Silver Linings from the Texas Rangers’ 2014 Season


Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Being a fan of the Texas Rangers has been a difficult thing since early June. The Texas Rangers have spiraled into the last spot in the AL West and are currently the worst team in baseball. It is likely that readers of this site are tired of reading articles pointing out the various failings of the Rangers in 2014. Instead, this article will point some of the bright spots coming from 2014.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With the team currently in last place the team can look forward to having a top pick in next year’s draft. The Texas Rangers have not had a high draft pick in some time because of the team’s success. An abysmal finish this year will allow the team to add a big time prospect in 2015. The Rangers could add a Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper type player to add to their already healthy group of high ceiling prospects. Imagine the Rangers being a position like Chicago is now with a player like Kris Bryant. Bryant is ready to break into the majors soon, after being drafted in the 2013 draft. The Nationals have built a good team around their two top picks. The Rangers should be back to contending in a year or two and a polished high ceiling player from the 2015 draft could be have a big impact.

2014 has been a great year for Texas Rangers minor leaguers.  Basically all of the Rangers’ top prospects made progress. Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams all moved up (or into) the top 100 prospect rankings. Gallo, in particular, has had an impressive season. Pitchers like Alex Gonzalez and Luke Jackson look like they could be middle of the rotation pieces before long. The team has been able to move a lot of prospects up from single A to double A. All of the above prospects are at least in AA and another big prospect in Nomar Mazara also moved up to AA. Over the next two seasons this exciting crop of prospects will start showing up in the majors. Texas prospects have high potential and are not terribly far away from the majors.

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Similarly, many young players have gotten extended looks in the majors. Rougned Odor and Michael Choice have played quite a bit in the majors. While neither has been able to stand out they both appear to have a chance to be real contributors next year. Choice has shown power despite struggling to make contact and struggling in the field. Odor is the most exciting rookie on the team although he has barely exceeded replacement production after an incredible start to his career. These two may benefit from the lost season more than anyone because they have had this chance to work out the kinks in their game and adjust to the majors. Getting this rough period out of the way for these two could prove very beneficial for 2015.

Other rookies are going to get a chance to play for the last month of the season. Ryan Rua, Tomas Telis, Jake Smolinski, and Luis Sardinas have already been called up and September call ups are looming.  Each of the players already called up have looked surprisingly good. It would be very nice for them to win back up roles in 2015.

None of the potential rotation options appear to be panning out. Robbie Ross, Nick Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Nick Tepesch and Tanner Scheppers have all had fairly extended trials as starting pitchers. None of them appear to be anything more than long man or AAA emergency call up material. Mikolas has the best FIP of that bunch. It seems, out of this group, Tepesch has the best chance to be a starter next year. An interesting thing to note is that in the second half of the season Scott Baker has a 2.37 ERA and a 3.71 FIP. Perhaps the Ragners will retain him next year. While this group’s failure is a negative it does have a silver lining in that now Texas will (hopefully) not have to waste starts on them next year outside of emergency situations. Hopefully, the team will fill at least two of the roles behind Darvish and Holland from outside the system this offseason.

In the same way that the rotation picture has cleared, the supplementary pieces for next year have also had significant exposure. Daniel Robertson has made a strong case for the fourth outfielder spot in 2015. He is sporting a 101 wRC+ and 0.5 WAR. Robinson Chirinos has likely won at least the backup role as a catcher for 2015, with 1.9 WAR this season. Others, such as, JP Arencibia, and Jim Adduci, have probably played themselves out of a job in 2015. Still others, such as, Adam Rosales and Mitch Moreland, are going to be interesting decisions for the front office early in the offseason. Rosales has a 149 wRC+ in 88 plate appearances and plays adequate defense at every infield position. Rosales seems like a great option for the 2015 bench but that means players like Luis Sardinas will have to be left in AAA.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most positive things to take away from 2014 has been the performance of the bullpen down the stretch. Roman Mendez, Shawn Tolleson, Phil Klien, Jon Edwards, and Alex Claudio all look like they have legitimate potential to be big league relievers. Any or all of them could find homes in Texas’s bullpen in 2015. Neal Cotts is having another good year. Neftali Feliz has a nice 2.66 ERA despite a bad FIP but more importantly it appears his fastball velocity is slowly coming back. Feliz is creeping back up into the upper nineties. Getting as high as 97 over the last week. If Feliz returns to his former glory and some of these young pitchers step up to augment Cotts, Alexi Ogando, and Scheppers, the bullpen could be good again.

Another silver lining in the 2014 season is that Yu Darvish and Shin-Soo Choo were shut down early and will be fresh for 2015. Also, Derek Holland will get a couple weeks of tune up this season before offseason. Other than Leonys Martin, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus none of the major pieces for next year will have played full seasons. This could mean that the team can avoid fading down the stretch as the team had done in 2012 and 2013.

Another non-trivial benefit from this season may well be the addition of a new manager. Ron Washington stepped down yesterday due to personal reasons. While we wish the best to Wash on his travels now that he has left Texas, this has the potential to be a significant way for the Texas Rangers to upgrade their team. Washington was one of, if not the, worst managers in baseball. You would be hard pressed to find a current manager in baseball that would not have been an upgrade over Wash. Wash definitely had his positive qualities, mostly related to his motivational skills. Now the team can acquire a better manager over the off-season rather than struggling through another season with Washington, or firing him part way through 2015. Now Texas can bring in, or promote, a superior manager.

In the end, fans of the Texas Rangers should be hopefully headed into 2015 because 2014 was not a total disaster.