4 Reasons to Be Optimistic for Texas Rangers' 2014 Season
The Texas Rangers will be looking to get back to the playoffs this season after it eluded them for the first time in four years in 2013.
It will be a tough task for the club as injuries have riddled the roster over the course of spring training. The Rangers lost two starters, Geovany Soto and Jurickson Profar for at least 10 weeks. Pitchers Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison were placed on the 15-day disabled list, and Derek Holland is out until the All-Star break.
However, Texas faced similar issues last year and was still able to win more than 90 games for the fourth consecutive season. They were one game from making the playoffs even with the absence of guys like Harrison, Colby Lewis and Lance Berkman.
Things are gloomy now, but the Rangers should be able to overcome the obstacles set before them. There are four things to be optimistic about the upcoming season and we will talk about them over the course of the article.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Runs, Runs, Runs
It took the Rangers three games to score a combined 13 runs in its opening series last year against the Houston Astros.
Against the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day, the club scored 10 runs in seven innings and pounded out 14 hits in the game. It is a good sign for a team that was inconsistent last season at putting runs on the board.
With the additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, it should be an area where the club improves. Both players have a career .389 OBP, and Fielder has driven in more than 100 RBI in six of his eight big league seasons.
Not one Ranger eclipsed the 100-RBI mark last season.
Expectations are enormous for Choo and Fielder and the lineup to score runs. But with the way the lineup is set up and the jet stream that resides in right-center field of Globe Life Park, those expectations should be met, if not surpassed.
The Return of the Rotation
Luckily for the Rangers, the absences of Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison will not be lengthy.
In fact, Darvish was put on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 21 which means stint is nearly over. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Darvish could make his first start on April 6.
As for Harrison, he was placed on the 15-day DL on March 29 and his return has yet to be determined. Grant writes that Harrison is scheduled to throw four innings at Double-A Frisco on April 3 and get back on a five-day schedule on April 8. Although there is no return date set, he could be back on the mound for the Rangers by the end of April.
The comeback of Colby Lewis may also be complete within the next couple of weeks. He has struggled this spring training, but that is to be expected from a guy who hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game since 2012.
It is the same hand the Rangers were dealt during the 2013 season. This time around, however, it looks like the rotation will be back together sooner rather than later.
Alex Rios' Team Option
With just a $1 million buyout, the club could save plenty of greenbacks. However, if Rios plays the way he did before the current contract he signed in 2008, it would be difficult for the Rangers not to bring him back.
In 2007, Rios set career highs in hits (191), runs (114) and OBP (.354). Following that season, he signed a seven-year extension worth $69.835 million plus the 2015 option. He also hit 24 homers and 43 doubles while playing in a career-high 161 games.
That year also marks the last season that Rios was named to the All-Star team.
Given the lift he has provided in Texas thus far, $13.5 million would be a bargain for the Rangers to retain Rios.
The Joakim Soria of Old
Joe Nathan isn’t around to shut the door for the Rangers in the ninth anymore.
But Joakim Soria is after winning the closer role over the course of spring training. He threw 9.2 innings and gave up just one run on seven hits. The 29-year-old struck out eight hitters and did not walk a single batter.
Soria used to be the closer for the Kansas City Royals from 2007-2011, converting 160 of 180 saves. He missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery and pitched in 26 games for the Rangers last season. He struggled with command, posting a walk rate of 5.6 per nine innings, but also struck out 10.6 per nine innings.
If spring training is any indication, then Soria could be back to his dominant form and the Rangers won’t be missing Joe Nathan this season.
You can follow Trey on Twitter @treydwarren.