The Texas Rangers open the 2016 season in less than a week, and that means it's time for bold predictions. The expectations are high in Arlington, and the goal of another playoff run is well within reach for this team. That being said, every Major League Baseball season is long and contains plenty of ups and downs. After thinking long and hard, here are my 10 bold predictions for the upcoming campaign. Please feel free to give some predictions of your own in the comment section below.
- Joey Gallo Will Hit At Least 20 Home Runs
Joey Gallo has been one of the best prospects in baseball for a number of years, and Rangers fans finally got to see him in Arlington during the 2015 season. He only played 36 games, and for the most part, he didn't have a great first run in the majors. However, he flashed plenty of firepower on occasion and ended up hitting six home runs.
There isn't a guarantee Gallo will get a lot of at-bats for Texas this season, but I'm betting on him being back in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Once he gets the call, he'll make the most of it.
- Shin-Soo Choo Will End Up With Over 100 Walks
Shin-Soo Choo had a dreadful start to the 2015 season, but he was a much better player down the stretch. He showed fans why the Rangers locked him up long term for big money in late 2013. While the occasional trade rumor still comes up, the 2016 season provides a fresh start for him.
After finishing 2015 on a high note, Choo is going to have a really strong full season. He's racked up 100 walks in a season once before (2013 with the Reds), and he'll get back to that number in 2016. In addition, he'll end up with an On-Base Percentage north of .400.
- Texas Will Trade For a Catcher
Robinson Chirinos has improved in recent years, and he's a serviceable MLB catcher. He was in the middle of the pack in offensive and defensive WAR in 2015, and if he's the Rangers catcher all season, it won't be a terrible thing by any means. However, his production last season is going to be about as good as we can expect moving forward.
Where there is smoke there is fire, and the Jonathan Lucroy rumors never go away for long. Texas will finally make the move in 2016, and what goes back to Milwaukee may be mentioned a little bit later in this article. Lucroy had a lousy 2015 season, but he was in the MVP discussion a season earlier. He'd be a welcome addition in Arlington and a potential major impact player in a playoff race.
- Ian Desmond Will Lead the Team in Home Runs
Ian Desmond has really improved his stock in Spring Training, and Rangers fans are hoping it translates to the regular season and postseason (fingers crossed). He's flashed solid power in the past and has hit as many as 25 home runs in a season. After having a down 2015, he seems to be refreshed heading into the new season.
Desmond is going to fit very well in the Rangers lineup, and he's going to see plenty of good pitches along the way. He's going to be the team leader in home runs, and that number will be pretty close to 30. He has the potential to be a 30-30 player, and he'll get pretty close to that this season. This signing looks better every day and will provide a huge boost in 2016.
- Keone Kela Will Be the Closer By Season's End
Shawn Tolleson was outstanding in 2015, and he really provided a lift at the end of the Rangers bullpen. However, he's not the long-term solution as the Texas closer. If he ends the season as closer, that's a very good sign for the team. I'm guessing he goes through a minor slump at some point in 2016, and Keone Kela gets a chance to close out baseball games. When he gets his chance, he won't look back. Tolleson will still be a valuable piece in the bullpen, but Kela is an MLB closer through and through.
- Derek Holland or Martin Perez Will Be Traded
This is probably the prediction I least want to see happen because I'm a fan of both pitchers, but it's time for the Rangers to get something productive from them for a full season. I've read it many times, but it always feels like "next season is the season Holland and Perez fulfill their potential." At some point, Texas has to move on if things go like they have in recent years.
The trade for Jonathan Lucroy was mentioned earlier, and Holland or Perez could be a major piece included in that deal. If Holland and Perez both perform great to start the 2016 season, the Rangers are going to be in great shape when Yu Darvish returns. This prediction will be completely wrong, and that's just fine. If either or both of them struggle to start the season, however, a move of some kind has to be made.
- Cole Hamels Will Win 20 Games
The trade for Cole Hamels last season was a surprise to many, but it ended up being a very pleasant surprise. The Rangers went on a late-season surge after the trade, and he was a big reason for that. He'll take the mound as the Opening Day starter next Monday.
A full season of Hamels in Arlington is very exciting, and it very well could end up being one of his best years yet. He's won as many as 17 games in a season, and there is potential to top that in 2016. 20-win seasons don't fall off trees, but it's possible. If Colby Lewis can win 17 games in 2015, Hamels can get to 20 this season.
- Yu Darvish Won't Pitch Until After All-Star Break
Yu Darvish's return from Tommy John surgery tops my list of anticipated 2016 moments. He's absolutely amazing when he has his best stuff, and he's pretty good when he only has his decent stuff. If Texas holds things together to start the season, he's going to return to a team with true aspirations of winning a World Series.
The timetable for Darvish's return isn't set in stone, and it's been mentioned that May or June is the goal. The Rangers need to make sure they take their time with Darvish, although everyone wants to see him back as soon as possible. If he returns before the All Star Break, it'll be great. However, it's much more likely the team plays it safe and holds him out until the second half of the season. He'll be a major key down the stretch.
- The Texas Rangers Will Send Three Players to the All-Star Game
The Texas Rangers have plenty of players with history of making it to the All-Star game, and they'll have a decent representation at the 2016 Midsummer Classic in San Diego. Cole Hamels is going to have a great first half of the season and will be in line to start this year's All-Star Game for the American League.
Closers usually get most of the relief pitcher spots on All-Star teams, but non-closers have gotten more respect in recent years. Keone Kela may not be the Ranger's closer by July, but there's a decent chance his numbers will warrant an All-Star nod regardless.
The third Ranger All-Star prediction is Shin-Soo Choo. He's going to cause a lot of headaches for opposing pitchers this season, and he'll be rewarded with a spot in the All-Star Game. Rougned Odor and Ian Desmond may end up in the All-Star conversation as well, and either could end up being included in the fan vote for the final spot. Second base is pretty loaded in the American League, but Odor is climbing the ranks quickly.
- The Rangers Will Win 91 Games and Make an ALCS Run
The last prediction is the one readers are probably most interested in. Texas won 88 games and the AL West in 2015, and that's after a poor start the first two or three months of the season. With Cole Hamels for an entire season along with Yu Darvish for at least a few months, it's very hard to imagine the team not winning more than 88 games in 2016.
The team could very well start the season slow again. The starting rotation is still a question mark after a shaky Spring Training for a number of pitchers. The offense should start this season better than last, so that should offset things a little bit. The team will probably stay fairly close to .500 until Darvish returns before going on another late-season push towards the Postseason.
With the talent currently assembled at the Major League and Triple-A levels, there are very few question marks across the board. The depth is there to have a really good season, and anything less than a postseason berth will surely be a disappointment. My final projection has the Rangers winning 91 games along with the AL West for a second consecutive season. It'll lead to a win in the ALDS before bowing out in the ALCS.