With the second half of the season about to begin, let's look into our crystal ball and predict what could happen in the final 2 1/2 months of the season for the Texas Rangers:
Biggest boost from the disabled list: The Rangers have a gaggle of folks who are coming back from injuries and -- outside of Yu Darvish, who was on there more as a precaution than anything else -- I'm going to surprise some and take Alexi Ogando as my biggest boost. Don't get me wrong: It would be big if Colby Lewis or Matt Harrison can give this rotation something. But Ogando will be the first to return, and the Rangers need him to stay healthy and give them innings. If they had more depth, perhaps he could slide over to the bullpen. But the Rangers don't have that luxury. They need Ogando to pitch better and be a stalwart in that rotation this half. I think he will be.
One player the Rangers need at trade deadline: For me, even more than an impact bat, it's a starting pitcher. And I still can't get the thought of Cliff Lee out of my mind. The Phillies sit at .500 and are 6 1/2 games back of the Braves in the NL East and 5 1/2 back in the wild-card race, so they need to figure out if they will be buyers, sellers or just stand pat at the deadline. But if there's a slip and they inch toward sellers, might the Phillies dangle Lee? He'd cost not only big money (there's a bundle left on that contract), but some prospects as well. He'd be worth it. Just think of how good it would look to have Darvish and Lee on top of the Rangers' rotation down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Where the AL West will be won: Against the Angels. Yep. The Rangers have 13 games left against the Angels. And if the Rangers are going to catch the A's, they need to beat the Angels. Two big division stretches stick out on the schedule. They go on the road for 10 games against the A's, Angels and Astros in August and they finish the season against the Astros and Angels in the final seven games in Arlington. Those two stretches could decide the AL West.
Second-half Rangers MVP: Ian Kinsler. He was playing well going into the break and has been steady all season. The Rangers missed him earlier this season and they need him to do his thing at the top of the lineup in the second half. Look for him to have a good final run this season.
Second half surprise: Elvis Andrus. It's been a terrible first half for Andrus. He's hitting .242, ninth among qualified AL shortstops (there's only 12 of them). He has no homers and 31 RBIs and just a .300 on-base percentage. That can't continue. So I'm going with Andrus to snap out of this funk and play better in the second half, which would be a surprise given his first half.
Total wins: 94. And that's good enough for the Rangers to sneak by the A's (who will earn a wild card spot) and win the AL West. I think with the return of some injured players and a move or two at the deadline, this team will have enough to win the division and get ready for a playoff run.
What are you predicting for the second half?