Winning the AL West without Yu Darvish seemed impossible in 2015, but the Rangers pulled it off somehow. Now that he’s due back and can join Cole Hamels atop the rotation, Texas must be anticipating (and hoping) Darvish will be able to pick up right where he left off as one of the AL’s top pitchers.
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More health and production from Choo and Fielder
Shin-Soo Choo’s 2014 struggles were largely avoided this past year, when he hit .276/.375/.463 and posted a 3.5 WAR in 149 games. Prince Fielder, meanwhile, shook off his scary neck issue and hit .305/.378/.463 in 158 games, posting a 1.9 WAR and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. Can both of them produce this well in 2016? If so, the Rangers could be in good hands once again.
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A full (and healthy) season from Derek Holland
Speaking of injury-riddled 2015 campaigns, lefty Derek Holland had a tough go of things this past season. When he did pitch, his results weren’t exactly consistent either (4-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 10 starts and just 41 strikeouts in that span). A healthy and reliable Holland would be a great No. 3 behind Hamels and Darvish, if that’s a scenario that allows itself to play out in 2016.
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Keep fighting Father Time, Adrian
Adrian Beltre, 36, was consistently banged-up in 2015, but you’d hardly know it. Despite a myriad of nagging injuries all over his body, Beltre hit .287/.334/.453, managed to appear in 143 games and posted a 5.8 WAR. Imagine if he’s able to stay healthy (or even as injured as he was this past year) in 2016!
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Avenge ALDS exit with #NeverEverQuit mantra
The sour taste of their Division Series exit should fuel the Rangers in 2016. Next year, the Rangers won’t have the luxury of sneaking up on their division foes, especially with Darvish expected back within the first few months. Still, there’s no denying the Rangers’ desire to make it back to October, which will be a tough task given the competitive nature of the West.
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Maximize the bullpen once again
Manager Jeff Banister enjoyed a sneakily consistent bullpen in 2015, with standouts including Shawn Tolleson (35 saves, 2.99 ERA) and Sam Dyson, among others. They added hard-throwing Tom Wilhelmsen in a trade with the Mariners, a move that could pay off if he’s able to slide into the late-inning picture alongside the rest of last year’s holdovers. Teams like the Royals have shown the value of a shutdown ‘pen, so the Rangers are doing what they can to try to get to that level with their own staff.