In an offseason in which forecasts for the 2015 Texas Rangers have been somewhat bleak, we finally got yesterday someone who projects success for at least one aspect of the 2015 Rangers.
Buster Olney, in ranking the top 10 lineups for 2015, has the Rangers ranked 7th in the majors (and 5th in the American League). He specifically mentions Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo being healthy, and Elvis Andrus being in better shape, for 2015 as contributing factors, though he also talks about the excellent hitting conditions in Arlington, which is problematic since 1) excellent hitting conditions don't make a lineup inherently better, and 2) TBiA has played closer to neutral the past couple of years.
Nevertheless, Choo and, in particular, Fielder being healthy and productive would be significant for the Rangers, who ended up getting basically replacement level performance from them last year. Tim Brown has a write-up on the Rangers that focuses on Prince, and his work this offseason:
Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, said Fielder is swinging a bat and that he is beginning to feel normal. There’s a difference already, Boras said, in Fielder’s flexibility and ability to extend through the ball.
"The medicals are good, the rehab is good," Boras said. "The pre-spring training performance is at normal rates. All is as hoped."
Fielder also posted a picture of himself on Instagram recently bench-pressing 405 lbs., which has to make you feel like he is, strength-wise, in a pretty good place. You'd like to think that we'll be seeing dominant, middle-of-the-order Prince in 2015.
I have a really hard time figuring out what is going to happen with Texas in 2015. They can be a playoff team, or they could win 70 games, and neither would really surprise me.
But I do think that, if the Rangers have the 7th best lineup in baseball in 2015, they will be a playoff team. I think the rotation, headed up by Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, will be fine, and I think the bullpen will be better than expected, given the number of young live arms the Rangers have to work with.
I think the biggest issue is, can the team avoid having black holes in left field and DH, and can they get high-level production from Choo and Fielder. If that happens, then Texas should be in good shape in 2015.
And if it doesn't, well...this team is going to have problems...