Rangers enter '21 seeking growth from core

March 29th, 2021

The Rangers have relatively low expectations across the board, projected to finish last in the American League West and with a bottom-three record in the AL. 

President of baseball operations Jon Daniels has said all spring that the organization is confident in the group they’ve put together regardless of outside expectations as they embrace the rebuild. A combination of young talent like outfielder and seasoned veterans like pitcher and slugger will drive Texas through what could be a rocky season.

What needs to go right? 
Pretty much everything. Will the pitching staff come together? Can a group of hitters -- including Gallo, and -- rebound from subpar 2020 seasons? Will the youth movement live up to its potential? 

The Rangers are at least a year away from contention, but this is a growth year for most players within the organization. 

Great unknown
Again, almost everything. But the biggest question mark may be how the Rangers’ bullpen will do following injuries to and . The closer role is the biggest question mark, but manager Chris Woodward said they’re still working through how to utilize pitchers in that spot. 

The rest of the bullpen will be a work in progress, likely to include , and early in the season. The rotation, while not perfect, has more structure at this point and has potential to exceed expectations in the regular season.

Team MVP will be …
While Spring Training stats mean little to nothing, Gallo’s stats -- .333/.426/.897 with six home runs -- are encouraging for a bounce-back season at the plate for the Gold Glover. If he’s with the organization through the entire season, there’s no doubt the outfielder will be the club’s most valuable player.

Gallo will make up an elite defensive outfield with either Taveras or in center and Dahl in left. If Gallo can be even half of what he was during his 2019 All-Star season, it will make all the difference for the Rangers.

Team Cy Young will be …
was an offseason acquisition from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. He has a career 3.65 ERA since his professional debut in 2015. He has control over his seven-pitch arsenal and has adjusted well to Major League hitters so far this spring with a 3.86 ERA over four games.

Arihara is slated to be one of the Rangers’ three “traditional” starters alongside Gibson and . If he makes a smooth transition to MLB once the regular season starts, he could be the club’s most valuable pitcher.

Bold prediction
wins another Gold Glove -- this time at shortstop. Kiner-Falefa was an American League Gold Glove winner at third base in 2020, following two years as a utility infielder and catcher for the Rangers. He’s a natural shortstop and played 142 games at the position in seven Minor League seasons.

He won the starting shortstop spot before Spring Training started, taking it from longtime Ranger Elvis Andrus before the organization dealt Andrus to Oakland for Davis and in the offseason. Woodward has praised Kiner-Falefa’s hard work and dedication as he’s taken on a leadership role in the infield left vacant by Andrus’ departure. He has the defensive abilities to at least be a Gold Glove finalist in 2021. And he has a lot of motivation after FanGraphs ranked him dead last in its positional rankings.