3 Irrational Predictions For the 2014 Rangers
Why it will happen: Nearly everyone involved with the Rangers had to be disappointed with Neftali Feliz’s lack of production this spring. His ineffectiveness opened the door to name Soria their closer heading into the season, which should not cause any alarm for the fans who are used to seeing Feliz and well, not used seeing Soria at all. Soria was the closer for the Kansas City Royals from 2007-2010, and managed to record 17, 42, 30, and 43 saves on bad Royals teams that won 69, 75, 65, and 67 games, respectively. Soria first appeared for the Rangers in July of last season, which was his first work since coming back from his second Tommy John surgery, and posted a respectable 3.80 ERA in 23.2 IP. Soria also had a stellar Spring Training (1 run allowed all spring) and looks poised to reclaim his role as one of the best closers in the game. With a Rangers team that should win more than 67 games, Soria should have ample opportunities to reach 40 saves in yet another season.
Why it won’t: Soria is just another reclamation project that will not pan out. Sure, he’s looked good in Spring Training, but he only pitched in 9.2 inning against inadequate batters. It is extremely tough for a pitcher to return after having Tommy John surgery, let alone having it twice. The last time Soria was a major league closer (three years ago), he coughed up a 4.03 ERA and only saved 28 games. To expect Soria to return to his prime after showing signs of slowing down before his surgery only speaks to how poorly Feliz pitched this spring. Expect Neal Cotts to get a chance to save games once it is seen that Soria is not as effective we need him to be.
2. Prince Fielder will hit 40 home runs.
Why it will happen: Have you seen this human being? A pure lefty slugger taking aim at the homerun porch in left field is enough to make Rangers fans’ hearts flutter. Prince is in the best shape of his life, and at age 30, is still certainly in his prime. He will be hitting third in Ron Washington’s lineup with Adrian Beltre hitting behind him to protect him, which is something he did not have while in Detroit (hitting behind Miguel Cabrera) or in Milwaukee (Ryan Braun). Plus, Adrian Beltre has come out saying that Prince will win the MVP award this year, and you would have to think hitting lots of homeruns would have something to do with that.
Why it won’t: Prince hasn’t hit 40 bombs since he hit 46 in 2009 with Milwaukee. In Detroit, he saw his home run totals diminish to a meager 25 last season (Mitch Moreland had 23 in about 150 fewer ABs). He is on the decline, and is following in the footsteps of so many sluggers before him by being brought down by Father Time.
3. Yu Darvish will win 20 games.
Why it will happen: Darvish, who was an All-Star last season, is also coming off of a season in which he led the league in strikeouts, K/9, and H/9. There is little reason to believe he won’t improve in his third year in the majors. In 2013, he won only 13 games and either lost or recorded a no-decision while giving up 3 or fewer earned runs in a whopping 15 games. The bolstered lineup should make sure that Darvish wins most of the games in which he pitches well.
Why it won’t: Yu is getting a late start on the season, and you never know how long injured players are truly going to be off the field for the Rangers (remember when Feliz and Lewis were supposed to return to the team in May last season?) It remains to be seen how many starts Darvish will get. Yu spends too many pitches on each batter throughout the game, trying to record a strikeout, which keeps him from pitching deep into games and that opens the door for the bullpen to blow a game in which he effectively held down the opponent.
No matter whether you identify yourself as a member of #TeamOptimism or #TeamPessimism, this season looks to be full of twists and turns, unpredictability, and excitement. At least some of our speculation about this team will be washed away in less than 24 hours, and the games finally count. So buckle up, buy some tickets, wear blue and red, and get ready to cheer on your Texas Rangers. The offseason is over. Game 1 of 162+ starts today.