2020 Record: 22-38
Last Place, AL West
Team ERA: 5.02 (24th)
Team OPS: .648 (29th)
What Went Right
Not a whole heck of a lot. Lance Lynn’s final stats are skewed by an awful final start against the Astros where he gave up nine runs over 5 2/3 innings, but outside of that and another clunker against the Astros at the beginning of the month he was outstanding with a 3.32 ERA and 89/25 K/BB ratio over 13 appearances. Rafael Montero took over as the closer for the Rangers, and while the save chances were limited, he converted all eight attempts with a .190 average against and 19 strikeouts over 17 appearances. The 4.02 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but like Lynn, that number is hurt by a stretch where he allowed five runs over three-straight games. Jonathan Hernandez was a fine bridge to Montero as well with a 2.90 mark and 31/8 K/BB rate, and the 23-year-old might be the closer of the future in Arlington if Montero is not. On the offensive side, Nick Solak didn’t hit for much power and had an uninspiring .268 average, but he did steal six bases, and he showed flashes of being a quality regular going forward. The same can be said for Sam Huff, Leody Taveras and Anderson Tejeda in small sample sizes. Huff in particular impressed with a .355/.394/.742 line with three homers, and while that’s over only 10 games, this is a former Futures Game MVP who ranks as one of the top catching prospects in baseball.
What Went Wrong
Much, much more than what went right. The Rangers opened a new ballpark and weren’t able to have anyone enjoy it, for starters. On the field, this team flat-out couldn’t hit, and while a two-month sample is probably an unfair amount of time to judge players -- probably is being nice, it’s just not -- there’s a lot of reason for doubt about this lineup going forward. Joey Gallo showed that the .253 average last year was an outlier, and struck out 79 times in 226 plate appearances while hitting just .181. He also hit 10 homers in 57 games and drew 29 walks, but that’s the end of the positives. Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus formed one of the worst double-play offenses in the sport with OPS marks of .623 and .582, respectively, and both are locked into starting roles because of their significant paydays. Willie Calhoun did not build on his strong finish to 2019 and slashed an ugly .190/.231/.260 with just a single homer in 100 at-bats. In fact, of the nine players who had over 100 plate appearances for the Rangers in 2020, not one had an OPS above .750, and the player who reached .750 -- Todd Frazier -- was shipped off in a deadline deal to the Mets.
The pitching was better, but, that’s not exactly a compliment. Jordan Lyles was one of the worst starters in baseball with a 7.02 ERA and only 36 strikeouts in 57 2/3 frames against 23 walks. He was bad, but he wasn’t the worst pitcher in the rotation; Kolby Allard posted a 7.75 ERA and unhealthy 1.51 WHIP. Mike Minor wasn’t close to as good as he was the previous year with a 5.60 ERA in seven starts, and was dealt to the Athletics. The Rangers couldn’t hit, couldn’t pitch, and weren’t exactly stalwarts with the glove, either. That’s a pretty “good” recipe for having the second worst record in baseball.
** Corey Kluber was acquired from Cleveland in the offseason, and the right-hander was able to get a total of one -- count em, one -- inning before being shut down for the rest of the season with a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in his right shoulder. This comes a year after Kluber was limited to just seven starts in 2019. The 34-year-old has an $18 million club option with a $1 million buyout for the 2021 season. It’s hard to imagine that’s picked up, and the Rangers have said they’ve explored bringing Kluber back on a revised deal. He’s not far removed from being one of the best fantasy starters in baseball, but right now, there’s way more risk than there is reward.
** One of the few bright spots for Texas in 2020 was Kyle Cody. In eight games -- five starts -- the right-hander registered a 1.59 ERA, and he didn’t allow more than a single run in any of his appearances for the Rangers this year. He was a sixth-round pick out of Kentucky in 2016, but this was a first-round talent who saw his stock drop after he didn’t sign after his junior season after being taken early by the Twins. He’s not a future ace, but there are two pitches here that can miss bats, and he’s one of the few hurlers on the Rangers who have any kind of upside. Worth keeping an eye on in dynasty/keeper leagues, anyway.
** Danny Santana was one of the best fantasy breakouts from the 2019 season with an .85 7 OPS. In 2020, he was limited to just 15 games, he struck out in 38.1 percent of his plate appearances and he underwent surgery on his right elbow that will keep him out around eight months in September. That will keep the 29-year-old -- 30 in November -- out to begin the year almost assuredly, and considering his lack of success prior to last season, it’s hard to imagine he has fantasy relevance next year. Having said that, a player who had 28 homers, stole 21 bases and had multiple-position eligibility certainly represents an intriguing buy-low candidate.
** Let’s talk a little more about Huff. The Rangers catchers last year outside of the 22-year-old backstop were Jeff Mathis, Jose Trevino and Robinson Chirinos. Mathis hit .161, Trevino got on at a clip of .280, and Chirinos had an OPS of .498 before being moved to the Mets. Long story short, the catching position should be open, and Huff is the most talented option with plus power from the right side and a hit tool that should be at least average. There’s some defensive issues here, but as long as Huff can be a mediocre target, he has a chance to be a viable option next summer.
** The Rangers were able to get twice as many innings out of Jose Leclerc as they were out of Kluber, but if you didn’t skip ahead, you know that means he was only able to throw two before going down with the same teres major strain Kluber suffered. He was expected to operate as the closer before that injury and did pick up a save, and the 26-year-old is signed for at least two more seasons with team options in 2023 along with 2024. He likely opens the year as the closer, but with Montero, Hernandez and top relief prospect Demarcus Evans, he may not have a strong hold on the job.
Team Needs: It’s tough to say that the Rangers have anything they should feel “confident” in going into the 2021 season outside of the top of the rotation, and with Lynn under contract for just one more season, it shouldn’t shock anyone if Texas moves the right-hander at some point in the offseason while the value is at its highest. There’s young talent here and the system is better than most, but the Rangers are very likely uncompetitive next season.