Spring training is officially underway, which means that it's time to get ready for your fantasy baseball drafts. As part of RotoBaller's ongoing effort to help you win your leagues, we're previewing all 30 MLB teams. In these articles, we discuss each team's offseason moves, as well as their hitters, pitchers, and prospects.
Today's installment covers the 2017 Texas Rangers Team Outlook, and previews their potential fantasy baseball contributions.
Editor's note: for even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
The Rangers successfully defended their division title in 2016, finishing nine games ahead of Seattle. Only the Cubs finished further ahead of their closest competitor. Rougned Odor may have won the battle, but Jose Bautista won the war – his Blue Jays knocked the Rangers out in the ALDS for the second consecutive year. Texas will hope the third time is the charm in 2017, and they’ll need to get back to October without the services of departed free agents Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, and Mitch Moreland. They signed Mike Napoli, which should help. They also signed Andrew Cashner, which…probably won’t help.
Adrian Beltre is a national treasure and I’ll be genuinely sad when he retires. He certainly looks like he can keep playing for a while, though – he just put up a .300-89-32-104 line in his age-37 season. After the Four Horseman of the Hot Corner are off the board, Beltre has a strong case for being the next third baseman selected. Jonathan Lucroy returned to form and is one of, if the best catchers in both real and fantasy baseball. Rougned Odor enjoyed a breakout season at age 22, swatting 33 homers, stealing 14 bases, and totaling 177 R+RBI. The even younger Nomar Mazara held his own as a rookie and looks like a future star. Elvis Andrus had a useful season, hitting a career-best .302 and swiping 24 bags.
Napoli’s resurgent 2016 in Cleveland saw him basically duplicate his production from the previous two seasons combined. He’ll be asked to man first base so that Shin Soo Choo can DH. Choo’s been injured and ineffective in two of his three seasons with Texas, but he’s slotted to hit second and was quite good in 2015. Carlos Gomez hit well enough for the Rangers after being DFA’d by Houston that they brought him back to play center field. Both he and Choo are interesting fliers. Also, incredibly, Jurickson Profar just turned 24 this week. Maybe this is the year for him?
Yu Darvish didn’t miss a beat after Tommy John surgery, essentially jumping right back into action in typical ace form. Cole Hamels looked like he might have lost a step in 2016, but he’s been a fantasy linchpin for the better part of the last decade. After that, things get dicey in the rotation. Cashner continues to convince baseball people to give him large sums of money even though he is not particularly good at pitching. Martin Perez is only 25, but he’s been a middling MLB arm for almost 500 innings now and doesn’t look like he’ll ever be much more. A.J. Griffin finally got healthy and back to the majors, but gave up a million homers. Okay, fine, 28…but in only 119 innings! He’ll probably hold down the fort until Tyson Ross is healthy. Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez are both terrible and you should forget they exist for fantasy purposes when this sentence ends.
Moving to the bullpen, Sam Dyson took the closer gig early last year and ran, racking up 38 saves despite a pedestrian strikeout rate. Like Dyson, Jeremy Jeffress enjoyed success as a closer and groundball machine. Matt Bush completed a remarkable comeback, reinventing himself as a flamethrowing reliever. If he can find his way to the ninth, he becomes extremely interesting for fantasy purposes. The Rangers have a couple other high-strikeout arms in Keone Kela and Jake Diekman whose roles will limit their fantasy upside.
Yohander Mendez and Ariel Jurado look more like mid-rotation arms than potential aces, but both could see the majors at some point this year. Most of the best guys in this system, which isn’t nearly the juggernaut it was a few years ago, are a few years away.
The Rangers’ entire lineup could be fantasy relevant. Lucroy, Beltre, and Odor were among the best in the game at their respective positions in 2016. Napoli and Andrus should be solid performers. Mazara could make the leap. Gomez isn’t that far removed from stardom. Choo is a huge health risk but will cost you nothing as a result. On the pitching side, the rotation is uninspiring after Darvish and Hamels, while the bullpen has some interesting pieces but its current assignments limit everyone’s fantasy value.