January 27th, 2012
Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels made the comment today on The Ben and Skin Show (weekdays 9-12 103.3 FM ESPN) that with Prince Fielder in the ranger lineup it would be "silly". While I don't disagree with him I would like to point out that right now as it sits, our batting order is ridiculous.
I believe that the lineup that Ron Washington went with in the last game of the World Series will not be one he trots out on April 6th against the White Sox.
I guess you could call this a "Season Preview" but since I know this will play over in my head hundreds of more times, lets call it rough draft one.
Let's start from the top.
1) Ian Kinsler, 2B
Elite second baseman and an explosive lead-off hitter. Had his second 30-30 season last year and for the first time in his career, went the whole season without any kind of DL stint. Poised for another All-Star season, I don't think there is a team in baseball that wouldn't want this guy hitting at the top in the first inning.
2) Michael Young, DH
Mr. Ranger himself had a phenomenal season in 2011 and still has a lot left in the tank. Adapted to his super utility role better than expected and as long as he stays healthy like he always has, theres no reason he can't hit .340 again this year.
3) Josh Hamilton, LF
Ahh yes, as if the first two weren't enough to rattle a pitcher's cage we reach the absolute heart of the order where you have to run the gauntlet of 4 straight guys who can absolutely punish the ball. Hamilton will always be a perennial All-Star, but he will always have the injury cloud hanging over his head. He's proven to us that he can play through the pain (re: three torn abductors and pulled groin in the playoffs), but a healthy Hamilton is a deadly Hamilton. Look for him to prove to the front office that passing on Fielder and staying at least partially committed to him for this season was the right call. I'm predicting that the injury bug will lay low this year and Josh will have an MVP quality season with at least 40 homers. Putting Hamilton in left field minimizes the injury possibility at least a little bit, and he still remains a deadly defender.
4) Adrian Beltre, 3B
Protecting Hamilton is Beltre who absoultely earned his paycheck last season. He broke through the "contract year" player hype by being an anchor of an already potent offense in his first year on the job. The veteran leadership as well as his gold glove at third base really pushed this team over the edge last year. If you are lucky enough to get past the first three unscathed watch out because Beltre can surely change that in a hurry. And good luck trying to pitch around him because you've got someone with just as much pop standing in the on-deck circle.
5) Mike Napoli, C
Most people would pencil in Cruz in the five slot but I like Napoli here. I hate to say that Napoli is inferior to Cruz but I think that he'll see more strikes with someone as dangerous as NC-17 standing on deck. Not the very best defensive backstop the game has to offer, but man can this guy mash. Great to have in the clubhouse and even better, we stole him from the angels. Look for Nap to continue the tear he ended on last year, ending the platooning with Yorvit Torrealba, and become this club's catcher for a while, maybe even until Kellin Deglan is ready for his reign to begin.
6) Nelson Cruz, RF
The boomstick never fails to bring excitement to the season and last year was no exception. He always seems to go through a rough patch sometime during the season, but that is just the nature of the beast. Quite frankly the most dangerous hitter in the Ranger barrage and HE'S HITTING 6TH. If that isn't ridiculous I don't know what is. When he's in the groove pitchers beware.
7) Mitch Moreland, 1B
Alas we reach the conundrum that is Mitch Moreland. Had a breakout 4 months in 2010 including the playoffs and a solid April, May and June last year before all but disappearing the rest of way down the stretch and in the playoffs. Not that I'm trying to bash him because he's one of my favorites. Let's look for Mitch to put together a solid 2012 campaign and hit more than the anemic .240 he turned in last year. He may get some looks in left field especially if Hamilton goes down or the question mark at center field dosn't pan out.
8) Craig Gentry, CF
Gentry is high on the list in my book. The fastest guy in the majors and just like his outfield counterparts he can throw an absolute rifle from even the outfield wall and he can cover every single inch of center field territory like it's nothing. Hits like a machine in AAA and this is the year it translates into the big leagues. He may have some competition in camp from a healthy Julio Borbon who has torn up the Dominican Winter League and young phenom Leonys Martin, and there are talks of a platoon effort in center with Gentry getting the nod against lefties and Martin righties. I do not think that that would be the smartest thing for the Rangers to do because of the effect on the psyche of the two. All of that said, I think Gentry breaks camp as Opening Day Center fielder with Borbon and Martin ready to go in Round Rock at any hint of Gentry struggling.
9) Elvis Andrus, SS
The Rangers have toyed with Andrus in the nine hole rotating him between there and hitting behind Kinsler and I think this is where Elvis belongs. Don't get me wrong Andrus is a solid hitter but with little power, and few extra base hits, stick him in the nine slot, let him rip line-drive singles all over the yard and then bring up 7 straight guys who can take even the best of pitchers deep. With speed like Andrus has, he can run loosely down at the bottom and a single or walk can instantly become a double or a triple real quick.
Let's go ahead and pencil in Yu Darvish as opening day starter followed by Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison. This is just a thought for now until we see how this whole Roy Oswalt situation pans out and how well Darvish adjusts in camp, but I have complete confidence he will make a smooth transition.
Yeah this team is ridiculous. I'm already gonna make my bold prediction for this season by saying that the Texas Rangers win 100 regular season games and beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ALCS and then go on to defeat the NL champion Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series to finally break through to get that ring we've been so close to the last two years.
Obviously I'll have hundreds of more thoughts in the coming months before the first play ball of the year so hang with me.
My bold prediction that Fowler would bust through this week at Farmers isn't looking so hot, but watch the leaderboard across the pond for that guy named Eldrick.
--Cheyenne T. Bauman
"First of all, have no swing thoughts from inside 120 yards. Think of only the target and holing the shot."