The Texas Rangers are coming off an injury-riddled 95-loss season, their worst since 1985. With a lineup full of young unknowns, waiver-wire pickups, and star players on the disabled list yet again, it looked like the Rangers were headed for more of the same in 2015 under new manager Jeff Banister. The Rangers indeed dropped 15 of their first 22 and when they played the Royals in mid-May, they were just 13-18, seemingly headed for 90+ losses.
But in May, the Rangers somehow righted the ship. They had a fantastic month, going 19-11, the second-best record in the league over that time. The seemingly hapless Rangers are now peeking above .500 at 28-26 and they're finding out that some of those roster rejects can really play. This is not a team to take lightly any more.
The excitement around the team lately, aside from the reunion with Josh Hamilton who is back on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, is the promotion of prospect Joey Gallo. The former first round pick hit 42 home runs last season in the minors and was named the #6 prospect in baseball by Baseball America before this season. He did not disappoint in his debut either, going 3-for-4 with a home run. The former Little League teammate of Bryce Harper has tremendous power that the Royals will have to respect.
The Rangers are second in the league in runs scored at 4.67 runs per game, just ahead of the Royals at 4.53. Prince Fielder has rejuvenated his career this season to put up one of his finest starts. The Rangers are fifth in the league in home runs and fifth in slugging. They can also swipe some bases, and are third in the league in steals. Delino DeShields, a troubled former prospect, was snagged from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft and has been a productive and their leading base-stealer. All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre is out for a few weeks with a thumb injury.
The Rangers pitching staff is still a bit of a mess with ace Yu Darvish out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Rookie Alex "Chi Chi" Gonzalez did not give up a run in his Major League debut, but he walked five in just over five innings of work. The former first round pick has a 2.94 ERA in the minors with 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings, and was named the 89th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America before the season.
Thirty-six year old left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is finally healthy and productive. Wandy relies pretty much exclusively on his curveball to get hitters out, as his 88-mph fastball and changeup are subpar offerings. The Royals have historically knocked Colby Lewis around, as he has a 5.49 ERA in eight career matchups against them, but he shut them down in an 8-2 win back in May. Lewis has recovered from a disastrous 2014 season to put together a decent season with a much-improved two-seam fastball.
Rangers relievers have the third-worst ERA in the league at 4.05 and the second-worst FIP at 4.39. Former waiver-wire pickup Shawn Tolleson has filled in at closer with Neftali Feliz out and has converted all six of his save opportunities with a 31-2 strikeout-to-unintentional walk ratio. Rookie right-hander Keone Kela has also pitched very effectively with a 1.82 ERA but the bullpen depth drops off sharply after that. Journeymen like Anthony Bass, Ross Ohlendorf, and Sam Freeman fill out the pen along with disappointing former first-round pick Tanner Scheppers.
The Royals split four-games back in May with the Rangers, which seemed disappointing at the time. But the Rangers might actually be a decent team regressing back to the mean after one of the worst injury-luck seasons in recent history last year. Fangraphs projects them to win about 78 games now which isn't a playoff team, but isn't the 90+ loss disaster team we may have though them to be before the season. With the way the Rangers are playing, this is absolutely a team to be taken seriously if the Royals want to stop their losing ways.