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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Texas Rangers

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The Rangers have enjoyed a nice run with three straight playoff appearances and a pair of American League titles, but with the departure of Josh Hamilton this offseason, is the party over?

Hamilton's exit might symbolize the end of an era, but it's far from the only loss that the Rangers have suffered in recent months. Michael Young's trade to the Phillies ended his 13-year tenure with the team and a flock of free agent departures punctured holes in the roster. In particular, catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, starting pitchers Ryan Dempster (acquired last July from the Cubs) and Scott Feldman, and relievers Mike Adams, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara all left voids that had to be filled.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

The Rangers have been busy reconstructing their roster, bringing in catcher A.J. Pierzynski, designated hitter Lance Berkman and relievers Josh Lindblom, Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria (who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery by late May or early June). The organization is also looking to some internal options to fill the gaps, as Leonys Martin is expected to be the starting center fielder in place of Hamilton, while Alexi Ogando will return from last year's bullpen experiment to fill a rotation spot.

The Rangers did not acquire a hitter who can truly replace Hamilton, but there is enough power remaining in their lineup to ensure that they can put runs on the board. Adrian Beltre has smacked 96 home runs over the last three seasons and has driven in more than 100 runs in each of those campaigns. Nelson Cruz is also a potential 30-homer threat, Ian Kinsler has a pair of 30-30 seasons under his belt and Berkman, who had two knee surgeries last year, could surprise us yet again with a comeback season. Kinsler and Elvis Andrus provide speed at the top of the order, and Mitch Moreland and Martin should hold down the No. 8 and 9 spots, showing the depth of offensive talent that the Rangers still possess. Both hitters would probably bat much higher in the order with many other teams.

Even though the rotation hasn't had to contend with a major loss as a result of a trade or free agency, it enters the coming season with its fair share of concerns. Yu Darvish is the clear staff ace, but can he command the strike zone like he did over the final quarter of last season? Can Matt Harrison continue to pitch like the Rangers second- or third-best option, and can Derek Holland step up to that level? If Harrison and Holland falter, Ogando could ratchet his way up the rotation, but after a year in the bullpen, it may be too much to assume that he will repeat his 2011 success as a starter. The fifth spot will eventually go to Colby Lewis, once he returns from elbow surgery, possibly in midseason. Until then, young lefties Martin Perez and Robbie Ross are the leading candidates to round out the rotation.

Joe Nathan, following up on a strong comeback season, returns to serve as the closer, while Lindblom and Frasor should ably fill the setup roles no longer held by Adams, Uehara and Ogando.

Unless the Rangers' new additions exceed expectations, they should have a tougher challenge reaching the postseason this year. That will have as much to do with the advances made by the Athletics, Angels and Mariners as it does with the personnel changes in Arlington. Whether the Rangers can make the playoffs for a fourth straight year or not, they still offer Fantasy owners plenty of players to consider in the early and middle rounds of this spring's drafts, especially when it comes to hitters.

Rotisserie gem ... Leonys Martin, outfield

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. Elvis Andrus SS
3. Lance Berkman DH
4. Adrian Beltre 3B
5. Nelson Cruz RF
6. David Murphy LF
7. Mitch Moreland 1B
8. A.J. Pierzynski C
9. Leonys Martin CF
Bench Craig Gentry OF
Bench Geovany Soto C

Shortly after signing with the Rangers in the spring of 2011, Martin was quick to impress with a combination of power and speed during a brief stop in Double-A, but his production wilted upon a promotion to Triple-A. Last year, Martin mastered Triple-A but didn't do much with 52 big league plate appearances. Martin should get the bulk of the starts in center field with Texas this year, so he will get a more extended chance to show Rangers fans -- and Fantasy owners -- what he can do. The 24-year-old appeared to take a developmental leap last season, as he hit flyballs at a much higher rate, helping him to produce 12 home runs in 231 at-bats. A 20-20 season isn't likely, but it's not a stretch to expect Martin to get 15 home runs and 15 steals with regular playing time, and maybe a .300 average to boot. Despite his speed, Martin hasn't shown much of a penchant for hitting doubles and triples in the minors, but his potential to hit for a high average while providing homers and steals makes him especially valuable in Rotisserie formats, where he is worth a few dollars or a late-round pick.

Late-round flyer ... Derek Holland, starting pitcher

Through the middle of last May, Holland's season was cruising along well enough, as he owned a 3.78 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. That's when the lefty's season started to turn south, though a fatigued shoulder and a stomach virus could have contributed to his problems. Holland also struggled upon his July return from the disabled list, and over a series of 10 starts that sandwiched his time on the DL, he yielded 18 of the 32 home runs he allowed last year and registered a 6.30 ERA. His last 10 starts went much better, getting his ERA back down to 3.88 over that stretch. The promise of a sub-4.00 ERA may not sound exciting, but with the improvements that Holland has been making to his walk rate, he could be a good source of WHIP, and the Rangers should provide enough offense to support a high win total as well. That makes Holland more attractive than many of the other potential pitching options in the later rounds of standard mixed league drafts.

Bust ... David Murphy, outfield

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Yu Darvish RHP
2. Derek Holland LHP
3. Matt Harrison LHP
4. Alexi Ogando RHP
5. Martin Perez LHP
ALT Colby Lewis RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Joe Nathan RHP
2. Jason Frasor RHP
3. Josh Lindblom RHP
4. Robbie Ross LHP
5. Tanner Scheppers RHP

In 2012, Murphy had his best season, not only because he made a career-high 521 plate appearances, but also because he posted his highest batting average since his first season with the Rangers, when he went to bat only 110 times. Murphy's .304 mark gave off the appearance of a breakout. It's a little unusual for a 30-year-old to take an unexpected leap in his performance, but there is an even stronger reason to be skeptical than merely his age. While Murphy isn't exactly a slow-poke, his .292 batting average on grounders is something you would expect from one of the game's top speedsters. It's especially hard to expect a repeat given that Murphy achieved that average in spite of a sharp decrease in his infield hit rate. With a strong chance of even greater playing time in 2013, owners might look to Murphy as a middle-to-late round option, but he isn't likely to return adequate value. He doesn't possess enough speed or power to take advantage of the increased playing time or compensate for a probable drop in his batting average.

Prospects Report

The Rangers have a few prospects who could be ready to make a Fantasy impact, but even with the holes left from free agency, there may not be much room for them on this year's roster. Even Jurickson Profar, who is one of the top overall prospects in baseball, would probably need an injury to Kinsler or Andrus for him to see significant playing time. ... Mike Olt is similarly blocked by Adrian Beltre, though an injury to Berkman could offer him a chance to DH. As with Profar, just the possibility to contribute makes him worth a flyer in AL-only leagues. ... Martin Perez, Cody Buckel and Justin Grimm will all get a chance to compete to be the fifth starter coming out of spring training. While Perez and Grimm have some major league experience, it's the 20-year-old Buckel who has had the most impressive minor league résumé to date. ... The organization isn't bereft of talent at the lower levels, and starting pitcher Luke Jackson, second baseman Rougned Odor and shortstop Luis Sardinas are all worthy pickups in long-term keeper leagues. The hard-throwing Jackson has been piling up Ks in the lower minors, while the latter two could emerge as stolen base threats.

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 e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Report: Orioles in 'continuous dialogue' for Chris Tillman's extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:10 pm ET) The Orioles and pitcher Chris Tillman are reportedly engaged in "continuous dialogue" for a long-term extension and have been for the past several weeks, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Tillman signed a one-year, $4.315 million deal in January to avoid arbitration and the discussions for a new deal are still considered preliminary, according to the report.

Tillman posted a 13-6 record in 2014 with a 3.34 ERA in 34 starts.


Tigers bullpen decision coming down to Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:03 pm ET) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is running out of time to finish off his bullpen for Opening Day. The final bullpen role will likely be a left-handed pitcher and is expected to come down to Kyle Ryan and Ian Krol, according to MLB.com.

"If I'm there, hopefully it's a good situation, whether it's long or short," Ryan said. "For them to have enough confidence in me to go into Spring Training as a reliever, and actually for them to believe that I might be able to make the team as a reliever, that makes me proud."

Ryan has given up seven runs on seven hits in 11 innings of work this spring. 

"When he throws it right, it's good," Ausmus said of Krol. "He has a tendency to occasionally slow his arm down on his cutter and curveball. He did it a couple times today. But when he doesn't slow his arm down, it's very good."


Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson continues to make his case
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:55 pm ET) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson still doesn't know what his role will be when Opening Day rolls around, but he's showing he belongs on the roster, reports MLB.com.

"There's always stuff I need to work on, and I need to continue to impress," Pederson said after launching his fifth home run of the spring Saturday, boosting his batting average to .373.

Manager Don Mattingly remains quiet on what he will do when the decision has to be made, but Pederson is doing what he can to impress.

"[Opening Day] is out of my control," Pederson said. "It's something you dream about as a kid, playing in the big leagues, and you do anything you can to make that dream come true."


Angels P Matt Shoemaker gives up three runs in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(10:52 pm ET) After pitching six scoreless innings in his last start, Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker struggled a bit in the team's 5-4 to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Shoemaker gave up three runs on four hits in six innings, striking out two. One of the hits he surrended was to Joc Pederson on a two-run homer.

The 28-year-old completed last season with a 3.04 ERA, 124 strikeouts and only 24 walks.


Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels ready for Opening Day
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:49 pm ET) Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels his swing has come back and is ready to tackle the long haul ahead of the regular season, reports MLB.com.

"It comes quick, like usual," Frazier said on Saturday morning. "I get goose bumps thinking about it right now -- another year, it's crazy."

Frazier struggled early in spring training, but has rebounded to go 8 for 23 in his last seven games.

"I hit in the Minor Leagues for about 10 at-bats [on Friday], just to try and feel it back-to-back. I do, and I feel really well," said Frazier, who is batting .262 in 14 games this spring. "I feel like if I had to play tomorrow [in the regular season], I'd be ready to go. It's all about preparation, and offseason stuff. I feel like it's so far, so good."


Angels OF Mike Trout homers in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(10:47 pm ET) Angels outfielder Mike Trout homered in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Trout, 23, robbed the Dodgers' Alex Guerrero of an extra-base hit in the first inning, making it a successful day for him, despite the loss. 

This spring he has a batting average of .477 with four home runs and 14 RBI. 


White Sox hope to have David Robertson, Jake Petricka back by Opening Day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:45 pm ET) Two key members of the White Sox bullpen are working their way back from forearm injuries, but manager Robin Ventura is confident he'll have both back by opening day. 

Closer David Robertson is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. 

“We’re trying to make sure we’re extra careful with him,” Ventura said, per Comcast's Dan Hayes. “He doesn’t seem to be concerned about it as much as we do."

Setup man Jake Petricka isn't as far along as Robertson. He played catch on Saturday for the first time in five days.

The Sox are taking it slow, so that the team will have both pitchers for Opening Day as well as the rest of the season. 

"You’re just making sure you’re cautious enough that you feel good about when (they go) out there that there won’t be any setbacks,” Ventura said. 


Indians pitcher Zach McAllister fans nine in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:30 pm ET) Indians pitcher Zach McAllister went five innings Saturday against the Brewers, allowing two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts. McAllister, who is expected to make one more start before Opening Day, touched 97 mph with his fastball in the appearance, according to Cleveland.com.

"He's been impressive and he's been doing it all spring," said Francona. "He's not just throwing strikes, he's down in the zone when he wants to and then he can elevate with some velocity. I think his hard work is really paying off."

McAllister has felt he always had the added velocity.

"Throughout my career I've always felt I've had a little more (velocity) in there if I could maintain it," said McAllister. "For whatever reason, whether it's being more consistent with my delivery or my arm action, I'm just trusting that when I let it go it's going to go where I want it to go. I'm not trying to place anything."


Pirates Pedro Alvarez looking to stick at first base
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(10:27 pm ET) Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez is hoping to stick at his new position after converting from third base, reports triblive.com.

On opening day, Alvarez will be the team's 54th first baseman in its 129-year history.

“It's a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view,” Alvarez said. “I need to get the reps in so the responsibilities that come with playing that position become second nature to me.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talked about the team's past efforts of platooning the position.

“You can't develop something you don't have. You can't buy something you can't afford,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “That's why we've tried to platoon. Over the last couple of years, we've realized that's a challenge for a National League manager. Platoons are much harder here than they are in the American League, especially with a one-dimensional player who can only play one position.”

The hope around the organization is that they can get quality production from Alvarez.

“Our hope that is between Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart, we'll get quality major league production,” Huntington said.

The 28-year-old is batting .306 with two home runs, nine RBI and eight strikeouts this spring.


Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton can't find a rhythm Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:22 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton tossed six innings Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing six hits, including two home runs and no strikeouts. Morton, who is fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, is still recovering from labrum surgery six months ago.

"Physically, Charlie is in a good place," manager Clint Hurdle said to MLB.com. "He is trying to make some mechanical adjustments in his delivery, but we don't have any health concerns about him."

Morton isn't worried about fixing mechanical issues just yet.

"Now is a tough time to put a lot of emphasis on mechanics," said Morton. "I gotta go pitch, adjustments or no adjustments."


 
 
 
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