Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Texas Rangers. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
When the Rangers acquired Josh Hamilton from the Reds, we knew they were getting a once in a lifetime player and person that would serve as their centerpiece for the next decade. It makes you wonder why you’d ever trade a guy like that. As painful as it is, we’re extremely happy for Hamilton and proud to say we saw the glimmer on his star before it shined bright last year.
If this team had anything in the way of starting pitching, they’d be our darkhorse pick possibly in the entire AL. They have a lineup that will perhaps lead all of baseball in runs scored. It gets as hot as anywhere in the summer at the Ballpark in Arlington, and the ball flys in rapid succession on those hot summer days. Rangers fans no longer have to long for the days of Mickey Tettleton, Juan Gonzalez in his prime, and Pudge Rodriguez. These Rangers are even more heavily loaded. They’re a fantasy baseball owner’s dream come true.
Ian Kinsler will hit leadoff, coming off a great season in which he didn’t really finish strong. When Kinsler gets hot, home runs and extra base hits come in bunches. Micheal Young moves over to third base and is a consistent offensive player who collects hits like its his hobby. Then you’ve got Hamilton, coming off his explosive season in which he was an RBI machine he should see no shortage of preseason MVP picks. We’d list Miguel Cabrera and Grady Sizemore there as well, but Hamilton could easily reach that milestone this season.
Nelson Cruz is a sleeper to do something big in 2009 as the Rangers everyday right fielder and cleanup man. The Rangers always saw him as a middle-of-the-order hitter, but every time they gave him a chance, he gave them no reason to keep him in the majors. He hit .342 in the minors last year, so expect that to translate to some good things at the big league level this season.
Hank Blalock will be back as the designated hitter, and we’ve complete given up on this guy ever amounting to anything. He’s fallen apart. He is Hillbilly Eric Chavez. He is a trainwreck. Blalock will eventually find himself out of baseball like Billy Ashley did back in the day. The guy is just too inconsistent in a number of areas, mainly health.
Chris Davis is a guy who at 23 could be another 30 homer, 100 RBI guy. He burst on the scene last season and hit like a madman at points. He’ll be the Rangers next big power star. It doesn’t end there. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be the everyday catcher this year, after splitting some time with Gerald Laird initially last year. Salty will also breakout someday soon with big time power numbers. David Murphy has some pop in left field, but is more of a base hit guy. Elvis Andrus could cause problems as double leadoff man in the nine hole, and look for him to push towards 20 stolen bases. What a lineup.
The starting rotation honestly isn’t even worth talking about. Kevin Millwood is the ace. Then you’ve got Vicente Padilla, Kason Gabbard, Brandon Mccarthy and Scott Feldman surrouding him. They’re gonna hit hard. They’re gonna give up runs. They also added Ben Sheets but he’s a relative wildcard seemingly getting hurt each and every year.
The closer role will be split between Frank Francisco and CJ Wilson, with one emerging by midseason as the fulltime guy. Warner Madrigal, Dustin Nippert and Derek Turnbow are others who will be dependable in the pen.
These guys will make some noise, when the lineup gets hot they’ll win a horde of games and if they can get any pitching at all they’ll hang onto the top spot in the AL West for a bit. They’re at worst probably a second place team in the division, but at best that is probably their highest spot. They’ve got to get some pitching that will keep them in ballgames. Still, an 85 win season would provide a lot of enjoyment for those Cowboys who follow this team down in Texas.