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Saturday 21st Oct 2017

It has been a brutal couple of days in Rangers camp, with multiple injuries and roster decisions that have drastically changed the look of the team heading into the season. On Sunday, it was revealed that second baseman Jurickson Profar tore a muscle in his shoulder and will miss 10-12 weeks. The only good news was that the top prospect won’t need surgery to repair the injury, but it definitely leaves a huge hole up the middle since the team traded away Ian Kinsler to clear an everyday spot for the 21-year-old. The problem facing the team now is that they don’t really have many good internal options at their disposal, at least none with anything near the upside that Profar brought to the table.

They have already apparently ruled out 20-year-old Rougned Odor as an option to start the year, instead sending him down to Double-A for more seasoning. It’s the right move for the organization, but if he can make the jump to Triple-A and show that he can handle that transition, then he could be an option down the line, especially if Profar hits any snags in his recovery process or whatever platoon option the team comes up with struggles badly, which is a distinct possibility.

Unless they make another move, they will employ some combination of Josh Wilson, Kensuke Tanaka, Adam Rosales and Brent Lillibridge to fill the void. None of these guys are worth touching in mixed leagues, and AL-only owners might actually be better served by taking a shot on Odor and hoping he gets an early promotion rather than rostering any of these tepid options. Wilson is the current leader in camp to take over, since he was slated for the utility job and Ron Washington loves his defense.

If I had to choose, I guess I might take a shot on Tanaka to emerge as the best short-term option. He is the only left-handed bat of the four, and since he was a teammate of Yu Darvish’s in Japan, at least he can help keep his countryman loose in the clubhouse and on the road. He was recalled from the Minors and played the entire game at second base in the team’s 6-2 victory on Monday, going 1-for-3 with a run scored while hitting ninth.

The 32-year-old made his major league debut with the Giants last year, hitting .267 in 15 games with the team in July. He spent the rest of the year at Triple-A, where he hit .329 (111-for-343) with one home run, 54 runs, 32 RBI’s and 22 stolen bases in 107 games. Also in Tanaka’s favor is the fact that he can play in the outfield as well, something that could help his case since the team also lost backup outfielder Engel Beltre to start the year with a fractured tibia.

The dark-horse option of course could be the one no one, outside of die-hard Rangers fans, is really talking about yet. Yes, I am talking about former All-Star and Rangers all-time hit leader Michael Young. It would take a little coaxing, since he announced his retirement in January. But I have to believe that if Jon Daniels came calling, Young might seriously consider coming back to bail out the team he basically spent his entire career with. If I was drafting in an AL-only league with deep reserves, I might just throw my last dart his way.

Unfortunately, the bad news on Sunday didn’t end with Profar. Later that day, starting catcher Geovany Soto tore his meniscus, will undergo surgery and miss three months. Soto had clearly won the starting job this spring, and was slated for the bulk of the work behind the dish after serving as the backup last year to A.J. Pierzynski, who was allowed to leave via free agency. While Soto has been no great shakes with the bat the last couple of seasons, he was at least looking like a cheap power source at catcher for fantasy owners due to the bump in playing time.

Now the team will be forced to move forward with J.P. Arencibia and Robinson Chirinos, or look outside the organization for more help. One might assume that the Rangers will just hand the everyday job over to the veteran Arencibia, but Chirinos has outplayed him in every facet so far this spring and there was talk he was on the verge of winning the backup job outright. So while Arencibia looks like he will get enough playing time now to be worth the $2 I payed for him in my CBS auction a few weeks back, I am tempering my excitement based on the fact that this looks like a straight platoon at best for the power-hitting backstop out of the gate. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Rangers kicked the tires on other backstops around the league as well. Arencibia will have the chance to seize control of the job, but he is going to have to earn it.

This truly has been a spring training to forget for the organization. The ominous tone was set back in January when their projected No. 2 starter Derek Holland got knocked down on the stairs by his dog and tore up his knee, knocking him out of action indefinitely. There has been some talk that he could be back on the mound in July, but it is unlikely, as he is coming off microfracture surgery. Aside from the more serious injuries, there has also been a rash of nagging injuries up and down the roster. Mitch Moreland has battled an oblique strain all spring, Elvis Andrus has been sidelined with a tender elbow and Shin-Soo Choo has been battling a myriad of minor aches and pains.

The injury to Holland was the initial domino that has caused reshuffling of the Rangers' rotation plans, but it hasn’t been the last. Matt Harrison, who is returning from multiple back surgeries, re-injured his back while sleeping (I am not making this up) and will not be ready to start the year. Even once he is healthy, there has to be some serious doubt that he will be able to withstand the rigors of pitching every fifth day. Alexi Ogando was the early favorite to take over for Holland, but he has struggled badly this spring, and will instead be sent to the bullpen where he will apparently work in long relief for the time being. There are already rumblings that he may be injured as well. And the bad news hasn’t been limited to the prospective starters. Neftali Feliz, who many were betting on as the best bet to emerge as the closer this spring, has struggled with his velocity and not only will he not open the season as the closer, there is talk that he may not even start the year in the Majors, since he still has options remaining.

Yeah, it’s been that bad so far, but as any good fantasy player can tell you, when misfortune strikes it also means opportunity knocks somewhere else. Ogando’s struggles have opened the door for Tanner Scheppers to claim a rotation spot, giving him much more value than he had as a setup man. Martin Perez has survived the carnage around him, and has looked very good in camp so far, and appears ready to prove he is up to the task of being the No. 2 starter behind Darvish. His stock is clearly on the rise with the spate of injuries around the league. Joe Saunders seems like the leading choice to fill in for Harrison, but he is not someone I advocate drafting if you can avoid it. That leaves Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tommy Hanson and Nick Tepesch battling for the final spot. If I am betting on one of these guys to start the year, then I am taking Ross, who has pitched better than anyone else, and even if he doesn’t stick in the role, he can still help you as a reliever.

After a column full of doom and gloom, we can at least finish on a relatively high note. Joakim Soria has been one of the best stories in camp, as he has taken advantage of Feliz’s struggles to lock up the closer role to start the year. While he doesn’t have the strikeout upside Feliz does at his best, he has been an accomplished closer in the past and should be a quality source of saves for as long as he holds the job, which could be for the entire year if Feliz can’t find his fastball.

There have been other injuries and position battles that have changed the landscape for fantasy drafters this spring, but no one, except possibly Atlanta, has been hit harder than the Rangers. You can’t really prepare for or predict these things. The best you can do is roll with the punches and adjust your rankings. But I have to admit, when I found out today that Derek Holland’s dog was named Wrigley, it not only made me laugh, but also made me decide to avoid Elvis Andrus in my drafts this week. I generally don’t believe in curses, but the way things are going, I’ll just let someone else take the chance instead.

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