Rangers 2017 preview: Can new-look Texas lineup capture another AL West title?

Texas was 36-11 in one-run games last season. Can the AL West champions continue to win close games with a revamped lineup?

The Rangers won 95 games last season, thanks in part to being36-11 in one-run games (an MLB record) despite having a bullpen with the second-worst ERA in the American League.

With the departures of Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland, Carlos Beltran, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis, a regression is likely, but can the return ofYu Darvish,Mike Napoli and former Padres acesTyson Ross andAndrew Cashner limit the bleeding? The first six weeks of the season could make a huge difference.

Ross (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery), Cashner (biceps) and pitcherChi Chi Gonzalez (elbow) won't be ready for the start of the season, leavingMartin Perez (4.39 ERA in 2016), A.J. Griffin (5.07 ERA) and rookie Mike Hauschild as the Rangers' Nos. 3-5 starters.

Baseball Prospectussees theRangers dropping to third in the AL West this season behind the Astros and Mariners. While we expect Texas to regress 10 wins, the clubshould stay in front of the Mariners and contend for a wild-card spot.

Texas Rangersschedule 2017

The Rangers begin the 2017 schedule on baseball's opening day April 3 against the defending AL championIndians at 6:05 p.m. ET as part of ESPN’s coverage of opening day.

Texas hosts the A’s for three games before embarking on a nine-game road trip against division foes the Angels, Mariners and A’s before finishing out April with a 10-game homestead.

Texas Rangersroster

Rangers projected opening day lineup

1. Carlos Gomez, OF

2.Shin-Soo Choo, DH/OF

3.Adrian Beltre, 3B

4. Mike Napoli, 1B

5.Rougned Odor, 2B

6.Jonathan Lucroy, C

7.Nomar Mazara, OF

8.Elvis Andrus, SS

9. Jurickson Profar, OF/DH

Rangers projected rotation

1.Cole Hamels, LHP

2.Yu Darvish, RHP

3.Martin Perez, LHP

4.A.J. Griffin, RHP

5.Mike Hauschild, RHP

Rangers projected bullpen

Closer:Sam Dyson, RHP
Setup: Matt Bush, RHP
Setup:Jeremy Jeffress, RHP

Rangers fantasy baseball sleeper

Mike Napoli, 1B: The slugger blasted a career-best 34 homers and 101 RBIs with the Indians last season and now returns to Texas in a more prolific lineup at a park he’s had success at in the past. Napoli averaged 27 homers (110 games) in two seasons with the Rangers in 2011 and 2012 and batted.295/.396/.513 with the club in 2015.

Rangerstop prospect(s)

Southpaw Yohander Mendez is the fifth-best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. No wonder the Rangers dished out $1.5 million to sign him out of Venezuela in 2011. Mendez, 22, tore up the minors last season going 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA but gave up six runs in just three big-league innings. The 6-5 pitcher will eventually be a back-end starter.

Leody Taveras was just 17 years old when he started his professional career with the Rangers, hitting .271/.324/.366 in 73 minor-league games. A cousin of former MLB player Willy Taveras, Leody has the potential to be a five-tool outfielder once he fills out his frame.

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