Notice: I make no guarantees as to the accuracy of the names contained in this post. I'm working off best guesses and limited research, here, so I'll probably make a few mistakes. Those'll be dealt with in the comments.
Status: On the way up
Threat Level: Can't be written off completely
C: Saltalamacchia god I hate typing this
Coming off a below-average summer, these guys will now be without 2007's strong half-seasons of Mark Teixeira and Kenny Lofton. Brutal, right?
Sort of. As it stands, this lineup is devoid of anyone frightening. No one in there, save for maybe - maybe - Hamilton, is the kind of guy capable of putting a team on his back and carrying it for weeks at a time. There's no beast. ZiPS is understandably bearish.
But on the other hand, looking at every name, only Byrd stands out as a clear weakness (his 2007 was the definition of "fluke"). Most everyone else is capable of hitting at least a little bit. Both Hamilton and Blalock put up pretty big numbers in partial seasons last year. Bradley's a plus for however long he's able to stay on the field, and Kinsler's better than I've given him credit for in the past. This lineup is far from hopeless.
It just isn't great. For however long it stays together, this group should putter along somewhere in the vicinity of league-average production (OPS+ ~95-100). If/when they have to call upon their depth, though, then they're in trouble, because their depth is weak. None of David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, Kevin Mench, Ramon Vazquez, German Duran, Travis Metcalf, Gerald Laird, or Chris Davis brings much to the table offensively, not yet (or, in the case of some of them, not ever). They could probably withstand something bad happening at LF or DH, but anywhere else and it'll be a struggle. And that includes 1B. I think Ben'll take to the park quite nicely.
The Rangers are once again going to score a lot of runs, but that has more to do with their ballpark than their ability. This remains a work in progress.
You've got a #3, a #5, a #5, a #4 with potential, and a #6. Providing backup are Luis Mendoza, a #6, and Kam Loe, a #5 who could be a #4 with a little more efficiency, and a #3 with better command. Needless to say, I am not a big fan of this rotation. I'm interested in Loe, even though he looks like he's got Fragile X, and I'm still holding out hope that he turns into the next Jake Westbrook, but he hasn't really done much to earn anyone's trust. This rotation will be a constant source of angst for Ron Washington, and I think the best case scenario is that they tread water while Eric Hurley develops his secondary pitches and makes a big splash around the ASB. There just isn't much upside. And if Hurley needs longer than a few months, look out.
The bullpen's better. Not great, but good enough to survive, as Wilson and Benoit form a strong tandem at the end. The rest is kind of up in the air, and I don't think Texas is any better a location for Eddie Guardado than Cincinnati was, but at least the group's got potential. Littleton does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground, and Francisco throws like a crazy person. There's enough talent in the system to keep the relief corps from becoming a big issue. I imagine the 6th inning will be a little unsteady, but the same could go for 90% of the rest of the league. This bullpen should be a plus.
Aside from Hamilton, there's not a single projected starter that I'm comfortable saying is average or better in the field (excluding Saltalamacchia, because catchers are impossible to quantify). Not a single one. Bradley would've counted a few years ago, but God only knows what's left of his mobility. Kinsler seems to be getting better, but UZR still had him as the worst regular 2B in the American League last year. We know Young is wretched, and that Broussard plays first base like a Brobdingnagian with vertigo chasing lizards. Defensive statistics are still in their infancy, and we're not yet able to make very many concrete assessments, but when you have this many players who profile as pedestrian or worse, you can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that the team defense needs help. These guys are not going to be of much aid to the pitching staff.
This organization is headed in the right direction, but they've still got a ways to go, and as it is the Major League roster is chock full of guys who'd work better as a supporting cast than as a core. Too much mediocrity, too little average, and way too little star power. They've got an outside shot at .500 given good health and some individual steps forward, and they could catch the Mariners in the event of something horrible, but that'd be a lofty goal. I'm thinking mid- to high-70s, with an eye towards the future.