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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: Angels' Hamilton likely to receive suspension
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2:05 am ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will likely be suspended for at least 25 games, according to FoxSports.com.

Hamilton met with Major League Baseball on Wednesday for a disciplinary hearing. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reported that Hamilton experienced a drug relapse a few months ago, and confessed that relapse to MLB. 

This is technically Hamilton's second violation as a major-leaguer. Hamilton was on the Rays 40-man roster during his first suspension, making him a major-league player. Typically, players who violate their drug treatment program for the first time are subject to a 15-25 game suspension. Given that this is Hamilton's second violation of his drug treatment program, it's unclear how severe the punishment will be.

With that said, commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly trying to be lenient with any punishment. The league has a "favorable view of Hamilton's efforts to remain sober." Since his return to the majors, Hamilton has spoken honestly about his struggles with addition.

On top of that, Manfred is concerned about making the punishment too harsh. Hamilton's past relaspes have come when he's been away from the game. Manfred reportedly is not close to making a final decision on Hamilton's punishment at this time. 

Hamilton was already expected to miss the beginning of the season due to a shoulder surgery. It's unclear how much longer he'll be out due to a suspension.


Angels, Huston Street haven't talked extension yet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) The Angels and closer Huston Street have not talked about an extension yet, according to MLB.com.

Both sides are reportedly interested in a deal, but Street wanted to wait a week in order to settle in to camp. Once that happens, the two sides are expected to start negotiating a new deal. Street is entering the final year of his contract, and will make $7 million in 2015.

Street, 31, posted a 1.37 ERA over 59 1/3 innings last year.


Phillies' Ryan Howard working on his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is working on his swing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Howard has spent time working with Charlie Manuel during camp. Manuel was brought in as spring training hitting instructor. Manager Ryan Sandberg has noticed the change in Howard's approach already. "As far as making some adjustments there, to really zone in to something that can really be productive for him and a little bit more consistent," Sandberg said. "I think there has been a little tweaking going on there."

Howard apparently has looked different at the plate. His stance has been described as "looser" and his hands are much lower when he starts his swing. 

The 35-year-old hit .223/.310/.380 over 569 at-bats last year. 


Dodgers unsure how Grandal, Ellis will split time
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Dodgers aren't sure how they'll platoon their two catchers, according to the Orange County Register.

A.J. Ellis has been the team's primary option the past few seasons, but the club brought in Yasmani Grandal during the offseason. While Grandal has a much higher offensive upside, it's unclear how much he'll play once the regular season begins. 

"There’s nothing going to come out of this camp where we’re going to say, ‘OK, this guy is going to start 72 percent of the time’" general manager Andrew Friedman said. "It’s going to be much more about Donnie (Mattingly) writing the lineup each and every day for what gives us the best chance to win that day."

Mattingly admitted that Grandal has "tremendous upside offensively," so it's possible he could lead that way more often. While Mattingly has indicated that he doesn't want to assign any personal catchers yet, there's a sense Ellis could be used when Clayton Kershaw is on the mound. 

Grandal hit .225/.327/.401 over 377 at-bats last year. Ellis hit .191/.323/.254 over 283 at-bats. 


Giants sign Ronny Cedeno to minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Giants have signed infielder Ronny Cedeno to a minor-league deal, according to the PCL transactions page.

Cedeno, 32, spent most of the year in the minors. He hit .313/.368/.431 over 281 at-bats in Triple-A. Cedeno received nine at-bats with the Phillies, but failed to record a hit. 


Brewers' Scooter Gennett glad to have full-time role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Brewers infielder Scooter Gennett is glad to have a full-time role heading into 2015, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Gennett spent last season in a platoon with Rickie Weeks, but with Weeks gone, he'll assume the full-time role. Gennett said he feels far less stressed about his position on the team this spring. "Seeing as I'm pretty much the everyday guy, that eliminated the stress, or whatever you want to call it, off my back," he said. 

"Just not having to worry about stuff out of my control. I've put myself in this position where I've earned the job, I've shown them what I can do, and now it's about consistently doing it," he added. 

Manager Ron Roenicke has already said he'll give Gennett plenty of opportunities to prove himself against left-handers. 

Gennett, 24, hit .289/.320/.434 over 440 at-bats last season. 


Cubs' Arismendy Alcantara will play all over the place
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Cubs utility man Arismendy Alcantara is going to play a lot of positions this season, according to ESPN.

Alcantara saw time in center last season, but the team's trade for Dexter Fowler will alter his role. Alcantara says he's ready for the challenge. "Mentally you have to be ready for that," Alcantara said. "They want me to play second base and the outfield." He's also expected to see some time at third base. 

Manager Joe Maddon is glad to have such a versatile player on the team. "When you get a guy like that and you want to give someone a rest, you don't feel like you're losing anything," Joe Maddon said. "And the big attraction there is also in-game. It's like having an extra guy on the bench."

The 23-year-old Alcantara hit .205/.254/.367 over 278 at-bats last year. 


Rockies ask Corey Dickerson to be more patient
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Rockies want Corey Dickerson to be a little more patient at the plate, according to MLB.com.

Dickerson had a breakout season in 2014, hitting .312/.364/.567 over 436 at-bats. He walked in 7.7 percent of his plate appearances, which was actually just above the league average. Still, the team wants Dickerson to be slightly less of a free-swinging this year.

"I talked to Corey about adding this much discipline to his game," manager Walt Weiss said. "We don't want that much, because then he wouldn't be Corey Dickerson." Weiss explained that it's difficult to deliver this type of message, as Dickerson's aggressiveness makes him effective. 

Dickerson said he would work harder to study pitchers and work on his approach during games. 

The 25-year-old is expected to open the year as the team's starter in left.


Marlins unlikely to add reliever now
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Marlins are unlikely to add a reliever now that Francisco Rodriguez is off the market, according to MLB.com.

The Marlins were involved in negotiations for K-Rod through at least Wednesday, and were reportedly willing to offer $10 million over two years. The club has been looking for a veteran reliever for some time, but may pass now that Rodriguez has signed with the Brewers.

Both Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke have been connected to Miami, but the team would likely only sign those players to minor-league contracts.


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson a favorite for the rotation
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Diamondbacks consider Chase Anderson a favorite to break camp in the rotation, according to azcentral.com.

The club wants to create a lot of competition for the rotation, and it was initially believed Anderson would be competing for a spot. General manager Dave Stewart sort of quashed those rumors, saying he perceives Anderson as a strong favorite right now. "Chase Anderson won nine games for us last year; you have to strongly consider him as part of our rotation," Stewart said. 

Anderson is expected to pair with Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson for now. The club will determine the final two spots in the rotation during camp.

Anderson, 27, posted a 4.01 ERA over 114 1/3 innings last year.


 
 
 
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