2009 MLB Preview: #23 Texas Rangers

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Offseason Movement: The Rangers signed a bunch of used-to-be’s to minor league contracts, including OF Andruw Jones, SS Omar Vizquel and pitchers Kris Benson, Derrick Turnbow and Brendan Donnelly. Truth be told, all of these players could wind up helping Texas in some way this season save for Jones, who has had a brutal spring and most likely won’t be kept.

Top Prospect: Derek Holland, LHP
Neftali Feliz, who the Rangers got from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade a couple years ago, deserves mention here as well. But Holland’s dazzling 2008 season in the minors (14-2, 2.05 ERA in 29 starts) gives him the nod over the 19-year old Feliz. Holland, who is Texas’s Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year, probably won’t make the Opening Day roster this season, but he could be called up by mid-summer if he continues to dominate the minor league hitters.

The Big Question: How bad with the starting rotation be this year?
Calling this pitching staff terrible would be putting things nicely. None of the Rangers’ top four starters – Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla, Matt Harrison and Brandon McCarthy – had an ERA lower than 4.74 last year and Millwood, the club’s supposed ace, posted a 5.07 mark. There is hope on the horizon in minor leaguers Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz, but they’re still a year away from making the rotation, although each could be called up at some point in ’09.

Outlook: This club will score plenty of runs again this season, but they’ll also need to in order to win. The Rangers’ lineup is filled with potential, from Ian Kinsler to Josh Hamilton (one of the best stories in all of sports last year) to Chris Davis. But the front office did nothing to improve the rotation from last year and unless Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz grow up in a hurry or the club catches lighting in a bottle with Kris Benson, then the starting pitching will doom the Rangers once again this season. The offense will be fun to watch, but fans might as well channel surf when the defense trots onto the field.

Projection: 3rd AL West

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