Texas Rangers Round Up: What Went Right/Wrong? Fantasy Slants and more
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2022 Record: 68-94
Fourth place, AL West
Team ERA: 4.22 (22nd)
Team OPS: .696 (19th)
What Went Right
For a team that was never really in playoff contention, there were some significant bright spots for the Rangers. One of the brightest came before the season began, with Texas shelling out considerable cash -- $500 overall -- to procure the talents of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to play up the middle. And while Seager or Semien was able to replicate their 2021 seasons, they combined for nearly 10 wins in WAR and should help the Rangers’ rebuilding plan cut down considerably. The top hitter for Texas, however, was Nathaniel Lowe, who had a breakout campaign with 27 homers, a .302 average and an .851 OPS; ranking among the best first baseman in the sport. Adolís Garcia showed that his rookie season wasn’t a fluke, and was able to work through some struggles to hit 27 homers while swiping 25 bases. The pitching will be discussed more in the next section, but Martín Pérez had the best season of his career with a 2.89 ERA and 169/69 K/BB ratio while hurling 196 1/3 innings. A shout out to Matt Moore as well, who looked the part as a reliever in 2022 while picking up 14 holds, a 10.1 K/9 rate and 1.95 ERA over 63 appearances. He, Brock Burke, Matt Bush and Jonathan Hernández -- among others -- helped Texas post the 12th best ERA among bullpens in 2022.
What Went Wrong
Even with their big spending spree, it still wasn’t close enough to make Texas competitive this summer. The Rangers determined they’d seen enough from Chris Woodward as manager, and gave him his walking records with a 51-63 record. Things weren’t any better under Tony Beasley (17-31), and the team won just 10 of their final 36 contests to turn a mediocre campaign into a poor one. The biggest reason for this was the starting pitching; only Pérez was able to register an ERA under 3.50 for the Rangers, and the FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) number for starters like Dane Dunning and Glen Otto suggest that it wasn’t bad luck. And as you can see from that team OPS, the offense deserves its share of the “credit” for the poor run, as well. While Semien’s overall numbers were solid, fantasy managers are likely familiar with how awful he was to begin the year. And awful is not hyperbolic, he was hitting .199 with a .540 OPS at the end of May -- and needed a quality bunch of games at the end of the month to even get it that high -- and didn’t hit his first homer until May 28. And at the end of the year, only Semien, Seager, Garcia and Lowe finished with an OPS+ above 100.
**Jon Gray was also signed to a multi-year deal before the campaign, and his first year with the Rangers was decidedly mixed. He was limited to 127 1/3 innings because of an oblique injury, and he posted a 3.96 ERA and 134/39 K/BB mark over his 24 starts. Far from spectacular numbers, but Gray ranked above-average or better in several advanced statistics like avoiding barrels, strikeout percentage, expected ERA and a few others. The former Colorado hurler needs to stay on the bump and show he can put it together for a full campaign, but the ability is there for Gray to be a solid fantasy option.
**Josh Jung missed the first few months of the season after he tore the labrum in his left shoulder in February, but the 24-year-old was able to impress in his 31 minor league games with an .866 OPS, and although that number was just .653 after being called up to Texas, he was able to hit five homers; including two in one game against the Mariners late in the season. The eighth selection of the 2019 draft, Jung has a swing that suggests he can hit for both average and power; and the latter appears to be coming along more than anticipated. Rookies are always risky, but Jung is one of the few who should be rostered wherever eligible this spring.
**The Rangers bullpen was solid in 2022, but the closer position is one that doesn’t appear to be settled right now. Joe Barlow led the team with 13 saves, but he did it with a 3.86 ERA and K/BB ratio of 28/13 while being limited to 35 games in large part because of blister issues. José Leclerc might be the best internal option; he returned from Tommy John surgery to pick up seven saves with a 2.83 ERA in his 47 2/3 innings. Hernandez, Burke and Moore are also possible options, however, so this might be a situation to avoid until there’s more clarity -- assuming Texas doesn’t spend for a closer in the winter, of course.
**Leody Taveras was once considered among the top prospects in baseball, but has scuffled through most of his time with the Rangers. It wouldn’t be fair to say that 2022 was a complete exception to that with a .261 average and .675 OPS in 99 games, but there were signs that suggest that there’s the potential for success. For one thing, he was among the best defenders in the outfield, so the glove is going to likely give him a chance to play. There wasn’t much hard contact and the dream of power is all but dead, but his wheels give him a chance to be a stolen-base threat, and his average exit velocity ranked in the 55th percentile. It’s not hard to imagine him being fantasy relevant in deeper leagues in 2023.
**Everything said about Taveras can be said about Bubba Thompson, only a little more extreme. Thompson stole a whopping 49 bases in 80 games with Triple-A Round Rock, and the former first-round pick was able to swipe 18 more in a 55-game audition with the Rangers. That also came with a .265 average, but also a .614 OPS thanks in large part to just seven free passes against 56 strikeouts, and only six extra-base hits over 181 plate appearances. If Thompson is a regular for the Rangers the steals obviously make him intriguing, but there’s a very good chance he’s a one-category player.
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Key Free Agents: Perez, Moore, Leclerc ($6 million club option), Kole Calhoun ($5.5 million club option)
Team Needs: It seems like calling starting pitching a “need” is an insult to the term need, but yeah, starting pitching. It is worth noting that Texas has some very intriguing prospects that project as members of a rotation, but counting on any of them for 2023 would be a mistake. The Rangers could also use another bat or two, with the outfield or perhaps behind the plate being the spots most likely to see an upgrade.