That was Then...
Coming off back-to-back appearances in the World Series, the Rangers spent a great deal of money to land 22-year-old ace Yu Darvish from Japan to fill the void left by C.J. Wilson who signed with the rival Angels.
The Rangers got off to a great start to the season, posting a 17-6 record in April. The club boasted a very powerful lineup led by Josh Hamilton's 43 home runs and 128 RBI and third baseman Adrian Beltre's 36 home runs and 102 RBI.
The club added Canadian starting pitcher Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline when they had some injuries to their starting rotation and began the month of September with a three-game cushion on the hard charging Oakland Athletics.
Later on in the month, the Rangers started to struggle, dropping nine of the their last 13 regular season games, including the last series of the season to the A's, which cost them the West division title. All in all, the Rangers, were in first place for a majors-high 178 days, but couldn't hold on.
Texas then had to play the other AL Wild Card team the Baltimore Orioles for a chance to play the New York Yankees in the ALDS. The Rangers lost 5-1 in that playoff contest, ending their dreams of reaching the World Series for a third straight year.
...This is Now
Shouldering the Load
With the departures of Josh Hamilton, and Mike Napoli the burden of helping the Rangers offence stay on track will fall on the shoulders of third baseman Adrian Beltre.
For the second straight year, the Rangers lost a key player in the off-season, with slugger Josh Hamilton heading west, but staying in the division after signing a five-year deal with the Angels. The club also allowed catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli walk via free agency, and after 12 seasons in Arlington, the club traded infielder Michael Young to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Rangers did bring in some veteran help in 35-year-old catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a career high 27 home runs last season and first baseman/designated hitter Lance Berkman, who only had 81 at-bats in 2012 because of a knee injury.
While the Rangers have added the two aforementioned veterans to a lineup that includes Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, the club will also be relying on the development of young hitters like Mike Olt, Leonys Martin and 20-year-old top prospect Jurickson Profar (see: YOUTH WATCH) in order to maintain their offence at a high level.
The pitching staff remains largely intact from the same group as last season. With his first year of big league exposure past him, the club will expect more progression from Yu Darvish. Off-season addition Joakim Soria won't be ready to start the season, but he should be able to serve as insurance should Joe Nathan struggle in the closer's role.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Yu Darvish, 2011 - Mitch Moreland, 2010 - Neftali Feliz, 2009 - Elvis Andrus, 2008 - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 2007 - Freddy Guzman, 2006 - Ian Kinsler, 2005 - Chris Young, 2004 - Juan Dominguez, 2003 - Hank Blalock
After a lot of big changes in the off-season, the Rangers open this year's rankings at 14.
2B Ian Kinsler is the top-ranked Ranger, at 13th overall.
Even without Josh Hamilton, the Rangers still have some early-round fantasy material.
2B Ian Kinsler has gone 30-30 twice and 3B Adrian Beltre has driven in at least 100 runs in each of the last three seasons, so both of those guys can fall comfortably in the first two rounds.
SS Elvis Andrus is trying to stay ahead of top prospect Jurickson Profar, but as long as he does, he'll steal bases and score runs.
RF Nelson Cruz can still mash and C A.J. Pierzynski suddenly added power to his repertoire to his game last year. Can he keep it up, moving to a hitter-friendly ballpark?
Ace starter Yu Darvish can still do better than his already good rookie season, but the rest of the rotation has question marks.
LHP Matt Harrison is coming off his best season, but that was the first time that he's been so productive; RHP Alexi Ogando and LHP Derek Holland both have nice upside, but they are better for late-round pick-ups.
Closer Joe Nathan is back in his typical form, establishing that he's one of the best and most reliable in that role.