When news spread about the Texas Rangers losing their top pitcher in their rotation, Yu Darvish, the waves made around the baseball world was swift and the national media couldn’t wait to declare the team in Arlington — dead on arrival.
But in the words of the great Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.”
It is still spring training, correct? It is still the month of March, right? We haven’t played a single regular season game, have we? So why be so quick to write off the Rangers in a month where very little makes any difference at all, aside from injuries? Why go on this station or that radio show and tell the world that the Texas Rangers went from an AL West contender to barely a .500 team because of the loss of one player? Why be so certain that the Rangers aren’t going to contend? Wouldn’t it be better just to say, “we don’t know what the Rangers are going to look like going into the season,” instead of declaring them dead and gone?
A part of me wonders if there will be any of those analysts, who have already written the Rangers off, who will be willing to go back on those stations or radio shows and admit to being wrong. I realize it wasn’t the first time they’ll have to admit defeat, and it certainly won’t be the last, but they certainly will look a tad sheepish if this Texas team goes on to win the AL West and looks strong heading into the playoffs.
Despite the loss of Darvish, this team still looks like a force to be reckoned with. Taking the top spot in the starting rotation will be an older, stronger, and more mature Derek Holland. A left-hander who is ready to put the doubters to rest once and for all. Following him will be experienced starters Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis, both have years of experience in the big leagues that will be an asset to the starting rotation and to the Texas Rangers in general. Following them, in the four and five spots, could be any number of names including Ross Detwiler and Nick Martinez, who Evan Grant believes has a lock on the fifth spot in the rotation and says it’s “his job to lose.”
So, with that in mind, who is the number four guy in the rotation? Grant doesn’t believe Tepesch is in the running due to being unable to keep the ball down in the zone so is Detwiler that guy? Grant also talks about Jamey Wright being a possibility but notes his struggles during spring training as well.
While the starting rotation could be a concern, the back end of the bullpen with Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz seems solid. What’s also promising is the rise of relief pitchers Keone Kela and Kyuji Fujikawa who may join the bullpen when the season starts.
The rotation will also get a big time lift when Martin Perez returns from Tommy John surgery and if everything that has been said about his progress is true, we may see him prior to the All-Star break. However, even if he returns after the break, if the Rangers are in the thick of the division race it makes Perez’s return that much bigger. Also, could the Rangers get Matt Harrison back this season? Even the conversation is something I never thought any Ranger fan would have. This last back surgery was supposed to be a career ender but apparently nobody told Harrison that.
While the pitching may be the one big question mark for this team as far as how they perform this season, the offense should be the lesser question because of the bats, and health, they have in the lineup. Prince Fielder should be 100 percent healthy after undergoing neck surgery last year, Shin-Soo Choo should be good to go after an ankle injury limited his ability last season, you’ll be in the second full season with young second baseman Rougned Odor and of course you know what Adrian Beltre gives this team.
Outside of those names, you could get bigger production from Mitch Moreland, Ryan Rua could perform like he has been during spring training, Elvis Andrus could have one of his best seasons in the last three years, and Leonys Martin could be the next big base stealer for this ballclub. Then you have a name like Kyle Blanks to watch. The big 6’6″ 270-pound first baseman slash outfielder slash designated hitter, could be another big bat for this club if he can get his knees healthy and can get his swing together.
There are a lot of things going for this 2015 Texas Rangers’ ballclub. There are a lot of things to look forward to and instead of looking at one guy and writing off this talented group of players, look at what they still have and wonder what could be when the smoke clears and things are said and done.
I’m not calling for the Rangers to win the World Series, but I’m certainly not going to take them out of the running for what should be a wide open division race to the end. Injuries are part of the game, it happens to every team, and it could happen to this division and any team in it.
With Holland at the lead, Feliz at the end, Fielder and Beltre leading the offense, this could be a fun season to watch.