Sunday Morning Rangers Strikes

Hey, it's Super Bowl Sunday. The Cowboys aren't playing because Dez caught it and Dean Blandino wrongly disagreed. Thankfully, we're almost done with football and on to baseball.

  • MLB.com's prospect rankings have four Rangers prospects in the top-100. Of course, leading that group of four is Joey Gallo, who comes in at number 9 on the list.
     
  • Jurickson Profar is still gunning to snag a spot on the Opening Day roster, saying he's pain-free and ready to go.
     
  • Matt Harrison likely won't pitch for Texas until June. While I'm pretty sure most of us assumed that, this is further confirmation that he's got a long road to being back on the mound and fully healthy.
     
  • Chuck Greenberg -- also known as the first guy that Nolan Ryan couldn't get along with back in 2010 -- also owns the Double-A Frisco club, and is planning some renovations for Dr. Pepper Ballpark.
     
  • Any predictions for the Super Bowl? How many times will "deflated footballs" make the airwaves? How many f-bombs will Tom Brady drop on camera? Will Richard Sherman ever shut up? Does anyone know why Marshawn Lynch is there? Oh yeah, it's so he won't get fined.

Friday Morning Rangers Strikes

I just love this time of year. Projections , prospect rankings, and hope for a new season are all fresh on the minds of baseball fans everywhere.

  • Katy Clarke of WFAA had part two of her look at Joey Gallo, focusing on his relationship with friend and mentor Jason Giambi. For his part, Giambi has been talked about in many circles as a future manager in the game, so it's nice that Gallo is getting in some work with a guy that is generally considered to be very baseball smart.
     
  • Tim Cowlishaw says that, surprise, health will be more important than a new manager in determining the success of the Rangers in 2015.
     
  • Michael Florek takes a look at projected payroll figures across baseball, with Texas coming in with the 7th-highest figure based on currently guaranteed figures.
     
  • Tanner Scheppers is throwing again, and aiming to be a big piece of the bullpen this season.
     
  • Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs has a pretty interesting piece up on how pitch-framing -- or lack thereof -- in Texas may have contributed to his downfall as both a starter and a reliever in 2014.

Keith Law has six Rangers on his top-100 prospects list

Behind the Insider paywall on ESPN.com, today Keith Law unveiled his top-100 prospects list, with six Rangers making the cut. 

Unsurprisingly, Joey Gallo moved all the way up to #11 (from unranked in 2014), with outfielder Nomar Mazara (#31), catcher Jorge Alfaro (#35), and starters Jake Thompson (#52), Chi-Chi Gonzalez (#86) and Luis Ortiz (#96) rounding out the unit. 

There are a couple things I like about this. For one, there's a strong mix around the diamond; Gallo is a corner infielder, Mazara's a corner outfielder, Alfaro catches and the other three pitch. Secondly, with a big league roster comprised mostly of peak and post-peak players, the Rangers are beginning to get desperate for an infusion of youth. By Opening Day 2016, the hope is to have Gallo at 3B, Adrian Beltre at DH, as well as Thompson and Gonzalez filling out the rotation behind Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Martin Perez. 

Keith Law calls Gallo "the game's preeminent sonic-boom-or-bust candidate," noting "if he can just hit .230-.240 in the majors he'll hit 40-45 homers, if not more, with enough patience thrown in to be a 5-WAR player on his bat alone." On the flip side, there is likely an equal or greater chance he either washes out or becomes a Quad-A player because he can't make enough contact. 

Jorge Alfaro has the tools -- "monumental tools," according to Law -- to be one of the two- or three-best catchers in MLB if all goes right. In 2014 he batted .261/.318/.440 (112 wRC+) at High-A and .261/.343/.443 (126 wRC+) in 99 Double-A plate appearances; if he hit that at the major league level, he would be something in the neighborhood of a 4-win catcher. 

Since many already knew of Joey Gallo's prodigious power, there is a good argument to be made the the player who made the biggest jump in the system was Nomar Mazara. I mean, he literally jumped two levels -- from the Low-A Sally League to Double-A Frisco -- but his game also took a huge step forward. 

Here are his triple slash lines and home run outputs from his first two years in the minors:

2012: .264/.383/.448 (123 wRC+), 6 HRs, 243 plate appearances

'13: .236/.310/.382 (101 wRC+), 13 HRs, 506 PAs

In 2014, Mazara established himself as a legitimate major league prospect. Repeating a level with the Hickory Crawdads, Nomar hit .264/.358/.470 (130 wRC+) with 19 HRs and a 12.4% walk rate. After being promoted to Frisco -- ahead of outfield prospects Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson who were playing a level above Mazara at Myrtle Beach -- he hit a robust .306/.381/.518 (157 wRC+), albeit in a small 97 PA sample.

Law writes: "He might be a full two years away from the majors, with the potential to be a middle-of-the-order bat, hitting 25 bombs with a .280/.360/.520 kind of line when he finishes filling out." Wow. You go, Nomar.

Luis Ortiz is only 19 right now, so he's a few years away, but Thompson and Gonzalez are both healthy bets to be called up at some point in 2015. Behind Darvish and Holland -- and having Perez and Matt Harrison on the shelf for the foreseeable future -- Texas's rotation is thin on the backend. Yovani Gallardo fills a valuable role smack dab in the middle, but Colby Lewis is hard to depend on because his hips are on the verge of disintegrating at any time, and Ross Detwiler/Nick Tepesch/Nick Martinez are what they are: 5th starters. 

Anyway, before I get on some diatribe about what could go wrong with the Rangers, I'll finish by saying prospects are awesome. And having six on any top-100 list is impressive; that it's Keith Law's, one of the best writer/scout's doing it these days, is especially cool. 

Projecting the 2015 Rangers

What's in a projection, anyways?

What's in a projection, anyways?

It's nearly that time of year. January is coming to a close, and February will approach with a sense of optimism for baseball fans everywhere, as pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training before March. For us, that means we get to start looking at a more realistic view of what we (think we) can expect from the Texas Rangers.

Yesterday, the annual PECOTA projections were updated over at Baseball Prospectus. They always seem like the best starting point for any of these conversations because, well, they have a lot of people smarter than myself that put these types of things together. Quite simply, there's probably a reason BP hasn't hired me -- at least yet, since it'd be a fun gig to take part in -- to do these types of things for them.

The PECOTA projections have Texas finishing the 2015 season 83-79, and 4th in the American League West behind Los Angeles, Seattle, and Oakland, respectively. Interestingly, the projections have the Angels as the only 90 win team in the American League.

For Texas, the projections have the Rangers scoring 707 runs and allowing 693. Running that through the formula for Pythagorean winning percentage, that puts the Rangers at around 82 wins. In other words, the projections expect Texas to fare about as well as their run-scoring and run-prevention will allow for.

So, how can Texas improve on the projections to increase the chances of playoff baseball in 2015? For starters, it's interesting to note that after the Angels, the next closest AL team in the projections is Seattle at 87 wins. After that, Boston and Tampa Bay -- surprisingly -- both come in projected at 86 wins apiece. PECOTA isn't too fond of the American League this year, likely due to the amount of talent that has shifted to the National League in recent months.

Nonetheless, it's also worth noting that PECOTA is often somewhat conservative in certain areas. For example, Derek Holland is projected to put up 1.0 WAR in 24 starts an 144 IP. Barring something unforeseen happening, Texas should hope to get more innings -- and production -- out of their #2 starter in 2015. For left field, Ryan Rua is projected to be worth 0.1 WAR. He put up 0.6 fWAR in limited playing time in 2014. Yeah, small sample sizes and all that other stuff, but still. It's an area Texas seems to feel confident they can get some excess value from.

From an offensive standpoint, I can't say I'd be too upset with Texas scoring 707 runs on the season. It'd be a 70-run improvement over 2014, and going by Pythagorean winning percentage, would figure to be worth about 7 wins from 2014 to 2015. Again, projections, but bear with me.

From a pitching/defensive standpoint, the projection of 693 runs allowed will likely be where Texas can make up some ground. The team allowed 773 runs in 2014. While 693 would certainly be an improvement on that -- and worth about 8 extra wins between 2014 and 2015, all other things being equal -- having a healthy and effective Derek Holland outplay his projection alone could help things on that front. If Texas were to get closer to something like 680 runs allowed, that would put them at around 84 projected wins in 2015.

One other issue I have with PECOTA in this instance is with the projected winner of the AL West. I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, and I may be alone in thinking so, but I don't exactly envision the Angels having the pitching to only give up 646 runs. Garrett Richards will be coming back from injury, Matt Shoemaker is still young, and Jered Weaver's velocity isn't coming back. Oh, and then there's C.J. Wilson. He was so ineffective in 2014 that the Angels were reportedly looking to ship him away -- with some reports saying that they tried luring Texas into talks -- during the offseason. That's how confident they are in him having a bounceback season.

At the end of the day, it's all projections, and that's all we're really doing. Last season, injuries quickly derailed any attempts to project what the Rangers might do. While the hope is that won't be the case this season, we can at the very least entertain the idea that the American League is as wide open as it has been at any time in the past decade. Given where Texas stands with top-tier prospects not quite being ready to, and not wanting to empty the farm to make a big splash, the timing couldn't be more perfect.

The Texas Rangers may not dominate the baseball world during the 2015 regular season, but with a few good breaks and some consistency in the starting rotation -- not to mention bounce-back seasons from Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and Elvis Andrus -- they could still find themselves in the thick of a playoff race down the home stretch of the season. Oh, and I still wouldn't rule out Jon Daniels finding a way to get Cliff Lee back in Texas, if he proves to be healthy.

Thursday Morning Rangers Strikes

A lot of juicy info for you all this morning:

  • Baseball Prospectus put up their top ten list of prospects in the Texas organization. As you might expect, Joey Gallo is at the top of the list.
     
  • Keith Law ranked all Major League farm systems. You'll need ESPN Insider access to see the piece -- a worthwhile investment if you enjoy reading this kind of information -- but the shorthand version is that he has the Texas farm system ranked at 11.
     
  • PECOTA projections are up over at Baseball Prospectus. The projections have Texas at 83 wins, and 4th in the AL West. While perhaps slightly conservative, I think that's around where many of us expected things to stand in any preseason projections.
     
  • Kevin Sherrington feels like the Rangers are in a much better position with rotational depth than they were at this time last year. Can't say I would really disagree with that.
     
  • T.R. Sullivan says that the newfound depth in the rotation affords more time for the top pitching prospects in the system to hone their craft.
     
  • Robbie Ross was in a yoga class when Jon Daniels called him to inform him of the trade that sent him to Boston.