Texas Rangers: Pick 1

Pick 1: Leonys Martin vs. Craig Gentry

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
8:00
AM CT
Editor's Note: You choose the player that will have the better year of the two featured in this blog series. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

Pick 1: Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry

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Who will have the better season for the Rangers?

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    50%
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    50%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,086)

It's the battle of the center fielders and what makes this tough is that by the end of spring, we could have a platoon situation. But that's dependent on if one of these two guys can show an ability to hit left-handed and right-handed pitchers. And that's where I'm going to take Martin.

Why? The club has invested $15.5 million in Martin in hopes that he can be the center fielder at some point. If he can show he can hit left-handers this spring, why not now? Gentry would still get some playing time, but it would give Martin even more chances. He's got speed and he's got raw tools, he just has to develop them.

We'll see as spring goes along. Gentry hit just over .300 last season, but much of that was one red-hot month. He's the more proven player and the safer bet in terms of known big league production. But I like Martin's upside and something tells me he can get this to where it's a 70-30 split rather than a true platoon. That's just me. Stay tuned.

Karabell's thoughts:
PODCAST
Ron Washington joins Galloway & Company to discuss his decision not to rest starters last seaon, what Lance Berkman brings to the Rangers and much more.

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I’m not convinced Martin can’t win the job outright, but even if this is a platoon situation he’s the one that should play quite a bit more. There’s immediate reachable upside with Martin for double-digit power and perhaps 20 stolen bases, which makes him the easy choice over Gentry for me. Sure, Martin is unproven at the big league level and unlikely to hit at the top of the lineup, but when in doubt, take the lefty hitter in any platoon, especially one with untapped potential. I can’t say I’m necessarily targeting Martin in standard fantasy drafts, since the position contains many late-round sleepers, including oft-overlooked Rangers teammate David Murphy, but I also can’t see a scenario in which Gentry is appealing for fantasy owners. Last year he provided some cheap stolen bases, but that’s about it for his upside.

Your turn: Which player has the better season: Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry?
Editor's Note: You choose the player that will have the better year of the two featured in this blog series. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

Today's Pick 1: Jurickson Profar or Mike Olt

Remember, this is about picking which player will have the best 2013 season. It's not about choosing the one with the higher ceiling or the one that might have the best career.

SportsNation

Who will have the better season on the major-league level for the Rangers?

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    34%
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    66%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,995)

With that in mind, I'm taking Olt. I still think Profar ends up starting the season in Triple-A Round Rock and I've got no issues with that. He's got a total of 33 at-bats above Double-A (all in the big leagues last September) and a few months of minor-league action won't hurt him. Of course, we don't know how long he might be there. If he hits well and there's a need at the big league level, he could end up shoving his way into the lineup sooner rather than later. If not, he'll just continue to get seasoning. We know he'll be playing with the Rangers at some point in 2013.

Olt, I think, is different. He plays the corner infield positions and is learning right field (he played out there some in the final few innings of Thursday's game). He could be a bat off the bench and fill in at various spots when needed. And depending on what happens when MLB finishes its investigation into anti-aging clinic in Miami that was also apparently selling performance-enhancing drugs, Olt could get more time in right field if Nelson Cruz isn't available. We'll have to wait and see.

PODCAST
Ron Washington joins Galloway & Company to discuss his decision not to rest starters last seaon, what Lance Berkman brings to the Rangers and much more.

Listen Listen
Olt has the bat and versatility to help this team now. And at this time, while it's beneficial that both players get as many at-bats as they can, I'll take Olt because I think there could be more of a need and spot for him on this club than there is Profar.

Karabell's thoughts:
With no guarantees that either of these promising players wins Opening Day roles, I have to take the player with the higher fantasy upside. It's Profar, and quite easily. He's a middle infielder with pop and speed and he looks like he's ready, not on the level of a Mike Trout, to certainly be an immediate impact player. Profar recently turned 20 years old, but what does that even mean anymore after what Trout and Bryce Harper accomplished? It wouldn't surprise me if Profar reaches double digits in both home runs and stolen bases for the Rangers in 2013, and does so even if, like Trout in 2012, he spends April in the minor leagues. He's that talented, and the middle infield spots in fantasy these days are not blessed with depth.

Olt has upside as well, but from a fantasy sense, a corner infielder with power -- and it's far from assured he'd hit more than 20 home runs given 500 at-bats -- isn't all that uncommon. I think Olt has a better shot to make the Rangers in April, perhaps pushing Mitch Moreland aside or facing the lefties Lance Berkman should never face, but he just wouldn't be all that valuable. Profar's the pick for sure.

Ok. Your turn. Who has the better 2013 (at the major-league level): Jurickson Profar or Mike Olt?

Pick 1: Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
8:00
AM CT

Editor's Note: You choose the player that will have the better year of the two featured in this blog series. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

Pick 1: Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler

SportsNation

Who will have the better season for the Rangers?

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    41%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,868)

A reminder: This assignment is to pick the player you feel will have the best overall season. It's Karabell's job to pick the player he feels has the best overall fantasy value. The two may not match up.

And I suspect this could be an example of that since Andrus isn't a power-hitting shortstop. Andrus is coming off one of his best seasons as a professional. He hit .286 with three homers and 62 RBIs. The average and RBIs were his highest in four seasons and he played in a career-best 158 games. Andrus had 21 stolen bases, which tied for the team high but was down considerably (15 fewer) than the previous season. His .349 on-base percentage was tops for his career so far.

Andrus was also a finalist for the Gold Glove at short, making the difficult plays look easy. He did a better job on the routine plays too, rewcording 16 errors in 663 total chances. The errors were the tied for the fewest in his career. His UZR of 8.8 was the fourth-highest among AL shortstops and his WAR, which takes into account the player's overall game, was 4.2, second only to Ben Zobrist among AL shortstops.

Andrus is just 24 and should be entering the prime of his career. He's got two more years left on his contract and played winter ball to help get ready for the World Baseball Classic. As usual, he's highly-motivated to have a big 2013.

PODCAST
There are a couple misconceptions floating around about the Texas Rangers. Richard Durrett says if Ian Kinsler isn't switching positions, it's on the ball club, not Kinsler. Durrett also says we need to let things play out with Jurickson Profar.

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Kinsler is hoping to rebound from a struggling 2012 campaign. He hit .256, nearly identical to his average in 2011, but he couldn't match his homer or stolen base output. Kinsler was a 30-30 player in 2011, mashing 32 home runs and stealing 30 bases. He hit 19 homers in 2012 and stole 21 bases. His on-base percentage was .326, a career-low and not what you'd expect to see from a leadoff hitter.

But there's a difference for Kinsler this spring: He's 100 percent healthy. Any lingering ankle issues are gone and he's worked this offseason on his swing and getting to know new hitting coach Dave Magadan. Kinsler had 18 errors in 2012, tying his career high (despite 70 fewer chances than 2011, when he had 11 errors). So he's looking to improve his overall game.

My bet is that Kinsler does bounce back with a solid season, but I'll still take Andrus in this duel. Remember, it's not about the better fantasy player. For what Andrus does on defense, his ability to be versatile in the No. 2 spot and the fact that I think he'll be a terror on the bases, I'm saying that Andrus will have the better overall year. But it will be close. Kinsler will see his batting average, homers and OBP go up this season too.

Here's Karabell's take:
This one is simple. Even if we grant the possibility that Andrus returns to serious stolen base numbers, as he proved as recently as 2011, he hasn’t shown a lick of power. Kinsler has power. In fact, Kinsler, whose only fantasy baseball issue is batting average, has a pair of 30/30 seasons to his credit and at the worst should be expected to flirt with 20/20 again. A few years ago I thought Andrus would develop power, and while he raised his slugging percentage in 2012, thanks to doubles and triples, it didn’t help fantasy owners much. Still, this remains a top-100 player who should again top 30 steals and help in batting average and runs scored, and there’s nothing wrong with Andrus as your starting shortstop.

Kinsler, however, is more of an overall fantasy building block. Miss out on Andrus and you can still find stolen bases later. Kinsler types delivering power and speed from middle infield are indeed rare. Like Andrus and quite a few other Rangers, the overall numbers are depressed from a disappointing second half, so there remains upside here. Ultimately, now that he’s shed his injury prone status and remains productive into his 30s, the case can easily be made for Kinsler as a top-25 overall player, and that’s considerably better than what Andrus’ upside appears to be.

OK. Now your turn. Pick 1: Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler?

Pick 1: David Murphy or Mitch Moreland

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
11:30
PM CT

Editor's Note: You choose the player that will have the better year of the two featured in this blog series. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

PODCAST
Jim Bowden joins Ben and Skin to talk about Rangers spring training and some interesting trade scenarios.

Listen Listen
Today's Pick 1: David Murphy or Mitch Moreland

Remember, this is about the player you think will have the better 2013. Today, we've got two players who are set up for very interesting seasons.

Murphy is a starter for the first time since coming over to the Rangers as part of the Eric Gagne trade at the deadline in 2007. He hit .304 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 147 games for the Rangers in 2012 (457 at-bats). It seems that every year there's a question about how Murphy is going to get playing time and by the end of the season, he's got more than 400 at-bats and has put up solid numbers.

SportsNation

Who will have the better season for the Rangers?

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    78%
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    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,102)

This season is different. After hitting .347 (26-for-75) against lefties last year, Murphy will get a shot to hit them more often as the starting left fielder.

As for Moreland, the 27-year-old gets yet another shot at the starting first base job. A hamstring strain sidelined him for nearly a month last season and he hit .275 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. He was a much better offensive player at home than on the road and he didn't play against certain left-handed pitchers, hitting just .239 against southpaws. He worked this offseason with a left-handed batting practice pitcher in order to improve.

Again, this is about who you think will have the better 2013. I'm going to take Moreland even though the numbers suggest Murphy. I think Moreland began to show more of his power last year, hitting one fewer homer than he did in 2011, but with 137 fewer at-bats. He's focused and knows this is probably his last chance to seize the first base job. I'll bet that he does and ends up putting up better numbers than Murphy.

Karabell's thoughts (on which player is better for fantasy purposes):
I’d take Murphy over Moreland in standard fantasy drafts, mainly because I’m more confident that he’ll see the proper playing time to reach his projections. Murphy is annually underrated by fantasy owners worried about opportunity, but he’s averaged 476 plate appearances the past five seasons, including 521 in 2012, and he’s a safe contributor in batting average, home runs and stolen bases. He plays outfield, which considering the position needs for a standard roster, is certainly not as deep as Moreland’s first base spot. But ultimately it comes down to the fact he’s more likely to see the playing time needed to stick on a fantasy roster.

SportsNation

How many games will the Rangers win this season?

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    15%
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    38%
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    31%
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    10%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 15,657)

The Rangers already have a question mark in center field, so it seems likely Murphy’s playing time against right-handed pitching, at the least, is set. Plus, Murphy hit .347 against southpaw pitching in 2012, so he doesn’t need to be platooned. At first base, however, the Rangers already compromised Moreland’s opportunity last season, when Michael Young, now the Philadelphia Phillies’ problem, started a quarter of the games there. Moreland saw enough time but he hit well only in home games (.318 home, .229 road) and was awfully inconsistent from month to month.

What happens this season if uber-prospect Jurickson Profar forces his way into the lineup? Assuming he handles second base, is Ian Kinsler more likely to move to first base or left field? I’d say he remains in the infield. Plus, newcomer Lance Berkman can certainly play first base, and should see some action there, as long as he’s healthy enough, to free up others to get designated hitter at-bats. The younger Moreland has a bit more power potential than Murphy, but there’s hardly a guarantee he gets the chance to achieve it.

Your turn. Who has the better year: David Murphy or Mitch Moreland? Tell us why.

Pick 1: Matt Harrison or Derek Holland

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
8:00
AM CT
Editor's Note: We're starting a new series today that will appear a few times a week before the season begins. You choose the player that will have the better year of the two we feature. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

Today's Pick 1: Matt Harrison or Derek Holland

At first blush, this might not seem very hard. After all, Harrison is coming off 18 wins and a 3.29 ERA. In fact, two consistent seasons helped him earn a new five-year deal. The 27-year-old Harrison's goal is to continue to show he can stay healthy and consistent. He pitched 213 1/3 innings in 2012, by far the most in his career.

SportsNation

Who will have the better season for the Rangers?

  •  
    65%
  •  
    35%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,144)

Holland, on the other hand, struggled last season. He battled illness, arm fatigue and inconsistency and was 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA. The guy that pitched those 8 1/3 shutout innings in Game 4 of the World Series didn't show up last year. But that guy's in there somewhere. Holland, I believe, is the tipping point of this rotation. If he performs closer to his second half of 2011, this rotation becomes a deep one. If not, it could be very top-heavy.

After spending a week at spring training, I like Holland's attitude. He's more focused on the task at hand and understands that he has to eliminate some distractions. He knows he's capable of a lot more than he showed in 2012 and he knows it's important for this team that he gets the job done.

Still, how can you choose Holland over Harrison at this point? Harrison's got a longer track record and has put together two seasons with ERAs below 3.40 and at least 30 starts. Harrison seemed to continue to improve last season and was named to his first All-Star team. He may not rack up strikeouts and wow folks at times, but he's a confident pitcher who uses his stuff wisely. So I'm taking Harrison, but I think it's a close one.

Karabell's thoughts (remember, his job is to pick the best fantasy player of the two):
PODCAST
Joe Trahan and Calvin Watkins debate who should be the Rangers' Opening Day starter: Yu Darvish or Matt Harrison?

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I think Harrison is the better fantasy choice, though not by much. It’s worth noting each barely cracked ESPN Fantasy’s top 50 starting pitchers, going consecutively at Nos. 48 and 49, each way, way behind ace Yu Darvish, who I think is a top-10 starting pitcher option. The main reason I like Harrison a bit more than Holland is consistency. Harrison isn’t the one that permitted 32 home runs in 2012. While Holland does possess the greater strikeout rate, there’s also more risk of ERA problems, as we’ve seen for stretches. Harrison’s cumulative ERA and WHIP the past two seasons (3.34 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) looks like his baseline at this point, and even with little threat of an above-average strikeout rate, most of the time fantasy owners want the safer option. Harrison keeps the ball down and induces ground balls, which is wise with Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre waiting to turn them into outs.

Holland is simply more erratic, thus more of the risk. While Harrison was solid home and away, first half and second half, Holland certainly was not. Holland was basically unusable in home games, a theme fantasy owners are used to with Colorado Rockies pitchers, but it’s a pain to deal with it for others, especially top-50 options. If you ask me which of these left-handers has the higher upside eventually, I’d take Holland, mainly because of the strikeout potential. But for the 2013 season, Harrison is the safer bet.

Ok. It's your turn. Pick 1: Harrison or Holland and tell us why.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
10 3.06 182 144
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .322
HRA. Beltre 17
RBIA. Beltre 64
RA. Beltre 64
OPSA. Beltre .876
ERAY. Darvish 3.06
SOY. Darvish 182