It’s been seven years since we heard “Texas Rangers playoff baseball”. In those seven years, there hasn’t been much going right for the once, best in the American League franchise. In fact, the one bright spot for the team was the opening of the brand new stadium, Globe Life Park, in 2020.
But even that has been shadowed with more negatives than positives for Rangers fans. Since the park opened, it has seen two no-hitters, neither thrown by Texas, a World Series championship that Texas was not even a part of in the Covid Year 2020, and last year saw the American League home run record be broken by Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.
Getting Back to Texas Rangers Playoff Baseball
So how does a team that has had little success in recent years, get back to playoff contenders? It definitely hasn’t happened overnight. Texas has been building its team up the past two off-seasons to be able to get in a position to compete. They feel good about newly signed manager Bruce Bochy being the man to lead them in the right direction. Bochy has over 2000 wins as a manager and was the man in charge of the San Francisco Giants during their run of three world series titles in five years from 2010-2014.
While 2023 may not be the best year to see the Rangers as playoff contenders, it is definitely a year that has more promise than the previous years. I laid out three reasons why hearing “Texas Rangers playoff baseball” could be a possibility next year.
1. Brand new Pitching
The starting rotation for Texas will look a lot different on opening day than it did in 2022. Texas was able to build off its big spending from 2022, with the addition of three new pitchers for their starting rotation. Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, and Andrew Heaney all signed free-agent deals with Texas this off-season.
deGrom was one of the more surprising deals made this entire winter. The former two-time Cy Young award winner has battled injuries each of the last three seasons. Not reaching 100 innings pitched since 2019, Texas hopes deGrom is able to get back on track health-wise. Despite the injuries, deGrom is still one of, if not the most dominant starting pitchers in all of baseball. With a career 2.52 ERA in over 200 starts, he adds a huge spark to this Texas roster.
Along with the three pitchers listed above, Jon Gray and Martin Perez look to be the projected starting rotation for the Rangers heading into Spring Training. On paper, Texas has a rotation that can compete for the best in the American League.
2. Good-not-Great Offense
The lineup was an area Texas chose not to add to this off-season. Although there are holes in the lineup, there is a good foundation for a Texas Rangers playoff run. The infield is the strong suit of the defense. Both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien enter their second season with the Rangers coming off of a good season last year which resulted in a 4.0 and 5.9 rWAR respectfully.
Jonah Heim comes off an impressive year where he was the primary catcher playing in 127 games. In those games, Heim was second among catchers with a 9.1 frame rate. The defensive catcher is projected by early projections to have another solid year behind the plate for Texas.
Top 100 prospect Josh Jung is set to have a full MLB season in 2023. Jung only played in 23 games last season for the Rangers due to injuries. While his numbers last year do not look good at all, I wouldn’t read too deep into them. Jung was limited to only the month of September in his big league debut, logging just under 100 at-bats.
He did, however, hit very well in AAA Round Rock with a .866 OPS. From 2019-2022 Jung has a career slash line in the minors of .311/.381/.538. He has proven he can hit at the minor league level, now he will get to showcase it off hopefully in a full healthy big league season.
3. Middle of the pack AL Team
The American League is a tough league to play in. Winners of the last nine All-Star games, there are top talented players across all 15 teams. With the new change to the playoff format that came into effect with the new CBA deal last year, there are now six teams that get a shot at October baseball. While Texas may not be at the top of the class just yet, I don’t believe there is that much separating them from the sixth seed for the 2023 playoffs.
If I had to put on paper a list of teams I’m confident to make the playoffs in 2023, it would go in order of the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Guardians, and Tampa Bay Rays. That would be the “Top Tier”. The Texas Rangers’ playoff run starts just below that.
Make no mistake, I’m not ready to guarantee a Texas Rangers playoff season for 2023 just yet. I do, however, believe Texas can compete for one of the last spots. As a fringe team, they will need a little bit of luck. Their main focus will be health. This rotation is good enough to get them there, as is the offense, so long as guys stay healthy. 2023 could just be the year Rangers fans once again hear “Texas Rangers playoff baseball”.