A Texan-Size Surprise

I think that everyone can agree with me when I say this: the Texas Rangers were not supposed to be good this year. No contending. No on-field success. Not even a winning record.

ESPN projected them to be last, as well as Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated. Though all three media outlets aren’t always spot on with their MLB predictions (ESPN had the Tampa Bay Rays winning the 2014 World Series because of their team chemistry), the prediction of the Rangers in last place seemed like a reasonable one.

Yu Darvish was out for the season before it even began with Tommy John Surgery. Derek Holland was out early. Many pieces were missing and the season started out poorly in Arlington. Adrian Beltre looked as if he was done and preparing for the 2020 World Series was the next item on the list for the Rangers.

But then things just started clicking.

Prince Fielder has become the front-runner for AL Comeback Player of the Year and possibly even a candidate for AL MVP. He’s batting .338 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs, proving that not only can he club the ball into the third deck at Rangers Ballpark, but he can also hit for average.

Mitch Moreland has been everything the Rangers ever hoped, and more. Currently batting .303 with 8 home runs and 33 RBIs, Moreland has been a fixture in the Rangers’ everyday lineup.

But then on April 27th, the Los Angeles Angels traded their highly paid bust, who had relapsed back into his old drug addiction, to the Rangers. Though only playing 7 games so far this season for the Rangers, Hamilton batted .273 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs: pretty good for someone who hadn’t played all spring. Not to mention, he also hit a walk-off against the Boston Red Sox. Currently on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Hamilton may begin a rehab assignment later this week.

Texas seems like the perfect fit for Hamilton: his past success and who could forget when the Rangers used ginger ale instead of champagne to celebrate after a postseason series win? He’ll more than likely finish his career there: it’s where he feels safest.

The biggest surprise for the team has by far been the starting pitching. Yovani Gallardo and Wandy Rodriguez, both acquired over the offseason, have been main-stays in this surprising group. Nick Martinez has been unbelievable with an ERA of 2.77 and outings that have taken the baseball world by storm. Colby Lewis has also been a surprise for the Rangers due to his current lead in victories for the Rangers (7). Chi Chi Gonzalez has been lights out with an ERA of 0.90 while opponents are hitting just .173 against him: jaw dropping for his first four games in the bigs.

Since being called up, highly touted prospect Joey Gallo has been nothing short of superb. His average is a mediocre .220, but don’t worry: that’s not why the Rangers called him up. His home runs and power are why he has a spot in the lineup. With five home runs and 10 RBIs, his success has become spread throughout the league. Just the other day, he hit a ball halfway up the Right Field Pavilion at Dodger Stadium off of Clayton Kershaw.

Currently, the Rangers sit in 2nd place in the AL West, just 2.5 games back of the out-of-the-blue Houston Astros with 37 wins. Wow. This team was in last place but over the last couple of months, has found their way back into the thick of things.

With Josh Hamilton back as a Ranger, it’s starting to feel more like 2010 and 2011: the two years in which the Rangers made trips to the Fall Classic.

When it comes to pitching, the Rangers statistically have a better staff than they did in ’10 and ’11. Hitting leans toward the two straight seasons they made it to the World Series, but with players like Gallo and Delino DeShields, there is going to be some serious improvement with hitting. Gallo and DeShields aren’t even close to their prime, so therefore improvement will be made. DeShields, like Hamilton, is dealing with a strained hamstring, but he will return to the lineup after a quick stay on the disabled list.

If Beltre and Elvis Andrus can turn their season around right now, things are destined to be very bright in Texas. Comparing the 2015 lineup to the 2010 and ’11 lineup, not many differences pop their head out at you. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are gone while Prince Fielder and Joey Gallo are now in.

Will the Rangers make it to the World Series this year? No, probably not.

However in the upcoming years, they are legitimate picks to go.

But don’t worry Ranger fans: contention will be in the team’s grasp every year from here on out.

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