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Team Roundup: Rangers

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


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Texas Rangers
2018 Record: 67-95
Last place, AL West
Team ERA: 4.92 (28th in MLB)
Team OPS: .722 (19th in MLB)

What Went Right

If your team loses 95 games, chances are not many things went right. That’s certainly the case with the Rangers, who parted ways with manager Jeff Banister in September, but there were still some positives to take away. Joey Gallo continues to struggle to make contact, but he managed his second straight 40-homer season. Shin-Soo Choo earned his first All-Star selection before fading during the second half. Rougned Odor went on a very impressive run for two and a months after getting off to a brutal start. Perhaps the biggest positive, Jurickson Profar put himself back on the radar with a productive season. Keone Kela and Jake Diekman both pitched well before being traded for prospects at the deadline. Mike Minor didn’t post eye-popping numbers (4.18 ERA, 116 ERA+), but his return to a starting role can be considered a success. Jose Leclerc ran away with the Rangers’ closer job down the stretch.

What Went Wrong

Mike Minor was decent enough in his first season with Texas and Cole Hamels was pretty good at times before being traded to the Cubs, but otherwise the starting rotation was terrible. In fact, the team’s starters ranked 28th in the majors in ERA. Doug Fister, another offseason addition, missed most of the year with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Matt Moore finished the year in the bullpen after a brutal stint in the Rangers’ rotation. Martin Perez struggled in his return from surgery on his right (non-throwing) elbow. 45-year-old Bartolo Colon passed Dennis Martinez for the most victories by a pitcher born in Latin America, but he posted an ugly 5.78 ERA over 24 starts and four relief appearances overall. Elvis Andrus suffered a broken elbow on a hit-by-pitch in April and posted disappointing numbers upon his return. Adrian Beltre was limited to 119 games due to injury while having his least productive season since 2009. Nomar Mazara underwhelmed outside of a 10-homer May. Delino DeShields put up a brutal .591 OPS in 106 games. Prospect Willie Calhoun was expected to make an impact coming into 2018, but he showed a lack of power in the minors and didn’t do much of note during his limited time in the majors. His role for 2019 is unclear.

Fantasy Slants

**Joey Gallo has slugged 81 homers over the past two seasons. Only J.D. Martinez, Khris Davis, and Giancarlo Stanton have hit more during the same timespan. With his immense raw power, elite exit velocity, and league-high fly ball rate, there’s every reason to think he can keep it going. Unfortunately, making contact continues to be an issue. While his contact rate actually increased from 59.1 percent to 61.7 percent this season, it was still the lowest among qualified hitters. Gallo struck out in 35.9 percent of his plate appearances (second only to Baltimore’s Chris Davis), so his batting average checked in at .206. There’s nothing to suggest that’s going to change — and batting average remains a standard category in fantasy leagues, for better or worse — so we have to accept him as a flawed option in our game. It will be interesting to see where Gallo plays in the field in 2019, as he saw some starts in center field down the stretch.

**Elvis Andrus was one of the top fantasy shortstops in 2017 thanks to blowing away his previous career-high with 20 homers, but he didn’t get a fair shot at a follow-up this year after suffering a fracture in his right elbow when he was hit-by-pitch in April. He missed a little over two months and didn’t put up comparable numbers upon his return. He ended up with just six homers and five steals in 97 games. His .675 OPS was his lowest since 2015. Andrus is definitely swinging the bat more often these days — notably on pitches outside of the strike zone — but there weren’t huge changes in his batted ball profile this year outside of an uptick in infield fly balls. Don’t count on 20 homers again, but he makes sense as a potential rebound target next year.  

**Rougned Odor remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma for fantasy owners. Considered by many to be a top-12 fantasy second baseman coming into the year, Odor found himself in a brutal slump during the first half. Somehow, he was hitting just .217 with one homer and a .602 OPS through his first 45 games before being benched following a night of partying. Something clicked for him after that, as he put together a .270/.343/.478 batting line with 17 homers over his final 84 games. And that was even with another slump in September. While the power resurgence was nice, perhaps most encouraging was his sudden patience at the plate. He drew 30 walks in his final 362 plate appearances after having 32 walks in 651 plate appearances during the entire 2017 season. Hopefully he can do better than 12-for-24 in stolen base attempts, but at least there’s reason to feel better about him going into 2019.

**We’re still waiting on Nomar Mazara to take the next step. He’s yet to post an OPS+ north of 94 three years into his career. He managed 20 homers for the third straight season in 2018, but he hit half of them during a monster month of May. We can’t ignore that he injured his thumb just before the All-Star break, which undoubtedly impacted his production the rest of the way. Mazara continues to the ball plenty hard, but his fly ball rate is moving in the wrong direction. He doesn’t turn 24 years old until April, so there’s still time for a breakthrough, but drafting him in 2019 with such an expectation will require a leap of faith.

**Just when it looked like it was time to write off former No. 1 prospect Jurickson Profar, he proved to be one of the bright spots in an otherwise lost season for the Rangers. The former top prospect was out of options, so he made the Opening Day roster as a utility player, but he quickly shifted into a regular role after Elvis Andrus went down with an elbow fracture. He ended up exceeding everyone’s wildest expectations this year, putting up 20 homers and 10 steals along with a .254/.335/.458 batting line in 146 games. He made contact, drew walks, and posted a hard-hit rate above the league average. Profar mostly split time between third base and first base upon Andrus’ return and will surely have a prominent role with the club in 2019. Even after missing multiple years due to injury, he’s still just 25 years old. The multi-position eligibility makes him a name to watch in drafts next year.

**Jose Leclerc was another bright spot for the Rangers, posting a stingy 1.59 ERA and 85/25 K/BB ratio in 57 2/3 innings. He served as the team’s closer after Keone Kela was traded to the Pirates at the end of July. Leclerc’s control has been a major issue in the past, but he made some real strides in that area this year. Meanwhile, his swinging strike percentage went up and was actually tied for sixth among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Leclerc has the potential to be a top-10 fantasy closer in 2018, though he might not be treated as such in drafts.

**Okay, so there’s not much to say about Adrian Beltre’s 2018 from a fantasy perspective. The future Hall of Famer was limited to just 119 games this season due to hamstring issues while batting .273/.328/.434 with 15 homers. He also dealt with a hip issue down the stretch. Still, Beltre turns 40 next April and said in late September that he’s “ready to accept the fact that maybe this is it,” so it’s time for some appreciation. 21 seasons, a four-time All-Star and Gold Glover, 16th all-time in hits (3,166), 24th all-time in RBI (1,707), and 30th all-time in homers (477). If this is truly the end of the line, Beltre deserves a hand for a tremendous career. Just not on his head, please.

Key Free Agents: Adrian Beltre, Yovani Gallardo, Bartolo Colon

Team Needs: Starting pitching is easily the biggest need here. Mike Minor is the only name that can be considered safe in this rotation, which shouldn’t inspire a ton of confidence. They should add a couple of arms, though Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has already acknowledged that the club is unlikely to be in on the top free agents. The Rangers could also explore trading a bat for a pitcher.



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
Email :D.J. Short



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