When looking for offensive prowess, drafting Texas Rangers hitters tends to be a high priority. It’s a rule of thumb in the fantasy baseball world, practically the yin to the “never draft Rockies pitchers” yang. The dimensions of the Ballpark at Arlington are downright juicy with a 332 ft. left field line, a 325 ft. right field line and the deepest part of the park sitting just 407 ft. away from home plate. It’s a hitter’s paradise. That may tend to inflate the value on draft day of some of their players, but in looking at the Rangers’ outfield, the high picks should be worth it.
Texas made a fairly big splash in the free agent pool when they signed Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal this offseason. After a one-year stop in Cincinnati where he posted the third 20-20 season of his career while slashing .285/.423/.462, Choo comes back to the American League where he will play left field and bat leadoff for the Rangers. For those in keeper leagues who have Choo at a decent price, that’s just pure fantasy gold. Not only is he in an environment that will help sustain his power, but with the Rangers lineup as solid as it is, he could also end up with some strong RBI opportunities to go with a crazy number of runs scored from the top of the order. His strikeouts may head back closer to the 20-percent mark and his walk rate may regress a bit, but he still has excellent plate discipline and his line drive rates have been steadily above 21-percent over the last three seasons. Does he soil the sheets against left-handed pitching? Yes. Yes he does. But he’s played in 144 games or more in four of his last five seasons while posting strong numbers overall, so it’s not like anyone is benching him over it. And for $130 million, neither are the Rangers.
Over in right field, the Rangers still have Alex Rios, whom they acquired last season from the White Sox. The always enigmatic Rios continued his up-and-down power trend last year, hitting just 18 home runs with a mediocre .154 ISO, but he promptly compensated with a career-best 42 stolen bases. The fact that Texas ran so much last year gives hope that he’ll at least be able to stay above the 30-steal mark, but trying to figure out his power almost seems like an exercise in futility. The Steamer projections don’t look too good for him at this point, but then again, the projections for him over the years have rarely been accurate given his fluctuating totals. Our own Blake Murphy did a pretty good job at trying to analyze him, but in the end, you get the feeling that even Murphy just shrugged and said, “Who knows?” Personally, I’d definitely draft him if able, but I don’t know if I’d be risking a second or third round pick which is where he’s been going in recent mock drafts that I’ve done.
Rounding out the outfield is a personal favorite of mine — center fielder Leonys Martin. He had a fairly good first full-season last year batting .260 with eight home runs and 36 stolen bases, but could certainly stand to improve his plate discipline, especially for a guy with his speed potential. The 5.5-percent walk rate has got to improve, he needs to stop swinging outside the zone so much and even though he’s fast, I’d like to see that 50.9-percent ground ball rate come down a bit while pushing his line drive rate up some. With hope, these are all things that he’ll be working on as he moves into his age-26 season. The acquisition of Choo pushes him back down towards the bottom of the order, but hopefully he’ll be able to act as just as much as a table-setter down there as he would had he stayed atop the order. He’s a work in progress, but someone who, in my opinion, has the raw skill set to succeed. Many are sleeping on him in drafts, so somewhere near the 10th round of a 12-teamer seems about right.
As for the depth in the Texas outfield, it’s extremely minimal. The fourth outfield spot is expected to go to Michael Choice, whom the Rangers picked up from Oakland for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom. The power potential he showed early on in the minors was big, but has since fallen off as he’s moved up in levels. Perhaps the hand injury that cost him nearly half a season in 2012 had something to do with it, but it’s rare to see the A’s give up on such a young player with apparent potential, especially for someone like Gentry. There’s no guarantee that he’ll even start up in the majors though as he may benefit from regular time at Triple-A to help rebuild some of that power. That will be determined later on in the spring.
Other names rounding out the depth include Jim Adduci (decent speed), Engel Beltre (speed, again) and Alex Castellanos (bit of both power and speed). All three are fairly solid defensively and I like Castellanos’ potential a little more than the other two, but none of the three should factor into much this season unless there’s a massive run of injuries.