A Glimpse at the Texas Rangers from the Inside

In anticipation of tomorrow’s 2011 Opening Day in Texas, Stacy Smith and Jonathan Collander over at Nolan Writin’ (Fansided’s Texas Rangers blog) approached me about a question exchange. We decided to answer 7 questions about our respective ball clubs to get prepared for the 3-game set that kicks off the season. The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox will play 10 times this season, 7 in late August and early September, so this is just the beginning of a series of great match-ups. The Rangers have a great team this season and it is clear that both Stacy and Jon think this team has a real chance at making some noise during the 2011 season. Read their answers and let us know what you think by leaving a comment. Opening day is so close I can taste it. Enjoy!

For my answers to the Nolan Writin’ writers questions, head over there and check them out. I gave my thoughts on the 2011 Red Sox and what this series looks like from the Red Sox perspective.

There was a lot of talk this off-season about potentially moving Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, rather than keep him as the Ranger’s closer. In which role does Feliz provide more value to the team?

Stacy Smith: My feelings have always been mixed on this. Neftali Feliz would have made a solid starting pitcher and could have made his way into a lights-out ace; however, the Rangers needed him to stay in the bullpen for the 2011 MLB season. If we are talking about this year, I’d say his presence in the bullpen is far better than starting rotation because Texas currently has an impressive starting rotation with C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter although Hunter will likely be replaced by Alexi Ogando for the first several weeks of the season. They had no one good enough to take Feliz’s spot as closer in the bullpen; however, if we are talking about 2012, I think Feliz should definitely be part of the starting rotation. They have the entire year to find a closer that can be as good as Feliz.

Like 2010, there are still a few question marks surrounding the Rangers starting rotation entering the season. Do you feel the Rangers will have to make a move before the trade deadline, like the Cliff Lee deal last season, to go deep in the post-season or do they have enough now to compete?

Jonathan Collander: There are definitely question marks but the Rangers will be competitive. The Red Sox will see C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis in the opening series and they are the workhorses for the team. Both of those starters need to get about 15 wins each. The rest of the staff is where we have questions. As Stacy noted previously Alexi Ogando will inherit the 5th spot. There is some depth in pitching at the AAA level so if a starter doesn’t work out we have flexibility. I think the Rangers will make a deadline trade to get a starting pitcher; it’s just not clear who is out there.

Arguably the biggest story surrounding the Rangers this off-season was the Michael Young saga. At this point, it appears that Young isn’t going anywhere and will at least begin the season in Texas. How do you think this situation will affect Young’s play on the field in 2011 and do you think he will remain with the Rangers for the entire year?

Stacy: Michael Young is one of the classiest baseball players that I know. He is a true professional and has not let anything that happened in the off-season with the front office affect his playing ability on the field this spring. With that being said, I don’t think the situation is going to affect him at all in 2011 and I think he’ll stay with the Rangers. I figure they’ve worked through their differences, or are at least in the process of it, and he will continue his career in Texas and his versatility will prove to be one of the biggest assets to the team this year.

A link between Texas and Boston this season is Adrian Beltre. What are your expectations for the 3rd baseman in 2011?

Jon: At first I wasn’t happy with the acquisition; I had my Michael Young goggles on and had to take them off to see his value. His range defensively and his offensive power will work well in this team, not to mention the bang-box we have at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. I predict 175 hits, 25 home runs and to top 100 RBIs, and also hope the contract year argument doesn’t make an appearance this season.

The AL West title was easier than most expected for the Rangers last season (winning by 9 games), thanks in part to little resistance from the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. With the improvements both the Angels and Athletics have made this off-season, can the Rangers repeat as divisional champions?

Stacy: While the Angels and Athletics both have improved drastically this offseason, I have no doubt in my mind that the Rangers can’t repeat as divisional champions – Los Angeles and Oakland didn’t improve so much that the Rangers aren’t still the better team. Texas has had a decent spring – in both offense and defense – while trying to get things in order. Even without Cliff Lee, they have a solid starting rotation starting with Ace C.J. Wilson and bullpen with Neftali Feliz as the 2011 closer. Then with Ian Kinsler’s success so far this spring, he is going to soar in leadoff position with power hitters Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton right behind him.

What are your predictions for this 3 game series against the Boston Red Sox to start off the year?

Jon: SWEEP! Seriously I think the Rangers are positioned to win the Friday and Saturday games and the Sunday game is a big question mark based on the starting pitching. If the Red Sox can get runners on and stealing bases our catching won’t be able to stop them. I would be happy if the series went 2-1 in favor of the Rangers but it’s more likely we will see a 1-2 series.

Where do you project the Rangers finishing the 2011 season?

Stacy: I expect the Rangers to finish at the top of their division and have a record similar to that of last year – 90-72. They have a solid rotation, bullpen and lineup and are strong in both offense and defense. The Rangers have some of the best stuff in the AL West and the AL for that matter with C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis at the top of the rotation and so long as Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton can stay off the DL, the lineup is full of firepower from top to bottom. I truly believe that their success will continue this year.

Jon: They should hit 90 wins for sure, I predict 93 wins and they will win the AL West by a smaller margin than they did last year. They will make the playoffs and if they stay healthy they should at least make it to the AL Championship series.

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Topics: Adrian Beltre, Alexi Ogando, Boston Red Sox, C.J. Wilson, Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Matt Harrison, Michael Young, Neftali Feliz, Season Preview, Series Preview, Texas Rangers, Tommy Hunter

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