In-state rivalries are often overblown, yet interesting enough to watch. That’ll be the case between the Astros and Rangers in 2018.
Let’s be honest: the only reason why the Astros and Rangers rivalry matters so much to the public today is due to the frequency of the games. The two clubs play at least 19 times each year. Division rivals. Quite frankly, the Lone Star Series mattered zilch before 2013. One could even argue 2015. And for the first time in state history, one will face off against a defending World Series champion from their own backyard in 2018.
The Rangers are in a precarious spot as a franchise. The farm system hasn’t produced the sheer bulk of quality players one would hope. See Jurickson Profar as a prime example. Injuries have played a major role in the narrative. Regression and aging have not been kind.
Alas, the Rangers are making one last push as Adrian Beltre finishes his impressive Hall of Fame resume and Cole Hamels leading a makeshift starting rotation. And it’s a noble cause. It could also be a fruitless one.
The Rangers, like the Angels, have decided to address their roster in numerous ways thus far in the off-season.
Specifically for Texas, it was mainly the starting rotation that has been tinkered. Mike Minor, Doug Fister, and Matt Moore have been acquired to go with Hamels and Martin Perez. There also have been rumors that Homer Bush could make a conversion to the starting rotation from the bullpen. In theory, this should be a more successful group than the one that leaned on Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner for innings in 2017.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, it was announced on Tuesday that Perez injured his non-throwing elbow, which occurred at his ranch in Venezuela. By a bull. And the starting rotation suddenly has a renewed depth problem.
Per Fangraphs Depth Chart projections, the Rangers’ starting rotation was expected to post an 8.1 WAR as a staff next season before the Perez news. That’s good, or bad, enough for 25th overall in projected WAR for a starting rotation. And this includes all of the supposed upgrades the front office made led by Jon Daniels. Of course, projections are just projections. Perez is only projected to be out for four months, which means he could return as early as mid-April. I just wouldn’t count on that.
The projections will change, for better or worse.
The Rangers will look for additional depth. If certain pitchers like Minor and Bush can make a successful transition to the rotation, the outlook may improve. Fister had a decent 2017, so the hope is his improvement carries over into 2018. There is potential for this staff to be better than the projections. Or worse. And the bullpen is still not in good shape as Fangraphs currently projects the Rangers’ pen to post just 1.7 WAR in 2018.
Regarding the offense, the Rangers will be leaning on an elder Beltre and a young Joey Gallo to lead the offense. By the way, Gallo’s home runs are worth watching. Carlos Gomez is most likely gone, and Texas could be in the market for upgrades in the lineup when available. Center field could be a position to watch as we head into 2018 with Delino DeShields.
The offense as a whole is currently projected to in the top-thirteen in all of baseball with a 20.3 Bat rating. Willie Calhoun and Nomar Mazara will be fun players to watch. It’ll be interesting to see how Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus perform in 2018.
Overall, the Rangers are projected by Fangraphs to win 79 games next season. The lack of a formidable pitching staff will likely be Texas’ downfall if the projections are anywhere close to accurate. Of course, the Rangers can surprise us. Teams can outperform their projections. See Baltimore Orioles since the early 2010’s. At the end of the day though, the Rangers are most likely chasing the Astros just the like the rest of the AL West.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**