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2019 AL West Division Preview: Jeff Mathis and the Texas Rangers

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The tale of Jeff Mathis, who has a career longer than Joe Mauer

MLB: Texas Rangers-Media Day Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers

2018: 67-95, 5th in AL West

Who?

The Texas Rangers of Arlington in the Dallas-Fort-Worth metroplex. Last semi relevant year was 2016 when they won the AL West. In 2019, the Rangers highest paid player will be Shin-Soo Choo with retained salaries on the books totaling around 20 million dollars. Did you know the Rangers will still be paying Alex Rodriguez 1 million dollars this year?

Were they even good last year?

Nope. They couldn’t even win 70 games. The Angels had a season record against the Rangers last year of 13-6, and well, the Angels weren't that great either. Their suckiness, however, was planned as the start of their rebuild process, with the hopes they will be ready to compete by the time their new stadium is complete in 2020.

What did they do this offseason?

Doug Fister and Adrian Beltre retired. Other than than, the Rangers did little to boost their big league club. Their biggest move was brining in Lance Lynn on a 3/$30M deal. They also brought in reliever Jesse Chavez, starter Drew Smyly, and catcher Jeff Mathis. The rest of their moves were minor league or just plain minor - and likely involved guys you’ve never heard of before. It’s a rebuilding year indeed. In their non-flurry of moves (they are no Jerry Dipoto), they also sent Jurickson Profar and Alex Claudio packing to Oakland and Milwaukee.

Rangers Lineup

ORDER POS PLAYER BATS AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
ORDER POS PLAYER BATS AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
1 DH Shin-Soo Choo L 36 1.1
2 2B Rougned Odor L 25 1.2
3 SS Elvis Andrus R 30 1.2
4 LF Joey Gallo L 25 2.2
5 RF Nomar Mazara R 23 1
6 3B Asdrubel Cabrera S 33 1.6
7 1B Ronald Guzman L 24 0.4
8 CF Delino DeShields R 26 0.2
9 C Isiah Kiner-Falefa R 24 0

Stats and info courtesy of FanGraphs and Roster Resource

The Rangers as a whole only batted .218 against the Angels last season. Joey Gallo had the highest OPS at .708 with 3 home runs and a .197 AVG. Andrus and Choo both had .338 OBP to lead the team, but for the most part this lineup was not a problem for the Angels. However, the Angels certainly have a bit of a different look in their rotation going in to 2019.

Rangers Rotation

PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
Lance Lynn R 31 1.8
Mike Minor L 31 1.7
Shelby Miller R 28 0.7
Drew Smyly L 29 1.2
Edinson Volquez R 35 0.5

Outside of the Astros, the Angels or Mariners probably have the best looking rotation in the AL West and that is saying something. The Rangers have a few pieces here but they are just holding things together until some of their prospects mature into the big leagues.

Rangers Bullpen

PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
Jose Leclerc R 25.2 1.2
Jesse Chavez R 35.6 0.5
Shawn Kelley R 34.9 0.1
Chris Martin R 32.8 0.5
Zach McAllister R 31.3 0.3
Connor Sadzeck R 27.4 0.1
Jeffrey Springs L 26.5 0.1
Jordan Romano R 25.9 0.1

LeClerc recently signed an extension and will likely serve as the Rangers closer in 2019. IN 24 plate appearances against LeClerc last year, the Angels had one single hit for a 0.045 AVG. LeClerc saved 12 games in 2018 and 5 of those were against the Angels. After being a huge success with the Cubs in 2018, Jesse Chavez is back in the AL West again as well.

What is their strength?

They could be worse? Despite going into rebuild mode, the Rangers still have some decent pieces on their team. They aren’t much of a match for the rest of the AL West, but they can still score runs. In fact, last year they scored more runs than the Angels AND Mariners, despite their last place finish.

What is their weakness?

Pitching. There really isn’t much there behind Mike Minor and their bullpen is even more lacking. Outside of that, strikeouts may be a problem for hitters again this year. In 2018, the Rangers had the 2nd most strikeouts among AL teams.

So, what can we expect?

PECOTA has the Rangers finishing last again in the AL West with a 71-91 record (Vegas has had them around 71 wins as well.) I’m not so sure they have it in them to win 71 games, but the Mariners are worse, the A’s should regress a bit from last year and the Astros *might* be a littler weaker, so I suppose it is possible.

The Rangers still have some decent bats in Choo, Odor, Gallo, and Andrus (among others), but their pitching staff leaves much to be desired. If the Angels struggle with anyone in their rotation, it will probably be Mike Minor against whom they only batted .214 last season.

What’s the most accurate representation of this team, in GIF form?

Or the Odor song: