Texas Rangers: Fantasy countdown

Rangers Fantasy Countdown: No. 1

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
7:45
AM CT
We've finally hit the top spot in our Texas Rangers fantasy countdown and there was total agreement on that player by ESPN.com fantasy gurus Eric Karabell and Tristan Cockcroft.

No. 1: Adrian Beltre

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Of course it's Beltre. He's been a consistent fantasy performer since he put on a Rangers uniform. He finds ways to drive in runs and produce in some form or fashion nearly every game. And while Beltre has had to manage his hamstrings, he has a track record of playing most of the season, too.

He bats cleanup in a lineup that should provide him a bunch of chances to drive in runs. That's a huge potential for fantasy points.

Karabell's thoughts: "Underrated for years but finally getting his due as a top-10 fantasy option, Beltre finished last season as fantasy's No. 14 hitter overall. He's aging gracefully and with Miguel Cabrera moving to first base, this is fantasy's top third baseman by quite a bit. The durable Beltre played in 161 games last season and remains a safe bet for a .300 batting average and big power numbers."

Recommended round: Late first

Cockcroft's thoughts: "A model of consistency, Beltre is the only third baseman to have managed at least a .275 batting average, 25 home runs and 75 RBIs in each of the past three years; and he has AVERAGED .312-33-100 numbers in those categories."

Recommended round: First

In other words: Don't wait around for Beltre to fall to you in the draft. If you want him, grab him.

Rangers Fantasy Countdown: No. 2

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
7:45
AM CT
Our fantasy countdown marches on with ESPN.com's Eric Karabell and Tristan H. Cockcroft sharing their top-5 Texas Rangers players in terms of fantasy value for the 2014 season. The two disagreed on No. 5 (Cockcroft had Elvis Andrus and Karabell picked Shin-Soo Choo), but agreed on Nos. 3-4 (Yu Darvish and Alex Rios) and they are on the same page for No. 2.

No. 2: Prince Fielder

The first baseman is with a new team for the 2014 season and gets a chance to hit in front of Adrian Beltre, which certainly isn't a bad thing. Globe Life Park should be a good place for him and Fielder seems comfortable already with the Rangers and his new teammates.

Does all of it set up for a big year? Karabell and Cockcroft think so.

Karabell's thoughts: "For years Fielder protected Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera in the batting order, but he appears locked in as the No. 3 hitter in Texas. Will it matter? Well, while Fielder hasn't been as awesome the past two seasons, fantasy owners pay for the durability and consistency. And it's always possible he returns to his 40-homer ways in a friendlier hitter's park."

Recommended round: Early second

Cockcroft's thoughts: "Coming off a disappointing year (by his standards) in Detroit, Fielder gets a golden bounce-back opportunity in a more hitter-friendly home ballpark and a lineup that has one of the best on-base men leading off (Shin-Soo Choo, who barely missed this list)."

Recommended round: Second

Too many things seem to be in Fielder's favor for him not to have a better season than he did in 2013. That should also translate into nice fantasy value for those who pick up the first baseman in upcoming drafts.

Rangers Fantasy Countdown: No. 3

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
7:45
AM CT
With the help of ESPN.com fantasy gurus Eric Karabell and Tristan Cockcroft, we continue our look at the top-5 Texas Rangers in terms of fantasy value for the 2014 season.

No. 3: Yu Darvish

For those of you expecting to see Darvish on top of the list, remember that every day players carry big-time fantasy value and the Rangers have a couple of middle-of-the-order hitters who will make this ranking in the coming days.

Darvish returns after a Cy Young runner-up performance that had to please fantasy owners. He's a strikeout monster and he reduced his walks last year, making him even more valuable.

Karabell's thoughts: "He's second on my list of starting pitchers after the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, but with so much pitching depth for fantasy owners and a scarcity of top power hitters, I'd wait a bit to get him. You need offense. Darvish finished last season as fantasy's No. 5 starting pitcher and he's about the only guy capable of approaching 300 strikeouts. Considering only 12 pitchers fanned 200 hitters last year, that's a big deal."

Recommended round: Early third

Cockcroft's thoughts: "He’ll be the class of AL-only pitchers this season, commanding potential $30-plus bids in auctions, thanks to an exceptional array of at least eight pitches that resulted in the game’s highest qualified strikeout rate (32.9 percent of the hitters he faced)."

Recommended round: Third

Both Karabell and Cockcroft expect Darvish to continue to be one of the elite pitchers in the game. So do I. If you're in a keeper league and have Darvish, congratulations. If you get the chance to draft him, don't pass it up.

Rangers fantasy countdown: No. 4

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
8:00
AM CT
We continue our fantasy countdown of the top-5 Texas Rangers for the 2014 season today as ESPN.com fantasy experts Eric Karabell and Tristan Cockcroft give us their thoughts.

No. 4: Alex Rios (both Karabell and Cockcroft have him at this spot)

We've talked on this blog about how Rios could be the most under-the-radar player on the Rangers this season. There's so much talk about the top-4 in the lineup that the No. 5 guy gets a big forgotten.

But Rios can give fantasy owners some power and speed, a nice combination in any format. Of course, we've seen this spring some minor injuries pop up, but they aren't serious and Rios should have plenty of at-bats to be ready for the season.

Karabell: Rios used to have an annoying habit of playing well solely in even-numbered seasons, and struggling to hit for average in the odd ones, but that thankfully ended in 2013. Still, even in Texas, there's always the potential for downside here. Gift-wrapped to Texas from the Chicago White Sox, Rios ran more as a Ranger and he's capable of more than 20 home runs. But with his lack of plate discipline, another .240 season could happen, too. He's a top-15 outfielder in fantasy.

Draft position: Third round

Cockcroft: He’s one of six players with at least 150 homers and at least 150 stolen bases in the past eight seasons combined, and he actually ran MORE often in Texas than Chicago, attempting more than 20 percent of the time he had a base open ahead of him.

Draft position: Third round

Rangers fantasy countdown: No. 5

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
8:00
AM CT
I asked a couple of fantasy experts at ESPN.com to count down their top 5 Texas Rangers in terms of fantasy value for the 2014 season. Perhaps this will help some of you in your upcoming drafts.

Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell will give us their thoughts on some of the top players. We'll start with their No. 5s and work our way down.

Cockcroft No. 5: Elvis Andrus

The Rangers' shortstop is coming off an interesting 2014. He began the season struggling and was hitting only .242 with 31 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and a .300 on-base percentage in 92 games before the All-Star break. That wasn't even close to his expectations -- fantasy or otherwise.

But after the break, things changed tremendously. Andrus batted .313 in the 69 games after the All-Star Game. He had 36 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and a .369 on-base percentage.

Judging by his career numbers, the second half of 2014 was more in line with what Andrus should project to do in the future.

So what does that mean for his fantasy value?

Cockcroft: "Andrus has plenty of speed. Baseball-Reference.com recorded him with a major league-leading 10 baserunning WAR last season, erasing the memory of his 21-steal 2012, which now looks like the clear outlier during his five-year big-league run to date."

Draft position: Fifth-round pick (in a 12-team, standard scoring league)

Andrus has the ability to get on base and make some things happen. And with Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre now occupying the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the order right behind him, his run scored total has a chance to go up too.

Karabell No. 5: Shin-Soo Choo

The Rangers' new leadoff hitter is an on-base machine. The question is whether he can do something once he gets there to boost his fantasy value.

Karabell says he believes since Choo finds so many ways to get on base -- walks, hit-by-pitches -- that there's value there already.

Karabell: "This walk machine comes off the third 20-homer, 20-steal season of his career, and since there is no such thing as positional scarcity in fantasy anymore -- all offensive positions are kind of weak now -- I'll surely take Choo's numbers over what shortstop Andrus provides. Put simply, it's tougher to roster any hitter that does not provide power, especially using a top-10 pick to do so. Andrus is a nice fantasy option, but also stole 'only' 21 bases in 2012. Choo is simply more versatile for fantasy, brings a better batting average and I'd take him right after his teammate Alex Rios in round 5."

Don't forget that Choo, like Andrus, can add to his fantasy totals as Fielder and Beltre drive him in.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.327 18 75 77
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 18
RBIA. Beltre 75
RA. Beltre 77
OPSA. Beltre .886
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.34
SOY. Darvish 182