2014 outlook: Texas Rangers

2014 outlook: Texas Rangers
February 4, 2014, 2:00 pm
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2013 record: 91-72, 2nd place in AL West
Manager: Ron Washington, 8th season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $132 million
Key additions: 1B Prince Fielder, OF Shin-Soo Choo, C J.P. Arencibia
Key losses: 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Nelson Cruz, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF David Murphy, RHP Matt Garza, RHP Joe Nathan

Projected lineup
LF Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus
1B Prince Fielder
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Alex Rios
1B Mitch Moreland
C Geovany Soto
2B Jurickson Profar
CF Leonys Martin

Projected rotation
RHP Yu Darvish
LHP Matt Harrison
RHP Alexi Ogando
LHP Martin Perez
RHP Colby Lewis

Top relievers
CL Neftali Feliz
RHP Joakim Soria
RHP Tanner Scheppers

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Will the old Prince Fielder make a comeback in Texas? It feels like an eternity ago, but the most-shocking transaction of the offseason came only three weeks after the World Series when the Tigers shipped Fielder (and $138 million remaining on his contract) to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The swap could be a boon for Texas, but only if Prince starts hitting like Prince Fielder again. After four straight seasons of 30-plus homers and an OBP over .400, the big guy cleared the fence only 25 times while posting a .362 OBP in his final season in Detroit. He’s still only 29, and he plays every single day, but you do have to wonder if an irreversible decline has already begun.

2. Was Shin-Soo Choo worth the money? The Rangers’ other big splash of the winter was the acquisition of Choo for a cool $130 million. That’s $130 million for a guy who has never been an All-Star, has never hit more than 22 homers or driven in more than 90 runs and has never even finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting. Choo does have the uncanny ability to get on base at a staggering rate (his OBP was .423 last season) and in a Texas lineup that features Elvis Andrus, Fielder and Adrian Beltre behind him, there’s no reason to believe he won’t score at least 100 runs.

3. What’s the effect of Derek Holland’s injury? The quirky left-hander is out until midseason, not because of something he did on the field but in his house. Holland tripped over his dog last month and tore cartilage in his left knee, requiring surgery. How big a loss is this for the Rangers? Well, the guy likely to take his spot in the rotation, veteran Colby Lewis, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012  due to his own hip injury. Texas needs somebody to step up and fill the void, and they really need Holland to get back on the mound as soon as possible.