Back To The Game

Writing about painful things is never fun.

It can be useful catharsis, of course; but the last couple of years for the Texas Rangers didn’t feel like necessary dues-paying or “part of the process”…my impression was that the Rangers zigged when they should have zagged. They took the wrong turn at Albuquerque. They missed the last plane to Lisbon. And so on. That is to say, I felt they wound up where they were by making some bad choices, not necessarily as the part of the normal decline of a good team.

And so, everything I tried to write was negative. I couldn’t focus on the positive, because I felt that half the problems were self-inflicted wounds. Covering things from that point of view just ends up starting fights; fights I really wasn’t interested in. And then going into this season, as I saw the Rangers revamp their pitching program from the ground up, and saw real results from changing batting coaches and instruction, and saw Texas finally embrace technology and advanced analysis, I saw real reason for hope.

Ironically, this time a large percentage of the fanbase wasn’t engaged in optimism. A lot of people still think that the Rangers will never win again without a Front Office tear-down. Or specifically, without a Jon Daniels tear-down, as the entire rest of the Front Office is new at this point.

But I’M optimistic, dammit, and I’m writing this, and what we need now is a sign from the baseball gods that everything is gonna be alright.

Yesterday, Josh Hamilton suddenly showed up in Central Texas. Sober, clean, melancholic? Yes. And being a father to his softball playing girls.

He’s back because it’s time…or rather enough time has passed.

His knees feel fine, but he wants to be with his girls.

He could still DH. Dear Lord, we all KNOW he could still DH. And he knows it. But he wants to be with his girls.

He misses playing baseball. He never watched it much, but finds himself watching games sometimes. While he’s taking care of his girls.

He misses being that Josh Hamilton, and he knows that WE miss him being that Josh Hamilton.

But he wants to take care of his girls.

Stay clean. Stay sober. Take care of his girls. Take care of himself. Be a contributing member of the community. That’s his mantra.

On August 17th, he’ll be back at Globe Life Park/The Ballpark in Arlington, a place he helped make important every bit as much as Nolan Ryan, Rafael Palmeiro, and Adrian Beltre. And Yu Darvish, Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo, and all your favorite Rangers. Josh Hamilton will become a member of the Rangers Hall of Fame, an award he surely deserves…one of the greatest Rangers to ever play the game.

He's back now because maybe it’s just time. Time to be a part of the game again? I guess we’ll see. Time to be honored by his peers, certainly. Time to be loved by his fans again; pretty sure that’s gonna happen. Time because the Rangers, for the first time since Hamilton left after the 2012 season, have another Josh Hamilton in Center Field.

Time because the Rangers are alright, now. And Josh is alright, now.

May the baseball gods smile on both.

Welcome back.

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The Fantasy Value of Rangers Players (Movie Quotes Edition)

Baseball season is upon us.  Fantasy baseball season is also upon us.  Some of you love the fantasy, some of you think it is for nerds, some of you think I might as well be writing this in German.  

However, what do we all love?  Movies.  Everyone loves a good movie.  So how do I sucker you into reading my pre-draft fantasy analysis?  By doing it using movie quotes.  Boom.  

“Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!”

“Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity.”  - Gladiator (2000)

Adrian Beltre

It is clear who the General is for the Texas Rangers. 

To make this plain and simple: Adrian Beltre is Adrian Beltre.  ESPN has Beltre ranked as the #17 fantasy player overall and the #1 third baseman with a $28 value in auction leagues, which seems about right.  He will be who he always has been, he will be the general on the field, he will show his unparalleled glove, and he will put up glorious fantasy numbers from a weak position.  Will the other Rangers stay with him?

Relevant Stat: Beltre hit only .262 with RISP away from Globe Life Park.  Expect a big increase in this number this year, and with that, and increase in BA and RBI.

 

“Surely you can’t be serious.”

“I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”- Airplane! (1980)

Prince Fielder

Surely you aren’t giving up on him after one bad season, are you?  Fielder is ranked as the 11th best fantasy first baseman and a sixth round draft pick ($15).  Don’t be scared to reach for Fielder a little earlier and throw down a few extra bucks for him.  He had no previous injury history before 2014.  He looks healthy.  All systems go.  I am serious. 

Relevant Stat: Further proof that Prince’s neck injury was the cause of his early season struggles: Fielder hit only .208 on pitches on the outside half of the plate, the area that he said caused him the most pain to reach.

 

“Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?"

"These go to eleven." - This is Spinal Tap (1984)

 Rougned Odor

This kid is full-blast at all times.  Not only does he go to 11, but he is stuck there.  ESPN has Odor ranked 199th overall with an auction value of $4.  Honestly though, are there 198 players you would rather have than Rougie?  I didn’t think so.  What we saw last year was the rookie season of a 20 year old.  I repeat: The kid is still just twenty-one years old.  If you are in a keeper league, grab him earlier, he is here to stay. 

Relevant stat: Rougie hit an astonishing .282 on ground balls.  The kid is pure hustle.  Once he gains some experience and lowers his K rate, expect his numbers to rise rapidly. 

 

“But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe -- hear it? -- Carpe, Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."- Dead Poets Society (1989)

Elvis Andrus

He may have a living legacy working immediately to his right, but as Elvis goes, the Rangers go.  Let’s hope the same is not true for your fantasy team.  Andrus does so much for the Rangers, and his down year in 2014 had a huge effect on the team.  However, most of what he does really well does not translate to fantasy value.  If you can figure out a way to get fantasy points out of defensive range and baserunning instincts, then Elvis is your guy, seize the day.  However, in the meantime, ESPN’s ranking of Andrus as the 7th best fantasy shortstop is a reach.

Relevant Stat: Elvis hit more homeruns (2) than triples (1) for the first time in his career during the 2014 season.  Avoid him if you play in an OPS league.

 

“Lieutenant Dan!  You’ve got new legs!  New Legs!”-  Forrest Gump (1994)

Shin-Soo Choo

Choo’s first season in a Rangers’ uniform was disappointing, there is no other way to describe it.  However, I can honestly say that I felt relieved to find out that he needed surgery on both his ankle and his elbow in the off season.  I mean, hurt is way better than horrible, right?  He is back, healthy, and started training hard early.  I expect a rebound season for him, but would not consider drafting him anywhere near where he went last season.  Consider Choo and his new legs as a value pick somewhere around the 15th round.

Relevant Stat: Choo was caught stealing 4 times in 2014 while swiping only 3 bases.  Expect 15-20 SBs from this year’s version.

 

“I feel the need, the need for speed”Top Gun (1986)

Leonys Martin

I hate the bunt.  I hate sacrifices and playing for one run.  I hate donating free outs to the other team and killing a potential big inning. 

Ron Washington loved the bunt. 

With that said, Leonys is one of the few players that makes the bunt a legit weapon at all times.  Will Bannister allow Leonys to freely bunt and freely steal?  How aggressive will Bannister be?  If Leonys has a green light, watch out, his speed makes him a steal around the 11th round.

Relevant Stat: Leonys hit .586 when he was bunting for a hit in 2014, reaching base safely 17 out of 29 attempts.

 

"I love waking up in the morning not knowing where I'm gonna go or who I'm gonna meet. Just the other night, I was sleeping under a bridge, and now here I am, on the grandest ship in the world, having champagne with you fine people."- Titanic (1997)

Robinson Chirinos

Don’t get cute.  I know you love your Rangers, but Chirinos is not a homer pick worth making.  Allow him to continue to develop his relationship with Yu while avoiding having him destroy your relationship with your fantasy squad.  He is just happy to be in the grandest league in the world, leave it at that.

Relevant Stat: Chirinos hits .221 at Globe Life Park, which is considered by most to be one of the better hitters’ parks in the league.

 

“We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious.”- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, (2002)

Joey Gallo

Do you draft Gallo with plans to have him help your league this season?  Nope.  Should you grab him late and stash him if you are in a keeper league?  Yep.  The future is near.

Relevant Stat: Bombs. Lots and lots of bombs.

 

"You're hit. You're bleedin', man!"

"I ain't got time to bleed."- Predator (1987)

Yu Darvish

The Rangers camps are split here.  The old Nolan camp thinks Darvish is a quitter and that he bailed on his team last year.  The JD camp thinks it was a wise move to save your investment and shut down Darvish in a lost year.  Either which way, Darvish heard the complaints, and he is motivated for this year.  Expect the man with the second highest K/9 rate in the league to put up big numbers and don’t worry about a little spring training tenderness.  ESPN has Darvish ranked as the 14th best fantasy pitcher, but he will finish the season well within the top ten.

Relevant Stat: Darvish struck out 30% of opposing hitters while limiting them to a .241 batting average.  If he can keep his pitch count low, expect big things.

 

“We got no food, we got no jobs... our PETS' HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Derek Holland

We all know that Dutch Holland is about the biggest Dumb and Dumber fan on the planet, so this quote was just about the best way to sum up last season’s horrific string of injuries.  Nothing went right.  Everyone was broken. 

However, as much as those injuries drove us crazy as fans, our emotions were nothing compared to those of Holland.  Expect Derek to show the brilliance that he brought to the mound at the end of 2014 for the most of the season.  He is a motivated man, with the departure of Ron Washington, the frustration from last season, and his emotional connection to the loss of Briggs Berry fueling him along the way.  Holland will be a difference maker for your fantasy team if you pick him up in the late rounds.

Relevant Stat: Holland made hitters swing and miss 21% of the time and forced them to chase 34% of pitches he threw out of the strike zone.  The stuff is there, it’s just a matter of staying healthy and remaining focused.

 

“Oh, I can barely lift my right arm ’cause I did so many. I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand.”Anchorman (2004)

Yovani Gallardo

Every MLB team needs an inning eating workhorse.  Gallardo was brought to Texas to be just that guy.  He is another player who can contribute to your fantasy squad, but don’t expect him to be a stud.  He will add to your strikeout total and provide innings while doing minimal damage to your WHIP and ERA.

Relevant Stat:  Gallardo threw 3,216 pitches last season, 62% of which were strikes. Work. Horse. 

 

"I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it."-  Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Neftali Feliz

Feliz has entered spring training by taking a stand.  “It’s my job” Neftali told Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News.  I don’t doubt him.  The thing about closers is that you want them to be confident, you want them to be a little bit nuts.  This season is the right time frame for Neftali to be properly healed from Tommy John, so I expect him to grab the job and hold on, becoming a contributor in saves and K’s in the realm of fantasy baseball.  Feliz is no Kembral, but I expect him to provide much more value than the 32nd best reliever, which is where ESPN currently has him ranked. 

Relevant Stat: Neftali limited batters to an incredible .183 batting average after he regained the role of closer.  He’s back.