30 Clubs in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

Former USC quarterback Sam Darnold reportedly had a really good pro day (in the rain, no less), where a significant portion of the Browns’ staff was in attendance. This makes it all the more likely that Darnold will be the top pick in the draft next month. My preference is still former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, however he has publicly stated that he does not want to play for the Browns so I think it’s more likely he ends up with the Jets at number 3 or the Broncos at number 5. Also, the Giants traded defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers for some draft picks, so perhaps North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb may wind up being the second overall pick. But with that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, as we begin to wind down with the Texas Rangers.

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2017 Results:

Record: 78-84, 23 games behind Houston Astros, 7 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Bartolo Colon, SP Doug Fister, SP Matt Moore, RP Mike Minor, 2B Darwin Barney, 3B Trevor Plouffe, C Curt Casali, RP Shawn Tolleson, SP Tim Lincecum

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CF Carlos Gomez, SP Andrew Cashner, 1B Mike Napoli, SP AJ Griffin, SP Miguel Gonzalez, SP Nick Martinez, SP Tyson Ross, 2B Phil Gosselin

Best Offensive Player: 3B Adrian Beltre

Best Pitcher: Cole Hamels

Depth Chart:

C-Robinson Chirinos, Juan Centeno

1B-Joey Gallo

2B-Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Darwin Barney

3B-Adrian Beltre, Trevor Plouffe

SS-Elvis Andrus

LF-Drew Robinson, Ryan Rua

CF-Delino DeShields

RF-Nomar Mazara, Shin Soo Choo (DH)

SP-Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Martin Perez, Jesse Chavez, Bartolo Colon

Bullpen-Alex Claudio (CP?), Jake Diekman (CP?), Matt Bush (CP?), Keone Kela, Jose LeClerc, Tony Barnette, Tim Lincecum

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Jeff Banister (4th season with Rangers)

Hitting Coach-Anthony Iapoce

Pitching Coach-Doug Brocail

1st Base Coach-Steve Buechele

3rd Base Coach-Tony Beasley

Bench Coach-Don Wakamatsu

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The Rangers had a tough season in 2017. After back-to-back division titles in 2015 and ’16, both of which concluded with unceremonious ALDS exits against the Blue Jays, they fell on hard times and ultimately had to start gutting the team, first by shipping off their ace Yu Darvish and then catcher Jonathan Lucroy. There may be more in store should the team struggle to compete in 2018, which I think they will given how tough the AL West is expected to be this season. Here’s how I’m expecting the Rangers to line up this season.

1. Delino DeShields-CF

2. Elvis Andrus-SS

3. Adrian Beltre-3B

4. Joey Gallo-1B

5. Nomar Mazara-RF

6. Shin Soo Choo-DH

7. Rougned Odor-2B

8. Robinson Chirinos-C

9. Drew Robinson/Ryan Rua-LF

There’s some pop in this lineup that will surely be enhanced by the conditions in Arlington, Texas. Joey Gallo is an interesting case here as he was a huge power threat, hitting 41 home runs and slugging .537. It’s this power that made Gallo worth a very respectable 2.9 WAR despite having the fourth-worst batting average in the majors at .209. Only Baltimore’s Chris Davis struck out at a higher frequency than Gallo’s 36.8%, but again, pretty much all of Gallo’s hits seemed to go for extra bases. In fact, 62 of his 94  hits (66%) were of the extra base variety. He hit more home runs (41) than singles (32). So despite the fact that Gallo doesn’t get a ton of hits, when he does he makes them count. Elvis Andrus quietly had his best season in 2017. He hit .297 with a career high 20 home runs (his previous best had been 8) and drove in 88 RBI while stealing 25 bags. He also played a quality defensive shortstop and had a career best 4.1 WAR. Rougned Odor is a guy I’ve never been a huge fan of (though you have to admit, that was a beautiful right hook on Jose Bautista) and last season he left a lot to be desired. He had the second worst batting average in the Majors at .204, the worst OBP at .252, and was worth -1.0 WAR despite hitting 30 home runs for the second straight season. He also played in all 162 games so it wasn’t like his performance was harmed due to injury. This seems to be more of an approach issue than anything and is something that he has to work on if he hopes to continue to be a part of this lineup. And of course, we can’t forget Adrian Beltre, one of the most underappreciated stars of the last 20 years. In fact, Beltre will be entering his 21st Major League season, which is amazing considering he’s not even 40 yet (he turns 39 in a few weeks). Beltre recorded his 3000th hit last season, a double down the left field line, and despite battling injuries that led him to playing his fewest games in a season since his rookie year, he still managed to hit .312 with 17 home runs and 71 RBI and playing his exceptional third base. His on-field antics are also the stuff of legend and have made him one of my all-time favorite players in this league. It will be a sad day when he finally decides to hang up the cleats. I just hope he can get a World Series win before he’s done.

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Pitching for the Rangers could get problematic. Cole Hamels is still an ace-level pitcher, though his 2017 season was a far cry to what he had done in the past. He had an ERA of 4.20 and struck out a career-worst 6.39 batters per 9. He turns 35 just after Christmas so perhaps he may be headed toward a steep decline, which should have Rangers fans nervous because after him there isn’t much to go off of. Doug Fister was a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox last season, but he was their 7th starter and really only joined the rotation because David Price and Steven Wright got hurt. However he did manage a 4.88 ERA, which isn’t good but his FIP was almost an entire run lower at 3.98. However if that’s your #2 starter, you’re in trouble. Matt Moore hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed as a rookie and had the worst ERA in the Majors last season among qualifiers with the Giants at 5.52. Things don’t get any easier as he moves from the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park to the very hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington. I also want to touch on Martin Perez real quick. Perez suffered an elbow injury in December after a bull at his ranch in Venezuela charged at him. How did Perez respond to this? He killed the bull and ate it. It’s unknown whether Perez will be ready to go for Opening Day, however this story is a good way to force hitters to take note of you.

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The Rangers bullpen is interesting. There hasn’t been a declared closer but there are so many options available. Alex Claudio had a strong 2017 with a 2.50 ERA though a low 6.10 K/9. Matt Bush continues to shed the “biggest draft bust of all time” label as he had a 3.78 ERA while striking out almost 10 batters per 9. The team also signed 2-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to compete for the closer’s role. As of right now, I would say the favorite to land the job is Claudio, given he’s had the most recent success and he’s the reliever manager Jeff Banister went to the most last season and therefore has the most trust in. Though I think the Rangers would benefit in using a closer-by-committee kind of rotation where they have the left-handed Claudio appear in the 9th if the three batters due up are lefty-heavy and the right-handed Bush for when they’re righty-heavy.

Overall, I don’t expect the Rangers to compete too hard in this division. They’re way behind their in-state rival Astros in terms of talent and they didn’t do enough in the offseason to fend off the Angels and Mariners, either. If the Rangers aren’t competitors by the time the trade deadline rolls around, I would expect them to be sellers and begin their rebuild.

Projected Record: 82-80, 4th in AL West

That record could really fluctuate depending on how things go. It’s more of a place-holder, kind of like what I did with the Orioles. I would put more stock in the divisional finish rather than the actual record. That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when we go north of the border with the Toronto Blue Jays who, like the Rangers, are also at kind of a crossroads and will have some real decisions to make at the trade deadline. Let me know what you think of the Rangers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds

Outside of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, JD Martinez’s contract with the Red Sox is finally official a week after the agreement was announced. Apparently their might be an issue with Martinez’s foot that could have some long-term implications that forced both sides to adjust some language in the actual contract. But nonetheless, Martinez is officially a member of the Boston Red Sox now. Also, in the world of football, it’s rumored that Roger Goodell is going to fine Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “millions” for “conduct detrimental to the league.” What did Jones do exactly? Criticize Goodell’s handling of the Ezekiel Elliott situation and tried to get other owners to side with him to dock Goodell’s pay and get him out of office. I’m not a Jerry Jones fan, I think he’s an ass, but I’ve got to side with him on this one. Fining a guy millions because he disagrees with the job you’re doing as commissioner and wants somebody better in charge? That’s dictatorial. It’s one thing if Jones did something like compare you to Hitler. That’s crossing a line. But to be outspoken because he thinks one of his players’ 6-game suspension was unjustified is well within his rights. It’s literally just Goodell trying to flex his power on the owners and prove to everybody he isn’t their bitch when everybody knows that’s just not the case. It’s like what happened with Deflategate and the loss of draft picks for the Patriots. It’s Goodell trying to prove to people that Robert Kraft doesn’t own him. Can’t wait until 2024 when this asshole retires and we hopefully get somebody competent in charge. So now we’re in Day 8 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and we’re on to the Cincinnati Reds. Let’s get to it.

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2017 Results:

Record: 68-94, 24 games behind Chicago Cubs, 19 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Oliver Perez, 2B Cliff Pennington, RP David Hernandez, SP Vance Worley, RP Jared Hughes, 2B Phil Gosselin, RP Kevin Quackenbush

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SS Zack Cozart, OF Scott Van Slyke, SP Bronson Arroyo, CP Drew Storen, SP Scott Feldman,

Best Offensive Player: 1B Joey Votto

Best Pitcher: CP Raisel Iglesias

Depth Chart:

C-Tucker Barnhart, Devin Mesoraco

1B-Joey Votto

2B-Scooter Gennett, Cliff Pennington

3B-Eugenio Suarez

SS-Jose Peraza, Phil Gosselin

LF-Adam Duvall

CF-Billy Hamilton, Phillip Ervin

RF-Scott Schebler

SP-Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Robert Stephenson, Vance Worley

Bullpen-Raisel Iglesias (CP), Michael Lorenzen, Wandy Peralta, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Ariel Hernandez, Kevin Quackenbush, Oliver Perez,

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Brian Pryce (5th Season with Reds)

Hitting Coach-Don Long

Pitching Coach-Mack Jenkins

1st Base Coach-Freddie Benavides

3rd Base Coach-Billy Hatcher

Bench Coach-Jim Riggleman

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If you read my preview of the Chicago White Sox yesterday, you may remember that they had one excellent first baseman, a guy who had one big season, and the rest was a bunch of guys who probably wouldn’t crack most Major League rosters. You can basically copy and paste that here with the Cincinnati Reds. One could argue that Joey Votto is the best pure hitter alive today and the reason he’s not getting Bryce Harper levels of coverage is because he plays for a bad Reds team. I mean, look at this lineup.

1. Billy Hamilton-CF

2. Eugenio Suarez-3B

3. Joey Votto-1B

4. Adam Duvall-LF

5. Scott Schebler-RF

6. Scooter Gennett-2B

7. Tucker Barnhart-C

8. Jose Peraza-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Don’t get me wrong, this team is capable of scoring runs. Despite lacking real talent, the Reds ranked 14th in the Majors in runs scored. Part of that is due to the fact that Great American Ballpark is very hitter-friendly but there is also some power in this Reds lineup. Aside from Votto, whom we know is about as dangerous a hitter as there is in baseball, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and all of a sudden Scooter Gennett can take you deep if you’re not careful. Last season, Gennett became possibly the most unlikely member of the 4-home-runs-in-one-game club when he accomplished the feat in June. Prior to last season, Gennett’s season high home run total was 14. He hit 27 in 2017. And it wasn’t even like the benefit of Great American Ballpark was the big factor here, he played the first few years of his career at one of the more hitter-friendly parks in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Gennett just altered his swing and it seemed to unlock his power stroke. Hell, Gennett is 5’10 185 pounds. That doesn’t exactly scream “30 home run threat.” Adam Duvall is another guy who found his power stroke upon joining the Reds. After having been a career minor leaguer in the Giants’ organization, Duvall really came into his own in 2016 once he got regular playing time in Cincinnati when he hit 33 home runs and drove in 103 runs. He proved in 2017 that that newfound power wasn’t a fluke as he hit 31 home runs and knocked in 99 RBI last season. Duvall is pretty much an all-or-nothing guy at the plate as he typically hits in the .240’s and only walks about 6% of the time but also will hit 30+ home runs and provides some decent protection for Votto. And I’ve been beating around the bush quite a bit because I wanted to give his teammates a little bit of recognition, but Joey Votto really is the best pure hitter in the game. He just doesn’t take a bad swing. His patience at the plate is well-documented, as he walked 19% of the time last season, but when he does swing, he rarely misses. In fact, in 2016, Votto didn’t hit a single infield fly. Not one. He hit only hit 1 in 2017. Plus he only strikes out about 11% of the time so typically when he puts a swing on, he doesn’t miss. The fact that he’s spent his entire 10-year (entering 11th) career with the Reds during a time when they’ve typically struggled (they had some success at the start of the decade) is a shame and it will result in him probably not being remembered as fondly as he should, which is saying a lot since he was 2010 NL MVP. There’s your Joey Votto appreciation for the day.

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Reds pitching seems to always have been a struggle. In fact, the only pitcher I can ever remember having any real success in a Reds uniform is Johnny Cueto and he had to resort to a little gimmick to aid in his success (the shimmy he does in his windup). Last season the Reds finished with the second worst team ERA in the Majors (ahead of only the Tigers) and worst in the National League. Homer Bailey is their best starting pitcher but he’s dealt with a lot of injuries since he signed his extension with the Reds a couple years ago. The author of 2 no hitters in his career, Bailey hasn’t pitched a full season since 2013 and last season in 18 starts he had an ERA over 6. The best stretch of Bailey’s career was 2011-13 where he consistently had an ERA in the mid-3’s in all 3 years but he just hasn’t been on the mound since that time due to injury. The Reds will hope to have him return to full health this season if they’re going to have any hope of escaping the cellar of the NL Central, a place they’ve been stuck in since 2014. Anthony DeSclafani is a decent pitcher and Luis Castillo has some electric stuff, but nobody in their starting rotation is an established stud.

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If you think the Reds’ starting rotation is bad, shield your eyes from their bullpen. Aside from their closer, Raisel Iglesias, there is nobody in their ‘pen that would give manager Brian Pryce any confidence. Iglesias, who has also been an Opening Day starter for the Reds, saved 28 games last season and pitched to a 2.49 ERA while striking out nearly 11 batters per 9 innings. After him, their best options are Michael Lorenzen, a failed starter with inconsistent bullpen success (he was good in 2016, bad in ’17), Jared Hughes, who is actually pretty decent as his ERA is consistently in the low 3’s, and David Hernandez. Those are the best options the Reds have to set up Iglesias. Late innings should get interesting in Cincinnati.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, I suspect they will finish last in the NL Central once again. Their bats coupled with the benefits of Great American Ballpark will keep them in games but their pitching is just so bad I can’t envision them ever really sniffing the .500 mark. They have a good closer, but actually having a lead so that he can shut the door is going to be a struggle for the Reds. They have some decent prospects in waiting, such as the 18 year-old flamethrowing pitcher/shortstop Hunter Greene, third baseman Nick Senzel, and outfielder Taylor Trammell, but those guys are still a little ways away. Expect the Reds to finish with one of the worst records in the National League in 2018.

Projected Record: 69-93, last in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Cleveland Indians, who look to exorcise their postseason demons in 2018. Let me know what you think of the Reds’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.