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ESPN.com's Olney on Rangers' offseason

1/27/2011

ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote a blog entry today on the Rangers' offseason. If you are an ESPN.com insider, you can read it here. Part of Olney's entry:

The Rangers' trade of Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli doesn't address Texas' primary question, namely rotation depth. But Napoli will undoubtedly strengthen Ron Washington's lineup against the team that represents the greatest threat to Texas.

At least three-fifths of the Oakland rotation will be left-handed, with Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez, and the Athletics have left-handed balance in their bullpen with Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow, who will probably face Josh Hamilton 15 to 25 times during the course of the 2011 season.

What the Rangers have done now is build a lineup that will be formidable against left-handed starters. Their plan is for Napoli to play always against lefties, whether at designated hitter or at first or at catcher, and this means their lineup against lefties could look something like this (with each player's OPS against lefties listed):

2B Ian Kinsler (.957)

1B Michael Young (.871)

LF Hamilton (.789)

3B Adrian Beltre (.943)

RF Nelson Cruz (.976)

DH Napoli (.966)

C Yorvit Torrealba (.698)

SS Elvis Andrus (.642)

CF Julio Borbon (.609)

The combination of Napoli and Young should give the Rangers incredible flexibility in dealing with little injuries, or with situations when a player needs a day or two of rest. Napoli could be the third catcher, he could play first base or he could DH with Young sliding over to play first base, second, third or shortstop. A lot of teams have to carry a 4-A type of player -- a fringy major leaguer -- to plug a lineup gap. The Rangers can now do that with the versatility of Young and Napoli.