It’s hard to gauge the Rangers chances of repeating as American League champions without the ability to estimate how injuries will impact the team in 2012. The offense finished third in MLB in runs scored last season despite injury troubles that limited players like Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz to fewer than 125 games a piece. The Rangers roster is loaded with star caliber players who have missed significant time in recent years due to injury trouble, and the team’s success will depend on its collective health.
The Rangers boast four position players whom you can make a strong case for being the best in baseball at their respective positions – Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and Adrian Beltre. If these players can reduce their injury problems, and appear in more games than last season, Texas could easily have the best offense in the big leagues.
“MVP” chants showered upon Michael Young during the postseason notwithstanding, Kinsler was the team’s most valuable player in 2011. Kinsler played in a career-high 155 games, and finished the season sixth in all of baseball in fWAR of 7.7. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be optimistic that he will maintain his clean bill of health as prior to last season, Kinsler averaged just 120 games per year.
The Rangers scratched Kinsler from yesterday’s start because of back stiffness, and he is expected to be sidelined for two more days before his next start. While this doesn’t appear to be a big deal, any injury concerns regarding Kinsler should be watched closely.
As great as Napoli’s 2011 was, it’s easy to forget that he only appeared in 113 games, totaled only 432 plate appearances, and failed to qualify for most statistical leaderboards. Still, Napoli was extremely productive in his limited time, and led all catchers by registering 5.7 wins above replacement.
Napoli has missed the last three spring training games due to groin stiffness, and the team will be careful not to rush him back.
Hamilton’s health concerns have been well documented. Since his arrival in Texas, Josh has appeared in only 70% of the team’s games. His 2012 campaign never caught up to its 2010 heights after he broke his arm two weeks into the season. Hamilton was hampered by a groin strain during the 2011 postseason that diminished the team’s offensive output. Both the hopes of the Rangers offense being tops in the league, as well as Hamilton’s value on the free agent market, will depend on his ability to stay healthy this season.
So far, so good. Hamilton has not reported any injury trouble so far this spring.
In 2011, Beltre won a gold glove and his second consecutive silver slugger award. His 5.7 fWAR finished second only to Evan Longoria’s 6.0 among all Major League third baseman. His great season could have been even better had he not suffered a hamstring strain on July 22nd. He didn’t return until September 1st, and totaled only 124 games for the year. Beltre has mostly avoided the disabled list throughout his long career, and the hamstring injury was the first of his career, so Rangers fans can only hope that it will be his last.
Beltre is healthy and has not reported any injury trouble thus far.
Cruz landed on the disabled list three times in 2010 with alternating hamstring injuries. He was only DL’ed twice last season, so maybe we’re making progress. Cruz has never appeared in as many as 130 games in the Majors.
Cruz was removed from yesterday’s game against the Indians after being struck on his hand by a pitch in the bottom of the fifth. Cruz was not concerned, and is expected to be back in action today.
Nathan missed the entire 2010 season and appeared in just 48 games last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2010. The Rangers front office saw the injury trouble as an opportunity to sign a front line closer for a discount, and expect him to regain his stature as a healthy and effective reliever.
Nathan believes he is fully recovered from TJ surgery, and is among the seemingly 95% of players “in the best shape of his life”.