The Texas Rangers are a team that is consistently hard to make an assessment on. Other than the years in recent memory where they wind up winning the AL West, they typically play a reasonably strong first half, and gradually fall off after the All-Star break. Part of this may be due to the Texas heat beating down on you in the harshest months of July and August, and part of this may just be the fatigue of playing a 162 game season. That’s why this year works into the Ranger’s favor. Playing a 60 game season is in the wheelhouse of the Rangers, along with the opening of Globe Life Field (which is climate controlled) and will take away the drawbacks of summer baseball in Texas. In 2019, Texas was 48-42 in the first half, and they finished 78-84. This is why a 60 game season could benefit Texas, and the strength at the top of the Rangers rotation. This could be a season that gives the Rangers a slight advantage because of the circumstances.
To highlight that pitching staff, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are coming off seasons in which they posted very respectable numbers as well as being in the lower levels of conversation for the AL Cy Young Award. The Rangers also acquired Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles, and former 2-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Beyond those 5, the Rangers debuted Kolby llard last season, who was the 10th rated prospect in the Braves organization that was dealt to Texas in exchange for RP Chris Martin. Allard could also have a bright future in Texas. The top 3 members of the rotation, however, are who provide the most excitement in 2020. Although Minor, Lynn, and Kluber are all over the age of 30, Minor and Lynn had great years in 2019 and the Rangers have high hopes that Kluber will return to form in 2020. Minor, who was an All-Star last season finished the year (14-10) with a 3.59 ERA and finished 8th in Cy Young voting. Lynn finished (16-11) with a 3.67 ERA in 2019, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting. Kluber, who had an injury plagued 2019, posted 3 consecutive seasons as an All-Star, also tallying a CYA prior to that. Kluber recently threw 6+ innings in a simulated game, tallying 9 punchouts while only allowing 2 hits. This is a good sign for the potential ace. Starting pitcher fatigue is always a concern in a full MLB season, but with the shorter slate the Rangers are in line to have one of the strongest rotations in baseball.
The Rangers are proven to almost always be a threat with the bat. If the starting pitching can be as productive as they look on paper, the Rangers should be able to win a lot of games with the run support they’ll provide their pitchers. In a lineup headlined by slugger Joey Gallo, Texas has a good mix of proven bats, as well as younger players that have very high potential. The epitome of a trusted veteran is Elvis Andrus. Although he lacks some of the speed and defense he provided in his younger years, he is still a trusted veteran bat to have in the order that also provides leadership to the upcoming younger stars. Gallo, who has had health concerns in the past, is a well above average defender in the outfield who also improved his approach at the plate last year. In 2019 Gallo posted a slash line of .253/.389/.598 with 22 HR in only 70 games. Gallo also improved his walk rate which was a concern his first few seasons with the amount of pitches he chased out of the zone. If Gallo can build on the foundation he set last year, I think he could be a dark horse for the AL MVP. The Rangers also have a good group of young talent in Josh Jung, Nick Solak, and Willie Calhoun. While Calhoun is the only one that has proved himself as a big league hitter, Solak had a very promising stretch when he got called up in 2019. Texas also acquired the veteran bats of Todd Frazier and former Ranger Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos will help provide offense out of the catcher’s slot in the lineup. While Jeff Mathis is a great defensive catcher, he is a less than impressive presence at the plate. Danny Santana is also coming off a break out year for the Rangers in which he was a super utility man that was slotted in multiple different positions to keep his bat in the lineup daily. As I said before, if this team can perform to the level it feels that they can on paper, they will have a very legitimate chance of sneaking into the 2020 MLB playoffs. As of today, that potential playoff hope may get a little stronger. MLB has re-engaged in negotiations that would expand the 2020 playoffs to 16 teams rather than 10. A decision on the playoff format has to be made before the Yankees and Nationals start off the season tonight at 7 P.M Eastern Time.
The main question that surrounds the Rangers is the bullpen. It is historically underwhelming and has not been much better the past few seasons. Personally, I think the tone of the bullpen will be set by what type of season Jose Leclerc has. If he can return to the lockdown closer he was in 2018, I think he could post between 16-21 saves in this shortened season. The Rangers also added RHPs Cody Allen and Nick Goody. My projection is that the Rangers will finish (32-28), 3rd place in the AL West, and take one of the AL Wild Card spots (if the league approves expansion). It should be a fun year in Arlington as the Rangers are set to kick off the season July 24 against the Colorado Rockies in the inaugural game of Globe Life Field.