2017 Fantasy Season Recap: Texas Rangers
As recently as mid-August, there was hope that the Texas Rangers could emerge from the huddled mass of mediocre struggling to separate themselves in the American League wild card race. After climbing to a .500 record for the first time since the All Star break, the Rangers then went 18-24 down the remainder of the season, quickly ending any dreams of playoff baseball.
The team will bring back manager Jeff Banister for another season, and expect him to get the Rangers back to the postseason. Banister has a 261-225 record over three seasons in his first managerial job. The Rangers were AL West champions his first two seasons but missed the playoffs this year with a 78-84 record, though they weren’t eliminated from wild card contention until the 157th game.
The big question is what will Banister be working with next season.
The team wants to bring back right handed pitcher Andrew Cashner, who had the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher on the team last year. Cashner finished the 2017 campaign with a solid 3.40 ERA, although fantasy owners should be ready for some regression in 2018 given his 4.65 FIP. His fantasy value heading into next season will also vary depending on where he lands in free agency. He doesn’t strike out hitters anymore, by design, but competes with a power sinker. He’ll get paid this off-season.
A career year for shortstop Elvis Andrus has him in a position once thought unthinkable — opting out of his eight-year contract after next season, meaning he could be trade bait for the team between now and next year’s trade deadline. He was the Rangers’ best player from Opening Day to the finale. His .297 batting average was the best on the team, and he ranked seventh in the American League in runs (100) and sixth in stolen bases (25).
Young third baseman Joey Gallo was one of the bright spots for Texas this year, even though he finished the season with a .209 batting average. So why the optimism? How about the fact that he hit 41 homers, finished 8th in the American League in slugging percentage (.537) and played three positions. He’s a star in the making.
And of course, it looks like 2018 will be the swansong season for third baseman Adrian Beltre. When he played, he was producing like an MVP on a bum calf and, later, a bum hamstring. Still, Beltre got his 3,000th hit with a double July 30 at home against Baltimore Orioles. The third baseman has 3,035 career hits, but at 38 years old, he’s no longer the same player.
In terms of the Rangers much-maligned relief pitching staff, Jake Diekman pitched only the final month, and was very good. He went through medical hell for six months to make his life and career better. Diekman was solid in his other six outings since returning from the 60-day disabled list (no runs, no hits, eight strikeouts over 6.7 innings). Given his solid performance, look for the Rangers to continue to use the big southpaw in high-leverage situations in the future. The inspirational left-hander could very well be the Rangers’ closer in 2018.
General Manager Jon Daniels of the Texas Rangers set the tone for what to expect from the team this offseason, when he said: “This is not a rebuild; we expect to win.”
With future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre still productive at age 38, Elvis Andrus coming off a strong season and Joey Gallo just beginning to establish himself in the big leagues, Texas has the core necessary to contend in 2018. But the Rangers desperately need Rougned Odor to progress as a hitter and translate his ability into production, and they have to hope that Cole Hamels, who turns 34 in December, is still good enough to be a centerpiece of a rotation.
The Rangers must also find more starting pitching help if they have a chance to close the ground on the Houston Astros. The team needs to add as many as seven pitchers to the rotation and bullpen this offseason, so there’s going to be some youth involved as well.
Hamels finished what’s likely to be considered a disappointing season for him in 2017, with a 4.20 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 148 innings. He dealt with multiple injuries along the way, but he still flashed his potential at times and will look to return to his best form in the 2018 campaign.
The 2017 season was a mixed result for lefty Martin Perez who went 13-12 — giving him the most wins on the team — with a 4.82 ERA in 32 starts. He was the only Rangers’ pitcher to make over 30 starts in 2017. The 26-year-old has a team option for 2018, but there are some questions as to whether the team will pick it up. Through his first 16 starts in 2017, Perez went 4-6 posting a 4.60 ERA and opponents hit .314 off him. His post All-Star break went better, going 9-6 with a 5.01 ERA in 16 starts and opponents hit .288 against him.
Despite the disappointing results this season, the Rangers had several players who provided admirable efforts this season. That started with their most productive hitter in Andrus. This season, Andrus finished with career-highs in hits(191), doubles(44), home runs(20), RBIs(88), and strikeouts(101). Andrus is now fifth in franchise history in hits with 1,457. Even when Texas was officially out of contention, he went out there and played his best.
The The Rangers shuttled Gallo between first, third and left this season. Gallo ended up starting more games at third (66) than any other position. After a .194/.313/.508/.821 slash line in the first half, it jumped to .229/.357/.572/.929 in the second half. That was a huge step forward for him. However, he did hit only 32 singles this year; while he’s paid to be a power hitter and hit home runs, the likely place where he can act to most significantly build his OPS is in the singles department. He hit 41 homers this past season; there isn’t a ton of room to grow there. If he can use the whole field a little bit more, his entire slash line will move upward toward more acceptable areas in batting average and OBP and his OPS will inch closer to .900.