Last season, the Texas Rangers won the AL West with a 95 and 67 record, possessing the best record in the American League; however, they were ultimately swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Toronto Blue Jays. They came up short when it mattered most, and now after a postseason collapse, the Rangers are left scratching their heads. They can’t feel sorry for themselves because they have a lot of work to do this off-season; however, despite the efforts they may put in, the Rangers may be left deprived of outfield depth. As a result, the Houston Astros are the team to beat in the AL West.
Potential Off-Season Disaster
With MLB free agency in full swing, the Rangers may quickly become an off-season loser. With outfielders Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, and Carlos Gomez all on the open market, Texas is currently deprived of outfield depth; however, even if they do look to keep their outfield together, it appears unlikely that all three would resign, and it’s still unclear whether Texas will sign even one of them.
If all three of them do depart, would Texas pursue a big bat such as Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Bautista to replace them? That’s unclear at the moment; however, unlike the Rangers, the rival Astros have been a team willing to make moves to compete.
The Astros have been one of the more active teams so far this off-season. They agreed to a 4 year/ 52 million dollar deal with former Dodgers and Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick. Reddick is a power bat, but lately he’s become more of a line drive hitter, and to his advantage. Last season with the Oakland A’s, Reddick hit .296; however, when he was traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, he didn’t produce anywhere near that level. He hit just .258 and drove in only nine runs. He was inconsistent at the plate last season, but a change of scenery may be just what he needed. Another player who needed a change of scenery acquired by the Astros was catcher Brian McCann.
In addition to signing Reddick, the Astros traded for New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann. McCann, a lefty bat, found himself in a reserve role last year as catching phenom Gary Sanchez ended up taking the starting job from him; however, that shouldn’t be the case for McCann in Houston. He will make the Astros lineup more balanced. He’s a power lefty bat who is a also a presence behind the plate; McCann is among the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, and the Yankees willingness to pay part of his salary made him a no brainier for the Astros. Reddick and McCann make the Astros better than the Rangers, but it’s also their core of young studs and veterans that make them more formidable.
The Astro Lab of Youngsters
Reddick and McCann were both good pickups for the Astros, as they will add to what’s a very talented Astros team. For starters, they’re armed with the game’s best second baseman in Jose Altuve. Altuve has hit over .300 the past three seasons, but he’s also hit over .330 in two of those three seasons, including last year. His infield mate, Carlos Correa, is also among the best at his position, in this case shortstop.
Correa has played two years in the big leagues, but the stage hasn’t seemed to faze him. He’s hit over .270 and hit 20 or more home runs the past two years. In addition to their double play duo of Altuve and Correa, the Astros are also armed with the power hitting Evan Gattis and the speedy George Springer. Last year, Springer hit just under 30 homers and became an elite defensive outfielder.
While the Astros have a good flow of young talent and veteran presences, the Rangers can’t exactly relate.
Texas Has Too Many Question Marks
Unlike the Astros, the Rangers don’t have a whole lot of young assets. For starters, their roster is getting older and slower by the day. While he’s still very productive, Adrian Beltre won’t be able to carry the offensive load with Rougned Odor. Also, while he’s a great defensive catcher, Jonathan Lucroy‘s production at the plate is very inconsistent.
While Texas does have some good young infielders, two significant ones raise question marks. Jurickson Profar is always an area of concern whether it’s his health, or his production at the plate. First basemen Joey Gallo is another player who raises more questions as he’s been in and out of the majors the last couple of years.
The Astros Are Better Than The Rangers
The current roster that the Astros have assembled is better than that of the Rangers. Their lineup is more balanced as it’s full of young and rising stars, as well as several veteran bats who can produce.