With the LA Angels facing the Texas Rangers in their home opener this weekend, I spoke with Travis Koch (questions 1-3) and Kenneth Nash (4 and 5) of FanSided’s Texas Rangers site Nolan Writin’ about how their season started, Adrian Beltre‘s legacy, and more.
1.) What’re you early impressions of the season? The LA Angels have obviously started slow, but are the Rangers meeting, exceeding, or falling short of your expectations?
They’ve definitely exceeded my expectations. Opening with the Cubs and Astros, I was not expecting a 4-2 start. What stands out most is the early progress from our young players. Joey Gallo (age 25), Nomar Mazara (23), Rougned Odor (25) and Ronald Guzman (24) have greatly improved their plate discipline.
Walk rates are up and chase rates are down, making for a much more efficient offense than in years past. As the Rangers’ middle of the lineup goes, so goes the Rangers. So far the young guys in the middle are doing their jobs.
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2.) Obviously the Rangers aren’t viewed as contenders this season. However, they’ve made quick turnarounds in the not so distant past. Do you see something similar this season, or is the team focusing more on 2020 and beyond?
The focus is certainly on 2020 and beyond. Unless they’re miraculously in first or second place come July, Texas will be aggressive sellers at the trade deadline. GM Jon Daniels will do everything he can to protect the team’s future; he’s learned from his prior mistakes. The Rangers have a talented offense and an elite closer, so they’re far from a walkover this season. That said, they still have a ways to go before being a contender.
3.) Who will be taking the mound this weekend against the Angels? How has the rotation been performing in general so far this year?
The Angels will be facing Edinson Volquez, Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller in that order over the next four days. Just on the surface you probably feel your offense has some good opportunities coming up.
That feeling is justified. Volquez gave up four runs in 4.0 innings in his first start, Lynn seven in 5.2, Smyly one in 3.0 and Miller two in 3.2. Three of those guys are returning from Tommy John surgery so there’s absolutely a grace period. The Rangers are hoping for notable improvements in Round 2 of the season.
4.) With Adrian Beltre retiring, can you talk about how much he meant to the Rangers and their fans throughout his career there?
While playing only 8 of his 21 seasons in Arlington, Adrian Beltre cemented himself as a franchise great. The Rangers are an organization who doesn’t have the deepest history of great/Hall of Fame caliber players and so when Beltre came to Texas, the fan base really latched on to him.
His talent was undeniable but he also represented what Rangers fans want this club to be which is talented but above all has a deep appreciation for the game. It’s no shock his jersey is getting retired immediately after retirement and in my mind, he’s on the level of Pudge Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, and Michael Young in terms of club stature.
5.) Who are some underrated players Halo fans and the rest of the MLB might not know of, but could surprise us this weekend in Anaheim?
I’m not sure if Jose Leclerc still qualifies as truly underrated but statistically, he’s been one of the best closers in the game since he took over the job last season. He’s got electric stuff and seems about as unhittable as you can get.
Hunter Pence obviously has plenty of name recognition but I think many people consider him strictly a role player. He’s been one of the best players on the roster through the first 6 games and is hitting the ball as hard as anybody right now. He won’t start day in day out but when he does play, there is little to no drop off from the everyday players.
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Isiah Kiner-Falefa likely is known somewhat to Angels fans but still relatively a mystery to the rest of the league. IKF was a rookie utility infielder last season and hit nearly .260 in over 100 games. He quickly became a fan favorite and is now transitioning to be a catcher. He played some in the minors and last season but this year he’s listed as a full-time catcher.
He’ll split time with Mathis but Texas is really banking on him being able to make the switch. If he can become an average defensive catcher, he’s got the bat to be a Top 10 overall catcher in the game.