A little news before the Rangers Preview:
The Southeast Missouri State baseball team lost its home opener 5-2. It was a nice crowd and a really good student turnout. Both teams looked sloppy. I know it is only February, but the Redhawks did not look nearly as crisp as most of Mark Hogan’s teams. Game 2 Saturday at 1pm.
The Missouri Tigers lost to BYU on Friday afternoon, 4-1 in 10 innings. The Tigers then played Akron Friday night and lost 8-5 in thirteen innings. Lets hope the Tigers can turn it around today. Mizzou will face Memphis Saturday at 4pm.
LaRussa and Rolen have finally made nice after their spat during last year’s playoffs. Post Distpactch Joe Strauss gives the history and how the peace agreement went down over at StlToday. The most interesting part of the article was that “Rolen said Friday that he briefly considered approaching the club about waiving his no-trade clause but soon decided otherwise.”
The Cardinals are looking at a long term deal for Molina.
FutureRedbirds does a nice job of projecting the lineup of this year’s Swing.
Derrick Gould discusses possiblities for the Cardinals’ lineup. Also, he says that Troy Cate is looking sharp, has a fastball better than advertised, and is way ahead of his peers. Check out his blog.
2006 Finish: 80-82, 3rd place, 13 games behind the Oakland A’s
Manager: Ron Washington, 1st a MLB manager
Comings: Kenny Lofton was brought in to leadoff and play centerfield., Frank Catalanotto, the professional hitter is going to DH and play an utility role., Brandon McCarthy was brought in to hold down the number 3 spot in the rotation., Eric Gagne, if healthy could be the steal of the offseason. Early reports say he has been throwing pain free. Sammy Sosa signed a minor league deal to try to re-establish himself. He stands at 588 HRs.
Goings: John Danks, the Rangers number 1 prospect, was traded for McCarthy. This breaks up the Rangers pitching prospects nicknamed DVD, but the Rangers believe McCarthy is ready now, Danks may still be a year or possibly two away. Nick Massett included in the McCarthy deal was a solid arm out of the bullpen. Carlos Lee’s right-handed power bat will definitely be missed. Manager Buck Showalter was asked to go succeed elsewhere.
Offense: A lot of lumber in this lineup. Mark Teixeira had a slow start but still ended the year hitting .282/.371/.514 with 33 HRs and 110 RBIs. He led the league with 24 bombs after the break. Tex is a switch hitter who will only be 27 years old. Michael Young has established himself as one of the top shortstops in the game. Last year he hit .314/.356/.459, with 217 hits and 52 doubles (both 2nd in the AL and drove in 103. Only the second middle infielder in the history of baseball with 200 hits in at least 4 consecutive seasons. Kenny Lofton was brought in to play centerfield and leadoff. He hit .301/.360/.403 and stole 32 bases. Lofton will be 40 years old in May. Ian Kinsler was having a very good rookie year before getting hurt. He still was solid hitting .286/.347/.454 in 120 games. He hit 14 HRs and drove in 55, also, he struck out only 64 times compared to 40 walks. Hank Blalock had a down year but still drove in 89. Brad Wilkerson also had a down year, his first in the AL. He had offseason shoulder surgery and early reports are that he is swinging pain free and looking really good. Nelson Cruz has the inside track on the RF job and has put good power numbers in the minors. Gerald Laird hit .296 in limited duty behind the plate. Frank Catalanotto and his .297 career average return to Texas to DH and be used in an utility role. Jason Botts, a prospect with big time power potential, will also get a shot as the DH.
Defense: Matthew’s defense in center will be greatly missed. Young was second among American League shortstops with a .981 fielding percentage and first with 3.26 assists per nine innings. His double play partner, Kinsler, is also very solid. Blalock does a solid job at third. Tex, won a gold glove in 2005 and committed only 4 errors in 06. Laird is a good defender with an above average arm. Wilkerson is above average in left and shows the range of a center fielder. The rest of the outfield defense is average at best.
Rotation: The Rangers missed out on Barry Zito and Mark Mulder but did keep Vincente Padilla and you can pencil him in for 15 wins and a lot of innings. Millwood is solid if healthy and good for double digit wins. Rangers number 1 prospect John Danks was traded for McCarthy who is penciled into the number 3 spot. The rest of the rotation is uncertain. Rob Tejada and top prospect Edison Volquez, the V of DVD, are the early favorites. Volquez debut last year was really bad and his stock has fallen. Bruce Chen was brought in to provide competition. Kameron Loe will also be in the mix.
Bullpen: Eric Gagne was brought in to close. Early reports have been positive as he has so far been pain free. Akinori Otsuka had a very solid season with 32 saves, now will be Gagne’s primary setup man. Wes Littleton was very good out of the pen with a 1.73 ERA in 33 appearances. The Rangers have a few power arms to provide depth.
Eric Hurley-Now considered the top prospect in the system now Danks is gone. Big hard throwing right-hander who throws in the mid-nineties. Struggled in High A last year, but really stepped up his game in Double A and had a very good season.
Edison Volquez-Just last year, he was considered the top prospect in the system. Can bring the heat in the mid-nineties. Had problems with adjusting to hitters after the first time through. Due to this, the bullpen is now being considered.
Thomas Diamond-The second D in DVD, big hard throwing right-hander who has the physique of Roger Clemens. Repeated Double A in 06 and was lackluster at best. Had problems with control, increasing his walk totals and pitch counts. Did not go past 6 innings in his last nine starts.
Analysis: Big Tex is a free agent at the end of the year so it will be interesting to watch this play out. He is represented by Scott Boras so there is little chance of an extension before the end of the season. If the Rangers are out of contention in July, expect his name to pop up in trade discussions. The starting pitching may be better, but playing in this ballpark expect the Rangers to give up quite a few runs. The Rangers shouldn’t have any trouble scoring runs. Expect bounce back years from Wilkerson and Blalock, and in this ballpark I feel Cruz could be a nice surprise. Sosa will probably be looking for work by the end of March. If the Rangers can pitch and if Gagne is healthy, the Rangers could be playing in October. Remember this, the last two teams that Showalter left, the 96 Yankees and 01 Diamondbacks, won the World Series.