Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 09 March 2009
If you are looking for offense Texas isn’t a bad place to look for some elite and plenty of middle tier talent. It’s also home to a lot of offensive upside, however pitching here, outside of closer Frank Francisco and setup man C.J. Wilson is a desert.The Best of the Bunch:Ian Kinsler (2B):
With Chase Utley’s status for opening day uncertain, Kinsler is the elite second baseman in fantasy ball today. His line from 2008 -- .319-18-71-102-26 -- would be more than respectable when coming from any position, but those values are magnified when you consider they come from a second baseman, as no one save Utley even comes close. Kinsler is only 26 going into this season, so there is no reason to think he’s maxed out on his upside.
Josh Hamilton (OF):
Josh Hamiton usually has a firm grip on his bat.
Hamilton trailed off in the second half but still churned out some remarkable numbers over a full season -- .310-32-130-98-9 -- and created one of the feel good baseball stories of the last decade. Hamilton is only entering his prime and could easily take a big step forward. Still even if he doesn’t but only comes close to matching those numbers, he’s a top 10 outfielder.
The Second Tier:
Michael Young (SS/3B):
After the big three of Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, Young should be one of the top shortstop eligible players on the board. Young contributes in all 5x5 categories. Hitting at the top of the order he should score plenty of runs and get plenty of chances to steal bases. Last year’s line (.284-12-98-102-10) is not his top level of production -- especially since he played hurt the second half of the season -- but it’s a useful baseline as his minimum production. A decent bounce back could be in order if he doesn’t lose too much of his focus learning how to play third base.
The Third Tier:Hank Blalock (1B/3B):
The fragile Blalock is likely to spend most of this season being used as a DH, something which may keep him a little healthier and boost his overall production. The window for him reaching elite levels is long closed, but he’s still capable of hitting for average and RBIs. If he gets 500 at bats a .300-20-75 line sounds about right.
Marlon Byrd (OF):
He’s no standout but a solid enough fourth or fifth outfielder capable of hitting .300 with double digit home runs and 70 or so RBIs.Frank Francisco (CL):
Provided he wins the closer job as expected, Francisco should be good for at least 30 saves and strikeout better than a batter per inning. Compared to other closers he’ll probably be cheap on draft day, but he probably shouldn’t be.Question Marks, Cheap Buys and sleepers:Andruw Jones (OF):
It’s unlikely that Jones will bounce back after two years of living in the dumpster, but if he has a good spring he could earn the fourth outfield position. He still has the potential to hit 30 plus home runs, but even in a best case scenario, he’s a low average hitter with more downside than up at this point in his career. He’s worth a dollar in the deepest of leagues, but he’ll be a waiver wire pickup in most leagues.
Nelson Cruz (OF):
The 28-year-old Cruz came out of nowhere last year crushing AAA pitching to the tune of .342 with 37 home runs. It was more than enough to earn him an audition with the big team and he didn’t disappoint -- going .330-7-26 in just 115 AB. That will earn him a starting gig. The minor league resume is impressive and suggests he could be the real deal, but 28-year-old rookies are always a bit of a gamble. Chris Davis (1B/3B):
Davis is a kid with a lot of upside, but he’s going to hit some rough patches as he learns his way around the Majors. He’s got the ability to hit for average and power, but youngsters without a track record are never a sure thing -- no matter what all the fantasy guides might suggest. Still his upside is amazing.
Elvis Andrus (SS):
The youngster has a lot of potential, but he doesn’t offer much to the fantasy player this season, since it’s his glove not his bat that has gotten him here.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C):
Salty is in for a battle for the starting catching gig and it’s a job he’s likely to lose at some point this season as the Rangers have two top catching prospects Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez breathing down his neck. The problem isn’t with his bat, but his defense. If Chris Davis struggles at first, he might well find himself trying another position. He’s got power, and at 23 there is still quite a bit of upside -- it’s just a matter of him growing into a hitter.
Taylor Teagarden (C):
A solid defender with good power who has hit for average in the minors. He’s going to take time from Saltalamacchia sometime this season and it might be sooner rather than later.
Kevin Millwood (SP):
Millwood has declined considerably over the last few years since he came to Texas, but he was once a solid second tier pitcher. Recapturing that magic is highly improbable, but not impossible.
Vicente Padilla (SP):
While Padilla did win 14 games last year dealing with his 4.74 ERA and 1.46 WHIP was just brutal. If you feel you can take that kind of hit to your pitching staff more power to you. I’ll give him a pass.Brandon McCarthy (SP):
Don’t be put off by his lack of track record: McCarthy is the best of the Rangers pitchers and is just loaded with talent that has not manifested itself at the Major League level yet. In fact he is yet to pitch as many as 105 innings in a season, but he could win 10+ games and put up some solid strikeout numbers, if he avoids injuries.