2022 Season Preview: Texas Rangers

Image: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Texas Rangers

2021 Record: 60-102 (.370 Win %, 5th in AL West)

2021 Payroll: $95,788,819 (20th in MLB)

Projected 2022 Lineup:

1. 2B Marcus Semien, .261 AVG/.337 OBP/.471 SLG, 4.5 fWAR

2. SS Corey Seager, .290 AVG/.358 OBP/.515 SLG, 4.9 fWAR

3. C Mitch Garver, .239 AVG/.329 OBP/.473 SLG, 2.2 fWAR

4. 1B Nate Lowe, .257 AVG/.350 OBP/.427 SLG, 2.2 fWAR 

5. OF Adolis Garcia, .229 AVG/.270 OBP/.430 SLG, 1.0 fWAR

6. OF Kole Calhoun, .233 AVG/.321 OBP/.445 SLG, 1.1 fWAR

7. OF Brad Miller, .234 AVG/.332 OBP/.450 SLG, 1.3 fWAR 

8. 3B Andy Ibanez, .266 AVG/.320 OBP/4.28 SLG, 1.7 fWAR

9. DH Willie Calhoun, .254 AVG/.315 OBP/.430 SLG, 1.4 fWAR

Projected 2022 Rotation:

1. Jon Gray, 168.0 IP/4.23 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR

2. Martin Perez, 117.0 IP/4.85 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR

3. Dane Dunning, 126.0 IP/4.29 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR

4. Taylor Hearn, 119.0 IP/5.07 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

5. A.J Alexy, 90.0 IP/5.00 ERA/1.47 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. Garrett Richards, 75.0 IP/4.23 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2. Spencer Howard, 115.0 IP/4.73 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 0.8 fWAR

3. Josh Sborz, 56.0 IP/4.14 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

Offseason Recap:

The good news coming into this past offseason was that the Rangers technically led all of baseball in attendance. That’s about where the good news ends, in terms of their regular season performance. 

However, they certainly made some splashes in free agency, signing infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to contracts that when combined are worth about a half a billion dollars. Make no mistake, this is still a rebuilding team, as PECOTA projects them at just 71 wins. That’s really what makes these moves so interesting to analyze.

I don’t think people quite realize how good Marcus Semien is. Since 2019, he leads MLB in fWAR, not amongst shortstops, not amongst guys named Marcus, but leading all of baseball. Semien even won a Gold Glove after moving over to 2B last year in Toronto. He projects to stay there moving forward, offering a rare combination of hitting prowess and defensive excellence at the position. 

None of Semien’s metrics are generally spectacular. His average exit velocity ranks in the 59th percentile, his Barrel% is 65th percentile, and his HardHit% is in the 52nd percentile. These are all above average, but below what you would expect from one of the game’s best players. Semien has been remarkably durable playing all 162 games the past two full seasons which can help fans exhale a bit (ghost of Prince Fielder lingers in the shadows menacingly) about the commitment of the contract. Ranger fans hope Semien can stay as dominant as he was in Oakland and Toronto through the duration of the deal.

As for the new shortstop Corey Seager, there are arguably more questions. The contract is 3 years longer and almost twice as large in total value. $325 million is an awful lot for a guy who has not cracked 4.0 fWAR in the past five seasons. Seager exploded onto the scene in 2015 and through 2017 was already looking like a top 5 player in baseball. Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued him since, but in 2021 he looked like his old self when he played. 3.7 fWAR in just 95 games played is a great sign. He has a 148 wRC+ and 5.5 total fWAR over the last 2 seasons where he has only taken 641 total plate appearances, good for about one full season. 

Seager is on the younger side at 27, which is why he got the longest contract of this year’s free agent class. If he can average about 5 fWAR going forward, the hefty investment will be well worth it, but that could be a big ask from the oft-injured Seager. Seager and Semien are as good a middle infield duo as any in baseball, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can both be on the field at the same time

Other offseason additions Mitch Garver, Jon Gray, and Martin Perez will be talked about below.

2022 Season Preview:

Now to the rest of the team; less fun than Semien and Seager, but with some exciting young position players. There are pitchers that exist on the roster as well, but we’ll get to them later. 

Mitch Garver has been an elite offensive catcher in his last two full seasons, posting a wRC+ at an MVP level, and roughly 6 fWAR in 602 plate appearances. First baseman Nate Lowe is ideally a late bloomer who had a respectable 116 OPS+ in 2021, and is a solid pick for a breakout star, at least from a counting stat point of view. Hopefully he can be rated better in more sabermetrically-inclined stats, so it remains to be seen if he can help boost an offense at a position of importance.

Speaking of late bloomers, outfielder Adolis Garcia had a surprisingly good 2021 and a repeat, or an even better season, will be key for the Rangers’ lineup. Kole Calhoun has always been my pick for the most underrated player in baseball, living in Mike Trout’s shadow as an above average every day player. However he’s now approaching 35 and having not done anything above mediocre levels since 2016, it’s possible he could be overtaken by outfielders in the Rangers’ system.

Andy Ibanez was a career minor leaguer who had some moments over the past few years, and should get a real shot this year to try and stay in the Show. Guys like Brad Miller and Willy Calhoun have a very good shot of not being on the team by the end of the year due to their age and lack of intrigue. Calhoun is having a good spring, though, so this is his last chance to truly break out as a hitter.

Okay, if you love the Rangers, just skip the pitching section. Former All Star Jon Gray leads the charge, and I feel bad for him. It’s not his fault he was incorrectly dubbed a breakout star every season for the past five. His career high in fWAR was only 3.6, and his ERA was still in the high 4’s in Colorado. Just a side note, if you’re an elite pitcher in high school, try not to get drafted by the Rockies. A concerning number for Gray is his horrific chase rate, in just the 5th percentile, according to StatCast, but the rest of his peripherals are solid. His metrics have had their moments throughout his career but it has never translated to successful run prevention. 

Martin Perez is back to ideally be a successful innings eater as he once was for the Rangers. Dane Dunning had a 3.87 xFIP in 2021 and has never had much of a chance in the majors so the Rangers will look for him to take a step forward despite being a bit older. This pitching staff is really rough, it has a case for the worst unit in baseball. The bullpen is too graphic to go into detail. Texas’ offense should be above average but I would expect them to be 30th in team ERA.

This team is led by some top-end talent, but this spending spree seems like an offseason too early when you consider the Rangers’ concerning shortage of viable depth and startling lack of serviceable pitching.

Record Prediction: 72-90

The Texas Rangers will be much more entertaining this year through the additions they made this offseason. By simple regression to the mean, they should do better with wins and losses, too. They should score a ton of runs, but the big issue will be they give up even more. Catcher and the middle infield are clear strengths, but after that, there are a lot of question marks and/or simply bad baseball players throughout the depth chart. 

Even with the improvements, Texas is in for another rebuilding season. They will need to plan around the top three teams in the AL West, who are each hungry for the playoffs. The Rangers have more talent than the projected last Oakland, so they should be able to pick off more wins than the average 72 win team living in a competitive division. Big years from Semien and Seager along with some progress from younger players and prospects are the goals, more so than winning every baseball game possible.

Player to Watch #1: C Mitch Garver

Mitch Garver may be a star catcher hiding in plain sight. If he gets 500 PA’s he should be an All Star level player. In 2019, he was top 5% in baseball in xSLG and HardHit%, and his HardHit% was even higher in 2021. He graded out as an above average pitch framer in 2021 with three framing runs saved, putting him 14th out of 59 qualified catchers. 

Even taking into account his rough small sample size in 2020, since the start of 2019 in a bit under 700 plate appearances he slashed .254/.349/.546 with 46 home runs. He will offer another dimension to the top-heavy Texas lineup if he turns it on at Globe Life Field this Summer.

Player to Watch #2: CF Adolis Garcia

Cutting down on strikeouts is tough, but nothing we have not seen lots of young players do in the past. It’s not like Garcia is a young guy, but if he does we could be looking at an All Star season. The 11 Statcast Outs Above Average in Garcia’s first full season in center field at the Major League level is fantastic, especially when you consider he was an exactly average offensive player at 100 wRC+. 

Garcia presents a great blend of offense and defense at a premium defensive position. Even at 29, the ingredients are there for a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder and an above average offensive player which is a great foundational piece for a rebuilding team desperate for cheap talent and depth in the lineup. 

 Player to Watch #3 : Bubba Thompson

Apart from having a great name, Thompson is a lower level prospect, but given his experience in the minors and his presence at a position of need, he could get a real shot with the Rangers this year. His strikeout rate is way too high and he’s generally pretty raw overall particularly at the plate, however, he was recruited to play quarterback in the SEC before being a first round pick in 2017. The talent is there for Thompson, but we’ll see if he gets a chance to showcase it.

An almost best case scenario comp here would be Brandon Nimmo. Unlike Bubba, Nimmo’s plate discipline is elite, but this was not always the case. Nimmo was also a first round pick out of high school, and almost fizzled out as a prospect. Nimmo arrived at 23 just like Thompson’s current age. Seen as toolsy but with no elite skill, he has put it all together and has a 136 OPS+ over the last 4 years. Look for Thompson to steal time away from the platoon of Calhoun and Brad Miller as the season goes on.

Categories: 2022 Season Preview

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