We’ve heard the same narrative on repeat throughout the off-season and now into spring training.
The Texas Rangers will be awful in 2021.
So bad that PECOTA projects the Rangers to finish at 67-95 when the season wraps up in September.
You can’t find one site or betting place that has even a remotely favorable outlook on the 2021 Texas Rangers.
I’m here to debunk this consensus by making a case for both sides of the coin.
The case FOR the 2021 Texas Rangers
Surely, the odds are stacked against me with respect to constructing this argument, but hear me out.
There’s a lot to be excited about with this roster.
Start with the lineup, which is deeper and more balanced than it’s been in years.
With big boppers like Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Khris Davis, Nate Lowe, Ronald Guzman and quality hitters like Nick Solak, IKF and Willie Calhoun (when he returns from injury), as well as speedsters like Eli White and Leody Taveras, you’ve got yourself a batting order that will emphasize quality at-bats and different, but complimentary skillsets.
A strong bench and prospects on the way up (looking at you, Josh Jung!) will only fortify this team’s offensive identity.
On the pitching staff, there may be much uncertainty within the rotation, but Kyle Gibson looks rejuvenated in spring training, while Dane Dunning, Kohei Arihara, Mike Foltynewicz and Taylor Hearn have all looked encouraging as they look to cement starting roles.
All that talk about 2020’s super-rotation with Gibson, Jordan Lyles and the now departed Lance Lynn, Mike Minor and Corey Kluber never came to fruition. That group also felt forced.
2021’s unit feels more natural and has more upside. That bodes well for the Rangers.
How about the bullpen, which is arguably the deepest part of the Texas Rangers’ roster? Filled to the brim with talent, the loss of Jonathan Hernandez to a UCL strain hurts.
Pitchers like Hunter Wood, Matt Bush, Ian Kennedy and others have a chance to step in and fill roles, though, while lefties Wes Benjamin and Kolby Allard are making strong impressions this spring, as is Taylor Hearn.
Do I see a contending group from all of these pieces? In reality, no.
However, spring training should be making it easier to conclude that the future looks bright, that maybe 2023 is a realistic goal for the Texas Rangers.
Consider that in a rebuilding season, Texas is potentially fielding its best (and deepest) team in years. Better than 2020’s team, better than 2019’s team and maybe even better than 2018’s team.
This is all without having even mentioned that the AL West is gradually weakening by the year, with no clear powerhouse in the division. A window could soon be opening up.
The case AGAINST the 2021 Texas Rangers
This one’s pretty easy. The Texas Rangers just aren’t good enough yet.
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First of all, everything has to pan out for the team in order to even have a chance. That means David Dahl has to be healthy, Joey Gallo has to bounce back, the pitching staff needs to reach its potential and so many other moving parts.
We can talk about upside all we want, but it is highly unlikely that every single player on this team reaches his maximum ability this season. The rebuilding stage is denoted as a process for a reason.
Secondly, the number of good teams expected within the American League in 2021 would be too many for the Rangers to have to leap in the standings just to attain a Wild Card, let alone a Division Title.
Thirdly, the Rangers need to continue stockpiling talent at this stage, and that means accumulating high draft picks in addition to trading away players with significant value (which would mean impeding upon current contention).
Don’t expect the Texas Rangers to make any kind of serious playoff run in 2021.
Cautious optimism is the best way to approach this season. You can feel good about what you’re seeing in spring training and the future that lies ahead, while keeping your expectations for the now in line.
Making the case for the 2021 Texas Rangers isn’t about making their case for October, though. Rather, it’s to illustrate to the rest of the baseball world that the Rangers are actually in a much better state than one might think.
The lineup is deep, relatively speaking, and the pitching staff is legitimately deep.
The Rangers finally appear to have something that resembles a foundation. Now it’s time to prove that the foundation is sturdy enough to hold up a future contender in the coming years.