On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2011 season.
The Opponent: If it's Wednesday, it must be Kansas City. The Rangers continue their whirlwind tour of the U.S. with two games against the Royals before kicking off interleague play in Philadelphia. The Royals have lost four straight games to fall back below .500 on the season.
Past 2011 Meetings: The Royals were swept during their April visit to Arlington, but these aren't the same guys who were outscored 22-14. We're starting to see the fruits of the Royals' long rebuilding process and the future looks brighter than it has since the days of Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon.
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Pitching Matchups: Wednesday - Alexi Ogando (4-0, 2.06 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (first career start); Thursday - Derek Holland (3-1, 4.91) vs. Luke Hochevar (3-4, 4.87)
What's Hot: Duffy is the second big Royals prospect to hit the big leagues in recent weeks. The lefty was ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the K.C. system by Baseball America which seems a lot more impressive when you realize that he was ranked the 68th best prospect in all of baseball. That should tell you why people are drooling over the future for the Royals and things will get even more exciting when third baseman Mike Moustakos and lefty starter Mike Montgomery (BA's #9 and 19 prospects) join the big league team in the next few months.
Eric Hosmer (#8 on that top 100 list) was called up 10 days ago and there's been nothing to dislike thus far. He's hitting .270 with a pair of home runs and looks like the anchor of the Royals lineup for years to come.
The Rangers don't have any young blood bubbling up through the ranks right this second, so we'll just take one more moment to tip our cap one of the old guard. Michael Young simply won't stop hitting and it is looking more and more likely that he'll be making an appearance at the All-Star Game in a couple of months. It's all the more enjoyable because it is so unexpected.
What's Not: The Royals offense has had a major resurgence this season, even before Hosmer, but their pitching has not experienced the same change in fortune. They've allowed 200 runs, second worst in the American League, and it will take more than Duffy to vault them back into the playoff hunt this season.
Alex Gordon, whose presence in the lineup should keep every one in K.C. from going too far with their predictions about the future, had a great April. He's fallen off the cliff in May, however, and looks like the player that has consistently failed to live up to the lofty expectations born of being the second overall pick in 2005.
We said something nice about Young up top, but we'd be kicking ourselves if we didn't point out the fact that the Rangers are still using him incorrectly. On Tuesday night, Young was at first with Mike Napoli at DH. That created a problem in the late innings when Ron Washington was hesitant to use Mitch Moreland to pinch hit for Napoli or Yorvit Torrealba because it would leave the team without a DH or a backup catcher. Young should be the DH for that reason and because he isn't a plus fielder at any spot.
Familiar Faces: Jeff Francoeur's torrid start isn't quite a thing of the past, but his May OPS is more than 100 points lower than what he mustered during the first month of the season. We all like to believe in fairy tales, but we're living in the real world. Francoeur is reminding us of that.
Despite starting his career with the A's, Vin Mazzaro isn't really all that familiar a face. He became a famous name this week, although not really in the way you dream about as a kid. He allowed 14 runs on Monday night in just two and a third innings of work, a record for futility. He's been sent back to Triple-A so the Rangers won't get a chance to make things worse for Mazzaro.