White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Texas Rangers?

Vinnie Duber
NBC Sports Chicago
<p>As the 2018 season draws ever closer, we take a look at the American League teams not based in the City of Chicago. Here's a preview of the Texas Rangers.</p>

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Texas Rangers?

As the 2018 season draws ever closer, we take a look at the American League teams not based in the City of Chicago. Here's a preview of the Texas Rangers.

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What's there to know about the Texas Rangers?

They weren't good last year, missing the playoffs after back-to-back division titles in 2015 and 2016.

In the same American League West (there is only one American League West) as the seemingly invincible Houston Astros, it's difficult to forecast a positive outlook for these Rangers. But they were still in that maddeningly crowded wild-card race in September last year, so maybe they can sneak their way into the postseason.

If that's going to happen, it's going to be in large part because they have Joey Gallo, who hits the ball about a million miles every time he launches a homer into that second deck at Globe Life Field or whatever they now call what they used to call the Ballpark in Arlington. Gallo hit 41 homers last year. One of them went 491 feet. That's far. And if you're a nerd who loves exit velocity, then you'll love Gallo, who had the third highest average exit velocity in the game last season, trailing only Aaron Judge and Nelson Cruz.

There are plenty of other good long-ballers on the Rangers, too. Infamous face-puncher Rougned Odor hit 30 homers in 2017 despite having the worst on-base percentage in the AL. Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara all hit 20 of ‘em.

But the pitching is another story, and the cavalcade of new faces brought in to bolster the rotation doesn't seem capable of much bolstering. Matt Moore led the National League with 15 losses as a San Francisco Giant last season. Doug Fister put up a 4.88 ERA in just 18 outings for the Boston Red Sox. Mike Minor was actually really good out of the bullpen for the Kansas City Royals, but he hasn't started a big league game since 2014, when things didn't go so hot as an Atlanta Brave.

Of course, the most fun thing about the Rangers this season - aside from 500-foot homers and the potential for further face-punching - is the return of Tim Lincecum. Yes, good ol' Mitchy Kramer is back, and he's trying another late-career revival after his last late-career revival back in 2016 spawned a 9.16 ERA with the Los Angeles Angels. This time around, there probably won't be any starts for Big Time Timmy Jim, but in a wild twist of events he could end up the Rangers' closer!

Anything else to know about the Rangers? Well, we've come this far without mentioning Adrian Beltre, the soon-to-be 39-year-old who had one of the game's best on-base percentages last season and achieved the rare title of simultaneously being baseball's greatest prankster and baseball's greatest hater of pranks:

That'll cover the Rangers, for the most part. The postseason might be a longshot, but if you live anywhere in the Metroplex, know that a Joey Gallo home run ball can reach your house. So souvenirs!

2017 record: 78-84, third place in AL West

Offseason additions: Matt Moore, Doug Fister, Mike Minor, Tim Lincecum, Chris Martin, Jesse Chavez

Offseason departures: Mike Napoli, Andrew Cashner, A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez (worth noting that the Rangers traded Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress during the 2017 season)

X-factor: The Rangers have a guy named Carlos Tocci, who the White Sox had for like five minutes after picking him in the Rule 5 Draft in December and then immediately trading him. He's not the X-factor, though, unless he ends up on that singing show with Britney Spears. No, the X-factor is Willie Calhoun, the Rangers' No. 2 prospect acquired in the Yu Darvish trade last summer. The outfielder had a small taste of big league action last season, picking up nine hits including a homer in 34 at-bats. But he was pretty darn impressive in Triple-A, slashing .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers in 128 games split between the Dodgers and Rangers organizations. He figures to be up soon.

Projected lineup:

1. Delino DeShields Jr., CF
2. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
3. Nomar Mazara, RF
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Joey Gallo, 1B
6. Elvis Andrus, SS
7. Rougned Odor, 2B
8. Robinson Chirinos, C
9. Drew Robinson, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Cole Hamels
2. Matt Moore
3. Doug Fister
4. Mike Minor
5. Martin Perez

Prediction: Fourth place in AL West, no playoffs

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