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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
Twins SP Mike Pelfrey goes four innings in no-decision Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:55 pm ET) Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey came away with another disappointing outing on Saturday. Pelfrey lasted just four-plus innings against the Royals. He allowed three runs on seven hits, while walking three and striking out three. Pelfrey was able to escape with a no-decision, however, as the Twins held on to beat the Royals 5-3.

The Twins staked Pelfrey to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, and he was able to keep the Royals off the board for the first four innings. But, after the Twins tacked on another run, Pelfrey allowed the first three men to face him in the fifth to reach base before Lorenzo Cain singled in a pair. Pelfrey was then lifted for a reliever, but another run would come into score before the inning was over.

Pelfrey's ERA sits at 3.94 now, and he has allowed 11 runs over six innings in his last two starts.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke runs shutout streak to 28 in win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:54 pm ET) So much for Clayton Kershaw being the ace of the Dodgers staff. Zack Greinke has wrested that distinction away from the southpaw.

Greinke continued to be virtually unhittable Saturday against the albeit punchless Mets. He ran his scoreless streak to 28 innings by shutting out New York through seven and earning his sixth win in eight decisions.

The right-hander, who now boasts a ridiculous MLB-leading 1.48 ERA, allowed four hits with no walks and four strikeouts. He has issued three walks while fanning 23 during his scoreless stretch.


Braves CF Cameron Maybin homers, steals bag on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:39 pm ET) Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin fell a triple short of the cycle on Saturday, as he went 3 for 5 with a double, a home run, two RBI and three runs scored in the 9-5 win over the Phillies.

Maybin, who also stole his 15th bag of the season, knocked his seventh home run of the season in the second inning. His solo shot gave the Braves an early 5-0 lead. 

Maybin has managed to stay hot at the plate recently, as he's hitting .326 with two home runs over his last 10 starts.


Twins RP Ryan Pressly sustains shoulder strain Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:36 pm ET) Twins reliever Ryan Pressly was removed from the game Saturday night in Kansas City with a right shoulder strain, MLB.com has reported.

He pitched one shutout inning and threw 11 of 13 pitches for strikes before going down.


Braves' Alex Wood gives up four runs, gets sixth win on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:34 pm ET) Braves left-hander Alex Wood was the beneficary of a nine-run explosion by his offense on the Fourth of July. Wood gave up four runs on 10 hits over six innings, but came away with the win in the 9-5 victory over the Phillies.

Wood (6-5, 3.34 ERA) walked two and struck out four. He gave up a three-run home run to Darin Ruf in the fifth inning, but the Braves already had nine runs on the board at that point.

This is the first time Wood has allowed more than three runs since he allowed four on June 12. 


Marlins set to activate 1B Michael Morse
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:31 pm ET) Marlins first baseman Michael Morse, who has been sidelined for seven weeks with finger and back issues, will finally come off the disabled list in time for the Sunday game against the host Cubs, per MLB.com.

Morse will return on a 2-for-22 slide and a weak .211/.268/.289 slash line.


Phillies SP Kevin Correia lit up for nine runs on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:30 pm ET) Phillies right-hander Kevin Correia got lit up like the Fourth of July in his start against the Braves, as he got blasted for nine runs on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings on Saturday. Correia gave up four runs in the very first inning.

Then he allowed a solo home run to Cameron Maybin in the second, before giving up four more runs in the fourth.

Correia's ERA rose from 3.60 to 6.56 after Saturday's horrid outing. 


Cubs slugger Kris Bryant slams pair in first two innings Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:23 pm ET) After two innings Saturday night, Cubs slugger Kris Bryant was on pace to hit eight home runs and drive in 24 against shell-shocked Miami.

OK, that wasn't going to happen. But Bryant certainly destroyed the Marlins with his bat, pretty much putting it away well before darkness fell in Chicago.

Bryant opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the first, then blasted a grand slam in the second to give him 12 home runs and 49 RBI on the year. The cherry on top is that he now has a five-game hitting streak.

In the process he became the first Cubs rookie to hit two grand slams in a season since Billy Williams in 1961.


Marlins SP Jarred Cosart clobbered, then demoted
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:15 pm ET) Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart might remember his outing Saturday at Wrigley Field for quite some time - and for all the wrong reasons.

His first start since returning from a hand injury was a disaster. He was mashed for seven earned runs on four hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings before his merciful removal. When the dust had cleared, his ERA had soared to a season-high 5.36.

And after the game, he was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans.

Cosart allowed a two-run homer to Kris Bryant in the first inning and never recovered. Two walks and two singles in the third led to a grand slam by Bryant and knocked him out of the game.

He has allowed 20 earned runs in his last 20 innings pitched.


Comeback Kid Clayton Richard shines for Cubs in Saturday win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:06 pm ET) Clayton Richard hasn't vaulted himself into the Comeback Player of the Year conversation, but he certainly took an encouraging step forward Saturday night against Miami.

Richard pitched well in his first start with the Cubs, yielding two runs on eight hits with one walk and four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It marked his first major league start since June 2013.

He allowed at least one baserunner in every inning but the sixth, yet continued to pitch out of jams. He did retire the last six batters he faced.


 
 
 
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