Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers are another team whose allure in fantasy baseball is greater than it is in their reality of Major League Baseball.
In real life, the Rangers are just another team in the AL West that’s not as good as the Houston Astros. And they’ve got the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s ahead of them on the list of teams trying to chase the Astros. The Rangers lost 95 games last year, they’re not trying to duplicate that, but it’s not at all out of the question to imagine them in the cellar again.
In fantasy, however, the Rangers have a few guys who will tantalize owners (and perhaps ultimately confound and frustrate them). This is a team that has complemented its talented younger players — Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, among them — with a number of recognizable veterans. Just look at the pitching staff, there’s no one you immediately want to draft, but there’s probably a guy you had a horror story about picking in the last five years. - Mike Oz
Rangers’ offseason grade
The Rangers were certainly busy this offseason, although there was not one huge splash of a transaction that will change the course of the franchise. They did hire a new manager in Chris Woodward, the former Los Angeles Dodgers coach, and then set out to stay relevant in the AL West through a series of signings.
Most notably, they added pitcher Lance Lynn to a three-year deal in December, which seems almost unbelievable when you see how many players could get only one-year deals in the ensuing months. They also signed Shelby Miller, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shawn Kelley, Hunter Pence, Logan Forsythe and Ben Revere.
Our grade: C — They didn’t idly by, but it’s tough to say whether any of this will make the Rangers drastically better in 2019. - Mike Oz
Texas’ projected lineup and pitching staff
Who is the Rangers’ fantasy buy?
Rougned Odor’s counting stats fell off some last year thanks to injuries, but he bounced back at the plate after a down 2017 (when he still went 30/15 despite a .224 BABIP). His defense improved so much, Odor finished with the highest WAR of his career last season despite not reaching 130 games, and he’s just now entering his prime at age 25. THE BAT projects a .256-87-29-83-19 season from Odor, who’s somehow only being drafted as the 15th second basemen right now. Slated to hit near the top of Texas’ lineup and in a home park that’s boosted run scoring more than any in baseball other than Coors Field over the last three years, Odor is someone to target. - Dalton Del Don
What is Texas’ buzzy fantasy topic?
Delino DeShields was a major disappointment last season, although injuries were plenty to blame, and he finished the year strong after returning from the DL (batting .300 in September). So, what can we expect from him in 2019? DeShields isn’t going to hit for much power, but he’s still just 26 years old, can take a walk and is one of the fastest players in baseball. Stolen bases remain as hot of a commodity in fantasy as ever, so if his health cooperates, he’ll go down as a bargain since he’s so affordable at draft tables. - Dalton Del Don
Rangers prospect to watch
Most of the Rangers top prospects are buried in the lower levels of the minors, so it's unlikely fans will see any of them in 2019. Taylor Hearn, who is not considered a Top-100 prospect, reached Double A, so he might be the closest to the majors.
Instead, Rangers fans will have to continue watching for continued development from Joey Gallo, Ronald Guzman, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor. They can still be part of the team's next winner. - Chris Cwik
Things that MUST go right for Texas
1. Willie Calhoun turns the corner: Calhoun was the centerpiece of the Rangers return from the Dodgers in the 2017 Yu Darvish trade, but he's yet to make a real mark in the big leagues. That has to change this season. Reports say Calhoun is down nearly 30 pounds, so he's obviously putting in work to get in great shape. But his career will go as his hitting goes. While he consistently tears it up in the minors, the switch has to flip this season against MLB pitching or the Rangers will have a hole in their lineup and a tough decision to make next winter.
2. Lance Lynn lives up to money: It was a bit surprising to see the rebuilding Rangers go out and sign Lynn to a three-year, $30 million contract this winter. They must feel he can be an important part of the process as a pitcher and as a mentor. The pitching part will have the biggest impact in 2019. Rangers starters had the second highest ERA in MLB last season, and certainly won't fair any better if Lynn's 2018 struggles continue.
3. Create buzz for new stadium: This isn't a playoff team on paper. What Rangers general manager Jon Daniels needs to do first and foremost is position the franchise to look like a playoff team when Globe Life Field opens in 2020. It's easier said than done, but the Braves have shown that you can successfully time a rebuild with a new stadium. Some of that hinges on what we've already mentioned. Some of it's luck too. But a lot hinges on how Daniels can turn his remaining assets into meaningful 2020 pieces.
If the Rangers had a walk-up song, what would it be?
Have we made it this far without mentioning the biggest Texas Ranger who won’t be there in 2019? Oh, Adrian Beltre, we already miss you. The recently retired third baseman — and one of the most fun players in the game until he hung ‘em up — will leave a big hole on the Rangers depth chart and in their hearts.
So their walk-up song? It’s probably the most famous we-miss-our-homies song ever: “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony.
And the Rangers are at a crossroads too as they embrace the rebuild. - Mike Oz