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2015 AL West preview: Texas Rangers look to bounce back

I can't blame Yu for not wanting to look. It wasn't pretty last year in Arlington.
I can't blame Yu for not wanting to look. It wasn't pretty last year in Arlington.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, the Texas Rangers were the Greek tragedy of baseball. After losing in the World Series for two straight years, and then missing the playoffs on the last day of the regular season for the next two years, they entered the season looking to make another run at a title. Instead, the entire team got hurt and they finished with the worst record in the AL. Now, they look to regroup and bounce back. Some key contributors are healthy once more, and there were a couple of mid-level additions, but the baseball gods didn't even bother waiting for Opening Day before taking away ace pitcher Yu Darvish and young second baseman Jurickson Profar with season-ending injuries.

Adrian Beltre fall
Why do we fall, Adrian? So we can learn to pick ourselves up. -- Photo credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Lineup

C Robinson Chirinos
1B Prince Fielder
2B Rougned Odor
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Ryan Rua
CF Leonys Martin
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Mitch Moreland/Jake Smolinski

Bench: Carlos Corporan (C), Adam Rosales (IF), Delino DeShields Jr. (OF)

Projected Rotation

1. Derek Holland (L)
2. Yovani Gallardo (R)
3. Colby Lewis (R)
4. Ross Detwiler (L)
5. Nick Martinez (R)

Depth: Nick Tepesch (R), Anthony Ranaudo (R), Lisalverto Bonilla (R), Chi Chi Gonzalez (R)

CL Neftali Feliz
Key pen: Literally no one you've heard of, so let's see how it shakes out and then learn the ones who stick around

Key Injuries

Ranked on a scale of 1 (no big deal) to 10 (serious problem)

Player Details Rating
SP Yu Darvish Recovering from Tommy John surgery (March 2015) and will miss the entire season 10
SP Martin Perez Recovering from Tommy John surgery (May 2014); could be back in second half of season 7
SP Matt Harrison Recovering from spinal fusion surgery; could be back in May, or career could be over 4
RP Shawn Tolleson Will start on DL with forearm tightness, but no word of TJS yet; could be back in April 2
2B Jurickson Profar Torn labrum, will miss the entire season 8
OF Antoan Richardson Herniated disc, will miss six weeks 1

Explaining the ratings: Darvish is one of the best pitchers in baseball, so of course he's a big loss. Profar is also huge, but at least Odor is there to fill in and he's legit too. Perez is a big loss, but an expected one, plus he'll be back at some point. Harrison's rating is lower than his talent because he's basically missed two years and so this is more the status quo than a loss. Tolleson is good, but just a reliever. Richardson was unlikely to make the 25-man roster, but merits a mention because he's one of the only players Texas has on their 40-man who can play center field.

Best-Case Scenario

No one else gets hurt. No one else gets hurt. Injured guys return, and no one else gets hurt. Also, everyone stays healthy. Prince Fielder stubs his toe on first base, but the next day it feels fine instead of being broken and he plays 158 games. Derek Holland feels some tightness in his forearm one day, but his ligaments are intact and he makes 33 starts -- as a tribute of thanks to the baseball gods, he promises never to grow that disgusting mustache again. Gallardo and Detwiler prove to be savvy additions despite their lack of flash, and Perez comes back and gives the rotation a boost in the final two months. The staff still isn't amazing, but it's good enough to support a strong offense that includes Andrus hitting .320 and Fielder and Beltre combining for 80 homers. Odor makes everyone forget about Profar, and Rua and Smolinski quietly emerge as two of the better hitters you've never heard of. Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan run into each other at the supermarket and have a long talk about life, the universe and everything; after hashing out their differences, Ryan rejoins the front office, lifting the brief curse that plagued the team in 2014 and ushering in a new age of competitiveness. The Rangers earn a Wild Card berth and beat the stupid Angels in the play-in game because Josh Hamilton drops a routine fly ball in the outfield. Also, no one else gets hurt.

Worst-Case Scenario

This worst-case scenario is rated MA due to graphic violence and may not be suitable for children. Perez never makes it back, and somehow hurts his right elbow too. Harrison is done. Gallardo and Detwiler have rocky transitions to the AL and the rotation is an absolute mess -- Martinez leads the team with an ERA+ of 100. On the bright side, I get my lifelong wish of seeing Adam Rosales pitch ... after the Rangers convert him into an emergency starter. He makes 16 starts. Fielder's power is sapped by his neck injury from yesteryear and he's out-hit by Ike Davis. The lineup is still decent, but is always on the losing side of 7-4 decisions because the pitching is so brutal. Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan run into each other in the supermarket and both of their cars are dented. The Rangers finish with the worst record in the AL for the second straight year.

My Prediction

Closer to the best-case than the worst-case, though it should be noted that I started my Rangers prediction last year with exactly the same statement. It's tough to draw the short straw too many times in a row before the universe mercilessly reverses your luck. If it can't be as bad as it was last year, then therefore it has to be better, right? Holland is good enough to be at the top of a rotation, and I think they'll end up with at least a few reliable starters out of that intriguing group. It's easy to underrate the veteran hitters returning from injury, as well as some of the lesser-known names, but there is enough talent in the lineup for it to be a strength. The Rangers won 67 games last year, and I can't see them finishing under 70 again, but I also can't guarantee they'll get to 80. I still think they'll finish in last place, but only because the AL West could possibly be the best division in baseball and I don't have any specific reasons to put anyone else below them. If they're in last, they'll at least be the best last-place team, but they could just as easily contend for a playoff berth with a bit of luck. Remember how quickly the last-place 2012 Red Sox became the World Champion 2013 Red Sox, and these Rangers are returning a similarly star-laden core. Record: 75-87