Legends On Deck

In Beltre We Trust

adrian beltre

Photo Courtesy of YahooSports.com

What more can be said about third baseman Adrian Beltre? He has steadily been one of the top five (if not top three) third basemen in all of MLB over the last decade, as well as being a standard bearer when it comes to defense held at the position.

He is the undisputed leader of the Rangers clubhouse and one of the faces of the franchise (made evident by the club picking up his $16M option for next season and them considering having him finish his career in Arlington.) Since he left the spacious confines of playing Safeco Field (and before that, legendary Dodger’s Stadium), he has become a force to be reckoned with on the offensive side of the ball; proving that he is a complete player.You know what is missing from his profile? A World Series Championship.

Time might not be on his side and his team is coming off an awful 95 loss campaign in which most of the players Texas depended on ended up on the disabled list with season ending injuries. It may be kind of hard to fathom how they could possibly contend in 2015, but remember now, this team won back to back American League titles not even five years ago, and they won over 90 games in each of the previous seasons before last year’s ill forgotten nightmare.

Stranger things have happened though. Look no further than the 2013 Boston Red Sox. They went from being in the bottom in ’12 to being crowned World Champs a season later. Texas has the talent if healthy, and one of baseball’s best leading the way in Adrian Beltre. What will have to go their way in order to pull off a worst to first? Well, like all teams, many things have to go “right”.

Here are three reasons to consider for the Rangers to return to October:

Starting Pitching: Yes it is true, it all starts with pitching, and if Texas is to contend, they will need a healthy rotation that can keep the bullpen from getting overused and the team in the game. Ace Yu Darvish is entering his fourth year with the club and needs to show that he can stay healthy for a whole season. He has the best stuff of any pitcher on the team, but has yet to show that he is one of the true elite. As close as he is; a 200-inning season would do him and the club wonders.

Derek Holland was out with injury and rehab almost all year last season, and while it is true the team would have tried bringing him back earlier if they were contending; the time spent rehabbing was worth the wait. The few starts he made were more than excellent and with a healthy offseason behind him, he is back to being counted on as one of Texas’s top starters. Offseason acquisition Yovani Gallardo is another top guy looking to prove his injuries are behind him. He has got all the makings of a TORP and now that he is home, he needs to prove it. Texas needs at least one of these two to pitch 200 or more innings and for both of them to stay healthy. Behind Darvish, Texas has a solid #2 and #3.

Colby Lewis needs to go out and continue to show he’s still got it, while being a role model and leader to the young arms on the team and who will be making their way to Arlington in the upcoming year. The fifth spot in the rotation is the only spot in the roto that has any competition for it. Obviously as long as they are all healthy, numbers one through four are all locked up, but there is some healthy competition for that last spot.

Left handed pitcher Ross Detwiler and right-handers Nick Tepech, Nick Martinez, Anthony Ranaudo, and Ross Ohlendorf are the ones the team will be looking at the closest to fill that spot. Some of their top pitching prospects will also get a look, but ultimately, the Rangers do not want to rush them. With that said though, Texas minor league starting pitching depth is brewing with exciting young arms and bright futures.

Starting Line-Up: It is hard to score runs when more than half of the line-up is composed of rookies and minor league journeymen. With everyone healthy again, the Rangers starting nine has a chance to be an explosive one, however; there are many variables. First would be health. Then the hope that those whom were not last year did not lose any of what made them so dangerous in the first place. Beltre may be the heart, but others need to step up and get on base, as well as drive those very base runners home.

Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and Elvis Andrus need to get back to the forms that made them All-Stars (a healthy Fielder and Choo should have no problem doing so; Andrus just needs to stop pressing and making the same mental mistakes). Mitch Moreland needs to also show he is healthy, and someone needs to step up and claim left field. Ryan Rua and Michael Choice are the favorites, but Texas did bring in some seasoned vets with plenty of experience on minor league contracts, so there is plenty of competition.

Veteran Ryan Ludwig is one of those options who is competing for either the DH role or open LF spot. Manager Jeff Bannister wants to see someone step up and take ownership of it; whether it be a young player or a grizzly vet. Like with starting pitching, Texas has some studs down in the farm. Third baseman Joey Gallo and catcher Jorge Alfaro are their top two offensive prospects who are knocking on the door. Gallo has Beltre in front of him (what better player to pick the brain of for a young minor league stud?) and catcher is currently being occupied by two players who are for the most part, keeping it warm for the best catching prospect the organization has had since the great “Pudge” Rodriguez.

Bullpen: The bullpen could be something really special, or it could be a burden. That is the case with most team’s bullpens and Texas is no different. Neftali Feliz is back as closer and the set-up arsenal of Tanner Scheppers and Shawn Tolleson is a great bridge to have if healthy.

Texas did not want to go out and add relievers this offseason due to the volatile nature of relievers and the plethora of arms Texas has down in their farm system that could be looked a for relief help. A strong bullpen is nearly just as important as a strong rotation. There are only three spots claimed, and with all the talent at camp, there are plenty of sots to compete for. Left handed relief may be their biggest area of need.

Bottom line: Texas needs to be much healthier and their key players need to not only be healthy, but also productive like their career track records indicate. Worst to firsts are not very common, but then again, teams do not generally get plowed with injuries like Texas did a year ago. The talent and drive is there. The fire and passion lit and burning within. Last year is the past, this season is a fresh start and is the now.

Somebody’s got to win the World Series. Why not Texas? A fine player like Adrian Beltre deserves a World Series ring, and winning one with the club he chose to sign with and commit to would be that much sweeter.

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