After reaching the 157-game mark in every season of his career as an everyday player, Prince Fielder got off to a horrific start in Arlington last season. Only managing 42 games/178 PAs, Fielder's year was lost due to a neck issue that wound up requiring spinal fusion surgery. Some were concerned the issue would prevent Fielder from returning to the field, but now he's been cleared for baseball duties after a rigorous rehab and offseason training program. That should bode well for Fielder's 2015, as long as he doesn't suffer any more setbacks related to the injury. A (mostly, at least) healthy Fielder would do wonders for the 2015 Rangers, so long as he's able to stay out there and contribute, the Rangers should receive some return on their investment in the upcoming year.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
Meet the new boss
Jeff Banister, the newly-appoined Rangers manager, is hungry. He's already instilled in his team a 'never quit' attitude, a point of view that can take over a clubhouse in a hurry. With his first season in Arlington on the horizon, Banister will get to know his guys at Spring Training and help pare down the roster to Opening Day status. In the tough A.L. West, you need a strong team demeanor in order to compete with your foes, and (so far at least) Banister has indicated he's the type of leader this team needs to get back to where they were just a few short years ago.
Strong crop of young talent
Pressed into 'everyday' status last year due to all the injuries, the Rangers' youngsters showed some definite promise. Rougned Odor flashed signs of eventually being a star infielder, slashing .259/.297/.402 with 100 hits, 45 RBIs and nine home runs in 114 games. While he was streaky, he could be a viable piece of the Rangers' infield moving forward — and coupled with Elvis Andrus, 26, the two should remain strong up the middle again in 2015.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
The addition of Yovani Gallardo
One word comes to mind when evaluating the career of Yovani Gallardo, new Rangers' starting pitcher: consistency. Over his eight years with the Milwaukee Brewers, Gallardo has started more than 30 games in each of the last six, hitting the 200-strikeout mark in four of those. While he has at times been susceptible to the home-run ball, he only allowed 18 in 2013. How he blends into his new surroundings in Arlington will affect the Rangers' pitching staff in 2015 — but at the very least he should more than earn his keep in the rotation behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland.
They're eager to get back to business
Shin-Soo Choo was another Ranger whose first year in Texas didn't go so well. He'll be looking for a rebound in 2015 along with Prince Fielder, and if the two are able to reclaim the form they flashed for so long with other clubs, it'll make the offense much deeper. The Rangers rode into 2014 with many expecting them to win the A.L. West, and ... well, it didn't happen due to all the never-ending road blocks and setbacks. For now, they're all hoping that rest and rehab is all it takes to reclaim the A.L. West throne, and they should be able to compete for the title as long as those dreaded injuries don't flare up again.
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY SportsJim Cowsert
A full year of Holland
Derek Holland was another 2014 casualty, only managing to appear in six games over the final few weeks after making his season debut on Sept. 2. Obviously, having a healthy Holland back in the rotation will provide a major boost, especially considering the iffy future of Matt Harrison. Holland, as long as he doesn't have any issues with that surgically repaired knee, should revert back to his old form of being one of the club's strongest rotation arms.
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY SportsJim Cowsert
The West is uneven at best
The Rangers' division foes all made strides this offseason: the Oakland A's overhauled their roster again but will remain competitive, the Seattle Mariners loaded up on offense to go with that deadly pitching staff, the Los Angeles Angels are getting Garrett Richards back, and the Houston Astros are trying to fast-track their rebuilding process. That said, the West should be wide open in 2015. Each of those other team's moves doesn't guarantee success right away, so the Rangers — assuming they are able to stay healthy and avoid a repeat of last year — should have a decent shot of the division. Or, at the very least, they should be able to qualify for one of the A.L.'s two Wild Card spots.