2009 TEXAS RANGERS PREVIEW
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.
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.
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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