We finish previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season with the Texas Rangers, who finished in fourth place in the AL West; the monthlong series concludes tomorrow with over/under picks and playoff predictions
The Rangers’ 78-64 record last season was 17 games worse than in 2016. They didn’t make any major moves this winter, signing SPs Doug Fister and Mike Minor and trading for SP Matt Moore. They also signed RP Tim Lincecum, but he is going to start the season on the disabled list. SP Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation, with 1B Joey Gallo and 2B Rougned Odor leading the charge offensively.
The Rangers had a feast-or-famine offense last season, with their .244 average tied for the fourth-lowest in Major League Baseball, but their 237 home runs were the third most in the league. They had a .750 OPS, which equaled the MLB average. Gallo’s batting average was just .209, but he hit 41 home runs with an .869 OPS. Odor put up similar numbers, with a .204 average and 30 home runs. SS Elvis Andrus hit .297 with 20 homers and 25 steals, and OF Nomar Mazara added 20 home runs and a team-high 101 RBI with a .253 average. Veteran 3B Adrian Beltre hit .312 with 17 home runs in 94 games. DH Shin-Soo Choo hit 22 homers and OF Delino DeShields stole 29 bases.
The pitchers posted a 4.66 ERA, which was in the bottom half of the majors, and they struck out 1,107 batters, which was the fewest among the 30 pitching staffs. The team recorded 29 saves, which was the second-worst in the league, behind only the White Sox. Hamels posted a 4.20 ERA in 24 starts with 105 strikeouts in 148 innings. SP Martin Perez posted a 4.82 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 185 innings over 32 starts. Fister posted a 4.88 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 90.1 innings for the Red Sox. Minor pitched out of the bullpen for the Royals last season, making 65 appearances with 88 strikeouts in 77.2 innings, and Moore put up a career-worst 5.52 ERA in 32 games — 31 starts — with the Giants; he struck out 148 in 174.1 innings. In the bullpen, RP Alex Claudio recorded 11 saves late in the season. He appeared in 70 games, posting a 2.50 ERA with just 56 strikeouts in 82.2 innings.
The Rangers’ power isn’t in question, but their ability to hit for contact is. They had one of the worst batting averages in the majors last season, and it doesn’t look to be much improved this season with the team not signing any major hitters. Guys like Odor and Gallo need to get their averages up to try to increase the chances of their teammates driving them in if they want to be competitive this season. The starting rotation is full of guys who are on the downsides of their careers, including SP Bartolo Colon, who is starting the season at Triple-A Round Rock. The closer’s role is in flux. Claudio ended 2017 with in that role, but the team is hinting he could be used in high-leverage situations earlier in games. That would leave the closer position up for grabs with LIncecum — who didn’t pitch in the majors last season and doesn’t have a timetable for his return from the DL — and RP Keone Kela among the candidates who could earn the ninth-inning job.
After finishing in fourth place in the division last season, that’s probably the best the Rangers can hope for in 2018. The A’s may have a better team this year, leaving open the possibility that the Rangers could finish the season in last place. They need to get better starting pitchers if they want to be competitive again, especially being in the same division as the Astros, who are coming off their World Series title, and the Angels, who improved their team this offseason.
That’ll do it for all 30 of our team previews — you can see them all here — but there’s one final post in this year’s 30 in 30ish series coming tomorrow; follow me on Twitter or subscribe to the blog to know when it’s posted.