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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
Rockies SP Jordan Lyles set to rejoin rotation Sunday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, who is dealing with a toe sprain on his left foot, will rejoin the rotation Sunday against the Phillies, according to MLB.com.

He was bumped from his original start Saturday in order for Jorge De La Rosa to rejoin the rotation after he was scratched Tuesday due to a cut on his hand.

Lyles is 0-4 with a 7.43 ERA in his last five starts.


Rays RP Grant Balfour opts out of contract
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:39 am ET) Rays reliever Grant Balfour has opted out of his minor league contract and was released by the team on Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times

The 37-year-old Australia-native made six appearances earlier this season with the Rays before being released at the end of April. He then re-signed to a minor league deal on May 5. While pitching with Triple-A Durham, Balfour held a 2.79 ERA in eight games, owning a 11:4 K:BB ratio over 9 2/3 innings.

Balfour is now free to sign with any team, though it is not known if he will choose to continue playing or retire. 


Mets' Collins on Wilmer Flores: 'I see a completely different player'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:34 am ET) Wilmer Flores' slow start to the season is becoming a distant memory. The Mets starting shortstop singled home the winning run with two outs in the 10th inning Tuesday against the Phillies, lifting New York to a 5-4 win.

Flores also had a game-tying sac fly in the eighth inning Tuesday and delivered a go-ahead, three-run homer Monday, which helped New York to a 6-3 win.

Flores has had his struggles defensively in 2015, but he is finally turning the corner offensively. He has hit safely in 15 of his last 17 games, while producing four home runs and 13 RBI in that span.

"I truly believe Wilmer's gotten past [his issues]," manager Terry Collins said, per MLB.com. "He realizes there's going to be a day that you're going to make an error. He's got to play through that, and I think he's doing that. We're starting to see a guy who's going to start swinging the bat like we know he can. He's going to put up some offensive numbers that people are going to be pretty impressed by.

"I see a completely different player."


Yankees CF Slade Heathcott will start over Chris Young
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:25 am ET) Yankees center fielder Slade Heathcott will get the start over Chris Young on Wednesday against the Royals.

Both Heathcott and Young are battling for playing time with star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury.

Young struck out three times in his team's 5-1 win over the Royals on Tuesday, while Heathcott is hitting .357 in just 14 at-bats this season.


Mariners give SS Chris Taylor a rest on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:23 am ET) After starting eight games in a row, Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor will get the day off on Wednesday, as he is being held out of the lineup versus the Rays. In those eight games, the young Taylor has just six hits in 28 at-bats. So manager Lloyd McClendon has decided to give him a rest and clear his head a little.

Brad Miller will get the start at shortstop with Dustin Ackley entering the lineup in left field for the afternoon affair. 


Rays SS Asdrubal Cabrera, OF Steven Souza still sidelined
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:18 am ET) Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielder Steven Souza remain out of the lineup on Wednesday against the Mariners. Both players have been out since Monday, with Cabrera nursing a groin injury and Souza bothered by an injured wrist.

The team has not provided an update on the status of either player, but with the team off on Thursday, there's a chance they could return for Friday's game in Baltimore.

Brandon Guyer continues to handle right field, and Nick Franklin will grab the start at shortstop on Wednesday. 


Reds 2B Brandon Phillips (toe) out of lineup against Rockies
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:15 am ET) Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is out of the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Rockies.

Phillips, who started nine consecutive games before missing Tuesday's game, is dealing with a toe injury on his left foot.

Reds manager Brian Price said that Phillips' toe continues to bother him, and he wanted to give him three days off considering they have a travel day tomorrow, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"I don't want this to become a nagging thing," Price said.

Phillips is hitting .299 with 18 RBI in 154 at-bats this season.

Skip Schumaker will replace Phillips in the Reds' lineup.


Cubs rookie Addison Russell delivers walk-off hit Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:05 am ET) Cubs rookie Addison Russell delivered the clutch hit Tuesday against the Nationals, as he lifted Chicago to a 3-2 win with a game-ending RBI double in the ninth inning. Russell lined a 1-0 pitch off Matt Grace beyond center fielder Denard Span's reach for his third hit of the game.

"My whole mindset going into that at-bat is to just keep the same approach, stay calm, see the pitch that you want to swing at and hit it," Russell said, per MLB.com. "Don't try to do too much.

"It was a great feeling. I was really into seeing the ball good tonight and things just happened. I think that tonight was a good night."

Russell is the third-youngest player in the majors. He is not lighting the world on fire offensively, but he has hit safely in 23 of 31 games since his promotion from the minors. He is also having his struggles in the field as he makes the transition from shortstop to second base.

Still, manager Joe Maddon seems to be happy with the rookie's progression.

"It's not easy to fight through that at that age with that lack of experience," Maddon said. "His mental toughness is really incredible how he's fought through all these difficult moments himself. He's not used to failing.

"So understand where a lot of guys at that age are, developmentally. They're not here. They're somewhere else, without the spotlight on them, learning their craft. And he's done it on the fly here and he's doing a great job."


Mariners CF Austin Jackson makes immediate impact Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:01 am ET) In his first game since landing on the disabled list in early May, Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson played an early role in the team's 7-6 win over the Rays on Tuesday. Jackson, who missed time with an ankle injury, singled to lead off the game, then stole second, went to third on a throwing error, and scored on a single. All of this before an out was recorded.

Jackson also made an impressive running catch in center field in the bottom of the first inning.

"I thought he looked fabulous," manager Lloyd McClendon said,per MLB.com. "He really jump-started our offense. A line-drive base hit, stole a base, went to third, scored a run. Next inning took a run away. I don't know what more you want out of a leadoff center fielder."

The first-inning single was his only hit of the game, but Jackson was just happy to be back on a big-league field.

"It's exciting. It almost feels like the first day again," Jackson said prior to the game. "You want to come back and help, but you have to make sure you're ready. You don't want to come back half-speed. Getting to play those [rehab] games and get right physically was important, but I think it helped mentally as well."


Reds 2B Skip Schumaker will bat leadoff against Rockies
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:59 am ET) Skip Schumaker will be at the top of the lineup when the Reds take on the Rockies on Wednesday.

Schumaker will be in the leadoff spot for just the third time this season.

Schumaker was called into Tuesday's game in a pinch-hit situation in the ninth inning. He doubled to left field and Marlon Byrd scored the game-winning run. 

For the season, Schumaker is hitting .254 in 51 at-bats.


 
 
 
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