Baseball Reflections on the Rangers

The Texas Rangers finished the 2008 season with a 79-83 record, finishing second in the AL West behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. During the season, the Rangers finished first in all offensive categories, while finishing last in all but one category in pitching. It is no secret the Rangers need to focus on pitching. That has been a mantra for many years in Arlington. This season is no different, however, the Rangers have different pieces ready for movement. Texas has the first ranked minor league system, which compiles pitching, offense and defense. The pitching outlook for the future looks bright with the emergence of Thomas Diamond, Tommy Hunter and Guillermo Moscoso. More pitching prospects keep coming up within the Rangers organization. Texas played it conservatively in the offseason to focus on the development of the pitching within their organization. That’s not to say they didn’t do anything in their time off. The Rangers signed Derrick Turnbow, Brenden Donnelly and Kris Benson (who spent last season out of the league) to bring in veteran leadership in the bullpen. With Texas struggling to get out of obscurity, they dipped into the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff and took Mike Maddux to help improve the current state of pitching. Though the Rangers couldn’t land Ben Sheets, they will make an attempt after the 2009 season when Sheets fully recovers from his surgery.

Omar Vizquel of the San Francisco Giants in th...
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On the offensive and defensive side of the ball, the Rangers did very little in the offseason. Signing Andruw Jones was a win-win situation. The ten-time gold glove winner will compete for a starting position in an already crowded outfield rotation that includes Josh Hamilton, Brandon Boggs and offensive terror Nelson Cruz. If Jones makes the 40-man roster, he will see split time with Hamilton and possibly see some time as DH. Rudy Jaramillo has helped work on the Jones’ swing and approach to the plate and appears to be in the position to make a run for a roster spot. If he doesn’t make the roster, the Rangers won’t pay him a roster bonus and can leverage him for a trade.

Despite the signings of Jones and journeyman Omar Vizquel, Texas played it conservatively. Still reeling from the Alex Rodriguez signing of yesteryear, the Rangers are limited with what they can do monetarily, however, developing the players in the minor league system is also important.

The rest of the AL West was quite busy as well with Anaheim and Oakland landing key offensive players to make a run at the AL Championship, but the true test of the Rangers will be to determine whether or not the group of core veterans, Michael Young moving to third and a healthy mix of highly touted rookies can push for a playoff spot, division winner or not. 2009 will be an important year for Ron Washington. If the defense and pitching don’t turn around he could be out of the job before the All-Star break.

This season expect the Rangers to find some gems in their pitching staff. Their offense will remain the same: dominant. The Rangers are still a season or two away from contending. Pitching will remain an issue for the Rangers because of their lack of experienced pitchers in the rotation. Despite Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla, the other projected starters are either in their second season of play or have bounced from bullpen to starting rotation.

Projection for 2009: 87-75, second place AL West. No playoff spot.

If you like what Wayne has to say about the Rangers, please visit him at Texas Rangers News.

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