Playing Pepper 2019: Texas Rangers

Every year since 2009, I’ve spent some time before the season starts trying to find out what fanbases are thinking about their team.  It’s so easy to get myopic, especially with Twitter, so it’s a good chance for us (and by us, I mean me) to take a step back and remember there are 29 other Major League Baseball teams.  We’ve got current bloggers, former bloggers that indulge me still, and this year a few media folks chiming in as well.  Get out the bat, ball, and glove: it’s time once again to play some pepper.

Texas Rangers
67-95, fifth in AL West
Website | Twitter
Last year’s Pepper

The last couple of years haven’t been up to the normal standards of the Rangers.  Last year’s record matched the 2014 Rangers, which happened to be the last time they finished last.  The two years after that?  Division champs.  Can history repeat itself?  We’ve got Jamey Newberg, who has moved his writing over to The Athletic, to tell us all about what is in store for Texas.  You can find Jamey on Twitter @NewbergReport.

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? What was good, what was bad, what else should they have done?

Jamey: On the pitching side, the plan was fairly clear: To replenish the rotation, almost from scratch, with veterans on short-term deals. From that standpoint, there’s a reasonable degree of optimism that Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Edinson Volquez (who signed a year ago and rehabbed with Texas in 2018), and Drew Smyly have moved past recent injuries and will give the Rangers a serviceable group behind Mike Minor. The club will listen on all of them in July in the event that they’ve built any level of trade value. As for the lineup, moving Jurickson Profar for prospects was a redistribution of assets – Profar never reached full potential in Texas and didn’t have a clear home defensively, but he’d restored enough of his value that Texas was able to pick up high-upside lefthander Brock Burke (from Tampa Bay) and infielder-outfielder Eli White (from Oakland), along with two relievers, to further feed the cupboard of players on the doorstep of the big leagues. The most significant “good” of the off-season, though, was in the hires on the coaching staff and in baseball operations and R&D. The club is thrilled with the staff that new manager Chris Woodward has built, not to mention a number of additions brought into the organization behind the scenes.

C70: Will it be an emotional year, knowing that this is the last season in Globe Life Park?

Jamey: I don’t think that vibe will kick in until September. There’s certainly excitement about the new ballpark, but the combination of some in the fanbase feeling the current facility didn’t need upgrading and the relatively young age of the building probably means less of an emotional impact than you might think.

C70: Patrick Wisdom came over from the Cardinals, so we have to ask about him. What will his role be this year and what do you expect from him?

Jamey: Likely third base in Nashville, with some first base mixed in, and an opportunity to stake a claim for a role on the big league bench as the season develops. He’s had a fairly quiet camp (.158/.238/.368).

C70: What is your general outlook for 2019? Where will they finish in the division?

Jamey: Depending on health and perhaps the arrival of a handful of pitching prospects, the upside is probably a battle for third in the West.

C70: What’s the biggest question for this team going into the season and what’s the answer to it?

Jamey: Same as 2018 and the second half of 2017 – find out what you have in your young players (including a number of hitters the organization would like to see to take a step forward under the guidance of new hitting coaches Luis Ortiz and Callix Crabbe), and figure out whether the club can compete as soon as 2020.

C70: What do you expect will give you the most joy watching this team on a regular basis this season?

Jamey: Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara finding another gear. Young pitchers like Brock Burke, Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo, and Jonathan Hernandez pushing for major league starts. Jose Leclerc shoving.

All that and I didn’t ask about the retirement of Adrian Beltre.  Missed opportunity there.  The AL West is going to be tough but it’ll be interesting to see if the Rangers do make some noise!

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