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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Texas Rangers

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After experiencing back-to-back World Series losses, the Rangers endured even more heartbreak the last two seasons, losing the American League Wild Card game in 2012 and failing to make it past a play-in game last year. Despite the downward trend, the Rangers continue to reload rather than tear down.

And why not? The veteran duo of Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios provide a solid foundation for the rest of the lineup, while Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin are all young enough to take a step forward. The Rangers went out and fortified an already-solid offense by trading second baseman Ian Kinsler -- made expendable by the rise of Profar -- to the Tigers for first baseman Prince Fielder, who has been a five-time All-Star and MVP candidate. By also signing Shin-Soo Choo to replace Kinsler at the leadoff spot, the Rangers aim to return to being the powerhouse offense they were just two years ago.

2014 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

Adding Fielder and Choo doesn't automatically launch the Rangers back into the World Series picture, but it certainly won't hurt their chances. Fielder will have to rebound from a strangely nondescript season, at least by his standards. Even a minor rebound to 30 home runs and a .300 batting average (up from last year's 25 and .279) could be enough to make him the third-most valuable first baseman in Fantasy. Choo will have a hard time matching the career-high .423 on-base percentage he registered in 2013 with the Reds, though the Rangers' lineup should be able to help him plate at least 100 runs. That could allow him to preserve his value as a top 12 outfielder.

While the Rangers took care of their needs on offense, pitching could still derail their hopes for postseason glory. Yu Darvish is unquestionably fit to serve as an ace, but the rest of the starting pitcher corps looks shaky. Derek Holland will miss at least half the season after having microfracture surgery on his left knee this offseason. The team could be down a second starter if Matt Harrison is not fully recovered from two back surgeries and a third surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. That leaves sophomore Martin Perez and former swingman Alexi Ogando as the only clear rotation options behind Darvish. Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch lead the pack of contenders to fill any back-of-the-rotation vacancies.

The bullpen as a whole looks promising, but it's not clear who will be entrusted with nailing down saves. Neftali Feliz will probably get the first crack, but there are at least three seemingly qualified candidates (more on this below).

Though Darvish is the only obvious standard mixed league option among the Rangers' pitchers, everyone in their starting lineup -- with the exception of Mitch Moreland and Geovany Soto -- is draftable in those formats. A weak rotation may keep the Rangers from the playoffs for the second straight year, but they have a bevy of players to help catapult your Fantasy team to a title.

Underappreciated ... Alex Rios, outfielder

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Shin-Soo Choo LF
2. Elvis Andrus SS
3. Prince Fielder 1B
4. Adrian Beltre 3B
5. Alex Rios RF
6. Mitch Moreland DH
7. Geovany Soto C
8. Jurickson Profar 2B
9. Leonys Martin CF
Bench J.P. Arencibia C
Bench Michael Choice OF

Because his stats in individual Fantasy categories have fluctuated wildly, Rios has gained a reputation for inconsistency, yet he is one of only four players to finish among the top 10 outfielders in Rotisserie value in three out of the last four seasons. (The others are Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Holliday.) Given that no outfielder has cracked the top 10 every year since 2010, Rios' overall production has been about as steady as anyone's. If he had been slightly better in 2010, he would have achieved the same feat in Head-to-Head leagues as well. Rios' horrid 2011 season is an outlier that should now be a distant memory. Not only can he be counted on to offer a nice balance of power and speed, but with a chance to play his first full season in Texas, manager Ron Washington's propensity to give runners the green light can only enhance Rios' value. So will batting in the middle of a loaded Rangers lineup. It's time once again to think of the 10-year veteran as a top 10 outfielder.

Breakout ... Martin Perez, starting pitcher

Even though Perez entered last season with only 38 big league innings, he would up being a stabilizing force in the Rangers' rotation after the team struggled to get good performances from their No. 4 and 5 starters. The 22-year-old surpassed expectations with a 10-6 record and a 3.62 ERA, but there is still room for him to improve. Perez frustrated his dynasty league owners in 2012 by losing his knack for missing bats, and given his pedestrian 6.1 K/9 ratio last season, he could enter 2014 with the stigma of being a contact pitcher. Perez actually induced swings-and-misses on 10.5 percent of his pitches in 2013, and that usually corresponds with a much higher strikeout rate. He may not improve much upon his record or ERA (he did strand 77 percent of his runners), but Perez has a chance to enhance his value by becoming a strikeout pitcher with a lower WHIP.

Buyer Beware ... Neftali Feliz, relief pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Yu Darvish RHP
2. Derek Holland LHP
3. Matt Harrison LHP
4. Martin Perez LHP
5. Alexi Ogando RHP
ALT Colby Lewis RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Neftali Feliz RHP
2. Joakim Soria RHP
3. Tanner Scheppers RHP
4. Robbie Ross LHP
5. Neal Cotts LHP

Feliz enters spring training as the consensus favorite to win the Rangers' closer job, but even if he starts the year in that role, it doesn't mean he will keep it. He will have to be highly effective to fend off Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers, who have good credentials of their own. Not only will he be a little more than a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, but even prior to getting hurt, Feliz showed some weaknesses that could hurt his cause. In his last full season as a reliever, Feliz sported a mediocre 7.8 K/9 ratio, and had trouble with command. While a career 2.61 ERA and 1.01 WHIP look imposing, he has been helped by a .223 BABIP that seems unsustainable, even for someone who profiles as a low-BABIP pitcher. While he could return to being the lights-out reliever he was early in his career, Feliz is risky enough that he should be a last resort as a No. 2 Fantasy reliever.

Prospects Report

Having graduated Profar, Martin and Perez from their minor league system, the Rangers' prospect pipeline isn't what it was a year ago, but there are still some important names for Fantasy leaguers to know. Rougned Odor is the best of the remaining prospects, and he's possibly the closest to being major league-ready. He had no problem making the adjustment from Advanced Class A to Double-A last season and could be a midseason callup this year. Odor is a must-own in dynasty formats. ... Shortstop Luis Sardinas could be a stolen base threat within a couple of years, but he's solidly blocked from the Rangers' middle infield by Andrus, Profar and Odor ... Catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams and third baseman Joey Gallo all passed through Class A Hickory in 2013, and all are worthy keepers in dynasty leagues ... Hard-throwing starting pitcher Luke Jackson could make an appearance with the Rangers as soon as this season, though it could be as a reliever. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, both he and 2013 draftee Alex Gonzalez could be considered for the opening day rotation, especially if Harrison isn't ready.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Mariners recall pitcher Lucas Luetge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:20 pm ET) The Mariners recalled pitcher Lucas Luetge from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday after placing starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma on the 15-day disabled list due to a lat strain. Luetge is 3-5 with a 4.47 ERA in 110 career relief appearances.

Mariners place Hisashi Iwakuma on 15-day DL due to lat strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:14 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday due to a right lat strain. Iwakuma was scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Twins, but the team has yet to name a replacement.

The veteran right-hander has struggled through his first three starts, going 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. He has allowed five home runs and three walks, while recording 11 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.


Phillies don't appear to be in rush to promote Maikel Franco
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:02 pm ET) Phillies third base prospect Maikel Franco is certainly on the radar for a promotion to the majors, as he has begun the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley with a .355/.403/.565/.968 slash line through 14 games.

However, it doesn't appear the Phillies are in a rush to promote the 22-year-old infielder, per MLB.com.

"We'll see," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Friday, when asked if he could see Franco sooner rather than later. "There hasn't been much talk about him."


Reds waiting for Sam LeCure to find fastball command
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:58 pm ET) When the Reds sent reliever Sam LeCure to Triple-A Louisville at the end of spring training, they were looking for him to get better command of his fastball. 

LeCure has a 3.68 ERA in five appearances for Louisville this season. It's a positive sign, but the Reds are still waiting to see a change in his fastball. 

"I think he’s doing a nice job of managing the games he’s getting into,” Reds manager Bryan Price said, per MLB.com. “Our primary focus with Sam when he went to Triple-A was to get the fastball command back. in the second half of last year, it was more challenging for him. It’s such a big pitch – that two-seam sinker, comebacker that he throws. He was able to lean a bit more on the curveball and changeup last year. I think for him to be the impact pitcher he was for us in the past, the fastball command will need to come back in force. And I have not lost any optimism that he’ll be a part of this bullpen here over the course of the season. We certainly miss his influence."


Twins' Tim Stauffer struggling with changeup
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:28 pm ET) Twins reliever Tim Stauffer admits that he's not "where I'd like to be at this point in the year," per TwinCities.com.

Through five appearances, Stauffer has a 9.00 ERA.

"I’ve always been a little bit of a slow starter," he said. "Obviously, I don’t want to make any excuses. I’d like to be able to go out there and get in a groove. I really don’t feel like I’ve hit that groove quite yet." 

Stauffer said that his changeup "is still not where I want it to be".


Dodgers P Daniel Corcino clears waivers, sent to Double-A
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(8:16 pm ET) After designating him for assignment on Wednesday, pitcher Daniel Corcino cleared waivers on Friday and was sent outright to the Dodgers' Double-A team in Tulsa, per TrueBlueLA.com.

Corcino was selected off waivers by Dodgers from the Reds on April 17.

Corcino appeared in five games for the Reds, starting three, in 2014, where he went 0-2 with a 4.34 ERA.

Giants' Bochy on keeping Justin Maxwell in lineup: 'He's earned it'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:09 pm ET) Giants outfielder Justin Maxwell earned his fourth straight start Friday against the Rockies.

He is batting .417 (5 for 12) with one triple, one home run and three RBI in his last four games. He also had the game-winning hit in the 10th inning Thursday against the Dodgers.

"Right now with the way he's playing, he's earned it," manager Bruce Bochy said, per CSN Bay Area. "I like his at-bats, and not just the hit to win the game, but the quality of the at-bats has been very good. I look at the patience he's shown, particularly with two strikes. He's not panicking. He's quiet up there and not expanding the zone. He's keeping his composure up there. He's not chasing."


Giants OF Hunter Pence might begin rehab assignment next week
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:05 pm ET) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence (forearm) was not restricted while taking swings Friday, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters. Bochy added Pence could be ready to start a rehab assignment late next week, per CSN Bay Area.

"He was hitting off a tee, going to right (field), pulling the ball, hitting soft toss," Bochy said. "It was really amazing. He had incredible bat control today. He was going toward (the right-center portion of the cage) and every ball was to the same spot. It was pretty impressive."


Dodgers send P Mike Bolsinger to Triple-A
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(7:46 pm ET) With the call up of reliever Sergio Santos earlier on Friday, the Dodgers have sent pitcher Mike Bolsinger to Triple-A, reports the Orange County Register.

In his one appearance this season on Thursday, Bolsinger started and allowed one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings for a no decision.


Astros OF Jake Marisnick held out of lineup Friday due to leg injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick said he was held out of the starting lineup Friday against the Athletics for precautionary reasons after dealing with right leg discomfort during Wednesday's game at Seattle, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Colby Rasmus started in center field for Marisnick, who is batting .389 (14 for 36) with one triple, one home run, two doubles, five RBI, six runs and four stolen bases in his last 12 games.


 
 
 
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