Same team new faces

by Ben Dieter

The Texas Rangers are not the same team that we have grown accustomed to over the last three years or so. By all accounts this has not been a very good off-season for them, as they lost some of the big name players who helped them get to back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011, including but not limited to Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Michael Young. But it has not been a total loss in my opinion. The Rangers, although not bringing in the big name free agents they were hoping for, brought in some players that I think can help this team be successful in the 2013 campaign.

Because of the Michael Young trade, the Rangers were in need of a new designated hitter. We all heard names thrown around like Nelson Cruz, Mike Olt, Mitch Moreland or possibly someone from Round Rock. All of those were guys that would have to take a step back, in my opinion, to become the Rangers designated hitter. Cruz is not the best right fielder in the world, but he is not a bad right fielder either. Moreland needs develop as a first baseman, as I think he has a ton of potential there and I could be a good season for him now that the Rangers have said it is his position to lose. Olt is a premiere infield prospect and doesn’t need to be moved to DH. So the Rangers went and got a native Texan and good career hitter in Lance Berkman.

Berkman had a run in with Rangers nation before the 2011 season when he said that the Rangers were a one-hit wonder team that would not be able to repeat, but later that season he admitted that he was wrong about that. Berkman is a career .298 hitter, with a career .544 slugging percentage and a career OPS of .953. He has 360 career homeruns. Berkman is at a point in his career where he was considering retirement, but got an offer from the Rangers that he decided to take. He is a native Texan and a switch hitting power hitter who has had a very good career. I look forward to seeing what he can do in a Rangers uniform, and I think this is going to turn out to be a good addition for the Rangers.

The next thing the Rangers needed was a catcher, and they’ve addressed that in the signing of free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Like Berkman, Pierzynski has a history of being disliked by Rangers fans but I think that will change. A.J. is not as bad as a guy as his reputation says, if you go and read about him and what his teammates have to say about him. He also had a great 2012, batting .278 with 27 home runs (a career high), 78 RBI (also a career high), and he caught runners trying to steal at a rate of 26%. To compare Napoli caught guys at a rate of 20% and Soto at a rate of 23% (20% just for the Rangers).

Pierzynski has a chance to be a real good deal for the Rangers, and if you remember the last five seasons or so, almost every veteran player the Rangers have picked up has worked out (Vlad, Milton Bradley, Jeff Francoeur, Mike Napoli). A.J. has been a pretty good catcher over his career, and I see no reason why that would change this season. I am not sure he will duplicate his stats from the 2012 campaign, but if he can come close it will be a good season for the Rangers newest catcher. He is healthy, and we all know that he plays all out and with passion whenever he is on the field. Look for him to be one of the power hitting left handed bats that will try to replace some of the production lost by the exit of Josh Hamilton.

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