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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
Yankees SS Didi Gregorius (wrist) slated to play Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:37 pm ET) Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has been sidelined since Saturday with a wrist injury, took part in fielding drills and batting practice on Wednesday. He is expected to play in one of New York's split-squad games against Detroit and Pittsburgh on Thursday, according to the Journal News

Brad Penny scratched by White Sox due to illness
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:35 pm ET) The White Sox scratched Brad Penny in favor of Scott Carroll on Tuesday against the Mariners due to an illness, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Penny, has allowed 12 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings in Cactus League play.

Report: No progress in contract talks for Reds ace Johnny Cueto
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) The Reds have not made progress in contract talks with starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, a source told FOX Sports. Cueto has expressed a desire to finalize a contract extension before Opening Day.

Cueto, who is set to make $10 million in 2015, is in the final season of a five-year, $36.2 million contract.


White Sox's Nate Jones tosses first bullpen since Tommy John
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) White Sox reliever Nate Jones threw his first bullpen in nearly 12 months, according to the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday.

"I'm just excited to be out there an almost be normal," Jones said.

Jones was placed on the 60-day disabled list last week, as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery last July. He is targeting a mid-season return.


Neck stiffness keeps Chris Coghlan out of Cubs lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:28 pm ET) Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan was scratched from Wednesday's spring lineup due to a stiff neck. He is batting .289 (11 for 38) with two home runs, three doubles and nine RBI in 16 spring games. He also has nine walks and 10 strikeouts.

Marlins planning off days for Michael Morse to help avoid injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:26 pm ET) Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Wednesday he will give veteran first baseman Michael Morse days off throughout the season in an effort to keep him off the trainer's table, per The Miami Herald.

"That's definitely something we'll monitor with him -- his health," Redmond said. "Will there maybe be some extra days off for him? We'll see and monitor that as he goes. Really the important thing for him is to keep him on the field. He knows that and we know that.

"But the beauty of our bench is we have options. We have [Jeff Baker]. We have Don Kelly. We can play them if [Morse] needs a blow. Martin Prado too. These guys, they want to play every single day. But at the same time too we need to be smart because we need them for the whole season. Keeping these guys together, healthy and strong is important as well."

Morse is having a productive spring, batting .348 (16 for 46) with one double, four home runs and 14 RBI in 18 games. He also has five walks and 11 strikeouts.


Marlins' Redmond not expecting rotation order to change
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Wednesday he is anticipating the rotation order to remain the same, per The Miami Herald. Henderson Alvarez will start Opening Day, and he will be followed by Jarred Cosart, Mat Latos, Tom Koehler and Dan Haren.

"(Wednesday) with Cosart throwing it's another big step, making sure his [blistered middle] finger gets through the grind of a game healthy," Redmond said. "I'm anticipating if everything stays fine with him this [order in the rotation] pretty much is what it is. But we'll know more after he goes out and pitches. I'm anticipating him being fine."


Cardinals finalize rotation plans for start of season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:08 pm ET) The Cardinals announced Wednesday starting pitcher Lance Lynn will start the second game of the season on April 7 against the Cubs. It was already previously announced Adam Wainwright would start the season opener Sunday against the Cubs.

John Lackey will then finish out the Chicago series April 8. Michael Wacha will open a three-game series April 10 at Cincinnati, and he will be followed by Carlos Martinez before the rotation resets. 

Lynn is on track to start the home opener on April 13 against the Brewers.


Rangers prospect Joey Gallo scheduled for MRI on injured heel
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:08 pm ET) Rangers prospect Joey Gallo is dealing with a bruised left heel, according to MLB.com. He will undergo an MRI on his left heel and visit specialist Dr. John Crates on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Gallo, 21, hit .250/.333/.469 with two homers and six RBI over 32 at-bats this spring.


Mets' Warthen: Jonathon Niese to start fourth game of season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:03 pm ET) Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said Wednesday starting pitcher Jonathon Niese will pitch the fourth game of the season -- April 10 at Atlanta -- instead of the fifth game, which was originally reported Tuesday.

Niese went 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in four spring starts. He is 7-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 18 career starts against Atlanta.


 
 
 
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