The Rangers are coming off of a 87 win campaign in which they finished 10 games back of the Angels. This year CHONE has them winning between 85-86 wins depending on the method, the FANS have them at 84, and PECOTA has them at 83. Those win levels are good for 1st in the West, but the margin is never more than 5 games, and mostly 0-2 games.
The infield returns all four starters from 2009 and project to be above average on the whole. Michael Young, whose offense rebounded in 2009 to post his highest wOBA (0.385) and WAR (3.8) since 2005, returns to man third base. He is projected to see a decline from that level and likely post something in the high 2s or low 3s. Chris Davis brings his feeble contact rates back to play first base again, and is the one of the few position players that projects to be below average at 1.5 WAR. Ian Kinsler projects to be the star of the group at 4 WAR as he projects to combine average defense with above-average offense. The most interesting, at least personally, member of the infield is Elvis Andrus. Yesterday Dave mentioned that he was one of the largest discrepancies between FAN projections (4.1 WAR) and CHONE (1.6 WAR). I could see that window of potential performances being very realistic, which would put his mean somewhere in the upper 2s.
The outfield of Josh Hamilton in left, Julio Borbon in center and Nelson Cruz in right all project to be in the neighborhood of 3 WAR. All three project to be average to above average with the glove and similarly above average with the bat. At DH they will see if they can squeeze some more life out of Vladimir Guerrero, with David Murphy providing a decent fallback option if Vlad’s knees spontaneously combust. The catching duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden don’t project to be world beaters (1.5 WAR each), but that will get you by at that position.
The starting pitching is a lot like the position players in that none of them project to be stars, but they all project to be pretty solid. The closest to a star quality projection would be Rich Harden who projects to have a FIP in the mid-to-upper 3s. The question with Harden is the same as it always is, health. The de facto “Ace” is Scott Feldman and his cutter. The projection systems weren’t overwhelmed by Feldman’s 18 wins and project him to have a FIP in the 4.50 range. Colby Lewis, back from Japan, is a hard player for the forecasters to handle given his lack of MLB experience combined with a dominant year in Japan, but a FIP in the low 4s seems pretty reasonable. The back of the rotation looks like converted reliever C.J. Wilson and Matt Harrison at least for a little while (check out Matt’s piece on C.J.). The wildcard here is Neftali Feliz who is projected to put up a FIP in the mid 3s as a starter, but may spend some time in the pen.
Add all of this up and you have a very solid team with few weaknesses that appears to have solid depth, so it’s no wonder that a lot of the projection systems have them at the top of their division.