2009 Regular Season Record: 87-75
Rank: Second in the AL West - 10 games behind the LA Angels
Home Park: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
Home on the Range:
The Rangers infield returns intact for 2009.
IF - Matt Brown* (Free Agent from Angels)
SS - Khalil Greene (Free Agent from Cardinals)
OF/DH - Vladimir Guerrero (Free Agent from Angels)
LHP - Darren Oliver (Free Agent from Angels)
LHP - Clay Rapada (Trade with Tigers)
RHP - Rich Harden (Free Agent from Cubs)
RHP - Chris Ray (Trade with Orioles)
RHP - Colby Lewis (Free agent from Japan)
Git Along Little Doggie:
C - Ivan Rodriguez (Free agent, signed with Nationals
1B - Hank Blalock (Free Agent, unsigned)
IF - Joe Inglett (lost via waivers to Brewers)
MI - Omar Vizquel (Free agent, signed with White Sox)
OF - Andruw Jones (Free agent, signed with White Sox)
OF - Marlon Byrd (Free Agent signed with Cubs)
LHP - Eddie Guardado* (Free Agent, signed with Nationals)
RHP - Joaquin Benoit (Free agent, unsigned)
RHP - Kevin Millwood (Trade to Orioles)
* Signed minor league deal
This should prove to be a very interesting year for the Rangers. Their offense looks to only be better than it's been in seasons past but their pitching staff took a hit when the Rangers dealt ERA leader and 13 game winner Kevin Millwood. Millwood has been the steady hand in Texas for the past few years, but with the emergence of Scott Feldman the Rangers obviously were pleased to be free of Millwood's salary and have spent the money to bring in Rich Harden, Vlad Guerrero and Darren Oliver.
The already fearsome offense of the Rangers will take another step forward with the addition of DH Vlad Guerrero - a career .396 pitcher hitting in Rangers Stadium. While Vlad certainly is in the twilight of his career his biggest problem has been the injury bug, something that he should avoid better as a full time DH. Additionally the team should benefit from the addition of Khalil Greene, a hitter who always had plenty of power but saw himself dragged down by playing in PETCO Park and who looked worse than he was last year due to injury.
Also adding to the offensive power should be the attitude of new hitting coach Clint Hurdle who was one of the many forces propelling the Rockies hitters to new heights over the past few seasons. His attitude and approach should be just what players like Josh Hamilton and Chris Davis need to regain their confidence and become Major contributors once again.
Yes it can be argued that the Rangers made some strides forward this offseason with the acquisition of Rich Harden, but the rotation is young and potentially fragile. Perhaps the two biggest question marks here are Harden and Feldman, the two top starters for the team. Harden is a true ace but has been fragile throughout his career and hasn't started more than 26 games in a season since 2004 and is unlikely to be able to handle a workload of much more than that in 2010 especially in one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in the Majors today.
Feldman was the team's ace last year - winning 17 games while showing a pitching style just perfect for playing in Rangers stadium. A true groundball pitcher, he's benefited from an improved defense and plenty of offensive support. So what's not to like? The answer is the amount of innings that Feldman pitched last year - more than 40 more than his career high. That often leads to second year struggles.
Projected starter Colby Lewis also looks to be a bit of an enigma. After returning from Japan, odds are that he'll find Major League hitters to be a lot more formidable. If he crashes and burns the Rangers could find themselves struggling to find a suitable bottom of the rotation starter.
The bullpen looks to be solid enough, despite a number of journeymen pitchers, but if the Rangers end up having to rely a lot on C.J. Wilson they could have some serious problems.
CF - Julio Borbon
3B - Michael Young
DH - Vladimir Guerrero
LF - Josh Hamilton
2B - Ian Kinsler
1B - Chris Davis
RF - Nelson Cruz
C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS - Elvis Andrus
One Question which Needs Answering:
What will the Rangers get from Josh Hamilton and Chris Davis? Hamilton is a key man for this Rangers team, but his struggles both with substance abuse and injuries make it a guess as to just which Hamilton will show up in 2010 and if he can sustain whatever that level for a whole year. He's capable of being one of the best hitters in baseball, or a total dud. For Davis, the real question is if he can rediscover the average and power that mysteriously vanished last year. If he steps up, the pressure for Hamilton to do so declines dramatically.
I've always admired the Rangers and how they've tried season after season to play to their offensive strengths while trying to figure out how to solve the pitching problems that the ballpark in Arlington has produced. With Nolan Ryan now in charge of the team it should be interesting to see how they handle the struggles that pitchers face while at this hitter's haven. Right now it looks like he thinks upping the offense might be enough when paired with some decent quality starts. Unless the Angels implode however, I just don't think the Rangers have enough to win this division, but I can see them coming within five games of doing so.