A brief look at an opponent we play this week.
Dates we play them: 5/16-5/17 and 8/19-8/21 at home, 5/23-5/25 @ Texas
Offense: Julio Borbon-CF, Elvis Andrus-SS, Ian Kinsler-2B, Michael Young-DH/1B, Mitch Moreland-1B/RF, Adrian Beltre-3B, David Murphy-LF, Mike Napoli/Yorvit Torrealba-C, Craig Gentry-RF.
Just as it seems to go every year, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz are both hurt. They'll try to get on the field for the Frisco RoughRiders by the end of the week, but will definitely miss the strange two game swing that takes place this week in Chicago. Julio Borbon is the stereotypical leadoff hitter, fast and good defensively. The more time goes by though, the more it seems like his stellar season with the bat in 2009 was just a mirage. Borbon doesn't strikeout much, but if he walks more than 20 times this season it will be a new career high. He won't hit more than five or six homeruns, but could steal around 30 bases if he manages to get on base enough this year. Expect him to have the greenlight on A.J. Pierzynski this week. The next time you get mad at Ozzie for his low-OBP 1-2 tandems, look at the Rangers' lineup. Elvis Andrus is a glove first shortstop who can steal his fair share of bags (on pace for 43 this season). Two things he can't do though are get on base at a league average rate or hit for much of any power (18 XBH last season). He'll be lucky to crack .700 in the OPS department, but is Alexei Ramirez's true competitor for the AL Gold Glove. Ian Kinsler has moved to the heart of the order as a result of the normal power bats going on the shelf. Kinsler is one of the better second baseman in the AL, providing good defense to go along with his above average bat. He won't match the gaudy numbers of his 2009 season (31 HR, 31 SB), but should be able to pull of a 20/20 year at least. If Ian can stay healthy (a very common problem in Texas), he's an All-Star caliber player (who will constantly lose out to Robinson Cano).Michael Young proved to be too difficult to trade this winter and became the Rangers' DH. Lately he's been seeing time at 1B as well, resulting in a lot of difficulty in assigning players positions whilst writing previews. Thanks Mr. Washington. Young is off to a hot start (.874 OPS) fueled mainly by an unsustainable BABIP spike (.388). He's not drawing walks at his usual rate, but is still managing to bring poor defense to whatever position he happens to be playing that day. With his power numbers seeming to sink to the 15 homerun range, you have to think Jon Daniels is hopping mad about inheriting that sweet $16MM a year contract that runs through 2013. Young is most likely going to go the Mike Sweeney route with Texas fans. Mitch Moreland is a decent young first baseman who wouldn't be seeing much of any playing time if the team hadn't traded away Justin Smoak in the Cliff Lee deal. Moreland is a 20-25 homerun type of hitter who won't flirt with a .300 average but won't hurt the team in that aspect either. The fact that he can play the corners in the outfield gives him even more value, especially to a manager like Ron Washington who seems to love flexibility. Moreland has no problem hitting fastballs, but does seem to have a bit of trouble with breaking balls. Adrian Beltre was the big offseason move this year for Texas, singing a 5 year/$80MM contract. Despite fighting a .216 BABIP, Beltre still has a .347 wOBA thanks in great part to his .503 SLG. Adrian has already hit ten homeruns and playing in Texas seems to be agreeing with him (7 HR at home). His OBP and AVG should trend back up towards his career norms, making him a very productive player since he's arguably the best defensive third baseman in the game currently.
David Murphy was the return the Rangers got for trading Eric Gagne to the Boston Red Sox a few years back. Murphy lacks the tools and skills to be anything more than a fourth outfielder who happens to become a starter when 2/3 of your outfield happen to be made out of paper. He plays average defense and has an average bat. David is the kind of player that you kind of forget about a few years after he retires, even though he played for your team. Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba make up the sort of platoon situation at catcher. I say sort of, because Napoli has also seen a lot of time at 1B and DH. Torreable is much better defensively than Napoli (30% CS to 24%, only 4 more passed balls in 2,000 more innings). Yorvit has never managed to hit more than 8 homeruns in a season, despite playing a large part of his career in Colorado. Mike Napoli has hit 20 or more the past three years. It's a fun platoon situation, at least to me. Depending on where Napoli, Young, and Moreland play this week, we may or may not even see Craig Gentry. Which is cool, because much like Ray Shook, I'm not entirely convinced that Craig Gentry exists. I like to think he is an incredibly elaborate hoax that the internet baseball media is playing on everyone and refuse to believe otherwise. This being the case, he has no scouting report, as he is a fictional character.
Pitching: C.J. Wilson-LHP, Colby Lewis-RHP, Matt Harrison-LHP, Alexi Ogando-RHP, Derek Holland-LHP, Neftali Feliz-CL.
The idea of converting C.J. Wilson into a starter seemed pretty dumb going into the 2010 season. Turns out that Nolan Ryan feller knows a thing or two about pitching. Wilson made a damn-near seamless transition and has continued to pitch well out of the rotation. He gets a good amount of strikeouts and keeps the ball down, helping to limit homeruns even while playing in a bandbox. The blue-gloved southpaw throws both a four and two-seam fastball in the low-90's (the two-seamer sinks more), a cutter, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. The fastballs, the cutter, and the slider are all plus pitches. Colby Lewis returned from his stint in Japan a changed man. Or maybe he didn't. After a very successful 2010 (4.4 WAR, 196 K), Lewis is struggling out of the gate so far this year. A cursory glimpse at his incredibly low BABIP (.237) might seem counter intuitive, but then once you remember homeruns don't count towards BABIP and notice that he's already given up 12 this season everything makes a bit more sense. Lewis is getting less strikeouts and hitters are just crushing his pitches. This should regress to the mean, but could be very interesting to watch until it does. Lewis throws a high-80's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The slider is his money pitch. Matt Harrison is a groundballer who simply lacks the stuff to be much more than rotational filler. When your career K/BB and HR/9 are almost the same number (1.30 and 1.22 respectively), that's a pretty bad sign. He throws a low to mid-90's fastball, a low-90's two-seamer, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider. None are incredibly effective.
Alexi Ogando started his career as an outfielder in the Oakland A's farm system. This came to an end when he was busted for being part of a human trafficking ring and was left open to the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers converted him into a pitcher and things seem to have worked out well since then. He won't see a full season's workload, as this is his first year as a starter. Ogando throws a mid-90's fastball, a slider, and a changeup. Derek Holland is the next great Rangers; pitching prospect. Holland dominated the low minors and put up a good season in AAA last year, earning a shot to prove he can do the same in the majors. He gets a pretty good amount of strikeouts for a pitcher with such a high groundball percentage, which is a very good recipe for success. Derek throws a low-90's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. His changeup is a plus pitch. Neftali Feliz seems destined to remain in the bullpen, leaving us all to wonder what could have been if he was allowed to be a starter. Oh well. Feliz is a much better pitcher than he has shown this year, as his career K/BB would be around 4 if not for this rough start. Feliz is a true power pitcher, using a mid to upper-90's fastball, a strong curveball, and the occasional changeup.
Outlook: While we are heating up right now, we haven't played the Rangers well at all over the past few years. But I'm feeling optimistic. 4-4 season split for our White Sox. Here's hoping for some good weather. Damn the carpet in this apartment is scratchy.