Tag: Elvis Andrus

Jeff Banister

2015 Preview: Texas Rangers


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Big Question: Will this get worse before it gets better?

After five consecutive winning seasons, including back-to-back trips to the World Series, the Rangers’ run of success came to screeching halt last season as injuries decimated the roster. Texas players combined to spend 2,116 days on the disabled list, which is the highest total by any team since DL data started being tracked in 2002. And just one other team during that time, the Diamondbacks in 2004, was above 2,000 days lost.

It was a horror show and not surprisingly the Rangers fell from 91-72 in 2013 to an AL-worst 67-95. Ron Washington stepped down after eight seasons as manager and the Rangers fired interim manager Tim Bogar despite his success down the stretch, giving the job to Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister. When a consistent contender suffers a ridiculous number of injuries and loses 95 games the easy assumption is that they’ll bounce back in a huge way the next season. Sadly, that doesn’t seem likely for the Rangers.

They couldn’t even get out of spring training unscathed by the injury bug, as ace Yu Darvish was lost for the season before it began with Tommy John elbow surgery and former stud prospect Jurickson Profar was ruled out for a second straight season with shoulder problems. Left-hander Martin Perez isn’t unexpected back from Tommy John surgery until midseason and left-hander Matt Harrison is a question mark after spinal fusion surgery. It’s safe to assume the Rangers won’t have another 2,000-plus days of DL time, because it’s safe to assume that about any team, but this is hardly a healthy bunch and losing Darvish is a massive blow.

The good news on the health front is that Prince Fielder looks recovered from the neck injury that ended his season in May and Shin-Soo Choo is one season removed from being good enough that the Rangers gave him $130 million, so if they can get back on track and should-be Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre can continue to hold off father time at age 36 the middle of the lineup can definitely do some damage. Their supporting cast (Ryan Rua, Robinson Chirinos, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland) looks iffy in a lot of spots, though, especially without the promise of Profar emerging as a building block player.

As for the Darvish-less pitching staff … well, FanGraphs projects the Rangers to allow more runs than every MLB team but the Rockies this season and Baseball Prospectus is only slightly less pessimistic in projecting they’ll rank 24th in runs allowed. Derek Holland was injured for most of last season and offseason trade pickup Yovani Gallardo has seen his strikeout rate plummet–and they’re the two best bets in a rotation that’s also home to Colby Lewis, Ross Detwiler, and Nick Tepesch. And the bullpen is relying an awful lot on a post-surgery Neftali Feliz returning to form.

What else is going on?

  • Allow me to double-back on the “should-be Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre” thing. Most people may not think of him as bound for Cooperstown, but Beltre is a four-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman with a .285 career batting average, 395 homers, and 2,604 hits. And he’s still an elite player, batting .324 with an .879 OPS last season to put 450 homers and 3,000 hits within reach. Among all third basemen in MLB history Beltre ranks seventh in Wins Above Replacement, behind only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Chipper Jones, and Brooks Robinson. All of those guys are in the Hall of Fame or will be very soon. As if the third baseman one spot behind Adrian in eighth place, Ron Santo. Adrian Beltre should be a Hall of Famer.
  • Profar was the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball two years ago, so having to wait until 2016 to see what remains of his upside is sad. Texas still has a really good, really young middle infielder with tons of upside in Rougned Odor, who debuted last season at age 20 and held his own with a .700 OPS in 114 games as the youngest regular in the entire league. Odor’s approach at the plate is very raw and his K/BB ratios aren’t pretty, but he was one of just eight 20-year-old middle infielders in MLB history to play 100-plus games and post an adjusted OPS+ of at least 95. The last four to do so? Starlin Castro in 2010, Alex Rodriguez in 1996, Roberto Alomar in 1988, and Bill Mazeroski in 1957.
  • Gallardo was a really good, durable, and generally underrated starter for the Brewers, but his annual strikeout rate has dipped from 9.0 to 7.2 to 6.8 and his average fastball now clocks in at 91 miles per hour. He induces enough ground balls to avoid being totally wrecked by calling the Rangers’ power-inflating ballpark home, but switching from the NL to the AL may shine a light on the 29-year-old impending free agent’s deteriorating skills.
  • Fielder is owed $24 million per season through 2020, Choo is owed $20 million per season through 2020, and Andrus is owed $15 million per season through 2022. Those are the three players around which general manager Jon Daniels has decided to build and if they don’t start making good on those long-term investments it’s going to be extremely difficult to turn things around quickly.

Prediction: Fewer disabled list stints and slightly fewer losses, but another last-place finish in the AL West.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister plans to use Leonys Martin as leadoff hitter

Leonys Martin AP

The top of the Rangers’ lineup will have a new look this season, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that rookie manager Jeff Banister plans to use center fielder Leonys Martin as his regular leadoff man.

Martin will provide speed at the top of the lineup, but he doesn’t exactly profile as an ideal leadoff man. The 27-year-old owns a .316 on-base percentage over his first 334 games in the majors with a walk rate of 6.2 percent. His on-base percentage against left-handed pitching sits at just .279.

Shin-Soo Choo saw the majority of his starts out of the leadoff spot when healthy last season and while he batted just .242 with 13 home runs and .714 OPS across 123 games, he still managed a .340 on-base percentage. The 32-year-old boasts a .383 on-base percentage for his career, which is ninth-highest among active players.

While Martin is now slotted in as the leadoff man, it’s unclear what this means for the No. 2 spot. Banister could put Choo there and slide Elvis Andrus down in the order, but that would leave them vulnerable against left-handers. The alternative would be to keep Andrus in the No. 2 spot and move Choo to the middle of the order.

Elvis Andrus is in The Best Shape of his Life

Elvis Andrus

Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports:

Shortstop Elvis Andrus on Monday surged to the lead for most times invoking the spring training cliché “best shape of my career” by a Ranger.

One thing. Andrus appeared to be telling the truth . . . He joined a group of about a dozen teammates who religiously worked out daily at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He took up yoga and Pilates to increase his flexibility.

The difference is striking. Andrus dropped about 12 pounds and lost the puffy look to his face. He energetically bounced around the field during an informal workout that included seven projected starting position players.

Andrus hit a poor .263/.314/.333 last season and saw his stolen base success rate fall to 64 percent. He signed an eight-year, $120 million contract extension in April 2013.

(Thanks to Emily for the heads up)

Initial thoughts on the Yankees-Tigers-Diamondbacks trade

Robbie Ray

These are not deep thoughts. Just thoughts:

    • It’s cool that the Tigers, Yankees and Diamondbacks can get together for three-way trades every few years. The last one — with Curtis Granderson, Max Scherzer and all of those guys — set the gold standard, but this one is good too.
    • It’s also cool that Didi Gregorius is involved in his second three-way trade in a couple of years. If he doesn’t parlay this — plus his playing abilities — into some sort of nickname like “three-way” or “triple threat” then what’s the point, man?
    • I like this trade for the Yankees. Gregorius will be, at his worst, as good as Derek Jeter was on offense in 2014 and his 2013 hitting suggests he can be better than that, even if he’s never a particularly dangerous hitter. That plus a defensive game which is streets ahead of anything Jeter did in, oh, the past 15 years, will make him a nice upgrade over The Captain, all for a very low, low salary. This is way better than signing, say, Stephen Drew and hoping he can return to old form or trading for a big name like Elvis Andrus who will cost a lot and not be as good as his reputation. Gregorius is a legit shortstop who is team-controlled. Those don’t grow on trees.
    • Of course, even if he’s a better hitter and defender and he’s cheaper, there will be a certain segment of Yankees fans which will be on his case for anything he does because he’s not Derek Jeter. Which sucks, but which is inevitable. As someone once said, don’t replace the man, replace the man who replaces the man. Someone has to play shortstop in New York in a post-Jeter world, and unfortunately for Gregorius, it’s him.
    • For the Tigers, Shane Greene is an interesting pickup. He had 14 starts last year and was a tick above league average, which looks good. But he also outperformed his considerably longer minor league track record with that. He has some good tools, though — a nice fastball and some groundball tendencies — which could make him one of those guys who pitch better than his minor league numbers may suggest. Some guys just take a bit to put it together. And it’s not like the Tigers need an ace in the rotation. A good guy on the back end is totally cool.
    • For the Dbacks, I dunno, Robbie Ray was horrible in the bigs in a short stint in 2014. He struck out a lot of guys and walked a lot of guys in the minors. Last year he posted a 1.59 ERA through is first five starts at Triple-A, with a 21/5 K/BB ratio in 28 innings, showing his promise, but he is not a flawless prospect and the Dbacks, in recent years, haven’t done well with the pitchers they’ve acquired. He’ll be a good first test for the new regime.
    • The Dbacks will also be getting shortstop Domingo Leyba from the Tigers. He’s only 19 and hasn’t played above A-ball, but he hit very well across two levels in 67 games last season. In leagues in which he was very young. He’s not projected to stick at short, however, so he’ll have to hit if second base is where he ends up.

This will get all the press because of Gregorius being the guy who replaces Derek Jeter, but it’s a fun baseball trade all around.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels will listen to trade offers for Elvis Andrus

Elvis Andrus Getty

The Rangers have a glut of infield depth which could push the club to make shortstop Elvis Andrus available in a trade. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that GM Jon Daniels will listen to trade offers for Andrus. Daniels added that the club’s starting pitching, catcher, and left field/DH needs would be solved best via trade than through free agency.

Andrus, 26, wasn’t very productive this past season, hitting .263/.314/.333. While he was able to steal 27 bases, he was also thrown out a league-leading 15 times for an unimpressive 64 percent success rate. The shortstop is signed through 2022 after signing an eight-year, $120 million contract extension in April 2013.