|With Adrian Beltre at third, Michael Young will again play all over the diamond. (US Presswire)|
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Rangers:
• Can we get used to the idea of talking about Rangers pitching? The potential is there for a super rotation, although it depends on how well Neftali Feliz handles the adjustment to starting and how well Yu Darvish handles the adjustment from Japan. But add those two to Derek Holland (16-5 last year), Colby Lewis (200 innings each of the last two years) and probably Matt Harrison (3.39 ERA last year), and the Rangers could have something special. They're so deep that Alexi Ogando, who made the All-Star team as a starter last year, is likely headed for the bullpen.
• If Ogando does indeed go to the bullpen, and if Joe Nathan is as healthy as he has looked early in camp, the Rangers' pen could be a big-time strength again, too. General manager Jon Daniels has usually been against paying big money for relievers, but he traded last summer for Mike Adams (who worked out well) and for Koji Uehara (not as well).
In signing closer Nathan, Rangers get two for price of one. Camp report >>
• These are the Rangers, so there's no way this can all be about pitching. And it's not. The lineup that took them to the World Series the last two years is back intact, and there's every reason to believe they'll score as many runs as they did last year (855, a close third behind the Red Sox and Yankees).
• Ron Washington has a great feel for his team, and for keeping his players happy and involved. Remember the questions last spring about how Michael Young would handle being a designated hitter, once the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to play third? Well, Washington maneuvered it so that Young played 159 games, and he was the DH for only 69 of them. Young started at all four infield spots, and Washington said this spring that he plans to use Young the same way in 2012.
• Ian Kinsler had a .255 batting average last year as the Rangers' leadoff hitter. But as Washington points out, Kinsler also scored 121 runs, second-most in baseball behind Curtis Granderson. He helps makes the Rangers offense go, and he helps make the team go.
• Not a big complaint, but I'd have liked the Rangers even more if they had signed Prince Fielder to play first base. The Rangers can say as many times as they want that they like Mitch Moreland, but Fielder would have done for their lineup exactly what he has done for the Tiger lineup. The Rangers did make a play for Fielder, but by all indications they didn't go all-out after him. Their bid was over $100 million, but he signed for more than $200 million.
• It's hard not to like what Josh Hamilton does for the Rangers, but it's also hard to forget that he seems to get hurt every year. The Reds traded Hamilton four years ago because their team doctors told them it was too risky to keep him. The Rangers will never regret trading for him, but if they eventually sign him to too long a contract (Hamilton is a free agent after this year), they could well regret it. The biggest risk isn't that Hamilton will start drinking, despite his well-publicized lapses. The biggest risk is that after all he did to his body earlier in his life, it just simply won't hold up to playing baseball.
• The Rangers prefer to play Hamilton in left field, because they think it somewhat reduces the risk of injury. But their best outfield is still with Hamilton in center field and David Murphy in left, mainly because they still haven't been able to find a great replacement for Hamilton in center. When they signed Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin last summer, the hope was that he would be challenging to be the replacement by now. His development, though, has been slower than expected.