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Cockcroft: Texas Rangers preview

Updated: February 28, 2007, 11:07 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com
Offense has long been the name of the game in Arlington. The Rangers have ranked among the majors' top 10 offenses in terms of runs per game in each of the past six seasons, and during that time, they've boasted 11 instances of players topping 30 homers and 100 RBI.

In 2007, however, the Rangers might need to get more creative scoring runs. Gone are center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. and utilityman Mark DeRosa, both of whom posted career years in 2006, combining for a .305 batting average, 32 home runs, 84 doubles and 180 runs scored. In their places, the Rangers brought in some interesting, yet aging, bats, a group that includes Kenny Lofton, a 32-steal man at 38 years old in 2006; Frank Catalanotto, a .297 career hitter; and Sammy Sosa, a 588-homer career hitter but also a 38-year-old who sat out the entire 2006 season.

But it's that last name -- Sosa's -- that has raised the most eyebrows this winter. Incredibly, he's drawing all the attention, mostly because reports have new manager Ron Washington considering using him as his regular designated hitter and No. 5 hitter. In reality, Sosa might only be a useful platoon partner at this stage of his career, the type of player the Rangers seem well stocked with heading into 2007. That'll make for an interesting spring training, and some tough choices for Washington, who will have to mix and match and play matchups to get the best out of all three outfield and the DH positions. Meanwhile, for fantasy, it's not so appealing to us that guys like Sosa, Catalanotto, Brad Wilkerson and Nelson Cruz might only play against their stronger sides, as it'll help their batting averages but limit them in the cumulative categories. More important is that while platoons might make a lineup look thinner on the surface, done well, it's an angle that could deepen the offense, meaning RBI chances could still be plentiful for the heart-of-the-order hitters.

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