Admit it. It has been a little while since you’ve watched a Rangers game from start to finish. Heck, maybe you haven’t watched a game this season. They’ve been out of the playoff race virtually since the first week of the season. They were major sellers at the trade deadline and moved their most notable pitcher in starter Cole Hamels. They’ve been hovering around the 15 games under .500 mark for months and to the naked eye, there isn’t much to see these days.
As the calendar turns to September and the final month of the marathon-like Major League Baseball season, there are still plenty of intriguing storylines to follow around the Rangers for the last 30 days of their season.
Is Adrian Beltre playing his last games as a major leaguer?
The 39 year-old has just never fully found his usual stride anytime in 2018. Father-time seems to have found Beltre and is looking to knock him out soon. His 2018 slash line of .274/.332/.385 are all his lowest marks since his 2009 season with the Seattle Mariners when his value was at an all-time low.
He has still been able to climb his way up the all-time hits leader list this season, making his way from 28th up to 18th with 94 hits so far in 2018.
Beltre had a mixed message last month when asked about the possibility of retiring at the end of this season.
“If I feel like I can’t hit anymore, which sometimes this year I’ve felt that I can’t hit anymore, if I can’t compete with the young guys, yes, I’ll pack up my bags and go home. As of right now, I’m not at that stage yet. I might be there at the end of the year.”
A major competitor such as Beltre admitting that he doesn’t quite have it like he used to speaks volumes. However much time he has left in a Rangers uniform will be a blessing for North Texas baseball fans who have seen him man the hot corner since 2011.
Is there any starting pitching to speak of?
Even before general manager Jon Daniels dealt the team’s ace Cole Hamels at the deadline, and before Hamels became Cy Young while wearing a Chicago Cubs uniform, this team had very little in the starting pitching department. They took fliers on the likes of Doug Fister (12 starts before suffering a season-ending injury), Matt Moore (12 starts before being relegated to the bullpen) and “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon who had good moments early but has faded greatly as the season has gone on.
On the younger side of things, all of this organization’s best pitching prospects are still in the minors and 2019 might be optimistic for any of their arrivals.
There has been one bright spot in the rotation: offseason signing Mike Minor. The 30 year-old was able to turn his stellar 2017 campaign as a reliever into a three-year/$28 million contract as a starting pitcher. The Rangers’ faith in the veteran to come back from several seasons of injuries (did not pitch in 2015 or 2016) has paid off in the second half of the season.
In six “second half” starts so far, Minor has a 2.78 ERA and a .78 WHIP. If he’s able to have even a bit of that type of production over the course of an entire season, it’s not unreasonable for the Rangers to pencil him in as their number two or three starter next year and feel really great about it. That would be tremendous value for a player under contract for just about $9 million each of the next two seasons.
Is the lineup of the future already here?
While all of the issues with pitching are incredibly real and concerning, there isn’t as much fear about the future of the Rangers lineup. While the likes of Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara are yet to show they are all-around offensive superstars, they have shown they can be quality hitters counted on to drive in runs for an offense.
In front of them, Rougned Odor has shown much more patience at the plate while setting a new career high in walks with 37 in just 103 games so far this season. The lefty trio of Mazara/Gallo/Odor will need a right-handed run-producing hitter to be sandwiched between them. Elvis Andrus and the aforementioned Beltre have disappointed in that role this season.
Another pleasant surprise in the lineup is Jurickson Profar in his first full season in the majors. After years of injuries and no room for him on the major league roster, Profar has proven he deserves a shot at the starting third base spot if Beltre doesn’t return next season.
While the rest of the lineup is relatively up in the air, the Rangers have had several candidates make strong cases for their inclusion in the team’s future plans.
While it would definitely be easy to assume it’s time to officially close the book on the 2018 season with football season underway, give the Rangers a chance to entertain you this month! They still have some very exciting players and some important things to sort out before the end of this season.
Manager Jeff Banister, Jon Daniels and the rest of the team’s coaching staff and front office surely would do anything to get this team back to the postseason as soon as possible. That all starts with how they finish this season.
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