Ranger fans didn't see much of this kind of swing from Prince Fielder in 2014, his first year in Texas. A herniated disc in his neck led to season-ending surgery in May, and was one of the first big hints that 2014 was going to be a lost year in Arlington. Heading into 2015, Fielder is hard at work, trying to get back to 100% - or close to 100% - so he can be the reliable threat he was in Miwaukee and Detroit. Besides, barring another catastrophic injury it's hard to imagine Fielder only managing 42 games (and three home runs) in '15. If he's able to get back out there and be an everyday player, it'll go a long way for the Rangers this season.
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Will Matt Harrison ever be healthy again?
Ever since going 14-9 and 18-11 for the Rangers in 2011 and 2012 (and landing a lucrative contract extension), lefty Matt Harrison has dealt with frustrating injury after frustrating injury. He's only managed to pitch in six games overall since 2012, as back issues necessitated three surgical procedures. He's working toward coming back right now, though it's hard to tell just how much the Rangers can rely on him. Harrison is signed through 2017 and is owed $13.5M per year until then, so the Rangers are no doubt hoping that he'll be able to move past the debilitating injuries and return to the form he flashed a few years ago.
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Ryan Ludwick: under-the-radar potential?
Signing Ryan Ludwick to a minor league deal could pay off for the Rangers in 2015. Just a few years ago, the outfielder mashed 26 home runs for the Cincinnati Reds. Back in 2008, he put himself on the map by hitting 37 HRs and driving in 113 runs for the St. Louis Cardinals. Ludwick comes with substantial injury risk, considering the most games he's played in one season over the past five is 125, in 2012 (the year he hit 26 HRs). That said, taking a flier on Ludwick and inviting him to Spring Training could work to the Rangers' benefit if Ludwick demonstrates that he can stay healthy. If so, he could earn a spot on the Opening Day roster since, as everyone knows, hitters have fun playing many of their games in Arlington.
How will Yovani Gallardo transition to the A.L?
Acquiring Yovani Gallardo from the Milwaukee Brewers for a trio of minor leaguers was an interesting move for the Rangers to make in January. Gallardo, 28, is a proven commodity, and is entering the final year of his contract. He's often shown signs of being a capable #1 starter, despite also having some rough stretches in his years with the Brewers. He used to rack up 200+ strikeouts each season (as he did in consecutive years from 2009-2012), but hasn't yet since then. How he makes the transition from the N.L. to the A.L. will be a big factor in whether he's able to assume a #2 spot in the rotation behind Yu Darvish - or slide back to #3 behind Derek Holland. The move could pay off, or he could have some struggles adjusting to a new league and the hitter-friendly confines in Arlington.
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What about Martin Perez?
Flashy lefty Martin Perez seemed destined for a breakout year in 2014 before Tommy John surgery derailed his campaign in May. That came after Perez logged 124 IP in 2013, and was a big blow to the pitching staff. Perez is (as of now) expected back sometime around the All-Star break in 2015, though that of course could change depending on his progress in rehab. If he keeps that kind of timetable, Perez returning to the team mid-season could help boost the rotation - assuming the Rangers are healthy & contending again. At any rate, Perez is an intriguing case to watch, considering the promise he showed before his 2014 was ruined prematurely.
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Can Choo bounce back?
Much like Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo's first season in Texas was a disaster. Though he wound up playing in 123 games, Choo dealt with a number of injuries during the year, including ankle and elbow issues that warranted offseason surgeries. Signed to a huge free agent deal prior to last season, the Rangers are hoping rest & recovery is all Choo needs in order to get back to the type of player he was in Cincinnati - one that walks frequently and posts huge OBP rates. If Choo - and Fielder - are both able to stay healthy & perforrm in 2015, their presences will help the offense in a major way.
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Can Beltre & the Rangers unseat the Angels?
2014 featured more mishaps and injuries for the Rangers than most teams deal with over the course of a few years. Through it all, Adrian Beltre was his ordinarily consistent self. Heading into this new season, optimism should be high - barring any significant Spring Training setbacks, several key players should be coming back in time for Opening Day. If that happens, the Rangers should presumably be able to threaten the Angels - and Mariners, A's, and Astros - for a playoff spot once again. The A.L. West is one of the toughest, most even divisions in the league, but the Rangers could persevere in 2015 if that hated injury bug stays away.