For the Texas Rangers, the 2020 season was supposed to be about unveiling their stadium. However, with the season delayed and likely to be played without fans, they will need to keep their fans entertained from afar by competing for a postseason spot.
The good news is that the shortened season could favor teams like Texas. In fact, if last season had ended after 60 games, the Rangers would have been the second Wild-Card in the American League.
Perhaps more importantly, Texas made several moves designed to make it competitive during the inaugural season in the new home. The Rangers also have a young manager in Chris Woodward, who now has a year of experience.
However, will their offseason moves be enough? Did the Rangers do enough to stand out in the AL West after the division sent two teams to the playoffs last year?
Texas Rangers 2019 Results
The Rangers finished 2019 with a 78-84 record, a distant third in the American League West. Texas finished 29 games behind the division-champion Astros and were 18 games out of a Wild-Card spot. Coincidentally, the team’s 78-84 record matched its 2017 mark.It was the third straight year Texas failed to make the playoffs.
Things started to fall apart in July when the team went 8-16. With star slugger Joey Gallo missing a significant chunk due to injury, the Rangers fell off during the second half of the season. It didn’t help that the middle-infield tandem of Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus also had disappointing seasons offensively.
The silver lining was the performance of starters Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. Both gave the Rangers over 30 starts while posting ERAs under 3.70. The pair also combined for 30 wins.
However, Texas had trouble finding answers for the back half of the starting rotation.
Texas Rangers Key Additions
The biggest addition was former AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, acquired in a trade with Cleveland. Kluber gives the Texas rotation a bona fide ace.
The caveat with Kluber is that he’s 34 and only made seven starts last year due to injury. However, two seasons ago, Kluber made 33 starts, winning 20 games and posting a 2.89 ERA. If he’s healthy, he’s capable of being a frontline starter.
Texas made two more additions to the starting rotation by signing Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Despite a modest 4.84 ERA, Gibson was a 13-game winner with the Twins last season. He’s won at least 10 games in five of the last six seasons.
Lyles is also a solid back-end starter, going 12-8 over 28 starts in 2019.
Offensively, the team’s biggest offseason addition was third baseman Todd Frazier. The hot corner has been an issue for the Rangers since Adrian Beltre retired.
Frazier solidifies the position, even if his performance has started to decline with age the past few seasons. The 34-year-old managed 21 home runs and an OPS of .772 with the Mets.
Another noteworthy move was to bring back catcher Robinson Chirinos. The 36-year-old spent six seasons in Texas before spending 2019 with the Astros.
The Rangers got little offense out of the catcher position. That’s a problem they hope to solve with Chirinos, who hit 17 home runs and 22 doubles for Houston.
Finally, the Rangers are taking a chance on pitchers Juan Nicasio and Edinson Volquez, as well as first baseman Greg Bird. Nicasio and Volquez are both veterans with something to prove. However, both have a chance to contribute to the Texas bullpen.
Bird is an intriguing wild card. He had a sensational start to his career with the Yankees, only to be held back by a series of injuries. If healthy, Bird could factor into the team’s plans at first base.
Texas Rangers Big Losses
The Rangers didn’t lose too many keys. The most notable exit might be outfielder Delino DeShields, who was traded to Cleveland as part of the Kluber deal. While he provided speed and defense, his .672 OPS last season was a disappointment.
Texas will also miss the offensive contributions of outfielder Hunter Pence, who signed with the Giants. Pence was a revelation in Texas lafter signing with the Rangers on a minor-league contract.
His career looked over until coming back to life as a part-time outfielder and designated hitter. Despite collecting less than 300 at-bats, Pence hit .297 with an OPS of .910, which helped pick up the slack when others struggled.
The Texas outfield will also be without Nomar Mazara, who was traded to the White Sox. Mazara offered great promise when he first got to the big leagues in 2016. However, he struggled to develop into the type of impact offensively player the Rangers hoped he would become.
On the pitching front, the Rangers haven’t lost many noteworthy players outside of Chris Martin, who was traded to the Braves before the 2019 trade deadline. The only member of last year’s pitching staff they are likely to miss is Emmanuel Clase, who was traded to Cleveland in the deal for Kluber. Of course, it’s a moot point after Clase was suspended for the season because of a positive PED test.
Texas Rangers Pitching
Thanks to their offseason additions, the Rangers could have one of the best and deepest rotations in the American League. A lot hinges on the health of Kluber.
Of course, the assumption is that Minor and Lynn will be able to replicate their performance from 2019. Minor may not be quite as good, although his track record indicates that he should at least be a formidable No. 3 starter.
Lynn, meanwhile, has registered an ERA under 4.00 every year except for 2018, making him a safe bet to be a solid No. 2 starter.
With new additions Gibson and Lyle, the Rangers should feel good about their five-man rotation. Neither is a star, but both should do enough to keep Texas in the game every time out.
If those five starters stay healthy and give the Rangers at least 10 or 12 starts each during the 60-game season, the Texas rotation should be in the top half of the American League.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, there is less certainty about the bullpen. Jose Leclerc is entrenched as the closer, although he posted an unimpressive 4.33 ERA last season. The team’s top setup men, Brett Martin and Jesse Chavez, aren’t any more reliable.
The Rangers got a surprising effort out of Rafael Montero, and the hope is that he can continue to be a reliable late-inning reliever. As mentioned, veterans like Nicasio and Volquez could give the Rangers a boost. However, there are few guarantees with the Texas bullpen, which has a lot of questions entering the 2020 season.
Texas Rangers Offense
Despite all that went wrong, the Rangers still scored the sixth-most runs in the American League. That should create some optimism about the team’s offensive prowess heading into 2020.
The hope is that Gallo will be healthy and able to anchor the lineup. Texas also got an uptick from designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo last season and would love to get a comparable season from him.
Despite all of the shake-ups in the outfield since last season, the Rangers will feel good about Gallo being flanked by Danny Santana and Willie Calhoun. The versatile Santana came alive last season with an OPS of .857.
Of course, he doesn’t have much of a track record prior to 2019, so it remains to be seen if he can put together another season like that. Meanwhile, Calhoun could be a star in the making after a strong second half that saw him finish the campaign with an .848 OPS.
As mentioned, the additions of Frazier and Chirinos should give the Texas lineup a little more pop. More importantly, Frazier should match or exceed what the Rangers got from their third basemen last year. The same should be true for the offensive production Texas got from the catcher spot in 2019.
However, the Rangers still need to get more out of Odor and Andrus. Both have been an important part of the Texas lineup for a long time, and the Rangers don’t exactly have replacements lined up for them if they continue to struggle. If one or both can bounce back in 2020, it’ll give the Texas offense a huge lift.
Texas Rangers Three Key Players
Jose Leclerc will arguably be the most important player for the Rangers in 2020. The Texas bullpen is filled with uncertainty.
If nothing else, the Rangers need to have a closer that’s dependable. There’s little doubt that Leclerc is capable after having a breakout 2018 season in which he pitched to a 1.56 ERA. If he can replicate that kind of performance, it’ll go a long way toward the Rangers solving their bullpen issues.
Willie Calhoun will be another key player. The Rangers are relying on a few too many veterans like Odor, Andrus, and even Choo.
If they’re going to be in the playoff hunt in September, young players have to come to the forefront. The 25-year-old started to put it together last season, and he needs to carry it over into 2020. He’s the best option that Texas has for giving Gallo a little support in the middle of the order.
Finally, Kluber will be vital. On paper, the Texas rotation should be the team’s biggest strength this season. Much of that is contingent on Kluber.
Texas Rangers Schedule Breakdown
The Rangers will play 40 of their 60 games against their AL West rivals. Unfortunately, that means 20 games in total against the Astros and Athletics, both playoff teams a year ago.
Texas will also have 10 games against the Angels, who are poised to be one of the most-improved teams in baseball. Finally, the Rangers will need to take advantage of their 10 games against the Mariners, who figure to be among the worst.
The team’s remaining 20 games will be played against the five members of the NL West. With only three games against the Dodgers, all at home, and six against the Rockies, who are coming off a down year, the Rangers will luck out a little with their interleague schedule.
With regard to their regular-season win totals, Texas has an over/under of 29.5 wins, according to BetUs.com. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started.
Ultimately, the odds say the Rangers are unlikely to make much noise. If the Texas rotation can fulfill its potential, the Rangers might have a fighting chance to make things interesting. However, a lackluster bullpen and a lineup filled with veterans on their downslide might be too much to overcome.