be activated Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:26 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Denard Span is back with the team after undergoing surgery on a right core muscle in March and may be activated Sunday, reports the Washington Post.

Manager Matt Williams said it's a possibility Span is activated Sunday, but it depends on how he feels. 

"I mean, physically like I said I'm fine," Span said. "I played two games in a row, a little fatigued, but the only way that's gonna get better is by playing games and getting back there every day. Early in season, I think everybody's got a little bit of fatigue, it takes time to get in the swing of the season, but I feel fine."

Span played in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday for Washington's minor league team in Hagerstown.


Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen throws off the mound Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:20 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen was able to throw off the mound Saturday for the first time since foot surgery, reports MLB.com.

Jansen, who is currently on the 15-day DL with the foot injury, is pain free and still targeting a return to the big leagues some time in May. Jansen posted a 2-3 record with 44 saves and a 2.76 ERA in 65 1/3 innings of work in 2014.


Tigers relievers see action Saturday in blowout loss
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) Tigers relief pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny were able to get some extra work in Saturday against the White Sox in the 12-3 loss.

Both worked a scoreless inning, with Gorzelanny recording two strikeouts in his appearance.

"The thing is we've had one guy pitch however many days, which is great," said Gorzelanny to MLive.com. "I'm happy with that -- it means our starters are going deep and we're winning ballgames. I think everyone would like to get in there just to not only get work in, but save the rest of the guys.

"You want to get guys throw a few innings and save the rest of the bullpen. When they call and say we need to get you in there, I just try to do my job and get out of there as quick as possible."

Manager Brad Ausmus chalked it up to the ebbs and flows of how the starting pitchers do.

"It's tough to stay sharp when you've got starters going eight innings," Ausmus said. "As a reliever, you don't get a chance to get into a game situation. I don't read too much into what happened today."


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"It went well. It was a step forward," Hurdle said. "(Pirates special assistant Jim Benedict) said it was a good day for him and the delivery is syncing up to what we saw '13 and '14 in good stretches."

Morton is currently on the 15-day DL with a hip injury and is yet to step on the mound in 2015 for Pittsburgh.


Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond struggling with his defense
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:06 pm ET) Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond couldn't get things figured out on defense in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Phillies. Desmond was charged with an error after mishandling a throw from Dan Uggla in the third inning, allowing a run to score.

"Both times Desmond didn't get a grip on the baseball. It's one of those things," manager Matt Williams said to MLB.com. "He is going to be back out there tomorrow playing short for us and helping us win a game."

Desmond now has eight errors on the year.

"Brutal," Desmond said. "But I've done it before and I'm going to work my way out of it. … If this is the biggest problem in my life, I guess I'm doing all right. At the end of the year, I will look back at this and know that I made my way through it."


 
 
 
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