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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
David Robertson takes loss in non-save situation for White Sox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:33 pm ET) White Sox closer David Robertson gave up a run in the ninth inning to break a tie and take the loss, Monday against Tampa Bay. 

Pitching in his first non-save situation in six appearances, Robertson allowed two hits and a walk. It was the first time he's given up multiple hits since June 30, and he took his first loss since June 19, dropping to 4-3. 


Giants' Santiago Casilla serves up two-run HR, blows save Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:31 pm ET) Giants closer Santiago Casilla suffered his fifth blown save of the season in Monday's 8-7 loss to the Braves. Casilla entered the game with one out in the ninth, tasked with protecting a two-run lead.

He retired the first batter he faced, but then allowed a two-out single. The next batter, A.J. Pierzynski, went deep with a two-run home run to tie the game 7-7.

Casilla had converted five consecutive save chances before Monday's meltdown. 


Jose Quintana settles for no-decision for White Sox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:29 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings on Monday. He left with the score tied and settled for a no-decision against Tampa.

Quintana has allowed four runs over 21 1/3 innings in his last three starts. He walked one batter, the eighth straight start he's walked one or fewer batters. 


Padres SP Tyson Ross receives win in Monday's start
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:28 pm ET) Padres pitcher Tyson Ross produced a quality start Monday to help him earn his eighth win of the season.

Ross allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits over six innings during the 13-5 win over the Brewers. He also struck out five and walked two during the outing. He is now 8-8 with a 3.37 ERA.

Ross has won his last two starts and earned a quality start in three of his last five outings.


Giants SP Matt Cain can't get a win despite big lead on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:26 pm ET) Giants starter Matt Cain struggled once again on Monday, his sixth start of the season after spending the beginning of the year on the disabled list. On Monday, after being staked to a 6-0 lead, Cain gave up four runs on 10 hits over five-plus innings. He walked one and struck out one, throwing 54 of his 80 pitches for strikes.

Cain cruised through the first five innings, blanking the Giants along the way. But the wheels came off in the sixth. He allowed the first two batters to reach before serving up a three-run home run to Jace Peterson. He gave up a double to the next batter, and was then lifted from the game. That run came around to score and was charged to Cain.

Though he left the game leading 6-4, Cain did not factor in the final decision, as the Braves rallied to tie the game before winning 8-7 in walk-off fashion.

Cain has now allowed four or more runs in four of his six starts. His ERA now sits at 4.91 for the season.


Rays' Nathan Karns takes no-decision on Monday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:24 pm ET) Rays starter Nathan Karns allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings and left with the score tied, taking a no-decision against the White Sox. 

Karns has completed seven innings just once in the last 14 starts. He allowed three hits. 

Over his last three starts, Karns has allowed three runs on nine hits over 16 1/3 innings. He struck out seven, the most since July 4. 


Brewers SP Wily Peralta allows six runs in Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:22 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta struggled throughout his start Monday against the Padres, which the Brewers lost 13-5.

Peralta allowed six runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings. His first mistake came in the first inning when he gave up a solo home run to Yangervis Solarte. He also struck out two and walked three.

Peralta is now 2-6 with a 4.55 ERA. He has earned a quality start in one of his last four starts.


Braves SP Mike Foltynewicz beat up for four home runs in loss
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:20 pm ET) Braves rookie starter Mike Foltynewicz got shelled in his outing against the Giants on Monday. The young right-hander gave up six runs on nine hits over six innings. Despite the poor performance, he was able to escape with a no-decision, as the Braves won 8-7 in walk-off fashion.

Foltynewicz was bitten by the longball in this one, as he gave up a total of four home runs on the night. He was taken deep by a couple of Brandons in the second, as Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt each hit solo shots. Buster Posey added a two-run blast in the third, before Belt hit another solo homer in the fourth.

Foltynewicz's ERA rose to 5.40 with the rough outing. It's the sixth start in which he's allowed at least four runs, though this was the first time since mid-June. 


Padres 3B Cory Spangenberg nets one hit in rehab game Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:58 pm ET) Padres third baseman Cory Spangenberg began his rehab assignment Monday at Double-A and went 1 for 3 at the plate. The one hit was a triple, which drove in a run and he also walked once.

Spangenberg has not played since June 27 due to a bone bruise in his left knee.


Michael Conforto drives in three for Mets
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:54 pm ET) Mets left fielder Michael Conforto went 2 for 4 with three RBI in Monday's win over Miami. 

Conforto doubled his RBI total for the season in Monday's game, driving in his first run since July 26.

He also had his first hit since July 25, snapping a four-game skid spanning 12 at bats. 


 
 
 
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