With the Texas Rangers coming up just shy of making the playoffs last year, they are looking to get back to the postseason in 2014. Taking a look at the upcoming 2014 squad, they are a completely different team, nothing like the 2011 team that went to the World Series. Of the Rangers 25-man World Series roster, only seven are still on the current roster. Even from last year they are only returning five of their 10 opening day starters (starting pitcher included). Simply put, the Rangers have been gutted.
With so many new faces in the organization it is hard to recognize this team if you have not been paying attention. The players that have left have been replaced with a lot of new, young homegrown talent. The Rangers are so young that the average age of the current 40-man roster is 26 years and 10 months old, leaving a lot of questions about how this coming season could turn out. Will the talent develop as projected? How will they handle themselves in big time situations? And, can they be consistent? Three of their youngest players, Leonys Martin, Martin Perez, and Jurickson Profar, still have a lot to prove but all three are projected to be starters in 2014 with Martin in center field, Profar at second base, and Perez as the second or third starter in the rotation.
Martin has spent the most time on the field, getting to start 147 games in the outfield. Offensively, Martin did about as well as the rest of the team, which is not saying much. As a team, the Rangers averaged a .262/.323/.412 slash line this past season; Martin’s line was .260/.313/.385, finishing with 66 runs, 49 RBI’s, and eight home runs.
He was a threat on the base path; finishing 10th in steals with 36 stolen bases in 45 attempts. Martin’s speed also led to 35 extra base hits, which was 34% of his total hits during the 2013 campaign. Defensively, Martin just had five errors all season while putting out 317 on 336 total chances, leading to his .985 fielding percentage. Martin’s combination of speed and fielding put him in center field for 127 of his 142 games this past season and he should be unchallenged for the starting role especially with Craig Gentry no longer with the club.
With the addition of free agent Shin-Soo Choo, it should allow manager Ron Washington to move Martin to the bottom of the order, taking the pressure off being the leadoff hitter away. The area Martin could work on most is being patient. He struck-out 104 times out of 457 at-bats. In 2014, I’m looking for big things from Martin, a .285 average and 50 stolen bases-big.
Martin Perez was the definition of dependable last year for the Rangers in his rookie season. In his rookie campaign, the southpaw Perez finished with a 10-6 record in 20 starts compiling an impressive 3.62 ERA and one complete game. Perez was so consistent, he was trusted to pitch game 163, giving up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. The Rangers offense did not help though; or the whole season for that matter batting just .222 with runners in scoring position in that decisive game.
However, the Rangers were still impressed with his season, offering him a four-year deal worth 12.5 million and the Rangers having options on the 2018-2020 seasons, which could be worth up to 32.55 million for Perez. The biggest question for Perez is, after the new contract, can he be the same guy he was last year or maybe even better? To add more pressure, the Rangers lost Derek Holland and need Perez to be nothing short of stellar.
The last piece of the puzzle is Jurickson Profar, who has the most questions to answer going into spring training. The shortstop turned second baseman is expected to do great things for the team. The Rangers believe he will do so well they dealt Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers which landed Prince Fielder in the great state of Texas in that blockbuster trade this past winter.
That is a bold move by the organization which could put a lot of pressure on the young infielder’s shoulders. In 85 games in 2013, Profar hit .234/.308/.336, very lack-luster numbers, but with a full 162 games who knows what he is capable of. However, speed is a definite trait. Like Martin, of his 67 hits, 18 were for extra bases which was nearly 30% of his total.
In 32 games defensively at second base, Profar looked like he will be the star he is projected to be only committing four errors with 133 total chances and finished with a fielding average of .970. The biggest improvement I would like to see from him in 2014 is his base running ability. His speed is obviously there, but on six attempts last year he only succeeded twice.
If the Rangers are willing to risk base runners, I would like to see it payoff. The Rangers had three of the top ten players in the stolen bases category last year but with Profar starting every day this coming season they could easily add one to that number.
If these three players can produce in 2014, look out because the Texas Rangers will be a serious playoff contender.