Kelly Gavin, Texas Rangers
There was no question what the Texas Rangers' strength was in 2013, and it wasn't their offense.
You see, the 2013 edition of the Rangers wasn't your daddy's Rangers, or maybe your older brother's. There was no record-breaking offense, just some really good pitching and lots of 3-2 ballgames.
The Rangers were carried by their starting staff, and most notably, their bullpen last season. Now, many of those guys return, but they have some key new teammates in the lineup that the Rangers hope will put them over the top.
National "experts" seem to think it could.
ESPN's Buster Olney ranked the top 10 lineups in MLB this week, and the Rangers checked in at No. 1.
The addition of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder in the top third of the order will boost a below-average team on-base percentage, and Olney said it'll make the Rangers a serious contender again after two disappointing seasons that followed two straight World Series appearances.
Here's what Olney had to say about the Rangers, who he ranked No. 1 in the league in terms of lineup strength:
The Rangers’ front office saw the flaws in the team's batting order, the lack of left-handed power, and have aggressively reached for repairs. But it’s not as if the Texas offense was a black hole in 2013: The Rangers finished eighth out of 30 teams in runs, and now they’ve added two left-handed hitters who ranked among the top 30 in the majors in on-base percentage, in Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. There is notable risk in the long term in Fielder and Choo, given the Rangers’ seven-year investments in each, but in 2014, Texas could run out a lineup that looks like this:
The question mark should be attached to Moreland because it is possible that Cruz could return on a team-friendly deal -- but only on a team-friendly deal, like Adam LaRoche’s modest two-year contract with the Washington Nationals last winter. Otherwise, the Rangers will be content to let Cruz go elsewhere.
So there you go. The Rangers have made the moves they needed to this offseason, and they've put together a lineup on paper that looks to be the best in baseball. Now, they just need to execute and live up to the hype.