Hope, expectations, and promise accompany the annual baseball genesis that is the arrival of spring training. Making this the perfect time of year for predictions for the 2016 Texas Rangers, ranging from the bold and improbable, to the more tame and likely.
Making predictions in a sport that prides itself on rising parity and unpredictability, can often be an exercise in futility. Quite frequently making the predictor look foolish by seasons end. However, we all continue to do it anyway, media and fans alike. Why? Because this time of year, every team from the reigning world champion Royals, on down through the basement dwelling Phillies, all have the same record, 0-0. A beautiful prospect, because it means that right now, anything and everything is technically possible for every team and every player.
The spring offers a clean slate in the baseball universe, and it’s always fun to put some predictions on paper before the story of the 2016 season begins to unfold. Plus, it gives us as the predictor, the opportunity to prove our physic ability if we just so happen to blindly stumble our way into a correct prediction or two.
So, I have cobbled together a list of 10 predictions for the Texas Rangers franchise in the upcoming campaign. Some are bold and outrageous, and some are a bit more tame.
#1- Martin Perez leads the Rangers rotation in wins with 17
Martin Perez will start the 2016 season further removed from the Tommy John Surgery that cost him large parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He already had 14 starts in the second half of the 2015 to fight through the period of inconsistency that often plagues pitchers returning from Tommy John. Still young and full of promise, the potential is there for a breakout season, that could see Perez follow up Colby Lewis’ 17 win 2015 season with one of his own.
#2- Nomar Mazara is the starting left-fielder by June 1st
Even in light of the recent news that Josh Hamilton will be going on the shelf until at least May, I have my doubts that Nomar Mazara will be able to win the job outright coming out of spring training. However, after putting together a strong 2015 season that saw him soar all the way up to AAA, and make an appearance at the all-star futures game. It has become clear that Mazara is on the cusp. The Texas Rangers will almost doubtless want to start Mazara in Round Rock to give the 20 year old just a little bit more seasoning. However, my gut tells me that Hamilton’s issues will persist, and make him a frequent flyer on the 2016 disabled list. As a result, Mazara will get an early shot at seizing the left-field job following a strong start at AAA.
#3- Current Ranger Prince Fielder, and former Ranger Chris Davis will slug it out for the home run title
This one definitely fits into the improbable category as far as these predictions go. The Chris Davis part is not so hard to believe considering he was the home run champion in 2013 when he slugged 53 bombs. Prince Fielder on the other hand, will turn 32 this season and there is a strong possibility that his best power years are behind him. However, all you have to do is look at recent examples like Nelson Cruz, who hit 44 home runs in 2015, David Ortiz who had 37, or dare I say, Jose Bautista, who had 40, to see that being on the other side of 30 does not always mean a power outage. I have a feeling that Fielder has at least one or two premier power seasons left in the tank, and that one season farther removed from neck surgery, we will see one on 2016. Ultimately he will fall a little bit short of the title, but will post his first 40 homer campaign since 2009 in the process.
#4- Delino DeShields will swipe 50 bags, and lead the team in walks
With an impressive rookie campaign in 2015, Delino DeShields seized the lead-off role in the Rangers lineup, and appears poised to retain the position in 2016. DeShields displayed both his blazing speed and patience at the plate in 2015, as he racked up 25 stolen bases and 53 walks in 121 games in 2015. A full season in an everyday role, should allow DeShields to put both skills on display much more often. There is little doubt that no one on the Rangers’ roster can match DeShields for stolen base potential (his career high is 101 in 2012), and the only player seemingly poised to challenge him for the walks lead, would be perhaps Shin-Soo-Choo.
#5- 2015 first round draft pick Dillon Tate will get a September call-up to the bullpen
The consolation prize for the Texas Rangers horror story of a 2014 season, Dillon Tate has an electric arm, and appears poised to fly through the Texas Rangers farm system. While the Rangers hope his future is as a starter, the Texas Rangers could, and I think will, take advantage of his arm out the bullpen if they are in contention come September.
#6- The Rangers’ bullpen will rank 3rd in the majors in ERA in 2016
Thanks to a mid-season overhaul that was continued in the off-season,the Texas Rangers bullpen is loaded with talent and power arms. As a result, on paper the Rangers’ bullpen looks like one of the strongest relief corps in baseball. Whether or not that potential will translate to actual performance is debatable, but I think it will and the Rangers bullpen in 2016 will perform a lot like the one that posted the best ERA in MLB last September. I still think the bullpens of the Royals, and also the Yankees, led by their dynamic trio, will be better than the Rangers in 2016, thus I have them finishing 3rd.
#7- Derek Holland leads the Rangers’ rotation in ERA.
This is one I that I know I will probably end up looking silly on. Derek Holland has shown flashes of greatness in his tenure with the Rangers, but has also shown many stretches of head scratching inconsistency. This good-Holland bad-Holland complex, has led my dad to give him the nickname Mr. Squirrely. A rather tame moniker among the assortment of equally or vastly less flattering nicknames I have seen for Holland in recent years. It is also a nickname I have found myself agreeing with more and more with every passing season. As such, this is a prediction that I don’t have any real hard backing to support, other than the occasional flashes of greatness Holland has shown. Rather, its just a gut feeling I have that he may finally put it together for a full season. If he does, this Rangers rotation could be devastating.
#8- The Texas Rangers pitching staff leads MLB in hit batters
New Texas Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail and manager Jeff Bannister both preach the importance of pitching inside. With two of the Rangers’ head coaches both hammering on pitching inside, you can bet we are going to see the inside part of the plate get peppered this season. An obvious result of pitching inside is occasionally going too far inside and plunking batters. I think this philosophy will be beneficial overall to the Rangers, but will also result in a league leading number of baseball sized bruises inflicted. Correspondingly we may also see the benches empty a few more times this season, since plunkings, whether intentional or not, often lead to flaring tempers.
#9- Rougned Odor nets his first all-star selection in 2016
The signs clearly point to Rougned Odor being a star on the rise. After dealing with a terrible stretch to kick off his sophomore campaign in 2015, and a subsequent demotion to AAA. Odor returned to post a .292 BA and .527 slugging percentage with 15 home runs in 91 games the rest of the way. I expect that we will see the dynamic Rougned Odor from the second act of 2015 for the entirety of 2016. Certainly with numbers similar to those, I expect to see Odor make his first appearance at the mid-summer classic in San Diego in 2016. At just just 22, and with his best seasons almost certainly still ahead. Odor, who once found himself overshadowed at his position by Jurickson Profar, is poised to burst from the shadows and become a perennial all-star in this league.
#10- Rangers finally claim the World Series title that has twice eluded them in recent years
Hey, hope springs eternal right? Plus, by returning a largely intact 2015 playoff roster, the notion of a championship is far from absurd if the team is granted some overdue luck in the health department.
What are some predictions you have for the Rangers franchise and/or players in 2016? Please feel free to put them in the comments below, that way you will have evidence to show everyone if you’re right.
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