Forget about sign stealing. There’s a baseball season up ahead.
Will Leitch of mlb.com published his article about the most pressing questions for teams in the A.L. West teams yesterday.
About the Rangers, his five questions are:
1) Can Joey Gallo stay healthy?
Do not forget how unbelievably good Gallo was when he was healthy last season. He slugged .678 in March and April, and .585 in May. He looked like the hitter that the Rangers had long waited for him to become. And then he underwent hamate surgery and only played in nine games in the second half. If Gallo is the MVP candidate he looked like for 61 games last year, the Rangers have themselves a superstar. But if he’s still gimpy or can’t stay on the field, they just have a big hole in the middle of their lineup.
RR3: Gallo better be good. With apologies to Shin-Soo Choo, Gallo is all they have. Lose him and that hole in the lineup is nine spots deep.
2) What does Corey Kluber have left?
The Indians took a lot of heat when they traded Kluber for not the most thrilling return this offseason, but it is worth nothing that Kluber was a mess last season, wrecked by a fractured right arm. Kluber made just seven starts and posted a 5.80 ERA. If Kluber is 2017 Kluber or even 2018 Kluber, the Rangers have themselves an ace. But if he can’t come all the way back, then they’ll have the same problem that the 2019 Indians did.
RR3: Kluber wasn’t a train wreck last season. He had a few bad games, like almost every starting pitcher does, then he got hurt and never got the chance to rebound from those bad games. But still there is that nagging doubt in the back of everyone’s mind, could this really be the steal of the century?
3) Can Lance Lynn and Mike Minor be aces again?
According to FanGraphs’ WAR, the Rangers had two of the top 20 pitchers in baseball last year. That’s a one-two punch that was only the lesser of the Nationals, Dodgers and Astros. But Lynn and Minor are not exactly phenom flamethrowers just called up and taking the league by storm. It’s tough for two veterans to have career seasons at the same time. It is particularly tough for them to do it twice.
RR3: Please, baseball gods, shine on the Rangers for once.
4) Who is Rougned Odor, exactly?
When do the Rangers get tired of waiting on Odor? In 2016, a still-only-22-year-old Odor was an above-average hitter and fielder and looked to the world like someone who was setting out on an All-Star career. But he has gotten progressively worse every year since, and his strikeouts tied for the most in the American League last year. Odor hit 30 homers in 2019, but so did 30 other big leaguers — and each of them did so with a better batting average than Odor’s .205. He still has three more years on his contract, one that looked like a bargain when the Rangers signed it. Can Texas afford to play him every day all the way through it?
RR3: It doesn’t matter who Odor is. He has three more years on his contract so he is the starting second baseman of the Rangers no matter what. If he didn’t lose his playing time from his performance the last three years, he isn’t going to now.
5) How will Globe Life Field play?
This is no small concern when you have as many veteran pitchers as the Rangers do. It may take a couple months to figure it out, months that the Rangers, if they’re going to contend, may not have time for.
RR3: Who cares? It will have a roof. 2020 isn’t about players, its about architecture.
And then, he makes his prediction for the A.L. West in 2020, the first of this offseason:
Houston Astros 92-70
Oakland Athletics 88-74
Los Angeles Angels 85-77
Texas Rangers 78-84
Seattle Mariners 61-101
Going forward into spring training, it will be interesting to see other predictions of how the Rangers will do in 2020.