Baseball is finally back and the Texas Rangers are looking to open Globe Life Field with a win over the visiting Colorado Rockies.
After what seems like an eternity, the 2020 MLB season is finally under way and the Texas Rangers are ready to open up their season and newly built Globe Life Field on Friday night. The Colorado Rockies are in town meaning Texas gets to see the focus of many fan’s desire, Nolan Arenado, in Arlington…just not in red, white and blue but purple and black.
The 2020 season is going to be a spring to the finish line a stark difference to the normal marathon label baseball season is usually given. With only 60 games to fight for a playoff spot, Texas will have to place extra importance on every game they play and an interleague series to start the season is no different. With first pitch just a few hours away, here are the top things to watch for in tonight’s contest.
First Taste of the Rangers (Hopefully) Elite Rotation
The Texas Rangers opted to build a top end pitching staff, specifically with their rotation this offseason, rather than add significant upgrades to the offense. Corey Kluber was the headline acquisition for the club joining in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. The Texas Rangers will hope he can join Lance Lynn and Mike Minor to create on of the top starter trios in the league and this weekend is our first taste of that group.
Lance Lynn is set to take the hill on Opening Day giving him the opportunity to close down Globe Life Park and open up Globe Life Field. Lynn was the breakout star for Texas last season posting a 3.67 ERA and 6.8 fWAR in 33 starts for the club. He was one of the most valuable starters in the game last year and will look to build on that as the expected ace of the 2020 Rangers’ staff.
Mike Minor will get the ball to start Game 2 of the opening series set for Saturday afternoon. Minor, like Lynn, revitalized his career with Texas albeit a year earlier but remained one of the better starters in the league last season. He and Lynn formed a formidable two-headed monster last season and are going to be key to the club’s success this season.
On Sunday, all eyes will be on Kluber who is expected to make his debut for the Rangers. Having Kluber as the third starter in the rotation shows just how good this staff could be this year if all live up to potential. While this is just one series, fans will be excited to see a trio of starters who enter the season giving the club a real shot at winning every game.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa Wins a Starting Job
This two-part Spring Training was an important one for Isiah Kiner-Falefa who was looking to rebound from a poor 2019 campaign where the club hoped to convert him to a solid big league catcher. With that experiment over, likely for good, Kiner-Falefa can get back to what he does best which is provide the club with a real, everyday quality utility player who saw his bat play well at the big league level in 2018.
Kiner-Falefa was stellar during the offseason and Spring/Summer Training and likely was the Rangers best player through their preparations for this season. That seems to have won him a starting gig with Texas this year and he’s set to open the year at third base with offseason free agent signing Todd Frazier sliding over to first. Kiner-Falefa’s glove is a plus at third based on the previous 550 big league innings he’s played their and if the Rangers can get 2018 production out of his bat, he instantly becomes one of the most important players on the roster. He’s one to watch all season and we get our first look Friday night.
Can Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor be Catalysts for the Team?
Seeing Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor lumped together as potential catalysts for the Texas Rangers is probably a bit of a strange sight. Prior to injury last season, Joey Gallo was on pace to be a real candidate for AL MVP discussions. Meanwhile, Rougned Odor struggled throughout the year once again as he continues to try and replicate the impressive numbers he produced in 2016. But make no mistake, these are two of, if the not the two, most talented players on this Rangers roster.
Joey Gallo will be looking to continue the numbers he put up last season that saw his batting average jump nearly 50 points while maintaining his home run prowess. If he does, he becomes the superstar the Rangers have longed for over a number of years and likely is one of the top outfielders in the league. His defensive ability should be spotlighted in right field and he can cement himself as the cornerstone of the franchise in 2020.
Rougned Odor has potential to be a catalyst as well if he can right the ship. At his best, he’s a 35-plus home run per year second baseman with enough defensive ability to get by. However, at his worst, he struggles to not be a hinderance offensively and sees his defensive production slip down into a net-negative for the team. The talent is still there with Odor and with the team in need of another legitimate offensive weapon, 2020 presents him with likely one final opportunity to take hold of that role. His support from fans though will be on thin ice and a bad start to the season could put a negative light on him before the season even feels fully underway.