Texas Rangers Fantasy Report
This has to be considered a season of progress for the Rangers, and if not for a horrible swoon in late-April, this club could be right in the thick of the AL Wild Card race. After a modest 5-4 start, the team went into a 2-12 tailspin, dropping to a season worst 7-16 as of April 24 – essentially burying themselves early. However, Texas rebounded and went a very impressive 51-38 between then and August 5 to move to a season-best 60-54. Competing in the AL West with the blazing Angels would have taken much more than that, but unfortunately, the Rangers’ Wild Card chances have slipped away since thanks to a 2-9 skid.
Offense sure hasn’t been an issue. Texas leads the AL in runs (695), slugging (.456) and OPS. But, as usual, the pitching staff has let this team down. The Rangers are dead last in the Junior Circuit in ERA, BAA (.290), OPS against (829), WHIP (1.60) and quality starts (40).
Dustin Nippert has received a modicum of fantasy attention in AL-only leagues as he got a start Sunday, but it appears that this was just a spot start and even if more rotation time was a possibility, he did his best to ensure he won’t get another chance. To call Nippert horribly inconsistent almost seems like praise. After looking so impressive last week with four shutout innings against the Red Sox, he got tattooed by the Rays Sunday, suffering the loss. Nippert looked to be finding his groove in middle relief last season, but his awful command has rendered him lost this year.
Brandon Boggs has picked up the pace a bit lately, and has driven in runs in the last two games, but without more at bats, he’s not worth owning at this time unless you’re in an extremely deep AL-only league. Because of the fragile nature of several of the Ranger outfielders, Boggs could be looking at more PT at any time and given that he’s a switch hitter, he is not affected by platoons. However, he really hasn’t hit lefties or righties particularly well, although he’s at least shown decent pop against southpaws.
New daddy Josh Hamilton returned to the lineup Friday, and hit in all three weekend games, driving in another two runs Sunday. Talk about respect – the Rays opted to intentionally walk Hamilton with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning. He could have tied the game with a long ball, but instead plated one run with the free pass, leaving Marlon Byrd to end the game with a whiff. Hamilton hasn’t quite maintained his pre-All-Star break pace, but he’s not far off and seems to have picked things up a bit so far this month, at least in terms of getting on base. At any rate, he’s definitely not suffering from any Home Run Derby letdown, a la Bobby Abreu a couple of years ago.
There’s good news from down on the farm, where Brandon McCarthy, who has missed the entire season with a forearm injury, looks just about ready to rejoin the Ranger rotation. He put up seven goose eggs for Triple-A Oklahoma Sunday for his second straight superb start. Last season, McCarthy’s first in Texas and first as a full-time starter, didn’t exactly go swimmingly, but it’s way too early to write him off. True, his excellent recent work has been against weaker teams in the PCL, so the Rangers may opt to see how he fares against a better hitting team (he’ll get the Iowa Cubs next) before bringing him up. There remains a chance he will take the hill for the Rangers on Saturday if they do promote him. Those seeking some late-season pitching help would be wise to monitor the McCarthy situation.
Ian Kinsler had to come out early Sunday with a groin injury. He’ll be evaluated today, so let’s keep our fingers crossed here, because this is the type of injury that tends to linger. It’s awful timing, as Kinsler had been putting his early-August slump in the rear view mirror in recent games, hitting in eight straight and nine of his last ten games. This dude is on pace for 215 freaking hits this season. To put that in perspective, he totaled 248 hits in his first two campaigns.
If Kinsler is going to miss time, who the hell is going to play second for Texas? German Duran would be the likeliest candidate, but he tore a ligament in his thumb last month and won’t be back until late-September if at all. Ramon Vazquez has only played five games at second this year, and right now – until Hank Blalock gets back, anyways – he’s needed at third base. So should Kinsler be sidelined for some time, Joaquin Arias might get his chance. Arias lost almost all of 2007 because of injuries, but he’s made up for it this year, batting .296 with good speed at Oklahoma. He’s batting .316 since the break, but isn’t running as much as he did. Still, if Arias gets the call, he could provide you with a decent BA and some cheap steals.
Speaking of Blalock, he’s getting ready to come off the DL, but will not be returning to the hot corner. Instead, he’s going to man first base and the team will shift Chris Davis from first to third, with Vazquez going to the bench. Blalock’s shoulder woes and inability to consistently make the throw from third to first will present Davis with a chance to impress the team brass enough so that he’ll be in the mix for the starting third baseman job in 2009. At the very least, Davis will have an opportunity to entrench himself as the key corner infield backup. In the meantime, if Davis can wow the team, Texas could look to deal Blalock this offseason. And of course, giving Blalock PT between now and the end of the season will be necessary to showcase him, so those of you that feel like taking a chance on him can rest assured that until he gets hurt again, he’ll be in the lineup every day.