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2013 Team Preview: Texas Rangers

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OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 03: David Murphy #7 of the Texas Rangers hits a single that scored two runs in the third inning of their game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on October 3, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

David Murphy enjoyed the best season of his career in 2012, but can he keep it up?  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

We’ve gotten accustomed to seeing the Texas Rangers as part of the AL playoff fray. But can they keep it going without the services of Josh Hamilton? Let’s dig right in …

Probable lineup
1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Lance Berkman, DH
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. David Murphy, LF
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
9. Leonys Martin, CF

Probable rotation
1. Yu Darvish
2. Matt Harrison
3. Derek Holland
4. Alexi Ogando
5. Martin Perez
Colby Lewis (INJ), Neftali Feliz (INJ)

Bullpen construction
Closer: Joe Nathan
Setup: Jason Frasor, Robbie Ross, Joakim Soria (INJ)

Notable bench players
C Geovany Soto, OF Craig Gentry, IF/OF Leury Garcia, IF/OF Jeff Baker

Under-the-radar offseason transaction
Lance Berkman. Sure, there’s risk in signing a 37-year-old who’s coming off a season in which he managed just 97 plate appearances. However, Berkman is just two years removed from a .301/.412/.547 campaign, and it’s entirely possible that strict DH duty will afford much better health. As well, consider that in 2012 Texas DHs combined to hit .265/.323/.432, which isn’t a terribly high bar for an offense-only position playing home games in hitter-friendly Arlington. Berkman likely needs to be sat against lefties, but as the primary DH he’s a nifty addition.

Fantasy Bust: David Murphy
“In 2012, Murphy had his best season, not only because he made a career-high 521 plate appearances, but also because he posted his highest batting average since his first season with the Rangers, when he went to bat only 110 times. Murphy’s .304 mark gave off the appearance of a breakout. It’s a little unusual for a 30-year-old to take an unexpected leap in his performance, but there is an even stronger reason to be skeptical than merely his age. While Murphy isn’t exactly a slow-poke, his .292 batting average on grounders is something you would expect from one of the game’s top speedsters. It’s especially hard to expect a repeat given that Murphy achieved that average in spite of a sharp decrease in his infield hit rate. With a strong chance of even greater playing time in 2013, owners might look to Murphy as a middle-to-late round option, but he isn’t likely to return adequate value. He doesn’t possess enough speed or power to take advantage of the increased playing time or compensate for a probable drop in his batting average.” – Al Melchior (Full Rangers Fantasy Preview)

Biggest strength
Although the tendencies of the Rangers’ home park might lead you to think otherwise, the rotation is this team’s bedrock. In 2012, the Texas rotation ranked second in the AL in fWAR, fourth in road ERA and fourth in xFIP. In other words, put the Texas rotation in the proper context (i.e., correct for or remove the influence of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), and it stands as one of the best in the American League.

As well, the (imposing) front of the Texas rotation — i.e., Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland — is uniformly at an age that lends itself to skills growth. In Darvish’s case, his impressive propensity to miss bats (he ranked second only to Max Scherzer last season strikeouts as a percentage of plate appearances) in tandem with some tweaks to his mechanics down the stretch put him on the short-list of Cy Young contenders for 2013. Throw in upside on the back end (Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez), and you’ve got a very impressive starting corps.

READ MORE AT CBSSPORTS.COM

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