2016 Record: 95-67
First Place, AL West
Team ERA: 4.37 (22nd)
Team OPS: .755 (10th)
What Went Right
Obviously a lot, given the Rangers’ American League-best 95 victories. 37-year-old Adrian Beltre rebounded from a two-year power drought to slug 32 home runs and drive in 104 runs. Rougned Odor became just the sixth player since 2000 to hit 30 home runs in their age-22 or younger season. Ian Desmond proved to be a shrewd late-February investment, putting up a .285/.335/.446 batting line with 22 home runs, 86 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He also wound up being a capable outfielder in his first opportunity away from the infield. Elvis Andrus had the best offensive season of his career, batting .302/.362/.439 with a career-high eight home runs and 69 RBI to go along with 24 steals. 21-year-old top prospect Nomar Mazara received an early-season promotion and went on to slug 20 home runs. Midseason trade acquisitions Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez both paid dividends, as Lucroy hit .276/.345/.539 with 11 homers over 47 games and Gomez batted .284/.362/.543 with eight longballs across 33 contests. Cole Hamels handled his first full season in the AL without issue, posting a 3.32 ERA with 200 strikeouts over 200 2/3 innings. Yu Darvish looked excellent in his return from Tommy John surgery, holding a 3.41 ERA and 132/31 K/BB ratio over 100 1/3 frames. Sam Dyson was superb after taking over the closer role, posting a 2.43 ERA while notching 38 saves. Matt Bush made an unlikely rise to dominant setup man after a few years away from the game, holding a 2.48 ERA and 61/14 K/BB ratio over 61 2/3 innings.
What Went Wrong
The Rangers were eliminated by the Blue Jays in the ALDS for the second straight season, this time getting swept following their AL-best record. Prince Fielder hit only .212/.292/.334 over 89 games before having career-ending fusion surgery on his neck in July. Shin-Soo Choo made four separate trips to the disabled list, playing in only 48 games and receiving just 210 plate appearances. Delino DeShields was unable to follow up on his impressive rookie campaign, putting up an ugly .209/.275/.313 batting line and spending much of the season in the minors. Jurickson Profar put together a full healthy season following two lost years due to shoulder issues. That’s good. The bad is that he simply wasn’t very productive, hitting an anemic .239/.321/.338 over 272 plate appearances. Derek Holland dealt with injury problems again, missing two months of action with a shoulder issue. He posted a 4.95 ERA when able to take the mound while showing decreased velocity and getting fewer swings and misses. Shawn Tolleson lasted barely over a month in the closer role, ultimately finishing with a 7.68 ERA in a season where he was sent to the minors and eventually removed from the 40-man roster.
*What is Rougned Odor’s ceiling in fantasy leagues? Odor’s first full season in the majors was a spectacular one, as he finished with a .271/.296/.502 batting line, 33 home runs, 88 RBI, 14 stolen bases and 89 runs scored. At 22, he was the youngest player in major league history to club 30 homers while playing the majority of his games at second base. Odor isn’t without his flaws, of course, as his aforementioned on-base percentage indicates. He had a 135/19 K/BB ratio and has always been a super aggressive hitter. It’s something that’s likely going to continue to keep his average down unless he can see a spike in his BABIP (his career BABIP of .292 is below average). However, what we can’t rule out is growth from Odor. He’ll turn just 23 in February after finishing as a top-35 fantasy hitter in 2016.
*Speaking of young players, Nomar Mazara acquitted himself quite well in his first go-round in the big leagues considering that he was still just 20 years old at the time of his promotion (20 is also the number of home runs he hit). However, things got a little rocky for Mazara following a .322/.371/.490 line in his first 54 games, as he sported a lowly .227/.286/.370 line over his final 91 contests. He was also benched more and more down the stretch against left-handers and finished the season with a sickly .234/.277/.270 line versus southpaws. Nineteen of Mazara’s 20 dingers came off of right-handers. Mazara clearly needs to improve against lefties and offers zilch to fantasy owners in the speed department, but he has terrific raw power and his ceiling as a pure hitter is sky-high.
*Command and control are usually the last things to come around for a pitcher as he returns from Tommy John surgery. However, they weren’t problems for Yu Darvish, as the right-hander’s 2.8 BB/9 rate in 2016 was easily the best of his career. He didn’t sacrifice missing bats for better control, either, as his 11.8 K/9 was just shy of his career high and his velocity (93.3 mph per Fangraphs) was better than ever. If the positive gains Darvish made with his control this past season take hold, it could hint at an even higher ceiling for the 30-year-old.
*What does the future hold for Jurickson Profar? The former No. 1 overall prospect in the game managed to stay on the field for the duration of the 2016 season after missing consecutive years with a nagging shoulder issue. However, he was pretty feeble with the bat, sporting a .239/.321/.338 batting line. Profar is now a career .235/.311/.341 hitter across 648 major league plate appearances, and he’s offered very little both in the power (12 homers) and speed (four stolen bases) departments. Profar will turn just 24 in February and his production in the minors suggests that there could be a lot more there with the bat and also the wheels. Will the Rangers trust him with a regular job in 2017? Profar doesn’t look like more than a “late-round flier” type right now for fantasy owners.
*When will Joey Gallo get a chance? The Rangers had plenty of opportunities to give Gallo regular playing time this past season, but he finished the year with only 25 at-bats (and he picked up just one hit). The soon-to-be 23-year-old kept up his slugging in the minors, smashing 25 home runs over just 433 plate appearances. However, Gallo continued to swing a miss a ton (150 strikeouts), and general manager Jon Daniels indicated recently that some more seasoning for the slugger is likely in order. Gallo has the power upside of a guy who could lead the league in homers at some point, but for now it appears fantasy owners will have to keep waiting.
Team Needs: The Rangers have to acquire at least one quality starter if they fancy themselves as World Series contenders, as they have very little behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. They could also stand to inject a bat or two with on-base skills. Only the Phillies and Royals drew fewer walks as a team than the Rangers this past season.