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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
Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers working to fix command issues
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers gave up four runs on four hits in Thursday's game, his first rough patch of spring training. Brothers thinks his command faded when he got batters down in the count, reports the Denver Post.

"It was like an out-of-body experience," he said Friday. "Just one of those oddity nights. I was sharp until I got into put-away counts, then it was brutal. Absolutely brutal."

Manager Walt Weiss isn't concerned about his appearance and thinks it was more of an aberration.

"There's been enough positive signs in spring to feel good about where he is," Weiss said. "But fact of the matter is, that stuff is always right around the corner. Not just him, but anybody."


Seven no-hit innings for Royals' Yordano Ventura
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura threw seven no-hit innings in Friday's start. 

Ventura walked two and struck out four, while throwing 49 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He lowered his spring ERA to 5.14.

The Royals took Ventura from the game after the seventh, as reliever Jason Frasor made it one out further before giving up a hit. 

The bullpen completed the one-hitter. 


Brewers pitcher Will Smith holds key to success out of the bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Brewers pitcher Will Smith could be the best cog in Milwaukee's bullpen this season. Manager Ron Roenicke sure hopes so, reports MLB.com.

"I think coming into it, we're counting on him to pitch some high-leverage innings," Roenicke said Friday. "He's going to be a huge part of that bullpen and what we do and how I match up the seventh and eighth inning. He's going to be important."

Smith has a 0.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring and posted a 3.70 ERA in 78 games last season.

"My last two outings I felt really good out there, really strong," Smith said on Friday. "Me and the catchers are on the same page for everything now. I think I'm good to go now."


Still no decision between Mariners' Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon still hasn't named a winner in the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. 

RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Roenis Elias are in the running for the spot. Walker has a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings this spring, while Elias' ERA is 6.75. 

McClendon said he wouldn't announce his fifth starter until the final week of spring. Saturday marks the start of the final week, and McClendon said he'd "be close" to making the call, per MLB.com's Greg Johns.


Brewers to decide leadoff hitter Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Brewers manager Ron Roenicke plans to decide between Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez for the leadoff spot in the lineup by Monday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gennett hit .289 with 54 RBI and 55 runs scored in 440 plate appearances last season while Gomez hit.284 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 574 plate appearances.


Phillies' Jake Diekman historically bad in loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman declared his Friday appearance, "the worst outing in the history of the world." 

Diekman entered a scoreless game in the fifth inning and promptly gave up a double and four singles before recording an out. He ended up allowing seven runs in one third of an inning.

"I fell behind in counts and every strike I threw they took a good swing at," Diekman said, per CSN Philly. "It’s embarrassing. ... It's unbelievable." 

Despite his 12.27 ERA, Diekman got a vote of confidence from manager Ryne Sandberg. "There’s no concern," he said. 


Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy gets first start at first base Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Brewers regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy drew his first start at first base after being cleared from a strained right hamstring injury. Manager Ron Roenicke wanted to be able to see Lucroy's versatility.

"Thought we needed to do it, so hopefully we can do it at least once more,” said Roenicke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But as much as he gets out there, it will help. There’s some pitchers that we still want him to catch and if we can get through those then maybe some other days we can get him over there again."

Lucroy was happy to finally be back on the field.

"I've been doing a little bit out there every day," Lucroy said. "Taking some grounders and stuff to stay sharp over there."


Cardinals' John Lackey ready for the regular season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) John Lackey pitched seven innings, the longest of any Cardinals starter so far this season. 

Lackey allowed one run on six hits and didn't walk a batter, throwing 84 pitches. 

"Throwing seven innings, that was probably a little bit further than I thought I'd go today with the pitch count," said Lackey, per MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch. "But they were pretty aggressive, and I was throwing a lot of strikes. It worked out pretty good."

Lackey had his catcher call the game as if it were a regular season game, and his performance indicates that he's ready for the season to begin.

"That's what it looked like," coach David Bell said. "It looked like he was making all his pitches. The velocity was there. He probably had a little more in the tank, which is a good thing."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez not worried about role on staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez gave up just one run on five hits in five innings of work Friday against the Nationals. Martinez, who is competing for the final spot in St. Louis' starting rotation, has allowed just seven runs in 16 innings of work.

"I've been working hard," Martinez said through an interpreter to MLB.com. "Some of the outings haven't gone as good as I've wanted to, but I'm just trying to learn from that and get better every day."

Martinez is still focused on earning a starting spot.

"Right now I'm fighting to be a starter," Martinez said. "But if they call me into the bullpen I'm going to be ready for the team. I just want to help the team win, and I'm going to be ready when my name gets called."


Rays pitcher Everett Teaford making push for spot on pitching staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rays pitcher Everett Teaford tossed two scoreless innings Friday, sending all six batters down in order. The 31-year-old is making management give him an extra look before deciding on the final pitching staff, reports MLB.com.

"I thought he threw the ball well. First pitch, Reimold was ready to go, but after that I thought Teaf did a nice job of mixing pitches just like he always does," manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash likes that Teaford can get out of nearly any situation that arises.

"He's been around enough that he's probably given up enough home runs and big hits so he knows how to handle it when he does deal with some adversity," said Cash. "I wouldn't have expected anything other than that from him. Just getting right back into the strike zone again."

Teaford has spent most of spring training working on his command and effectiveness.

"That's really been the biggest thing I wanted to do this spring is not walk anybody. If I'm going to get beat, make them beat me and up to this point, I really have," said Teaford.


 
 
 
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