As we're a week away from full rosters being in Arizona and spring training being fully underway, several national "experts" are starting to unveil their team rankings heading into the baseball season.
While many have the Rangers in the top 6-7 in all of baseball coming off their surprise 2015 season with missing pieces, ESPN's David Schoenfield has the Rangers pegged in the middle of the league, at No. 14 out of the 30 teams.
Schoenfield really loves up Rougned Odor and the Rangers' bullpen as a positives, as well as the return of Yu Darvish, but he also shows concern about an aging lineup featuring guys like Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder, who are all on the downside of their careers.
Here's what Schoenfield had to say about the 2016 Rangers with the full disclaimer that it's Feb. 15.
Big offseason moves: Re-signed RHP Colby Lewis; acquired RHP Tom Wilhlemsen from the Mariners for CF Leoyns Martin; lost RHP Yovani Gallardo and 1B Mike Napoli to free agency.
Most intriguing player: I’ve written a lot about Rougned Odor. The short story: Terrible start, sent to the minors in early May, came back in mid-June and tore it up the rest of the way (.292/.334/.527). Oh, he just turned 22. There are some good second basemen in the AL but Odor could be an All-Star in 2016.
I'm just the messenger: Am I supposed to love this rotation? It just seems to come with a lot of question marks:
(1) Cole Hamels went 7-1 in 12 starts but with a 3.66 ERA. Is he an ace in the AL or more of a No. 2?
(2) Colby Lewis won 17 games but with a 4.66 ERA. I get that when he’s healthy he’s been a 200-inning workhorse, but he’s also 36 and had a 5.14 ERA in 2014.
(3) Will Yu Darvish be Yu Darvish when he returns in May or June?
(4) Derek Holland gets a lot of hype for a pitcher with a 4.28 career ERA and 11 home runs allowed in 58.2 innings last year.
(5) Martin Perez remains more promise than actual production in his four seasons in the majors.
Hey, I get it, there’s some big upside here if Darvish returns at the top of his game and Perez puts it together in his second season back from Tommy John surgery. FanGraphs projected the Texas rotation as middle of the pack in the majors and I’m inclined to agree.
Where I could be wrong: But that bullpen! We saw guys like Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Keone Kela throwing smoke in the playoffs. None of those guys has a long track record but the talent and depth -- throw in Shawn Tolleson, Wilhelmsen and Sam Freeman -- means Jeff Banister won’t necessarily need his non-Hamels starters to go deep into games.
The final word: The Rangers finished third in the AL in runs, thanks in part to some surprising performances from Mitch Moreland, Delino DeShields Jr. and Robinson Chirinos. Those are three regression candidates and there are additional age concerns with the meat of the order: Adrian Beltre will be in his age-37 season and finally showed some signs of slowing (his lowest OPS+ since an injury-marred year in Seattle in 2009), Josh Hamilton will be 35, Shin-Soo Choo, 33 and Prince Fielder, 32. Still, the Rangers don’t have any glaring holes and if Odor is as good as I think he is and the older guys produce again, they’ll be back in the playoff hunt.