It’s here! It’s finally here! You guys! Look! It’s opening day!
To help temper your excitement, here is my annual short list of Rangers predictions that never actually come true.
1- Texas finally beats Toronto in the playoffs.
This prediction has piles of room to fail, being that it requires both teams to make the playoffs for the third season in a row. However, if both teams can somehow get their pitching staffs to remain healthy, I fully expect these two teams to meet each other in the Wild Card play-in game, in which I will take my chances with Yu Darvish and the loaded Rangers bullpen over team USA hero Marcus Stroman, who is bound to run out of steam throughout the course of what will be a very long 2017 for him.
2- Speaking of Yu……
I’m following suit with a great number of beats this year and saying that Yu Darvish will be the 2017 AL Cy Young Award winner (this ensures that it won’t actually happen and I apologize in advance). I think the stars are aligned for Yu to be phenomenal, with his health peaking in a free agency year while Lucroy is calling his pitches. I would love to see Texas lock Darvish up with an extension before the All Star break, but with the payroll sitting at $167 million (including the insurance deduction on Prince’s deal), I don’t see much wiggle room for that to happen unless someone gets duped into taking Choo’s contract or unless the public in Arlington volunteers their tax dollars to build a new stadium to help take some of the financial burden off of team ownership (Wait…...what do you mean that’s already happened? And the owners are still saying they are out of money? Shit.).
3- If things go south………
Just as there is great potential for Texas to have a wonderful season, the lack of depth in certain areas, particularly starting pitching, could result in the season quickly collapsing. Texas took huge gambles in signing Cashner and Ross after letting huge gamble Derek Holland walk in the off season. If these two are unable to contribute, the patchwork rotation could quickly lead to the Rangers’ demise, which may result in a mid-season fire sale. As much as it would kill most Rangers fans to see it happen, the correct move in this situation would be to unload Darvish and Lucroy, among others, which could result in a restocking of the farm system with more long-term results than the Teixeira deal that lead to much of the 2010-2011 success. I wholeheartedly hope that this does not happen as the Beltre window of greatness slowly comes to a close, but this is something we should keep in the back of our minds if things turn ugly.
4- But this won’t happen because…….
Martin Perez and the loaded bullpen become unsung heroes. Lucroy will help Perez finally trust his stuff and understand that ground balls in play result in outs that help him preserve his pitch count, and once Keona Kela is allowed to be on the big boy club again, the combination of Claudio, Barnette, Kela, Jeffress, Bush, and Dyson become such a force that the starters understand that they only need to give six strong innings to put their team in position to win each and every outing. While the stats say that it will be impossible to keep up the magic on one run games, the bullpen may say otherwise.
5- The lack of depth in the pitching staff is matched by depth in the outfield
Jurickson Profar breaks out, not to the tone expected of the top prospect in all of baseball, but to the tone of someone who becomes an everyday MLB starter as he takes a strong hold on the left field job. Ryan Rua also proves that he is a starter in this league, parlaying his hot spring into the regular season as he becomes the everyday first baseman when Napoli moves to DH after Shin Soo Choo goes on the disabled list with ________ (you can make up your own ailment here. Broken ribs? Torn quad? Sprained shoulder? Dislocated ear drum? Who knows? The suspense is killing me). However, Joey Gallo continues to struggle hitting Major League pitching, and the fear that he is more Mike Olt than Giancarlo Stanton becomes a reality. Delino Deshields fills his role as an occasional starter and baserunner while Nomar Mazara hits .290 with 20 homeruns, giving the Rangers a surprisingly solid outfield rotation (as long as Carlos Gomez continues to operate as a sane person instead of as an Astro).
86-76, good for 2nd place in the AL West and the second Wild Card.
Those are my thoughts and predictions as we begin the season today. What are yours?