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MLB season preview: The Rangers are within reach of that elusive World Series win

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The Texas Rangers enter 2017 with one goal and it’s the same goal they’ve had for years, the same goal that’s been lingering since that disappointing 2010 World Series loss to the Giants.

The Rangers want to win it all. They never have, like ever. And if 2017 is going to be the year, the Rangers aren’t in a bad place. They return a team that has won its division the past two seasons, that has two great pitchers atop its rotation and a lineup that is a potent mix of exciting young players and established veterans.

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There are all the makings of a World Series team here, but there’s also a big hump that they haven’t been able to get over. The Rangers have lost in the American League Division Series the last two years, both times to the Toronto Blue Jays. Last year, they were swept out of the postseason despite winning the most games in baseball.

To help ease the sting of that, Rangers made some low-cost, high-reward additions this offseason. If Andrew Cashner or Tyson Ross can finally realize their potential, or if Jurickson Profar has a big breakout season, the Rangers could be in a really good place. It’s important to remember, though, the Houston Astros are good too, so winning a third straight AL West title won’t come easy.

ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Additions: Andrew Cashner, Mike Napoli, Tyson Ross
Subtractions: Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland

After winning 95 games in 2016, the Rangers mostly stood pat in the offseason. Andrew Cashner comes over from Miami looking for a bounce back season, while Mike Napoli looks to begin his third stint with the team. Napoli experienced a resurgence with the Indians last year, and is hoping to carry that over in Texas despite his age.

The losses here are more significant. Ian Desmond capitalized on his one-year, buy-low deal and took off to Colorado. Carlos Beltran also departed after being a hired playoff mercenary. While both losses will hurt, the Rangers are still well-positioned in the division. Some combination of Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar and Napoli should replace those players. The lineup will look different, but should still be pretty strong. (Chris Cwik)

The Rangers are hoping Yu Darvish is back to his ace self after Tommy John surgery. (Getty Images)
The Rangers are hoping Yu Darvish is back to his ace self after Tommy John surgery. (Getty Images)

KEY PLAYER
Yu Darvish is a very good pitcher. But he only has the chance to be a very good pitcher when he’s healthy. And that’s the problem. Darvish started the season on the DL after missing the entirety of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and would spend even more time out of commission with a back injury. He needs to turn in a healthy 2017, because the Rangers rotation can’t handle a lot of injuries. But also because when Darvish is healthy, he’s so, so good. Despite his injuries limiting him to just 100 innings last, he lowered his walk rate and increased his strikeout rate. That is the Darvish the Rangers need. They just need it over a full season. (Liz Roscher)

PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION
Lineup
1. Carlos Gomez, CF (.231/.298/.384, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 18 SB)
2. Shin-Soo Choo, DH (.242/.357/.399, 7 HR, 17 RBI)
3. Adrian Beltre, 3B (.300/.358/.521, 32 HR, 104 RBI, 89 R)
4. Mike Napoli, 1B (.239/.335/.465, 34 RBI, 101 RBI, 92 R)
5. Rougned Odor, 2B (.271/.296/.502, 33 HR, 88 RBI, 89 R, 14 SB)
6. Jonathan Lucroy, C (.292/.355/.500, 24 HR, 81 RBI)
7. Nomar Mazara, RF (.266/.320/.419, 20 HR, 64 RBI)
8. Elvis Andrus, SS (.302/.362/.439, 8 HR, 69 RBI, 75 R)
9. Jurickson Profar, LF (.239/.321/.338, 5 HR, 20 RBI)

Rotation
1. Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32 ERA, 200.2 IP, 200 K)
2. Yu Darvish (7-5. 3.41 ERA, 100.1 IP, 132 K)
3. Martin Perez (10-11, 4.39 ERA, 198.2 IP, 103 K)
4. A.J. Griffin (7-4, 5.07 ERA, 119 IP, 107 K)
5. Dillon Gee (8-9, 4.68 ERA, 125 IP, 89 K)

Adrian Beltre is Mr. Dependable for the Rangers. (Getty Images)
Adrian Beltre is Mr. Dependable for the Rangers. (Getty Images)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
A third-straight AL West title is a very reasonable expectation. The Rangers have strengths in every area. The lineup is loaded from top to bottom. The starting rotation has two aces. The bullpen is well stocked, and there’s plenty of experience here too. Honestly, it would not be surprising to see this team representing the American League in the World Series. (Mark Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
No team knows the impact of injuries more than the Rangers. They’ve had a couple recent seasons derailed by the loss of key players, and that’s the main hurdle standing in the way this season too. They could survive a couple losses, maybe, but if the injuries pile up then all bets are off. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
Who is Carlos Gomez entering his age-31 season?
Not every baseball player will produce a linear career shape, but in the case of Gomez, we’re talking about a butterfly’s route, an erratic graph. In Gomez’s early 20s, he couldn’t hit a lick. In his mid-to-later 20s, he matured into an All-Star, and a dynamic offensive player. A 2015 slump was taken in stride by most of the fantasy community, but then Gomez completely bottomed out in 2016, with the Astros designating him for assignment in August.

Ah, but perhaps Gomez got his career back on track with the Rangers. Gomez posted a .284/.362/.543 line with his new club, with eight homers and five steals over 33 games. Pro-rate that pace to a full season and we’re looking at a star again. Gomez is never going to be a plate-discipline king, but his contact rate spiked nicely in his new city.

[Elsewhere: Read more pressing fantasy questions about the Rangers]

Gomez reportedly had multi-year offers on the table in the offseason, but he decided to take a prove-it one-year deal with Texas. Gomez and agent Scott Boras are gambling for a return to stardom, then a cash windfall 10 months from now. Gomez’s game was especially fun at Globe Life Park — or whatever they’re calling the Ballpark at Arlington today — where he posted an .877 OPS and seven homers and five steals over 28 games. Mash it all up and Go-Go offers an intriguing upside around his current ADP of 153. (Scott Pianowski)

BEST FOLLOW
Ever since the World Baseball Classic started, former Ranger Michael Young has been serving up opinions hot and fresh. Here he is talking about Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena getting tossed from a game.

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He also has opinions on football, movies, little league, his former teammates, and everything under the sun. (Roscher)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
If you’re making the trip to Arlington, you might as well try and glimpse AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys’ monstrous venue contains the largest video board in any stadium. They offer tours and are just four minutes away from Globe Life Park.

If you want a truly exhilarating day, you can always head to Six Flags over Texas prior to a night game. Ride some roller coasters and eat some funnel cake before experiencing the ups and downs of a major-league baseball while … eating some more funnel cake.

Finally, if you’re a big fan of bowling, you can always go to the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame. You can work on your heckling abilities by watching video of bowling great Pete Weber. (Cwik)

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!