MLB In Full Bloom 3/31/2014 - OPENING DAY EDITION!

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0 - Days Until Opening Day!

Opening Day should be a National Holiday in my book! But, since I am fortunate to have the greatest job as the co-host of Buehler's Day Off it is my job to watch the games! Opening Day is an exciting day for so many reasons, but the word that is most often thrown around is hope. Every fan base has hope on Opening Day that this is the year their team will win it all. For Cubs fans, that hope won't last very long and soon we'll be saying "Wait til next year". But, not today - it's Opening Day and it is one of the best days of the year!

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels agreed to a six-year $144 contract extension over the weekend. An extension has been discussed for awhile and the two sides finally came together on this one. The deal also includes a no trade clause, which for a player at 22-years old is not common. This was uncharted waters for the Angels, but they certainly did the right thing to lock up Trout for as long as possible. Trout's average annual average salary as a result of the deal is nearly $24.1 million. He'll be eligible for free agency when he is 29, so expect another huge payout coming his way.
  • Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers agreed to an eight-year extension $292 contract extension over the weekend. The exact value of the contract is vague, but Cabrera's extension will be tacked onto the two years remaining on his current deal, so he will receive the $292 million over the next 10 years -- the largest sum ever handed to an MLB player. While the contract is certainly staggering, Cabrera earned it by winning each of the last two AL MVP awards.
  • Clayton Kershaw (back) was placed on the 15-day disabled list with upper back inflammation. Kershaw is maintaining a consistent 5-day workout regimen while he is out with the injury. There remains no clear timetable for how long the Dodgers star southpaw will be on the shelf, but the team doesn't want to rush him back and risk further aggravation. This is the first time in Kershaw's career that he has been placed on the disabled list.
  • Seth Smith blasted a game-tying home run in the eighth inning on Sunday as the Padres came back to earn a 3-1 season-opening victory over the Dodgers. Smith is expected to see regular playing time in the Padres' outfield against right-handed pitching this season, and could be worth picking up in NL-Only leagues and deep mixed formats.
  • Shane Victorino (hamstring) was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. The move is retroactive to March 30th. While Victorino is out, Jackie Bradley has been added to the Opening Day roster in a corresponding move and will get some playing time. Grady Sizemore is starting in center field today and will split time with Bradley.
  • J.P. Arencibia will get the bulk of playing time at catcher for the Rangers for the first three months of the season while Geovany Soto recovers from knee surgery. He could be a sneaky fantasy pick in AL-Only formats and deep mixed leagues.
  • Yu Darvish (neck) was placed on the 15-day disabled list with neck stiffness. The move is retroactive to March 21st  and the good news is that he threw a 32-pitch bullpen session Sunday without any issues. He will throw another bullpen session Tuesday. Darvish will be eligible to rejoin the Rangers' rotation next weekend, and it sounds like there's a chance he'll be ready at that time.

MLB In Full Bloom - Rangers Preview - 3/26/2014

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5– Number of days until Opening Day

Texas Rangers Preview

Could the rash of injuries that's taken hold of the Texas Rangers this spring provide an added layer of job security for manager Ron Washington? The short answer is yes. Certainly, Washington and the rest of the Rangers are under pressure this season to contend. The club made back-to-back World Series trips in 2010 and 2011, but that's getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. The Rangers won 93 games in 2012, but the Rangers lost the wild-card game. And then the Rangers won 91 games in 2013 and that wasn't good enough because the Rangers lost a play-in game to get to the wild-card game. This past offseason, the Rangers dealt Ian Kinsler to the Tigers in exchange for All-Star slugger Prince Fielder while also signing Shin-Soo Choo in addition to a few other tweaks. The biggest question facing the Rangers just days away from Opening Day is how they will handle all the injuries.

Key Additions: Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Choice, J.P. Arecibia, Adam Rosales

Key Departures: Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, Craig Gentry, Josh Lindblom, Matt Garza, Lance Berkman, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski

OFFENSE: On paper, the Texas Rangers look to have a potent offense. But, they have already suffered two key injuries. Jurickson Profar, the starting second baseman, is out for the next 10-12 weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder. So is starting catcher Geovany Soto who suffered a torn meniscus that will require surgery and he is expected to miss 10-12 weeks. Also, starting shortstop Elvis Andrus is dealing with soreness in his shoulder and elbow after not throwing this offseason. Now that we know who the Rangers won't have in the Opening Day lineup, who will be there? Shin-Soo Choo must replicate his 2013 performance this year with the Reds. His career average of a .389 on-base percentage is essential with all the injuries. Prince Fielder seems poised for a bounce back season and should post strong numbers in Arlington. Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios will provide power as well, but this lineup is flawed with players with low OBP and could struggle with the injuries to Profar and Soto.

STARTING ROTATION: A few of the key injuries the Rangers are currently dealing with is with Yu Darvish and Greg Holland. Darvish has been officially scratched from an Opening Day start and will see a neck/back specialist today. The Rangers want to know exactly what they're dealing with, which certainly makes sense given the nature of the ailment. Martin Perez or Tanner Scheppers as the two leading candidates to start Opening Day. Holland is out for half the year after injuring his knee while playing with his dog. Colby Lewis was a huge part of Texas' rotation when the team made consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He hasn't been healthy since halfway through the 2012 season but took a minor league offer from the Rangers with an invite to spring training in the offseason. He needs to step up and fill the absence of Holland. Matt Harrison 2013 was a disaster and he must return to the form of 2011 and 2012. We'll have to see who manager Ron Washington chooses to complete the starting rotation, but one thing is for sure - Darvish and Holland won't be apart of it for awhile.

BULLPEN: The loss of Joe Nathan opened up the closer's job for someone to take control of. Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria have experience at the of games. Feliz was the lead candidate to be the Rangers closer this season, but he has been unable find his velocity or any consistent command this spring and was optioned to minor league camp yesterday. Tanner Scheppers could also get some consideration, though he doesn't have the flare you want from a closer. His ERA, a minuscule 1.88 last season, is sure to increase this year. Neal Cotts and Robbie Ross are left-handed specialists that will provide some relief, but the Rangers bullpen looked to be a strength on paper, but now it is full of question marks.

2014 Prediction: Even before the season begins, Rangers manager Ron Washington is dealing with more injuries than anyone could have imagined. He won't use it as an excuse, but it has to help his job security in that if the Rangers don't go on a great run to win the division or make the postseason, it's likely because they weren't healthy and didn't have the depth. The Rangers were a team that many experts had winning the AL West in 2014. On paper, the Rangers were the best team. But, the best laid plans can even take a bad turn and that is certainly the case for the Rangers. This organization has more questions than answers these days because of all the injuries and the lack of depth. The Rangers will struggle in 2014 and miss out on the postseason.

Final Record 82-8o (Third Place AL West)

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