It’s not very clever or original to say that the 2019 Texas Rangers have played surprisingly well so far, but it’s still so crazy to see this team sitting at six games over .500 at the All-Star Break and very much in contention for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League. There are so many different players and factors that contribute to them getting to this point, but a few stand above the rest.
A superstar level of play from Joey Gallo
While we had all become accustomed to mammoth home runs from Joey Gallo we’d seen in his two full seasons in the big leagues in 2017 and 2018, there was so much missing from his overall game to take him to becoming more than a one-trick pony. While he still isn’t a finished product, he has turned himself into the full-fledged superstar the Rangers had hoped he could be in 2019.
Texas has to be so pleased that someone stepped up to fill in the legitimate face-of-the-franchise shoes left by the retirement of Adrian Beltre the way that Gallo has. While shortstop Elvis Andrus is still “our guy” around here, the level of play and national recognition that a talent like Gallo gets is something the Rangers haven’t seen since 2008 when Josh Hamilton broke out to stardom after coming over in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds.
The 25-year-old’s first half stats with 20 home runs and an OPS of close to 1.100 are incredible. He will deservedly play in his first ever All-Star game tonight in Cleveland and if his level of play continues to be mixed with continued playoff contention from the Rangers, it should garner him some MVP buzz towards the end of the season.
The next question becomes when do the Rangers try to lock this guy up long term? Hopefully that comes sooner than later.
A dynamic duo at the top of the rotation
When the Rangers were giving the Opening Day nod to Mike Minor, a lot of people made it a punchline. For anyone tuned into the second half of 2018, maybe not a ton of Rangers fans, it was clear that he deserved it. While the first start wasn’t great, his season since has been nothing short of incredible since then. Minor is having a career year at age 31 which includes being named to his first All-Star game. With two complete games under his belt already, Minor has been an ace for a Texas staff that seemed to have so little to many coming into the season.
Behind Minor, Lance Lynn has proven himself to be one of the best signings of a controversial winter free agency period around baseball. While he isn’t exactly the guy you go to if you want a friendly conversation in the clubhouse, he certainly is someone first-year manager Chris Woodward can give the ball to and can count on getting six-plus innings every five days. Going back to April 28th, Lynn has gone at least six innings in 13 consecutive starts. After a rough month of April where his ERA got as high as 6.51 at one point, one could argue that Lynn has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.
With combined salaries of just over $19 million in 2019, the Texas Rangers have a pair of the most valuable pitchers in the majors in Minor and Lynn. If the team were floundering like most expected them to, they’d likely be the most sought-after trade chips on the market with each having a year or more of team control left on their deals. Hopefully Texas plays well the rest of July to not allow Jon Daniels to be tempted by any massive offers.
A pleasant new voice from up top
When the Rangers announced Chris Woodward as their new manager last fall, I wasn’t especially excited by the move. I was more interested in the potential hire of a former player I was more familiar with like now-Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli or maybe former Oakland A’s third baseman Eric Chavez. Getting a guy like Woodward has proven to be a tremendous get for Texas so far in 2019.
After the polished, political, hard-ass approach of someone like Jeff Banister, the Rangers needed a new voice that was closer and more familiar with the way of the modern MLB player. Chris Woodward is just a few years removed from a hard-working MLB career of over a decade where he played with several teams and countless teammates. After his playing career, he had been involved with one of the best teams in baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers and became familiar with the championship-oriented process there. Every chance he has had, Chris Woodward has said the right thing about helping his young players get better. If you’re fortunate enough like some of us at Dallas Sports Fanatic, you’ve been able to sit in his office before a game with other media members and see him just smile and crack jokes while talking about baseball or whatever else might come up. It’s a really refreshing sight to see from a head coach/manager in pro sports,
While it still might be the honeymoon period, this first year manager is making a great impression on everyone.
With an important homestand against the Houston Astros coming out of the break, the tone of the second half of the season could quickly shift for the Rangers if they falter out of the gates. Hopefully Chris Woodward and his crew can keep the good times rolling so that Globe Life Park can be sent out on a high note this fall.
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