Thursday, February 7, 2008

2008 Texas Rangers Fantasy Team Preview

The Texas Rangers seem to always be in rebuilding mode and the 2007 season was no different. To his credit, GM Jon Daniels pulled off a few big deals at trade deadline which served to restock a dry farm system and bring in several young positional players and arms. Gone is the longtime face of the franchise Mark Texiera; however, Rangers fans will have a good core of young talent to cheer for in 2008. Newcomers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Josh Hamilton as well as the returning double play combo of Michael Young and Ian Kinlser give the Rangers lineup a decent amount of upside.


Key New Faces

CF - Josh Hamilton
RF - Milton Bradley
SP - Jason Jennings

Projected Positional Starters

C - Gerald Laird
1B - Jarrod Saltalamacchia
2B - Ian Kinsler
SS - Michael Young
3B - Hank Blalock
LF - Marlon Byrd
CF - Josh Hamilton
RF - Milton Bradley
DH - Frank Catalanotto/Nelson Cruz

Projected Pitching Staff

Starting Pitchers

Ace - Kevin Millwood
#2 - Vincente Padilla
#3 - Jason Jennings
#4 - Brandon McCarthy
#5 - Kason Gabbard

Bullpen

MR - Eddie Guardado, Frank Francisco, Wes Littleton
Setup Men - Joaquin Benoit, Kazuo Fukumori
Closer - CJ Wilson

Rangers Hitters To Draft

The Rangers lineup features a few intriguing young hitters who may flourish in the launching pad in Arlington this season

1) Josh Hamilton, CF - Acquired from the Reds this offseason in a trade for Edinson Volquez, Hamilton has the greatest upside of any hitter in this lineup if he can stay healthy for a full season. In 90 games and only 298 ABs last season, Hamilton hit 19 homers and posted a .900+ OPS. With a year of major league ball under his belt, Hamilton will be the unquestioned everyday starter in centerfield for Texas and play in an excellent hitters park. He projects to hit in a choice run-producing spot in the lineup, possibly clean up, and could be in line for a strong offensive campaign. 30 homers and 100 RBIs are not out of the question if he can stay on the field.

2) Ian Kinsler, 2B - I have been high on this guy for about 2 years now. Kinsler has been frustrating to own because it seems everytime he is beginning to hit his stride, an injury pops up sidelining him for an extended period of time. Kinsler quietly went 20-20 last season (20 HR, 23 Steals) in only 130 games and has the potential to be a Chase Utley light for fantasy owners if his health holds up for a full season. Kinsler will hit in either the 1 or 2 hole in the lineup and has the potential to post 25 homers, 25 steals, 100 runs and around a .290-300 average on the season. I think Kinsler follows in Brandon Phillips footsteps and becomes the breakout second baseman of 2008 and will be an excellent pick after guys like Phillips, Utley and Cano go off the board early.

3) Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B - The man affectionately nicknamed "Salty" will be the Rangers everyday starter at first baseman and is another kid with a good amount of upside. While he should struggle a bit with the glove as he adjust to first base there is no question that he will provide fantasy owners with some admirable offensive production. Salty can hit for power and should push Hamilton for the cleanup spot in the lineup this season giving him decent RBI potential.

4) Michael Young, SS - Young will be 31 when the 2008 season opens and his production has been steadily declining over the past 3 years. Young has been incredibly durable and has gotten 600+ ABs each of the past 5 seasons so he is certainly a reliable SS option. Additionally, Young is a virtual lock to hit .300+ with around 80-90 RBIs and runs scored. However, the days of Young hitting for power or stealing a base or gone limiting his overall fantasy value. Young is a good selection once the top SS are off the board, just don't take him too early as his production decline may continue in the 2008 season.

Pitchers To Draft

1) CJ Wilson, Closer - Wilson will open the season as the Texas closer after compiling 12 saves in 2007 following the Gagne trade. Wilson posted a good ERA (3.03) and WHIP (1.21) and averages about a strikeout per inning for his career. The young Rangers will struggle in 2008 so Wilson's save opportunities might be limited.

2) Joaquin Benoit, RP - Benoit should be the Rangers 8th inning setup man and is coming off his best season as a pro posting a solid ERA (2.85) and WHIP (1.17) while nailing down 19 holds and 6 saves. Benoit should be a decent source of holds again in 2008 and is the closer in waiting should Wilson get hurt or prove ineffective.

Players To Avoid

1) Kevin Millwood, SP - Millwood is the defacto ace of the Rangers staff but struggled mightily last season. He had a losing record of 10-14 along while posting career highs in ERA and WHIP. The fact he is on a bad team and will consistently matchup with the opponents best pitcher everytime out won't help his cause. There are plenty of better options out there.

2) Hank Blalock, 3B - It seems like Blalock always going a little bit too early in every draft. He hasn't had a big season since 2004 and struggled through an injury plagued 2007 season in which he only started 58 games. Blalock will never hit for average or post sparkling OPS numbers but does have some power. He is a pretty good late round flier given he is only 27 and could turn things around, but taking him as your starting option at 3B isn't a wise proposition.

3) Brandon McCarthy, SP - At 24, McCarthy does have some promise; however I don't see it being fulfilled in Texas. McCarthy is a control pitcher who struggles to strike batters out. This means a lot of his pitches are put in play, never a good thing in Arlington. I don't see him improving on his high 4 ERA or 1.56 WHIP much in 2008.

4) Vincente Padilla, SP - 5.76 ERA + 1.63 WHIP + bad attitude + no heart = avoid like the plague.

Sleepers

Nelson Cruz, OF - With Marlon Byrd and Milton Bradley coming off serious injury, the youngster Cruz may be in line for some early season outfield starts. He has some power potential and was once a fairly highly touted prospect. Cruz has been killing the ball in the Caribbean World Series and might be worth a late round flier if the veterans are deemed unfit to start the season.

Jason Jennings, SP - While I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend Jennings, he does have some upside. Jennings arrives in Texas after signing a one year incentive laden contract in the offseason and will be motivated to pitch for his next big pay day. He posted admirable numbers in Coors Field so he has experience pitching in a tough hitters park. Given the right matchup, Jennings could be a pretty good play at times this season. For of my thoughts on Jennings click here.

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