Today, we complete the American League West teams in our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series, and also the entire American League, as we finish with the Rangers. In addition to questions about its offense, we can’t be sure how the team’s new park is going to play. Early speculation is it’s going to be much friendlier for pitchers than it had been, but by how much?
|NL East||NL Central||NL West|
At Risk: Ronald Guzman
Replacement: Greg Bird
There are some encouraging results in Ronald Guzman’s 2019 line, plus his strong output at Triple-A after he lost his starting job and was demoted to the minors. But still, we’re talking about a guy who posted a .306 wOBA at first base, following up just a .312 mark the season prior. That won’t cut it at a corner spot.
Greg Bird lives! Injuries have ravaged his MLB career, and now he gets a new start with the Rangers. The former Yankee has the protoypical left-handed power hitter skill set, with tons of fly balls, a double digit walk rate, and a mid-20% strikeout rate. His BABIP has been a major issue as he has suffered from hitting too many grounders into the shift, too few line drives, and sooooo many fly balls. That might not change much, but there’s certainly more upside than downside to his .244 career BABIP. The intriguing thing here is that despite the high 20% strikeout rate in his career, his SwStk% stands at just 11.3%, and has never exceeded 12.3%. He has been at or barely worse than the league average. So the strikeouts aren’t coming because of his inability to make contact, which is a good sign moving forward. I’m not giving up on him!
Rougned Odor always seems to barely hold onto his starting job. His defense has been mediocre at best and he simply can’t get on base, as he sports a career .293 OBP and posted a .283 mark last season. He has power, but that’s all. There’s definitely upside here, as there are numerous metrics that could realistically rebound, but there’s major risk they don’t.
Nick Solak figures to open the season in a utility role, but Odor failing to rebound could open the door for him. The team’s second best prospect enjoyed a strong debut last year, en route to a .375 wOBA, with plate discipline and power. He experienced a major power surge in the minors last year, posting his first ISO mark above .200 while still in the Rays organization, and then increasing that mark to above .300 during his time with the Rangers’ Triple-A club. His strikeout rates have hovered around 20%, while SwStk% marks have been around 10% or lower. Both of those are impressive for a power hitter. He also has posted some impressive BABIP marks, thanks to a low pop-up rate. Last, he possessed some speed and stole 21 bases at Double-A in 2018. This is an exciting fantasy prospect.
Danny Santana was one of last season’s biggest surprises. The 28-year-old earned a career high 511 plate appearances and suddenly became a power hitter, posting a .251 ISO, near 100 points higher than his last near full season back in 2014 when he posted a .153 mark. But with poor plate discipline and nothing in his history suggesting this level of performance was attainable, there’s serious risk of major regression.
Scott Heineman is 27 now, so he’s not exactly a prospect, but he did earn a cup of coffee last season after a big Triple-A campaign over a third of a season. His ISO surged back over .200 for the first time since his High-A debut back in 2016, while his HR/FB rate reached a career high of 23.5%. He also BABIP’d an elite .426 thanks to an impressive 27.2% line drive rate. He did swing and miss often last year, but that didn’t result in a scary strikeout rate, which is a good thing. Of course, this all happened over a relatively small sample, so he could easily revert back to the low power version of himself in 2018.
The Rangers just signed Jordan Lyles, so he would probably have to be a disaster to lose his job. But his ERA projections span from the high 4.00 to low 5.00 range, which is pretty bad. How much leash would they give him if he was posting an ERA over 5.00?
Joe Palumbo debuted last year, but posted a gruesome 9.18 ERA over 16.2 innings, mostly thanks to an absurdly low 36.8% LOB%. However, he has posted big strikeout rates in the minors, including a 38.2% mark at Triple-A before his promotion last year. He’s worth giving another chance.
Taylor Hearn has posted mid-to-high 20% strikeout rates each minor league stop since High-A in 2017. His walk rates have jumped into double digits twice, however, so control has been an issue at times. He has been a fly ball pitcher in the minors, which puts him at risk for suffering from gopheritis, but the new, more pitcher friendly park should be more forgiving. Plus, all those fly balls will help push down his BABIP.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.