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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
Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch admits to pressing too hard last spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:41 am ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch is still pushing to earn a spot on the team's starting rotation this spring, but he knows he pushed a bit too hard last year, reports the Dallas Morning News.

"I was just trying to do a little too much," said Tepesch, who threw a scoreless inning on 14 pitches in Sunday's intrasquad game. "I was trying to make perfect pitches and staying who I am. Getting sent down allowed me to look at what made me successful and try to own those types of things. It was beneficial. I also now know that I can only control what I do. If I stay focused on that, pressure takes care of itself."


Tigers' Blaine Hardy hoping to reign in his accuracy in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy is using this spring training to work on his control. Hardy struggled in 2014 with his control, walking 20 batters in 39 innings pitched.

"Last year I walked more people than I would've liked," he said to MLB.com. "That's definitely a learning point, learning the strike zone. It's a little bit different, a little bit smaller, but more consistent. With that being said, I felt like I had a good year, and hopefully I'll be able to come in and do the same thing with less walks."

Manager Brad Ausmus didn't think Hardy's season was as bad as people believe it was.

"I thought he did a good job for us, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "It kind of irks me a little bit when people want to split players' seasons up: Player X had a good year, but he really struggled in the second half. He still had a good year.

"Guys are going to struggle at some point in the season. It's probably more likely they struggle in the second half as they tire, but you can't discount what they did in the first half. Those games are just as important to win."


Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin faces hitters for first time Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is feeling good about his health so far in camp. Good enough, in fact, that the 27-year-old faced hitters Saturday for the first time this spring.

Sunday, Chacin said he was without pain.

"Today I feel normal -- not like before," Chacin said. "I threw everything and felt good. I need to get into games to really feel back to normal, like it did two years ago [14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts]. I know I've got a long way to go. I don't know what my velocity was, but it'll come up a little."

Chacin injured his rotator cuff in the middle of last season, forcing him out of action for nearly half the season.


Indians P Gavin Floyd comes out of live BP session pain free
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following his first live batting practice of spring training, Indians pitcher Gavin Floyd came away without any pain the elbow he broke last season.

With the Braves in 2014, Floyd fractured his elbow in a game against the Nationals on June 19. The injury required surgery, which ended his season. Sunday morning's batting practice marked the first time he'd thrown to a batter since that game. 

"It's just another step," Floyd said via MLB.com. "It's the first time I had a significant bullpen, cooled down for a little bit and then got back out there. I felt really good. I've just got to continue to make progress and build up strength. Usually, that's just by doing it over and over again, and using spring to do that."


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Giants' Tim Lincecum to 'piggyback' starter this week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said pitcher Tim Lincecum will see a relief appearance early this week, according to MLB.com

Lincecum is generating rave reviews for his performance early on in spring training. However, he won't be getting a start this week. Bochy said Lincecum will "piggyback" either Madison Bumgarner (Tuesday), Jake Peavy (Wednesday), Ryan Vogelsong (Thursday) or Yusmeiro Petit (Friday) this week. 

This means Lincecum will come in and get a starter's workload in relief. 


Giants' Jake Peavy to start Wednesday for Giants
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following Madison Bumgarner's exhibition start on Tuesday, the Giants will go with Jake Peavy to start Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Athletics, manager Bruce Bochy announced via MLB.com

Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Thursday against the Cubs and Yusmeiro Petit will go Friday against the Rangers. 


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's  starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens fighting for spot in bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens has been told he has a great arm. But Clemens, who posted a 5.51 ERA in 48 appearances with the Astros over the last two years, knows it'll take more than that.

"Some pitching coaches tell me how incredible my arm is and that I could play for a long time, so I think I've been showing some guys what I bring to the table," Clemens said. "I had a couple really good conversations with front office and some guys around here, so it's definitely motivating."

He wants to be able to pick out his spots better during spring training, knowing he has to impress as a non-roster invitee.

"Sometimes I think I get too overzealous with my fastball and I just pound it and pound it and pound it. So picking my spots more, being smarter. You can't really challenge guys at this level. Once in a while you've got to pick your spots, but you can't challenge too many guys, even the guys you don't really know their names as much. You've still got to pitch."


Athletics to ease Coco Crisp into action this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Athletics manager Bob Melvin wants to take things slow with veteran outfielder Coco Crisp this spring, reports MLB.com.

"I'll probably hold him out the first few because I'm going to cut down on his workload," Melvin said Sunday.

Crisp, who is dealing with a case of pinkeye, was held out of an intrasquad scrimmage, even though he was able to take part in batting practice.


 
 
 
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