Who is the key to the Rangers' season?

Which player is the biggest key to the Rangers' season?

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    23%
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    10%
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    41%
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    17%
  •  
    9%

(Total votes: 2,490)

IAN KINSLER
DEREK HOLLAND

Kinsler must set tone for offense

Durrett By Richard Durrett
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Derek Holland is the tipping point of the starting rotation  and I believe he is  than Ian Kinsler is the sparkplug for the offense.

There are several players you can pick for the most critical in the 2013 season. But for me, it's Kinsler. The second baseman and leadoff hitter must perform well for the Rangers' bats to stay at a high level throughout the season.

Kinsler is coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign in which he hit .256 with 19 home runs and 72 RBIs. That came one year after he joined the 30-30 club with 32 homers and 30 stolen bases. In both instances, Kinsler didn't hit for a high average. But he scored runs --121 in 2011 and 105 in 2012.

Kinsler was dealing with some nagging injuries as he attempted to play through them. His ankle, which was sprained in spring training in 2010, was still giving him some issues for a few months last year. But he is now healthy and ready. And though he hasn't put up gaudy numbers this spring, manager Ron Washington sees a motivated player preparing to perform better this season.

"He's having better at-bats, he's been working hard to stay on top of the ball and working hard to drive the ball to the opposite field," Washington said this week. "I think he's coming along. Once again, I'm not worried about Kinsler. It's not like he's a rookie. There's some adjustments he has to make this spring and I think he's getting after it pretty good."

As the leadoff hitter, Kinsler must set the tone. He must get on base (his .326 on-base percentage in 2012 was the lowest of his career) consistently and become a catalyst for the offense. The rest of the bats trickle down from Kinsler. If he gets on or works a pitcher or hits a big home run, it can have a carryover effect.

That didn't happen enough in 2012. For the Rangers' offense to improve in clutch situations and become the versatile group that we saw in 2010 and 2011, it must start with Kinsler.

He must also shore up his defensive play. Kinsler had a .970 fielding percentage, his lowest as a big leaguer, in 2012. He also committed 18 errors, tying his career-high. He remains one of the best second baseman at turning a double play, but must improve the rest of his defensive game.

If Kinsler can get on base, become even more active once he gets on (He had 11 fewer stolen bases in 2012 than he did in 2011) and set the tone, the Rangers' lineup will be more consistent and more potent. Kinsler's the sparkplug. He must ignite things for the Texas machine to move toward an AL West title.

Fourth SP can be charm for Rangers

Fitzsimmons By Ian Fitzsimmons
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

This isn't even close. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching.

That's what gets a team to the postseason. We all know it and have seen it during the Rangers' back-to-back World Series trips -- which seems like more than just two short years ago.

The X factor for the Rangers to even come close to contending in the AL West and returning to the postseason sits on the shoulders of one player. Scream the name with me, because we all know who it is.

It's Derek Holland.

Hands down. Without question.

It's not even up for a debate.

On the offensive side, I considered Ian Kinsler returning to form and Lance Berkman staying healthy.

And we know what we can expect from Yu Darvish -- all you had to do was watch the last two months of the season. And if you listen to what everyone around Rangers camp has to say, he looks even better now than he did then.

We know what we can expect from Matt Harrison. Back-to-back solid seasons on the mound has erased any concerns when he's given the ball. He's proven that he can eat up innings and put you in a position to win games.

We do not know what we can expect from Derek Holland, and that is why he is the guy that the Rangers need to come through this year and be the same guy we saw in the second half of 2011. And when you really think about it, he doesn't even have to be that good!

Give me Harrison's numbers from 2011 -- 14-9, an ERA in the mid-3s and 185-plus innings pitched -- and the Rangers will be right there for one of the AL wild-card spots come late September.

Any club in almost any division needs to have three guys going well in their rotation to contend -- especially in the AL West -- or they are as cooked as Easter Dinner.

It all hinges on Holland. He knows it. Heck, he sounds like he embraces it, which is a good sign that maybe -- just maybe -- the Texas Rangers might be feasting instead of being the feast.

103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Jon Daniels

Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss expectations for the Rangers this season, what he has seen from the team this spring and his thoughts on Jerry's GM work with the Cowboys.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Lance Berkman

Lance Berkman joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett live from Surprise, Ariz., to discuss spring training and how he feels better than he expected to heading into the season.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Matt Harrison

Fitzsimmons & Durrett are "Live in Surprise" all week for Rangers spring training. Pitcher Matt Harrison joins the guys to discuss the upcoming season.