How many wins?

Vegas set the over/under on Rangers wins at 76.5 for the season. Which side do you have?

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Rangers are still contenders

Watkins By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com
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Yu Darvish is out for the season, recovering from Tommy John surgery. You would think without their ace the Texas Rangers' season would be doomed.

It's not.

Darvish is the be-all and end-all for the Rangers' starting rotation, but it's not like general manager Jon Daniels and the rest of the front office left first-year manager Jeff Banister with an empty roster.

The Opening Day starter is Yovani Gallardo, a man who has pitched at least 190 innings in three of the past four seasons and is quite capable of 30 or more starts.

Is Gallardo Darvish?

Nope.

He doesn't need to be, he just needs to be himself and if Derek Holland and Colby Lewis can take care of things on the front end, the Rangers should have a nice rotation. Is it an elite rotation like the Washington Nationals'? No.

But it can compete against the AL West, and in reality, that's all it needs to do to hang with the rest of the division.

The bullpen is a question, but the unpredictability of every AL West team's bullpen gives the Rangers a fighting chance to have success this season.

There are plenty of "ifs" when it comes to the position players, yet the one constant is third baseman Adrian Beltre. He's the top-rated third baseman in ESPN's rankings and a surefire Hall of Famer. He's the heart and soul of this club, and his numbers were a little down last season because he placed additional pressure on himself to produce with all the injuries the Rangers had.

The return of Prince Fielder from neck surgery and the resurgence of shortstop Elvis Andrus, who had a down 2014 season statistically, takes pressure off Beltre.

New leadoff man Leonys Martin said he performs better when a manager has confidence in him, and Banister does. Expect Martin to excel this season. Likewise for Shin-Soo Choo, who moves to right field and lower in the batting order. Choo is healthy and should produce a better OPS than his .714 from 2014. Choo has a career .836 OPS, and if he gets closer to that, then the Rangers know he's healthy and productive.

There are no guarantees -- the Rangers have a first-year manager, after all -- and the "ifs" regarding the players returning from injuries, such as Mitch Moreland (ankle), Fielder and Choo, raise some issues. The Rangers have plenty of talent in the farm system ready to move up late in 2015.

But nothing can be worse than last season's debacle. Daniels made smart moves to help his club for the long season, and he built the depth at least on the big roster to combat any potential injuries.

Fielder seems happier than he's been in years, and while Darvish isn't there to lead the rotation, it's not as if the Rangers don't have quality starters, because they do.

Will the Rangers contend?

Yeah, I think so. Expect at least 80 victories.

Darvish injury too much to overcome

Taylor By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

When Darvish tore the ligament in his right arm that required him to have Tommy John surgery, the injury left the Rangers rotation in shambles.

In the process, it pretty much wrecked any opportunity they had to win more than the 76.5 games Las Vegas oddsmakers have set for their over/under win total this season.

Yes, one pitcher makes that much difference when that pitcher is among the best in baseball. Before the injury, the Rangers had Darvish marked down for at least 200 innings.

No one is capable of replacing what he brought to the staff.

Gallardo is more of a solid workhorse -- his win total has decreased each of the past four seasons -- than a star, and Holland has won more than 12 games once in his career.

Those two guys must anchor this staff because everyone else is a crapshoot.

Lewis is going to give the Rangers everything he has, but at 35 and just two years removed from a hip injury that nearly ended his career, it would surprise no one if his body betrayed him at some point this season. If it doesn't, the reality is he had a 5.29 ERA and allowed 211 hits in 170⅓ innings in 2014.

When the Rangers acquired Ross Detwiler, they really wanted him as more of a bullpen piece than a starter. Well, that's no longer an option.

In 69 career starts, he's 17-29 with a 4.02 ERA, while allowing 406 hits in 375⅔ innings.

Either Nick Martinez or Nick Tepesch will probably be the fifth starter. All the Rangers hope is that either one can be an adequate starter, a pitcher who can eat innings and give the team an opportunity to win on the days he pitches.

The Rangers are essentially replacing one of the best pitchers in baseball with a player who would probably be starting the season in Triple-A under normal cicumstances.

That's huge.

Baseball has always been about pitching, and that will never change. The Rangers rotation, based on history, simply doesn't have what it takes to compensate for losing one of the best pitchers in baseball.

103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Baseball Tonight - Feeling For Yu

Buster Olney and Jerry Crasnick discuss the Rangers' options after learning about Yu Darvish's injury. Plus, Adam Rubin discusses Matt Harvey's progress and much more.

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