a 2009 Rangers Preview: 2009 Texas Rangers Baseball Preview
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The Rangers were fairly successful in 2008, improving their win total to 79 and making some strides offensively. Centerfielder Josh Hamilton was the unquestioned star of the team, hitting 32 Homers and driving in 130 runs. However, the Rangers still followed the same pattern which has led to their recent playoff drought: A dearth of pitching.

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The 2009 edition of the Rangers should give fans in the Dallas/Fort Worth area plenty of hope. Not only do they return most of their splendid offense but numerous younger contributors are a year older and mature. Texas recently had their farm system rated #1 in all of baseball, so they are simply oozing with raw talent. The Rangers didn’t make a lot of moves this offseason in large part because of the high end potential of many of their major league ready prospects. Furthermore, their youthful starting rotation should be much improved from last season, meaning that the Rangers should improve upon their 79-83 record from a year ago.


The Rangers don’t have a true ace. Part of this is the byproduct of playing in a hitter’s park but when your team’s top two starters have ERAs of 5.07 and 4.74, you simply don’t have a top of the line starter. Those ERAs belonged to Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, respectively, and both will return to anchor the Texas rotation. Joining them will be young starters Scott Feldman (6-8, 5.29 ERA in 25 starts in 2008) and Matt Harrison (9-3, 5.49, 15 starts) and both will need to pitch much better to give the Rangers a shot at a winning season. The final rotation spot will be filled by either Brandon McCarthy (1-1, 4.09), Kason Gabbard (2-3, 4.82) or Eric Hurley (1-2, 5.47). McCarthy and Gabbard both had injury problems last year, while Hurley spent most of the season at Triple A. Expect McCarthy or Gabbard to get first shot at the final spot. Texas will need big improvement on the rotation’s back end to compete in the AL West.


Texas’ bullpen wasn’t very strong last season, exemplified by erstwhile closer CJ Wilson’s 6.02 ERA. While Wilson gave up a lot of runs, he pitched well enough to convert 24 out of 28 save opportunities. However, Frank Fransisco is expected to enter this season as the closer, having finished 2008 with a lot of success in that role. Righty Joaquin Benoit should join Wilson in a set up role and if Fransisco can continue his success from last year (3.13 ERA), the Rangers have the foundations for a fairly solid bullpen.


The Rangers have a very strong infield. Former star shortstop Michael Young (.284 AVG, 12 HR, 82 RBI, .339 OBP) moves to third base to make space for 20 year old wunderkind Elvis Andrus, who is expected to start from day one as a rookie this fall. 2B Ian Kinsler (.319, 18 HR, 71 RBI, .375 OBP) is one of the game’s best and 1B Chris Davis (.285, 17 HR, 55 RBI, .331 OBP) was very successful over half of a season at the Major League level last year. Designated Hitter Hank Blaylock (.287, 12 HR, 38 RBI, .338 OBP) was solid but missed nearly 100 games last fall. He will contribute in a limited role at 3B and 1B but is expected to be a force offensively. At catcher, talented 24 year old Jarrod Saltalmacchia (.253, 3 HR, 26 RBI, .352 OBP) was the centerpiece of the Mark Teixiera trade with Atlanta and he will be given plenty of opportunities to prove himself. Texas has a very solid infield and should receive very good run production at the plate.


Texas’ outfield features one of the game’s best players in CF Josh Hamilton. Hamilton (.304, 32 HR, 130 RBI, .371) was an offensive dynamo last fall and is the centerpiece of Texas’ powerful offense. Joining him in left field is David Murphy (.275, 15 HR, 74 RBI, .321 OBP), whose excellent rookie season was derailed by injury in August. Murphy will have to come back and re-establish himself as a force AND avoid the dreaded sophomore slump this year, so temper your expectations for him. The other outfield position will be manned by a combination of Marlon Byrd (.298, 10 HR, 53 RBI, .380 OBP), Nelson Cruz (.330, 7 HR, 26 RBI, .421 in 31 games), and Brandon Boggs (.226, 8 HR, 41, .333 OBP). Expect the Rangers’ outfield to be as good as any in the division.


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The Rangers had a fairly successful season last year in large part due to their ability to score a lot of runs and they return almost the entire lineup. Full seasons from Blaylock, Davis, and Murphy could bolster their offense further. However, their starting pitching is still questionable and will likely struggle with consistency on the back end due to their youth. The bullpen could be fairly solid with three established guys at the back end but Fransisco will need to prove his mettle closing over a full season.

The 2009 Texas Rangers will need to continue bashing the baseball to stay competitive while their young arms establish themselves. Simply put, the Rangers can score runs with any team in baseball, the question is how well their pitching will hold up. Expectations of a winning year in Arlington are certainly realistic, but the Rangers are still a few arms away from being a true playoff contender. Expect the Rangers to finish the season with a better than .500 record and a second place finish in the AL West but any more than 85 wins would be a surprise.


By Matt Baxendell
MLBcenter.com Guest Writer

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