Texas Rangers

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Overview (Present Rank: 3rd | Future Rank: 19th)

After a 10-year playoff drought, the Texas Rangers have reached the postseason four times over the last six years. Ron Washington led this squad to back-to-back American League pennants in 2010-11, and came one strike away from winning it all for the first time in franchise history. Once Ron Washington was let go amidst an injury-plagued 2014 season, Jeff Bannister came in and led the Rangers right back to the playoffs as a rookie Manager in 2015 which culminated in being awarded the American League Manager of the Year.

Heading into 2016, expectations are high enough to where a postseason appearance won’t be satisfying enough. This dangerous and well-balanced team from Arlington has one goal on their mind: bring the World Series trophy to Texas for the first time ever. With Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels leading the way, strong offensive contributors sprinkled throughout the lineup, and top-tier prospects on the verge of making an impact, the Rangers are primed to be legitimate contenders in the AL West for years to come.

 

 

*Detailed analysis conducted April 3, 2016; rankings and charts updated throughout the season.

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Catcher (Present Rank: 2nd | Future Rank: 22nd)

The Rangers’ catching situation is the worst overall position in the organization. From the Major League roster to the farm system, the Rangers have nobody that sticks out as a potential above-average player. Currently, the team only has Robinson Chirinos and Bryan Holaday on the big league roster. While neither of these players will garner many All-Star votes, the combination of the two should muster enough production to be serviceable at the team’s worst offensive position. Chirinos is already entering his age-32 season while Holaday is 28 years old. Both players would be quality backups, but the Rangers need one of them to be their starter.

Technically, the Rangers have no catching prospects worth mentioning. However, it’s been reported that Texas is planning on transitioning Josh Morgan from the middle infield to behind the plate. A third round pick in 2014, Morgan has displayed the offensive tools that could potentially be suitable in a Major League lineup, although he has very little power in his bat. Defensively, he has the strong arm and quick hands that would fit the mold of a run-stopping backstop. There are many questions surrounding Morgan’s development, and only time will have the answers.

(EDIT: The Rangers made a big splash at the trade deadline by acquiring the best available bat, Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers. Click here to read more about one of the best catcher's in the game [8/1/16])

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Future Outlook: Fix the weakest position on the team

It doesn’t take a baseball expert to identify catcher as the weakest position corps in the Rangers organization. Robinson Chirinos is the main guy, but he’s already 32, and wasn’t very productive even in his prime. Unless Josh Morgan makes a successful transition behind the plate, Texas is without a long term answer at the position. GM Jon Daniels could answer both the short-term and long-term questions at the position with one move (like signing Matt Wieters in free agency or trading for Jonathan Lucroy). Regardless of what the team decides to do at the big league level, they must start developing a catcher for the future. After moving down a spot in the MLB Draft (for signing Ian Desmond and losing Yovani Gallardo), Texas’ first pick will be 30th overall. Daniels and company should seriously consider drafting a catcher that can fill a hole that hasn’t had a long term answer since Ivan Rodriguez took his talents to South Beach.

(EDIT: With catcher being one of the team's biggest needs at the trade deadline, Daniels went out and acquired Jonathan Lucroy, immediately upgrading the team's backstop. It will take a hefty extension, but the Rangers can strengthen their long-term outlook at the position by signing Lucroy to a lucrative contract [8/1/16]).

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First Base (Present Rank: 19th | Future Rank: 14th)

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After struggling through an injury plagued 2014 season, Mitch Moreland recovered quite nicely in 2015. The 30 year-old slugger had 23 homers, 85 RBI’s, and an .812 OPS to top it off. However, that number drops to .681 when Moreland faces lefties forcing Daniels to find a platoon partner for Moreland. With Moreland approaching free agency this year, Daniels can go back to the drawing board and acquire a player that can handle righties and lefties going forward.

In 2016 though, Moreland is their guy, and he’ll certainly be motivated with a new contract looming. Even though he was a major disappointment in 2015, Texas is hoping Ryan Rua can step up and be their go-to guy against left-handed pitchers. Rua’s only 26 years old, so it’s still conceivable that he was going through growing pains last season. If he worked out the kinks, the Rangers could have a solid 1-2 punch at first base. Rua can also play in the corner outfield, with left field making the most sense because of his below-average throwing arm.

In addition to the righty challenged Rua, Texas will be relying on Ronald Guzman for first base production after this season. Guzman's quick bat, swing plane, and raw power could elevate him into an All-Star caliber first baseman if he maximizes his potential.

Future Outlook: A stop-gap solution is necessary

The Texas Rangers were shaping up to have a perfect outcome at first base. With Ronald Guzman developing in the minors, they could re-sign Mitch Moreland on a two-year deal after the 2016 season, and prepare for Guzman taking the reigns in the 2019 season. However, after Moreland’s prolific 2015 season, he’s likely to earn more than a two-year deal on the free agent market, so Texas must find a different stop-gap solution.

Keeping things how it is with Ryan Rua as the sole starter can’t be an option. He could always look in house at a certain third baseman with the power of a first baseman (read below). With players like Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo, and Pedro Alvarez available, GM Jon Daniels has multiple ways to find the right stop-gap solution before Guzman takes over and proves he’s the real deal.

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Second Base (Present Rank: 6th | Future Rank: 4th)

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While his right hook to Jose Bautista put him in the national spotlight, there was a time Rougned Odor was being recognized strictly because of his outstanding play at such a young age. Odor is still only 22 years old, and already has 887 MLB plate appearances to his name. In the minor leagues, Odor was way ahead of his age group dominating Double-A pitching as a 19 year-old. Now he’s an established Major Leaguer, and is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2020 season when he’ll be just 26 years old. Odor is in the middle of the pack when comparing second baseman now, but as he matures and improves his weaknesses, he could be a borderline top-10 player at the position once he hits his prime.

Besides Odor, the Rangers have multiple second baseman in their organization that could become solid bench contributors, but pegging them as everyday players might be a stretch. Hanser Alberto is already that type of player as the Rangers’ main utility player off the bench. Evan Van Hoosier and Drew Robinson could also fit the mold as well. Andy Ibanez is the only second baseman in the system that could potentially be a starter, but it’s hard to project that for a player that hasn’t played organized baseball in over two years.

Future Outlook: Rougned Odor punched his ticket as the everyday 2B

(EDIT: The culprit behind arguably the greatest punch in MLB history is much more than that. Odor is a 22 year-old second baseman that is already producing at a high level. Odor’s game is very average in many departments, but he has age on his side, and a track record of improvement. If Odor keeps grinding, he could develop into a top-10 second baseman before he departs in free agency after the 2020 season. When that time comes, the Rangers might not have many starting caliber replacements, although Andy Ibanez is a player to keep an eye on. GM Jon Daniels should choose to extend Odor for the long haul, or draft his eventual replacement if a deal can’t be worked out. [5/15/16]).

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Shortstop (Present Rank: 7th | Future Rank: 7th)

The Rangers have their franchise shortstop in the form of Elvis Andrus. That’s what they made clear when they extended Andrus to a 8yr/$120MM contract that doesn’t expire until after the 2022 season. Not so fast though as super-agent Scott Boras negotiated an opt-out in the contract that Andrus can exercise after the 2018 or 2019 seasons. After a disappointing two years, Andrus might not want to leave a guaranteed $73MM on the table. Considering he’ll be in his prime when he has to make his first decision, he’ll likely opt out and pursue a much bigger deal. Even when Andrus isn’t putting up All-Star numbers at the plate, he’s still one of the elite defensive shortstops in the league. Andrus’ value to the team can’t be understated as he’s a positive locker room presence as well. If Andrus does opt out, the Rangers have options, but their best move might be sticking with the Venezuelan product.

Behind Andrus is former No. 1 prospect Jurickson Profar. The 23 year-old topped Baseball America’s top-100 list in 2013, but saw his stock decline immediately after struggling in the bigs.  In his minimal time at the Major League level, Profar only owns a .231/.301/.343 batting line. Then in 2014, his stock took another hit when he missed the entire season with a torn right shoulder. Those who are already counting out the Curacao native should rethink that decision as Profar did show promise in the Arizona Fall League last year. While Profar likely won’t play a big role in 2016, he could cause the Rangers to move on from Andrus if he shows he still has the tools that once made him the best prospect in all of baseball (ahead of Gerrit Cole, Byron Buxton, and Francisco Lindor among others). If Profar can stay healthy, it’s likely him or Andrus won’t be wearing a Rangers uniform come 2017.

Future Outlook: Who’s it going to be?

The Texas Rangers have two potential franchise shortstops within their organization. The established Elvis Andrus was just handed $120MM as the team committed to him long-term. However, with the opt-out clauses in his contract, it’s very possible he will only be in Arlington for three more seasons. Texas could make that even shorter if Jurickson Profar proves he’s finally healthy and productive against Major League pitching. Jon Daniels has a decision on his hand to choose between Andrus and Profar. As we’ve seen in the past with Michael Young (for a young Andrus) and Ian Kinsler (for Odor), he hasn’t shied away from trading established players for other needs that also open up a spot for a young, promising player. This will be an interesting situation to watch as it unfolds over the next year or two.

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Third Base (Present Rank: 17th | Future Rank: 10th)

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Adrian Beltre continues to dispel the belief that players get worse as they get into their upper 30’s. The 37 year-old has now placed within the top-15 in American League MVP voting six seasons straight. That doesn’t even include 2004 when Beltre was the MVP runner-up behind Albert Pujols thanks to a league-leading 48 home runs. He doesn’t display that kind of power as often anymore, but Beltre is finding other ways to contribute at a high level. He’s always been known as a plus defender, and the Rangers extended Beltre for the next two years after this one for $36MM ($18MM/year).

Beltre’s extension confused some around the baseball world as the Rangers have Joey Gallo in their system poised to make an impact at the big league level very soon. The No. 6 prospect in the nation (according to Baseball America) entering 2015 has built a reputation as the biggest power hitter in the minor leagues (82 HR’s between 2013/2014). While Gallo will hit a ton of homers, he also strikes out a lot which limits his overall value. He certainly has the arm for third base, but his lack of mobility and range would make first base a much more suitable position. With Beltre’s recent extension, Moreland’s productive 2015 season, and Ronald Guzman’s slow development, Gallo could fill the hole at first base for the next two years before becoming the long-term answer at the hot corner.

Future Outlook: Beltre will end his HOF career with the Texas Rangers

Adrian Beltre has been a top-5 third baseman since leaving the Seattle Mariners in 2009. He’s given the Rangers five years of elite production on both sides of the ball, and helped them win back-to-back American League pennants. The Rangers front office thought enough of the 37 year-old to extend him for two more seasons after 2016 so the Dominican native can end his career in red and blue. While that might delay Joey Gallo’s takeover of the hot corner, he can now move over to first base for the time being where he’s better suited defensively anyways.

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Outfield (Present Rank: 11th | Future Rank: 20th)

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After earning the 12th most MVP votes in the National League in 2013, the Texas Rangers handed out $130MM to acquire the services of Shin-Soo Choo. Choo has seen his productivity decline as he approaches his mid-30’s. He was already 31 years old at the time of signing the deal, but nobody expected him to regress so quickly. After his impressive 2013 campaign, Choo struggled to hit .242/.340/.374 in 2014. While he rebounded modestly in 2015 with a .276/.375/.463 slash line, his increased strikeout percentage in Arlington is still a concern. Choo’s age and deteriorating speed restricts him to right field at this stage in his career. He still has 4yrs/$82MM left on his contract after the season, so the Rangers better get used to the new and descending Choo in their lineup.

Offsetting the retrogression of Choo, the development of Delino Deshields has pleasantly surprised the Texas Rangers. The former eighth overall pick made his Major League debut last season at 22 years old. Despite being part of possibly the best rookie class of all-time, Deshields netted a vote in the Rookie of the Year voting. Deshields is a prime example of the Rule 5 draft being a source of acquiring quality talent. With all of the depth in Houston, Deshields got lost in the shuffle and became the first pick by an American League team in the rule 5 draft. The Rangers would go on to lose a valuable outfielder of their own in that same draft, but having Deshields produce the way he did in his rookie year helps them forget about Odubel Herrera. Having Deshields under team control for the next 5 years and paying him the Major League minimum for the next two years helps things financially as well.

During the Rangers glory days a few years ago when they won back-to-back American League pennants, Josh Hamilton was in the middle of it all. Hamilton even won the AL MVP award in 2010 that led to their first World Series appearance in franchise history. After two forgettable years in Los Angeles, he’s suiting up in Ranger blue again. A .732 OPS in 2015 didn’t show signs of resurgence, but Hamilton can still be a valuable fourth outfielder. Considering Los Angeles is covering $52MM of the remaining $56MM on his contract, Texas has flexibility with how they choose their starting outfield. He could be the starting left fielder with two years left on his deal, but the Rangers went out and brought in somebody else to be their starting left fielder.

Despite strictly being a shortstop for the majority of his Major League career, the Rangers believe Ian Desmond can be their primary left fielder in 2016. From 2012-2014, Ian Desmond was one of the top shortstops in the league. He consistently delivered 20-20 seasons with at least 150 hits hitting near the top of the lineup. However, 2015 proved to be a huge struggle for the 30 year-old as his OPS slipped to .674 and he also fell short of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the first time since 2011. Signed on a cheap 1yr/$8MM deal, Desmond will be looking to regain his value and prove he can still be an impact player in the Major Leagues.

Not counting Joey Gallo (who can play left field), Texas has two of their top outfield prospects on the cusp of reaching the Major Leagues. According to Baseball Prospectus, they’re also two of the best 15 prospects in all of baseball. GM Jon Daniels is hoping Nomar Mazara (No. 5) and Lewis Brinson (No. 15) can develop into the run producers Texas desperately needs.

Brinson is the all-around prospect, whereas Mazara is mostly praised for his offensive prowess. Brinson is a speedy center fielder with the arm, range, and glove to be an above-average center fielder, and has the offensive upside to be an explosive leadoff hitter as well. Mazara’s speed pales in comparison to Brinson as does his mediocre glove. However, his contact skills, raw power, and throwing arm have been given better reviews that Brinson’s. At the end of the day, both of these players could become staples in the Rangers lineup for years to come.

While Brinson and Mazara are the only premium prospects Texas has in their minor league outfields, they aren’t the only potential Major Leaguers. Eric Jenkins gets plenty of attention as a second round pick from a year ago, but he may be overrated strictly because of his great speed. Jairo Beras and Ryan Cordell project to be nothing more than fourth outfielders, and Leody Taveras is too young (17) to give an accurate outlook on.

Future Outlook: No need to fear, Nomar Mazara is here

The current state of the Rangers’ outfield isn’t pretty. Shin-Soo Choo is coming off of two disappointing seasons, Josh Hamilton has struggled in each of the last three years, and even Ian Desmond wasn’t his usual productive self last year. Delino Deshields had an impressive rookie campaign, but he’s still just 23 years old, and is bound to suffer from growing pains as pitchers adjust to him.

The only thing saving Texas from this being a complete albatross is the potential of Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson. Two of the top 15 prospects in all of baseball could be in Arlington sooner than later, with Mazara likely to lose his rookie status by the end of 2016. If Joey Gallo makes the move to left field, the Rangers could have the best outfield in baseball come 2020. If Gallo stays in the infield, Texas will still have a top-10 outfield because of Mazara and Brinson’s lofty potential. (EDIT: The Rangers traded Lewis Brinson to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of the package for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress [8/1/16]).

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Designated Hitter (Present Rank: 3rd/15 | Future Rank: 3rd/15)

As previously mentioned, Jon Daniels traded away Ian Kinsler to make room for Rougned Odor. In the deal that sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit two years ago, the Rangers received Prince Fielder (and his $214MM contract). With a need for a middle-of-the-order bat behind Beltre and Choo, Prince Fielder instantly fit the bill. Fielder’s 311 home runs are the ninth most among active players. He’s still just entering his age-32 season, so he could hit his monumental 500th home run while still under contract with Texas. Whether he gets there or not, Fielder gives the Rangers a dangerous presence in the heart of the lineup as long as he can stay healthy.

(EDIT: After Prince Fielder's season-ending injury, the Rangers acquired OF/DH Carlos Beltran from the New York Yankees for RHP Dillon Tate and a couple low-end prospects. Click here to see what Beltran will bring to the Rangers offense for the remainder of the 2016 season [8/1/16]). 

Future Outlook: It’s Prince’s throne

With five years and $120MM left on Fielder’s contract, the 32 year-old isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Fielder is still an intimidating presence in the lineup, and pitchers can’t get around him easily. Along with beltre and Choo, the Rangers could see their three best offensive players begin to decline very shortly. While Texas does have multiple promising players in their minor league system, none of them are a threat to take Fielder’s spot for as long as he’s on the team.

(EDIT: After a second neck surgery in three years, Prince Fielder is forced to retire from the game of baseball as the doctors believe he'll never be medically cleared to play. This opens up a spot for Jurickson Profar to get regular at-bats the next two years without having to trade him or Andrus [8/10/16]).

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Left-Handed Starting Pitchers (Present Rank: 14th | Future Rank: 13th)

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Yu Darvish and Derek Holland were the Rangers’ top two starters heading into 2015. Despite the duo combining for only one single inning four months into the season, Texas still found themselves within reach of the playoffs. With a chance at contending, GM Jon Daniels pulled the trigger on a blockbuster move. The youngest GM in MLB history (he was 28 when the Rangers hired him in 2005) acquired the biggest name out there in Cole Hamels from Philadelphia. Hamels wasn’t cheap as the Rangers had to give up multiple top prospects, but Hamels’ presence at the top of the rotation led Texas back to the playoffs. With four years of team control left on his contract, the Rangers will become very familiar with the southpaw’s dominant stuff even as he ages into his mid-30’s. If Yu Darvish regains his old form once he recovers from his injury, the Rangers could have the best starting duo atop of their rotation.

Once Matt Harrison was included in the package sent to Philly, Derek Holland and Martin Perez became the frontrunners to be the team's best lefty starter besides Hamels. Unfortunately, injuries and underwhelming performances have prevented either player from taking the ball and running with it. Both pitchers are former top prospects, but haven’t been able to consistently deliver on that potential at the big league level. Holland has pitched less than 100 innings combined over the past two seasons thanks to injuries while Perez has only totaled 130 innings in that time period since he’s been getting called back and forth between the majors and minors. 2016 isn’t necessarily a make or break year, but if neither pitcher steps up as a viable option, they could lose their spot in the rotation going forward.

Yohander Mendez and Brett Martin are two other lefties with limited potential playing for the Rangers at the minor league level. Neither has the profile of a future frontline starter, but with the right adjustments Mendez and Martin could both be mainstays at the backend of Texas’ rotation. Developing a more impressive changeup could significantly improve Martin’s outlook, while harnessing the command of his curveball would do the same for Mendez. It’s going to be at least three years before we see either of these pitchers in Ranger blue.

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Future Outlook: A King's ransom for an ace

To acquire one of the best pitchers in the game, it costed the Rangers a few elite prospects and even more potential impact players. The Rangers thought the ace was worth the King's ransom, especially considering that without Cole Hamels, the Rangers entire rotation would be littered with question marks, and even more so on the left-handed side of things.

Martin Perez and Derek Holland haven’t lived up to their prospect billing, and unless they turn things around in 2016, they’ll be nothing more than afterthoughts. There isn’t much in Texas’ organization behind them, but adding Cole Hamels to the mix instantly brings legitimacy to this Rangers rotation, and could be worth that hefty price tag. With Hamels and Darvish leading the way, Texas now has a starting rotation that won’t hold the offense back from becoming one of the American League’s best teams.

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Right-Handed Starting Pitchers (Present Rank: 20th | Future Rank: 29th)

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With Cole Hamels in the fold, the Rangers now have another ace-caliber pitcher to pair with Yu Darvish. However, after Darvish’s recent Tommy John surgery, it’s still uncertain whether Darvish will remain an ace-caliber pitcher. Having not thrown a single Major League pitch since August 9th of 2014, expectations should be tempered for the 29 year-old star pitcher. Darvish’ tremendous success in his first three years (three All-Star appearances; two Cy Young award finishes) makes the $111MM they invested in the Japanese import much less regrettable. Darvish was at his peak pre-injury striking out an incredible 11.3 batters per nine innings. We’ll see if he can regain that Cy Young form once he returns sometime in May of 2016.

While the Rangers have numerous established veterans, very few of them have spent a majority of their MLB careers in Texas. While Colby Lewis played for other teams from 2005-2010, he started his career in Arlington, and since rejoining the Rangers in 2010, he’s the longest tenured player on the team. Nobody expects much of Lewis because of a lack of velocity, and no out pitch, but the 36 year-old still put together a respectable 4.66 ERA in 205 IP last season. With one year left on his contract, it’ll be interesting to see if Lewis departs again when he hits free agency, or if keeps his run in Texas going and signs a contract that will carry him until the end of his career.

The three other righties in the organization that could possibly start games for Texas at some point in the 2016 season are Chi Chi Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin, and Nick Martinez. Chi Chi Gonzalez was one of the team’s top prospects heading into 2015 before breaking his rookie eligibility with 67 major league innings. Scouts viewed Gonzalez as a mid-rotation starter if he could get his strikeout rate up, but after a historically bad 2015, Gonzalez being a regular starter may be a stretch. Among major league pitchers to throw at least 60 innings in 2015, Gonzalez was the only one to have a negative K/BB rate. He’ll need to improve that significantly if he wants to keep a role in Texas’ rotation.

Griffin and Martinez are also both under age-30, but their ceilings are much more limited. Griffin enjoyed mild success before missing two entire seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. If Griffin can stay away from the injuries, he’ll be penciled in as a backend starter. Martinez hasn’t suffered many injuries, but his performances have left much to be desired. Martinez will only be there for depth purposes if multiple starters ahead of him get injured. He could carve out a role in the bullpen, but he’s been ineffective there in the past as well.

In addition to Mendez and Martin, who are both southpaws, the Rangers have a trio of righties to look forward to. Dillon Tate leads the pack as the team’s top pitching prospect. The No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft is already hitting mid-90’s with his fastball and has some movement on it as well. As he develops the rest of his arsenal, Tate could become a quality No. 2 starter in the bigs once the 2020’s begin.

The other two right-handed prospects are Luis Ortiz and Ariel Jurado. Ortiz is also a former first round pick (30th overall) coming out of high school in 2014. The 20 year-old has a bigger build than most, but if he can stay in shape, he could be a solid mid-rotation starter with an already advanced feel for his pitches. Jurado also has good command at a young age. Jurado doesn’t have the ceiling of Tate or Ortiz, but his floor is fairly high despite being only 20 years old. He could fill a spot in the back-end of the rotation once he’s ready for big league action.

Michael Matuella might also emerge as a starting candidate in a few years. However, a recent Tommy John surgery and zero professional experience hinders his future outlook. Still, he was a potential No. 1 overall pick before tearing his UCL earlier in 2015, so the ceiling is still very high for the 22 year-old. If he can show he’s healthy in 2016, Matuella could skyrocket up prospect lists heading into 2017.

(EDIT: Texas acquired Lucas Harrell from the Atlanta Braves to strengthen the back-end of the rotation. It remains to be seen how much Harrell will contribute going forward considering his long list of injuries, but he should provide the Rangers with quality depth down the stretch [8/1/16]).

Future Outlook: Yu Darvish needs to regain his ace-caliber form

Just like on the left-handed side of things, the Texas Rangers have one right-handed stud, and a significant drop off in talent behind him. Darvish is the unquestioned ace, but after undergoing Tommy John surgery, his future outlook has never had more question marks. With just two more years until his contract expires, Darvish will need to come back healthy if the Rangers rotation doesn’t want to plummet into a bottom-10 unit. The only pitcher down on the farm with frontline potential is Dillon Tate, the team’s 4th overall pick just a year ago. Chi Chi Gonzalez, Luis Ortiz, and Ariel Jurado could make for a solid supporting cast. If Darvish can come back healthy and back to usual, Texas must consider resigning the Japanese stalwart as he’ll be the only established frontline starter once Cole Hamels hits free agency in 2018/2019.

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Bullpen (Present Rank: 27th | Future Rank: 9th)

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Shawn Tolleson will return as the team’s closer after saving 35 games last year in his inaugural season as the team’s main relief pitcher. The 2.99 ERA in 72 innings along with the 35 saves earned him the 10th most Cy Young award votes in the American League. While he didn’t close games in 2014, he was just as effective with a 2.76 ERA in 72 innings. Tolleson is only 28 years old, so he might get even better over these next few years. Texas will want to capitalize on his presence in the back of the ‘pen as he’s scheduled to hit free agency after the 2018 season.

Setting up games for Tolleson will be Keone Kela and Sam Dyson. Both have had successful runs in Major League bullpens, but haven’t pitched enough to prove they’re the real deal yet. Kela made his big league debut last year and burst onto the scene with 60 innings of 2.39 ERA. Dyson has an additional year of success on his resume. He followed up a 2.14 ERA season in 2014 with a 2.63 ERA last year. Now the two have formed one of the better setup duos in the league. Sam Dyson is already 28, but Kela’s success at such a young age (23) has scouts and baseball analysts thinking he could emerge as one of the league’s premier closers in a few years.

The rest of the 2016 bullpen doesn’t feature anything special with Jake Diekman, Tom Wilhelmsen, Tanner Scheppers, Tony Barnette, and Alex Claudio likely filling the roles. Each of them have had their fair share of triumphs and failures at the big league level besides Tony Barnette. Barnette spent the last six years of his career pitching in Japan. After dominating hitters by only allowing 1.29 runs per nine innings, the Rangers saw enough in the 32 year-old to sign him to a 2yr/$3.5MM deal with a $4MM team option in 2018.

The other four potential candidates for Texas’ bullpen in 2016 are Matt Bush, Cesar Ramos, Luke Jackson, and Andrew Faulkner. Ramos is a solid long-relief candidate with eight years of Major League experience on his resume. Jackson and Faulkner are both prospects with ceilings of setup men. Bush is the most interesting of the quartet as a former No. 1 overall pick. Bush’s off the field scandals have been well documented, but the former shortstop has now emerged as a legitimate contender to beef up Texas’ bullpen.

In addition to Faulkner and Jackson, the Rangers also have Jose Leclerc in their farm system. Like Faulkner and Jackson, Leclerc has setup-man potential with a mid-90’s fastball. The development of his offspeed pitches will be the difference in his eventual placement in the Rangers’ bullpen.

(EDIT: Texas acquired Milwaukee Brewers' closer Jeremy Jeffress before the trade deadline. Jeffress isn't a two-month rental as the 28 year-old has four more years of team control. To read more about Jeffress click here [8/1/16]).

Future Outlook: Tolleson leads the pack

Last year, Shawn Tolleson established himself as one of the league’s most prominent relief pitchers. With 35 saves, a 2.99 ERA, and 76 strikeouts, Tolleson racked up a few Cy Young award votes in his breakout 2015 campaign. He’s not alone though as the Rangers have Keone Kela and Sam Dyson coming off of promising years. The rest of the bullpen is merely average, but the potential of Andrew Faulkner, Luke Jackson, and Jose Leclerc give Ranger executives some optimism going forward. This might be an area GM Jon Daniels will have to address, especially if some of the middle-relief guys don’t meet expectations. (EDIT: After Tolleson's disappointing 2016 performance, Daniels acquired Jeremy Jeffress to solidify the team's bullpen going forward [8/1/16]).

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OVERALL OUTLOOK: The Rangers aren’t going away anytime soon

Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, and Elvis Andrus have formed a solid core in Texas and are all under team control for at least the next two years. GM Jon Daniels has surrounded them with quality talent across the board. Great teams find a way to put a contender on the field while simultaneously constructing a farm system that will deliver the next wave of talent for future seasons. Following the formula set by the Cardinals over these past 15 seasons, Texas has a great balance of proven veterans and young players with upside. Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and Jurickson Profar all look to carry Texas into the 2020’s.

Daniels has shown a willingness to acquire big-time talent when needed (Hamels, 2015; Fielder, 2014; Choo; 2013) which he might need to do if Texas wants to elevate themselves from playoff contender to World Series contender. The Rangers have the talent in place to be competitive for a long time. Now, it’s up to Daniels to make the right moves that provides them with annual trips to the Fall Classic.

(EDIT: Acquiring Jonathan Lucroy, Jeremy Jeffress, and Carlos Beltran before the trade deadline will significantly improve Texas' chances of winning a World Series in 2016, but losing top prospects Lewis Brinson, Dillon Tate, and Luis Ortiz will certainly hurt the team's future outlook [8/1/16]).

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