A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE RANGERS
It's incredible watching Josh Hamilton take batting practice. He launches balls to the opposite field when other guys are working on their swings, trying to get a guy over. I think you're looking at Mickey Mantle all over again. He's the strongest guy in baseball and doesn't have any holes.... Adrian Beltre is probably the most athletic third baseman in the game. I thought whoever signed Beltre would be the front-runner in the division.... The book on Colby Lewis didn't have much substance to it last year, because he'd been away in Japan for two years. But he's a command-and-control type and can't afford to miss. He and C.J. Wilson are back-of-the-rotation guys on most clubs—they have to be perfect to be successful.... I saw Neftali Feliz as a starter in his last year in Triple A, and he just could not go to a strikeout pitch that wasn't his fastball. If he starts, he's not going to be able to blow 96, 97 on every fastball. He's going to have to repeat in the strike zone with his secondary stuff, and I'm not sure he has that type of feel right now.... I think they've got to play Julio Borbon over David Murphy in the outfield. Murphy is a good hitter, a gap-to-gap guy, but Borbon's better in center, and I don't think they want Hamilton playing that position.... Mitch Moreland had one of the better springs of anybody in baseball. He gained some weight, looks stronger. I think coming into the spring he was a little upset they weren't handing him the full-time first base job.... I wouldn't be surprised if the Rangers try to package Chris Davis, who is surplus offense, to land a big starting pitcher.
WITH 2010 STATISTICS
MANAGER RON WASHINGTON
5TH SEASON WITH RANGERS
Strikeouts per batter faced by the Rangers, the AL's fourth-best rate in 2010 and an improvement over recent staffs, which allowed too many balls in play in their hitter-friendly park. The team ranked 12th in '09 (.165 K's/batter), 13th in '08 (.148) and last in '07 (.153).
The Rangers won the division last season despite getting abysmal production from their catchers, who hit .212/.288/.317 and had the third-lowest OPS in the majors at the position. That's why the trade for Mike Napoli—the former Angel who spent four days as a Blue Jay during the off-season before being flipped to Texas for Frank Francisco—could be their biggest move of the winter. Napoli, 29, is a career .251/.346/.485 batter, but his reputation as a backstop belies his performance. Napoli has thrown out 23.9% of runners trying to steal in his career; the league average in 2010 was 23.1%. Yes, he is below average at moving behind the plate and getting to balls in front of it and isn't especially skilled at handling a pitching staff. Mike Scioscia prefers his catchers to be defensive specialists, a decision that cost the Angels runs they desperately needed last year. Texas can get a boost by recognizing that Napoli's bat adds more than his glove takes away and by committing to him as the No. 1 catcher—a move Los Angeles never quite made. Free-agent pickup Yorvit Torrealba should be the backup.