Still plenty of reasons to watch the Rangers
JUL 17, 2014 12:11a ET
The chances of the Texas Rangers making a run at anything other than mediocrity in the final 67 games of the season are slim.
The gambling site Bovada has the Rangers chances of winning the World Series at 750-1. Texas isn't even listed by the site for American League West odds. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot at stake for Texas over the final two-plus months of the season.
Here are five things to watch for between now and Sept. 28 when the Rangers wrap up the season against Oakland.
1. The development of Nick Tepesch and Nick Martinez: If the Rangers are to bounce back and be competitors in the West in 2015 they're going to have to get starting pitching. The only certainties next spring appear to be Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, assuming he's healthy. That leaves roles to be won and Tepesch and Martinez could do a lot to gain the upper hand this season. Tepesch has been one of the most consistent starters the Rangers have had since he joined the rotation and was lauded by manager Ron Washington. Martinez should be back from a sore side soon. That should give him ample opportunity to open eyes like he did with a solid outing at Los Angeles last month.
2. Saving face for Shin-Soo Choo: Choo's left ankle has been an issue since he sprained it in April but it hasn't landed him on the disabled list. The Rangers have to hope the ankle's the reason Choo has been a huge disappointment in the first half. He's been relegated to designated hitting duties and the club is hoping the All-Star break helps his ankle. Hopefully it helps his swing too. The club is paying him $130 million through the 2020 season. He's on pace to have his lowest on-base percentage in any of his five full seasons and his OPS is nearly 150 points lower than any of his other full-season numbers.
3. Who wants to play the outfield?: There are no guarantees that Alex Rios is with the team at the end of the month. But if Rios goes the Rangers are in a world of hurt in the outfield next year. Shin-Soo Choo isn't going anywhere but he'll probably see more time at designated hitter than outfield because of his ankle. Leonys Martin's play has been maddening. He's just as likely to make a great catch or throw as he is to throw to the wrong base, miss a cutoff man or make an error. And he's been awful against left-handed pitching (.194 average, one home run). Does that sound like every day outfielder numbers? Is Jake Smolinksi a viable option? He's been solid in a week but like Washington says, baseball is a game of adjustments. How well Smolinski plays after pitchers adjust to him will go a long way to determining that.
4. The development of Rougned Odor: Odor dazzled early when he was called up to be the everyday second baseman, then struggled at the plate but started to come around some in the final three games before the All-Star break. Odor, 20, has a chance to make the second base job his with a strong performance down the stretch. That would leave the Rangers in a tough position assuming Jurickson Profar is back and healthy next spring. But that's not something Odor can concern himself with. He's too busy playing every day.
5. Who else is coming: It's really hard to predict who will be the next player to get the call from Round Rock or Frisco. But rest assured, there will be more. Geovany Soto will be the 51st player used by the Rangers when he makes his 2014 debut sometime in the Toronto series. Hopefully Derek Holland returns to the rotation in late August and can finish 2014 on a much better note than it started for him. Maybe we also see pitchers Alec Asher and/or Luke Jackson. Or even a return of Robbie Ross Jr. One thing that probably won't happen is a Joey Gallo sighting.