2016 came to a very abrupt and sloppy end for the Texas Rangers after they finished the regular season with the best record in the American League. They were swept out of the playoffs in their ALDS series with the Blue Jays just a year after the two met in a heated five-game series the previous postseason. That 2015 series was highlighted by the infamous Jose Bautista bat flip which remained a storyline – and a point of serious contention – for the entire 2016 season.
The Rangers seemed preoccupied with revenge when they met Toronto in October and it ultimately cost them. Rougned Odor, the man who took it upon himself to physically avenge the bat flip in a dust-up with Joey Bats earlier in the year, threw a loose ball in the 10th inning of Game 3 in the Big Smoke and the error allowed the series-winning run to cross the plate for the Jays. Texas was deemed the luckiest team in baseball last season, winning more one-run games than any other club, but to a win a playoff series – and especially the World Series – they’re going to need a little more than luck.
A lot like the rest of the Rangers team, Mr. Odor is not without his faults but it’s obvious that he’s extremely talented. The Rangers have a loaded mix of young, skilled position players and savvy veterans coming into the new season but it’s still unclear whether or not they’re a mature enough group contend in October.
Expect youngsters Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo to come into their own for Texas this year and look forward to a full-flavored return from former ace Yu Darvish. The Japanese strikeout artist was not himself in his first bit of action after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015 but he should be back to his Cy Young level self in a campaign where his club is going to ask a lot out of him.
World Series +2800
I’m not so sure about this one. There are still so many questions surrounding the Rangers’ starting rotation/bullpen and I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that this team beats a club like the Cubs, Nationals or Dodgers in the Fall Classic. On a positive note, you’re getting a very decent price here for a team that didn’t necessarily get worse in the offseason.
In order for the Rangers to win the World Series this year, however, the following things all need to happen:
1. Yu Darvish needs to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. 2. Tyson Ross needs to get, and remain, healthy. 3. Cole Hamels needs to not regress any further. 4. Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar need to realize their potential and become everyday major leaguers and 5. Rougned Odor needs to smarten the frig up.
That’s a lot to ask for and if you surveyed most Rangers’ fans, they’d probably be happy if one or two of those things happened. This is a huge risk, but if everything goes right in Arlington this year, the Rangers could be great.
AL Pennant +1200
Again, not super confident here. So many teams in the AL got better in the offseason and I like a lot of their prices a lot more than I do the Rangers’. If Texas was to match up with any of the top dogs in the ALCS, their pitching staff would be completely outmatched. The Indians, Red Sox, Astros and Blue Jays all have devastating lineups and three of those teams have much much sturdier starting rotations.
Let’s focus our attention elsewhere.
AL West +275
Now were talking a language I can understand. Texas is definitely capable of winning their division, seeing they’ve worn the AL West crown two straight years, but it really depends on how good the Astros are going to be this season.
Houston has a young core of potential superstars in the field and they also possess one of the best bull pens in the majors. If the Astros starting pitching comes along this year and Dallas Keuchel gets back on his own level, they’re going to be a tough team to beat.
The Mariners are not to be trifled with either and I could see a tight three-way race ensuing for the right to hang the 2017 AL West Banner. That said, +275 is good value. The gun laws in Texas are pretty loose so you might as well take a shot on this one.
Win Total 84.5
Take the over. Texas has earned more than 85 wins in seven of the last eight seasons and it’s tough to see a team that won 95 games last year regress 10 whole games. As long as their pitching isn’t historically bad, the Rangers will have more than enough offense and a projection of 90 wins for them seems modest.
Yu Darvish to win AL Cy Young +1200
The AL Cy Young race is a virtual and literal toss-up almost every season with the insane amount of variation we see in American League pitchers from year to year so this is a flyer. At his best, Darvish deals absolute filth and is nearly untouchable. In 2013, he posted a 2.83 ERA along with a 1.07 WHIP and he struck out an unbelievable 277 batters. Plenty of pitchers have successfully come back from Tommy John surgery in recent years and I have a Texas-sized amount of faith in this strikeout specialist.
Another longshot I’ll be taking a look at is Nomar Mazara to lead the league in home runs – If I can find a book with a line. The 21-year-old Dominican outfielder slugged 20 long balls in his rookie season but he’ll be asked to step into a bigger role this season and he’ll be slotted fourth or fifth in the Rangers’ batting order. Mazara has power to spare and with a full season now under his belt, he should torture major league pitchers all summer long.
|American League Pennant||+1200|
|American League East||+275|
Odds as of March 25 at Bovada