Final Record: 67-95
RS/G: 4.55 (14th)
RA/G: 5.23 (28th)
SB: 74 (18th)
ERA: 4.92 (28th)
Saves: 42 (13th)
Strikeouts: 1121 (30th)
(RS/G - Runs Scored Per Game, RA/G - Runs Allowed Per Game)
After a handful of years of being a balanced Major League Baseball team, the Texas Rangers returned to their offensive heavy, zero pitching approach in 2018. As the chart above shows, the 2018 Rangers had little problem scoring runs, ranking inside the top half of all Major League clubs offensively. Much like the 1990 and early 2000 Rangers however, this team simply could not pitch. The 2018 Rangers ranked dead last in strikeouts and 28th out of 30 in ERA. Early projections have the 2019 Texas Rangers as a .500 ball club. This should allow for an easy discovering of fantasy viable players across the diamond. Let’s dive in.
The Superstar: Joey Gallo
It’s not often that a team’s Superstar has a batting average that could completely crater and fall below the .200 level in any given season, but this is the Rangers we’re talking about. While it’s probable that Gallo will continue to be towards the league leaders in batter strikeouts, he will play the 2019 season at age 25. Some improvement cannot be ruled out. Gallo is coming off back-to-back 40 home run seasons at 23 and 24 years old, respectively. That is awfully impressive. Gallo is the definition of a three true outcome player and he excels at those outcomes.
Gallo & The Three True Outcomes
Gallo’s 48.5% hard contact rate in 2018 ranks tied for 4th among qualified batters. Continually hitting the ball into the air has allowed Gallo to post near league leading home runs totals the previous two years. Among qualified batters in 2018, Gallo’s 49.8% flyball rate ranks second, just ahead of Khris Davis, who had a hard hit percentage three percent behind Gallo’s last season. Throw in the added bonus that Joey Gallo has multi-position eligibility in fantasy baseball and as long as you plan ahead for the near-guaranteed batting average drain rostering Gallo will provide, he’s among the safer bets for power and run production.
The Sleeper: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
We’re going deep league focused with our 2019 Texas Rangers Sleeper pick. Kiner-Falefa was a pleasant surprise for deep league fantasy baseball owners in 2018. His versatility last year now presents fantasy owners with a player eligible at second base, third base and catcher. Not only is that a unique eligibility profile, but Kiner-Falefa has the potential to chip in a handful of stolen bases with a batting average / on base percentage profile that won’t kill your fantasy team. For those who play in American League Only or 15-team mixed and deeper, Kiner-Falefa is a strong target as a second catcher. Owners in Draft & Hold (D&H) Leagues should also pay attention to Kiner-Falefa as he could provide depth across multiple positions in a pinch. Kiner-Falefa’s current NFBC ADP is 273rd off the board.
The Guy to Avoid: Nomar Mazara
Mazara is a love/hate player in the fantasy baseball world. Entering his fifth full season in the big leagues at the age of 24, many fantasy experts are still holding out hope that this is the year Mazara will take a big step forward. To be clear, Mazara is not a bad fantasy baseball asset, but he appears to just be what he is. I’m not just saying this because he’s hit 20 home runs each of the last three seasons either. Instead, I look at his underlying offensive skills and have a hard time painting a picture of a monster breakout season in 2019. A second half thumb injury may have slowed some improvement down in 2018, however, a rising ground ball rate will continue to put the brakes on a big home run season. Mazara is fine in the strikeout and walk categories, but I don’t see a huge step forward in batting average coming either. Steamer expects Mazara to improve this year, projecting him for 26 home runs with a .270 batting average. I wonder how much of that is age/algorithm driven. Mazara is currently being selected at pick 151 in early NFBC drafts.
The Prospect to Watch: Willie Calhoun
While Calhoun is no longer technically prospect eligible these days, the rest of the Rangers’ interesting prospects are far enough away from the big leagues that I’m bending the rules here. Calhoun is stuck in no man’s land. He’s too good for Triple-A (.294/.351/.431 in 470 plate appearances during 2018) and hasn’t quite put it together at the big league level (.233/.283/.338 in 145 plate appearances across multiple seasons). The Rangers appear to have run out of excuses not to play Calhoun at this point, so our Major League sample size should grow considerably in 2019. While it’s hard to see the power coming right away for Calhoun, he’ll also not be a zero in that category. Steamer currently has Calhoun projected for 10 home runs in just over 300 plate appearances. Assuming he receives 450+ plate appearances a 15 home run season with a decent enough batting average should be possible in 2019. Calhoun is currently being selected 317th overall in early NFBC Drafts.