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 Leody Taveras and seasoned veterans like pitcher Kyle Gibson and slugger Joey Gallo will drive Texas through what could be a rocky season.
The Rangers are at least a year away from contention, but this is a growth year for most players within the organization.
Again, almost everything. But the biggest question mark may be how the Rangers’ bullpen will do following injuries to José Leclerc and Jonathan Hernández. 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.
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 Eli White 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 …
Kohei Arihara 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 Mike Foltynewicz. If he makes a smooth transition to MLB once the regular season starts, he could be the club’s most valuable pitcher.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 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 Jonah Heim 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.