SURPRISE, Ariz. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Rangers:
• Few teams will outscore the Rangers. In AL MVP Josh Hamilton, right fielder Nelson Cruz, second baseman Ian Kinsler, third baseman Adrian Beltre, shortstop Elvis Andrus and beyond, Texas brings as much thunder as anybody this side of the Yankees or Red Sox. Health will be a key. As manager Ron Washington says, Hamilton, Cruz and Kinsler have to stay on the field. That's not always easy for Hamilton because he plays so hard (as evidenced by a lost September last year with the rib injury suffered running into the fence in Minnesota). Texas ranked fifth in the majors last year, averaging 4.86 runs scored per game. And though they lost Vladimir Guerrero, they've added Adrian Beltre (28 homers last year) and Mike Napoli (26).
• Neftali Feliz. The AL Rookie of the Year last summer had 40 saves and will be even more dominant this year with experience and his newly added cutter. The Rangers are agonizing this spring over whether he can help them more as a closer or as a starter, where they see him long-term. It's a sweet problem to have.
|With their current roster, the Rangers are getting on fine without Cliff Lee. Read More>>|
• Depth. Washington can spot in two sluggers from his bench who are threats: Outfielder David Murphy and catcher/first baseman/designated hitter Napoli, the former Angel. Napoli had 26 homers and 68 RBI last year. He'll rake in Texas' park. And in veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes joining Darren Oliver, the Rangers now have two late-inning lefties. Last year, they only had Oliver. This team is smartly constructed.
• The Rangers' system is deep in terrific young arms. Right-handers Tommy Hunter and Alexi Ogando and lefties Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Michael Kirkman all should contribute this year -- Hunter, Holland and Kirkman as starters and Ogando as a set-up man.
• The energy of club president (and Hall of Famer, and new Rangers CEO) Nolan Ryan. He is not just a figurehead (as we saw when Rangers front man Chuck Greenberg resigned last week). He's around, and he's involved. And he's a great resource for the Rangers.
• The only way the Rangers are going to make people forget Cliff Lee is if they pitch enough to win the AL West. Starters C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis are coming off very good years, but they will be pitching under far more pressure in 2011. Wilson, a reliever as recently as 2009, needs to prove he can win 15 games and throw 204 innings again. Lewis must show his 201 innings pitched last year was not a fluke.
• The Michael Young situation. Class act. True professional. And maybe it works, keeping him around. The Rangers certainly are a better team with him in the clubhouse. But you get the sense that at some point before season's end, for Young's sake and for the club's, they're going to have to trade him.
• Signing Brandon Webb (one-year, $3 million) was a calculated gamble, and maybe it will work in the end. But the fact that Webb continues to barely plod along on training wheels midway through March after sitting out all of 2010 is not a good sign. Webb's 2009 shoulder surgery should be firmly in the rear-view mirror. Rangers GM Jon Daniels says that structurally, it is sound. Credit to Texas for taking it slow, but it still makes you wonder. "When he comes and pitches, we want him to be as close to 100 percent as possible," Daniels says. "So we're taking the approach of less now, more later. He probably stepped on it too quickly last year, and never pitched. We want to make sure we have him for as much of the season as possible, with an emphasis on the second half."