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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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2016 MLB Season Preview: Houston Astros and Texas Rangers

With Opening Day already upon us, sportswriter Grant Spika breaks down the strengths and weaknesses for both MLB teams in the state of Texas. 

Texas Rangers

In 2015, the Texas Rangers became only the second American League team ever to make the playoffs after having the league’s worst record the previous year. The surprisingly successful season led to an American League West division championship, the team’s third since 2010. This year, the Rangers will look to earn the AL West championship title after not losing much from their 2015 roster.

Strengths

The Rangers’ main strength coming into 2016 is their bullpen. The bullpen is led by closer Shawn Tolleson and relievers Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson and Keone Kela, who all had sub-3.00 ERAs in 2015. In the offseason, the Rangers added reliever Tom Wilhelmsen from the Seattle Mariners who, in his last four years with the ball club, racked up 67 saves.

A strength in Texas’ lineup is a good mix of veterans and young players. The veterans are led by first baseman Prince Fielder and potential future hall of famer Adrian Beltre. The younger players are led by outfielder Delino DeShields and second baseman Rougned Odor, who both had breakout years in 2015 that solidified spots in the Rangers’ lineup for years to come.

Weaknesses

A glaring weakness for the Rangers is the starting pitching rotation. Starter Yu Darvish had Tommy-John surgery nearly a year ago, and won’t be healthy until the middle of May at the earliest. Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Martin Perez will be in the back end of the Rangers rotation. However, Holland has only thrown 95 innings the last two years after throwing 213 innings in 2013 due to injuries, Lewis is 36 years old, and Perez has yet to establish himself in the big leagues.

In an attempt to fix the holes at left field and catcher, the Rangers signed shortstop Ian Desmond in the offseason with hopes to turn him into a left-fielder as 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton battles constant injuries. The Rangers also recently traded for catcher Brian Holaday from the Detroit Tigers, but the former TCU Horned Frog played in just 24 games in 2015 due to injury.

Houston Astros

After not making the playoffs since 2005, the Astros finally got back in the postseason last year as they grabbed the second American League wild card. The Astros led the American League West division for most of the year before playing poorly down the stretch, which allowed the Texas Rangers to capture the division title. In 2016, Houston hopes to win its first division title since 2001.

Strengths

The Astros’ main strength is their plethora of young talent across the board. The young talent in the lineup is led by shortstop Carlos Correa, who has superstar potential, and power-hitting outfielder George Springer. Couple those two with perennial all-star second baseman Jose Altuve and the Astros have a great young core of players to build off of in years to come.

The youth movement continues with the Astros’ pitching staff as well. The staff has a great 1-2-3 punch headed by 2015 American League Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel. Starting pitchers Collin McHugh and 22-year-old Lance McCullers round out the 1-2-3 punch. McHugh recorded 19 wins in 2015 and McCullers had a great 3.22 earned run average.

Weaknesses

A weakness for the Astros is that their lineup is susceptible to the strikeout. In 2015, Houston was first in the American League with 1392 strikeouts at the plate. The Astros had six players in their 2015 lineup that had over 106 strikeouts last season and all of them return this year except for first baseman Chris Carter who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason.

Houston’s bullpen wasn’t great in 2015, but was good enough. To improve the bullpen in 2016, the Astros signed closer Ken Giles in the offseason. Giles had a stellar 1.80 earned run average and recorded 15 saves last year with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Staff predictions

Astros:

Heath Clary: Carlos Correa will assuage any fears of a sophomore slump and be in the thick of the AL MVP race, George Springer and Carlos Gomez will each have huge years and the starting rotation will be effective enough to win games. The Astros will win the division and improve on last year’s breakout campaign.

Grant Spika: The Astros will go 89-73 in 2016. Houston went 86-76 last year, and I think they’ll be even better this year as their young talent continues to gain experience. An 89-73 record should be good enough to give the Astros the AL West Championship and their first division title since 2001.

Rangers:

Heath Clary: Brian Bannister’s club had a terrific season last year, but 2016 will not be nearly as kind to the Rangers. New acquisition Ian Desmond will find a home in left field and have a nice bounceback year, but the starting rotation will get exposed for its lack of depth over the course of the 162-game season. The Rangers finish third behind the Astros and Mariners in the AL West and don’t make the playoffs.

Grant Spika: The Rangers will go 86-76 in 2016. I think that record will be good enough to grab second place in the AL West and the second AL Wild Card spot, which would put Texas in the AL Wild Card one-game playoff with a chance to advance to the AL Division Series.

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